Relentless Forward Progress – My Reflections on The Manchester Marathon
By Peter Persico
After reading the most excellent reports already written, I thought I’d briefly write of my reflections on the Manchester marathon, which would also be my first marathon.
My physical state in the weeks leading up to the marathon was not good. This was due to external factors that caused muscle cramps and muscle pain. I will not go into the details here, but this was perhaps then made somewhat worse due to me trying to continue with training. As a fan of doing ridiculous things and, despite some people actually recommending that I don’t actually run the marathon, I chose to go ahead and leave doubt at the start line. Besides which, I had paid to enter and wanted the t-shirt! On waking that morning, I didn’t feel too bad, and thought that I may be able to pull this off in a decent time. I had planned to start out with Dave Rayson and Laurence Lennon with whom I had done many runs, and thought that I may still be able to manage this at least for most of the marathon. However, after a few miles from the start, I realised that I’d need to slow down a little because my ankles were not as stable and strong as I’d need them to be to keep up the initial pace. I reluctantly drew back and settled into my own run.
When I got to the 10km mark, I thought I was going pretty well, but then a little after 7 miles, things started to deteriorate a bit more – one of my ankles became more problematic, and I no longer felt that it was supporting my weight as it needed to do to keep me moving at the speed I had been running. As a result, I slowed a bit more, but also varied my speed, going a bit faster when I could, but then slowing down more at certain points to allow my ankle time to take a break. I decided that I would keep moving forward though. Between the half-way point and mile 20, I think were the hardest part for me at least. I remember catching up to a Wetherby runner at about mile 15 or so and speaking to her for a little bit whilst moving forward. This was her 8th marathon, but she too, had an on-going foot problem and so was intermittently walking. We also talked briefly about multi-sport events since I had done a few duathlons and she had taken part in a few triathlons. After this pleasant interlude, I carried on forwards during this more difficult patch.
At mile 20, there was a fire engine. When I saw this, I thought that they might be spraying water at people, but it turned out that bubbles were being produced instead. I suppose it may have been a bit bad for them to be using water since Sheffield didn’t have any for their half-marathon run! At this point, they said “Keep going, only 6 more miles left”. I’d generally kept my mind focused on where I was in the marathon, not thinking about how far I’d come or how far I’d left to go. However, when I heard this, I thought that I’d give an extra push. I know I’ve heard it said a few times that the marathon begins at mile 20, but at this point, despite the dodgy ankles, I felt I could push a little bit more whilst I varied my speed, and still keep my mind on where I was at the time. From early on in the marathon, I had passed people walking, but from mile 20, there were considerably more people walking that I managed to pass, and some stopping to stretch or just to rest. Each time I passed someone either walking or having stopped, I thought, “I’m doing better than that one”. I admit, it’s perhaps not the nicest thought to have, but at the time it reminded me of an ex-soldier I met through work several years ago. He had entered the Berlin marathon with some others and they had been out drinking the night before. He said that each time they passed other runners that had either stopped or collapsed, he had the thought that he was doing better than them. I have to say also that whilst keeping my mind focused on where I was at the time, it was great to hear people shouting words of encouragement, especially using my name since that was on the race number. This gave an extra boost and helped keep me moving a bit quicker than I might have done. When I realised that the end was close, I decided to try and push it a bit more so that at the very least I’d get some good photos out of the marathon despite the slower time. The photos above I hope show that I was able to get some good photos and give a bit of a push at the end. After crossing the line, one of my first thoughts was slight annoyance that I’d been slower that I wanted and not quite quick enough at the end to get even a slightly better time. This was then followed by the thought that I’d do this marathon again next year and do it properly, do more longer runs, and avoid any external factors that would affect me. I would also definitely recommend this marathon to others. In fact, when speaking to one of the guys at cycle-clothing.co.uk the following day in their shop [they produced the Abbey cycling top], he said I’d convinced him to do a marathon next year, and he hasn’t been running for several months and has only run 5km – bonus!
Below are other sayings and quotes that went through my mind at various points during the marathon. I am pleased though that at no point did I entertain pulling out of the marathon!
- “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” [Winston Churchill]
- “Pain is temporary. It may last for a minute or an hour or a day, or even a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take it’s place. If I quit, however, it will last forever.”
- “He who says he can and he who says he can’t are both usually right.”
- “Don’t cry to quit. You’re already in pain, you’re already hurt, get a reward from it.” [Eric Thomas]