Manchester Half Marathon
The Tale Of The Manchester Half
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the epoch of chronic dehydration, it was the Manchester Marathon. While many of our club mates spent the day heroically yomping round a slate quarry in the UK fell relays, those of us less firm of mind and ankle took to the roads of our hometown for the Marathon's little brother. For some, fond memories of a glorious day - The Talented Mr Shipley rightly arrived with a spring in his step and a grin on his face, for others, a sombre return to the scene of a humiliation.
In glorious red, white and green, from tram-stops and road-blocks we streamed into Lancashire cricket ground. Everywhere you looked an intriguing sub-text. Team prizes available! Battle of the Chinoys! Rumours that the Erdinger had alcohol in it! And Gary Rowlinson in a run-off versus training partner Ken Hunt. One of the most intimate moments of my life so far was spent with Ken, one tragicomic morning in April I had fallen into his arms on a Carrington roadside verge. We shared a dog-bowl full of rainwater before staggering deliriously into Stretford. This morning we nodded at each other knowingly. He had recently become a father for the second time, and looked terrifyingly, paternity-leave fit.
And the banter flowed and the photographs were taken and the water was glugged and the joints were stretched and the portaloo queues were shorter than usual. And the details were shared of pre-race day meals, ravioli and toast, pasta and Chablis, water and nothing, Pepsi and Quavers. Enough! To the start line!
We gathered in our pens, we continued to stretch; we confessed our 'estimated finish times'. I hovered in Pen A with 5 or 6 other Harriers, most of whom had informed the organisers that they expected to be cooling down with an Erdinger 'alkoholfrei' (pah!) within the hour. Meanwhile my watch's satellite had apparently been intercepted by a rogue state, sending me into a nervous frenzy. I stood amidst the crowds like a right-wing extremist, my arm raised to the heavens in search of outer space's permission to start my run.
And the klaxon honked its merry honk, and we trotted over the threshold and into the 2017 edition of the Manchester Half. We jogged, jostled and gyrated our way into position. My watch was going bananas. The friendly start line conversations between the runners continued over the first couple of miles. Quite right too. This is meant to be fun after all.
The Stretford warm-up lap complete, we launched ourselves down the mighty Roman artery of the A56. It isn't the most picturesque of roads but it's great when you want to get a running rhythm going. We pounded down the carriageway past the baffling hat-shop, and by Eastway, were stretched out into small packs of 4 or 5. Looking for wind resistance, I stayed behind a chap who had shrink-wrapped himself into a nifty blue and white ensemble. I considered asking him where I could buy similar for myself but thought better of it.
The heroic marshals, expertly recruited and marshalled by Tracey Taylor, whooped from the roadside. Dave Rodgers charged round the streets, shouting encouragement. We thank you all! And the race was hotting up, with Gareth Raven bombing out of Sale before most of us had entered it, Ken Hunt and Ben Macintyre chasing down Gary Rowlinson; and Luisa Candioli and Sarah Douglas leading the ladies team.
From Eastway to Crossford Bridge, we milked the applause. Familiar faces, most of them friendly, cheered cheerfully for all things Sale. A bloke in baggy jeans ran alongside a couple of runners for 20 metres, yelling wildly. One of my neighbours emerged vertically from a hedge like a latter-day Miss Marple before shouting 'coo-ey' and falling backwards onto her lawn. We loved - absolutely loved - the flatness of this race. No slate mines, no Carrington hills, no jutting kerbs, no barb-wired fences and no map-reading required, just 13.1 miles of perfectly marshalled, beautiful, leafy Trafford flatness.
And we marvelled at the entrepreneurial skills of the Great Trafford People, as the money ker-chinged in for charity, the Brookland Tap dished out a full English breakfast and my daughter - who had promised me a jelly baby at 10 miles - tried to flog me a Devonshire cream tea from her improvised roadside stall.
Past Crossford Bridge we turned right at a bellowing Craig Bradbury and up the finishing strait. It's funny how a race seems easier when you know where you're going, and when all of Sale is cheering you on. First Harrier home was Gareth Raven in 70 minutes. For the Ladies, the inaugural team prize, with Luisa, Sarah, Helen Armitage and Anne Chinoy leading the way. Redemption for Ken! 1st V50 for Gary! PBs for Matt Spragg, Sinead Roche, John Morris and many more. Over 30 Harriers galloping around the streets of Sale.
Back at the cricket ground, hugs, photos, yelps, and despairing attempts to extract ourselves from our luminous baggage wrist-bands. We quickly confirmed that the Erdinger was non-alcoholic and decided to check that the Block & Gasket hadn't made a similar error. Arriving home to change, I turned down a wilting Devonshire cream tea and started to wonder whether the Erdinger had been hallucinogenic. Walking heroically past my house was a wally wearing slippers, a bear with a bucket, and an intense looking fellow carrying 2 weighty tomes of something serious-looking.
The guillotine had (almost) fallen on the second Manchester Half. Thanks again to the organisers and marshals.
Posted 18/10/2017 09:42