“If you’re going to be sick, do it in the blue bags!”
As I almost fell across the finish line of the Great Manchester Run on Sunday, gasping for breaths of warm air that didn’t seem to fill my lungs, I was vaguely aware of a man shouting those words, although I wasn’t sure where it was coming from. Through the sweat stinging my eyes I could see people doubled over at the side of the road, or sitting down with their head between their knees, even lying down when they couldn’t go any further. I couldn’t stop though – my whole body was burning and my face was on fire but I stumbled quickly through the exhausted runners around me to get out of the crowd and to some water as soon as possible. I had never known anything like it.
You would not choose to go out and train in weather like Sunday morning. A beautiful day for spectators meant a challenging 10k for the 40,000 assembled runners – given the choice, you would wait until it was cooler for a training run but on race day there is no option. By the time my white wave set off just before 11am there were clear blue skies and a temperature approaching 20 degrees, and on a course mostly consisting of wide roads with no shelter, it was going to be difficult.
I passed the 6k mark in a time a little more than a minute over my best in training – so far so good given the human traffic I was negotiating – but it was now I started to struggle. I was now running further than my usual training distance, which ordinarily wouldn’t be a problem but I was fast running out of steam. The section of the course between 6 and 8k twists and turns as you come back past Old Trafford to return to the city centre, and it has a relatively gentle uphill section but this was proving to be a mountain to climb on my increasingly shaky legs.
When I reached the jelly babies at 8.5k I grabbed one from the outstretched hand as I passed and savoured the little sugar rush to get me to the end. I could hear runners around me panting and wheezing, and there were more than a few agonised grunts of discomfort as people willed themselves on. The crowd lining the route were fantastic though, especially towards the end, and really gave me a push to the finish. I was never more grateful to hit ‘stop’ on my watch than at that moment – 54:17. I would have been happy with that time anyway so was amazed I had improved by nearly two minutes on my previous best from last year in such baking conditions.
I got my breath back within a few minutes, although the sunburnt shoulders and painful hamstrings lasted a few days. It was a fantastic personal achievement for me though and I am so motivated for the Great North 10k in three weeks’ time. Just hope the weather in Gateshead is a little more runner friendly – a bit of cloud cover wouldn’t go amiss! Will keep the sun cream out though just in case.