2015 Manchester Marathon PB for Brendan Kennelly
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The pressure was really on in Manchester. Not alone had there been a slew of great times posted by GCH runners in Connemara last week but, even worse, Sarah had really upped the ante by posting a spectacular race report during the week. I was, it must be said, at a distinct disadvantage – I did not have a fiancée willing to cycle around the course supporting me and, more importantly, supplying interesting copy for my race report. Not to mention all the glamorous photos of Sarah in full flight.
I had decided to do Manchester last October in the days after the Dublin marathon which I had really enjoyed. Even though I had not run a great time in Dublin and had suffered horribly in the last 6 miles the race had restored my love for marathons. I did not fancy any of the Spring marathons in Ireland. I considered Rotterdam and then came across very good reports about Manchester so I signed up. I did a 15 week training programme which was basically a version of the under-55 Pfizinger and Douglas training plan. I had a great training period with one exception – the Kinvara half which I finished in 1.44. In late January Barry McCann and I started doing long runs together (he was training for London). I think having a training partner on long runs is the single most important aid in training for a marathon.
The travel logistics went well and, while only a cheapskate like me would choose the hotel I picked, it served its purpose and was within 500 metres of the start. My plan was to run at a pace of 7.45 a mile for as long as I could and I secretly hoped that I might be able to increase the pace near the end.
So what do I do? I run the first mile in 7.37, the second in 7.25 and the third in 7.32. They feel unbelievably relaxed to me but I know they are too fast. I latch on to two runners from a local club and tell myself not to pass them. That works for a while and I run the next 4 at an average of 7.42. They fell back at this stage. I wanted to tell them that this was not allowed! Or maybe my discipline could not last any longer. Anyway miles 8 to 12 were done at an average of 7.38. I really got carried away at this stage. We were running through Altrincham where there was a lot of support around the half way mark. I glanced at the official clock at the half way and saw 1.39.40. Two thoughts! Up yours Kinvara (pathetic I know) and secondly, was the magic 3.20 a realistic goal? The next 6 miles were glorious – or at least they seemed so at the time! I averaged 7.30 between mile 13 and mile 18. I knew the magic number for a 3.20 marathon was 7.37 a mile pace so I knew that I was on target to beat it. Those miles felt comfortable. The next 3 were a little slower with an average of 7.36. I was beginning to notice my breathing for the first time all day. Halfway through mile 22 I stopped for a very quick toilet break. It was a terrible decision. My legs, which had seemed quite content to keep going at around 7.37 pace, now absolutely refused to consider anything under 8. Miles 21 and 22 were done at an average of 8.10. I was now in big trouble and the last 3 miles were very tough going. I kept telling myself not to stop and am glad I didn’t. The very worst moment was about half a mile from the finish when suddenly there was a marker for mile 25! I didn’t know what to think. I kept going and soon realised that the marker was wrong. I turned into the famous Sir Matt Busby Way and realised that I was going to do a PB even if the dream of breaking 3.20 will have to wait for another day. Or, perhaps, another life. The old PB had stood for over 4 years (there were even whispers that it might have been made up since it was done in Washington DC.) I am very happy to have set a new PB and to have done justice to the training programme that I followed.
Overall, it was a great marathon and I would certainly recommend Manchester to anybody looking for a fast Spring marathon in 2016 (I could name names but won’t!) It is cheap to enter and to get to if you book far enough in advance. Hotels are another matter. The support on the course was great – similar to Dublin. The weather was more or less perfect with the only problem being a moderate wind between miles 21 and 25. The course itself featured some parts that were a little boring and other parts that were very pleasant. There was a long section between 9 and 16 where runners were running in opposite directions on the same road. One benefit of this was you could see how other people were doing. I could tell for example that Jane-Anne Meehan and Gearoid Rohan were well ahead of the 1.30 pacer at halfway and was delighted to learn that they went on to run 2.54. Overall it was a great day for our friends in Athenry A.C. with 4 runners from the club setting PBs by a combined time of about 50 minutes as well as two runners taking second place in the women’s relay. There were lots of Irish people doing the race which might suggest that there is an opening in Ireland for a flat marathon in early or mid-April.
Thanks to everyone in the club for advice and support in the past few months. A special thanks to Barry and the Sunday morning regulars for their company. I am looking forward to getting back to just doing 11 miles on a Sunday morning and, hopefully, being able to maintain a conversation for all of it!
Last word goes to the ever helpful Dee Coughlan who sent me the following piece of advice by text a few hours after I finished:
“In future, p---- down your leg!”
Written by Brendan Kennelly. 20.04.2015