Monday, 16 May 2011

Countyathon #1: Great Manchester Run

Haile Gebrselassie, My not so Little Bro and my friend Lisa will all remember yesterday's Bupa Great Manchester Run as being significant in some ways: Haile because he won for the 4th time; my not so Little Bro because he earned himself a brand new sparkling PB when completed the course in 57 minutes (well under the hour he was looking for); and Lisa because she ran a 10k distance for the first time ever in her life and also earned a tremendous time of 57 minutes - wow!  And indeed, if I was to spend more time on here I'd mention all my other friends who ran for the first time, earned new pb's, raised magnificent amounts of money for charity or didn't run but enjoyed jesting others about their times - Andy, you know who you are!

For me, this year's race was fun. Paula and I went down early and acted as Haile's personal cheering squad as he sprinted passed us, closely followed by Chris Thompson; we danced at the side of the 'Bupa Boost Zone' to the Kaiser Chiefs; we cheered Elmo on despite the fact we only remembered his name once he was 50 metres away from us; I surprised myself by recognising a celebrity and then acted in a suitably embarassing manner as Nell McAndrew raced past us; and if you look really closely at the side of the television screen at about 1 hour into the race, you'll see Paula and I heading back along Chester Road whilst I happily chomp on a peanut butter sandwich - what can only be described as an epic failure in 'trying to get on TV'!

And that was all before we even started running! At 12.30pm, the final wave of the Great Manchester Run set off with us in it. Within seconds, Paula had disappeared off into the crowds dodging past Spiderman, a Tweenie and several tutu's. Next to disappear from sight was Lisa, who fuelled with enthusiasm bounced effortlessly in and out of the crowd of colour until she too could no longer be seen. Which left not-so Little Bro and I to pick our way past the mass of running fruit, firemen and fairies. However, not-so Little Bro had a plan and at 3km he picked his pace up a little and waved goodbye. I contemplated staying with him at this point, using him to pull me along so to speak... not literally of course! That would be cheating!... but decided instead to take it steady, not wanting to burn out too soon.

However, at just past the 3km point, I spotted Pete, resplendent in orange, stood high above the runners, astride the central reservation barrier. I waved like mad, he spotted me and jumped in to run alongside. As I was running Lud-style, he informed me of my pace (sub 9.30 at that point) and kept me occupied with stories of the other club runners he'd jumped in and run with already that day; at this point he had clocked over 5 miles (hitting just under 10 miles in total whilst supporting runners in a 6 mile race!). I always like it when Pete runs alongside and could feel him pick my pace up instantly. However, I know I didn't manage to keep this pace as my overall average dropped to just below 10 minute miles overall. Still, as he left me at Old Trafford, I swept into Salford Quays feeling energised and confident.

This feeling continued as I passed the legendary Clint Boon, DJing in a discrete corner of Salford Quays and as I, unexpectedly passed the 7km mark and realised quite how short 10k actually is these days! Short it may have been, but as I came into the final 3km, I started to feel it and became very aware that it was only 4 weeks ago I completed a marathon. Once again, I found I had the stamina and strength in my body to continue with ease, however my breathing was very laboured at, what used to be, a low speed and I found myself really having to push hard in the final 2km. At just before 9km, Pete swept up the road on the other side and found me again immediately identifying a target for me... a giraffe!

Lanky - LCCC's Mascot
 My first glimpse of 'Lanky' the giraffe had been in Castlefield before the race even started, at the time he was sprinting... very fast for a giraffe... in the wrong direction and we'd commented on how good a runner you'd have to be to run in a costume such as that - running in shorts and T-shirt can be hard enough! The next time I saw Lanky was during the race when he passed me on the 'hill' outside Old Trafford, on the return leg back to town. 'Ooooo... there's that giraffe again' was my first thought as he gracefully tackled the hill - well, giraffes are graceful creatures, aren't they; my second thought was: 'I wish I had a camera... Oh, if I get to the finish line at the same time, there'll be a picture of me and the giraffe!'. Despite this, I had failed to keep up the Lanky - maybe it was those magnificent lanky legs of his speeding him on - and although I gave it a good effort, as we neared 800 metres to go, Lanky was living up to his name and lengthening his lead on me. So I puffed and panted my way through the last 800 with nothing left to give at the end at all... not even one of my infamous sprints to the finish line. As for the giraffe, it turns out he's quite a celebrity himself, as Lancashire County Cricket Club's official mascot, he was running to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Research... good on ya Lanky!

So, Paula and I have completed our first race on the Countyathon challenge: Greater Manchester has been conquered with the Bupa Great Manchester Run, 2011. As expected my overall time from last year was up, with a finish time of 1.02.40 and so for now, I have a new 10k target for 2011 to beat and my target for the race next year... beat the giraffe!


  1. Great race report, felt like I was there with you and Lanky

  2. Thanks... one down... 47 to go!! :-)

  3. What a great way to kick off countyathon.


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