Yours truly did indeed toe the line at the Manchester race earlier this month – my first big city marathon.
Here’s some stuff that stood out:
It took about 15mins to walk from the place that looked after your change bag (while you were out doing the business) to the start line. And then you were still shy of the actual Start: That was reserved for the speedy racing snakes – the rest of us mere mortals were stacked behind in our pens that were graded by our (usually optimistic) anticipated finish time.
If I looked back behind me at the rest of the 20,000 folks who also thought this was a good way to spend a Sunday it was a column of humanity as far as the eye could see.
All freezing our bits off as we endured the long wait from arriving at our allotted place to actually starting this thing.
Because it was right chilly!
The solution was not a compulsory mass aerobics shouty dance-off led by aging 90’s icon Derek Evans, but to be clad in toasty outerwear that you’d be happy to give away.
The organisers had placed a team of athletic Clothes Catchers either side of the start line whose job it was the receive garments thrown at them by passing runners and bundle the items ready to go to local charities.
You could spot those runners who’d done this before clad as they were in anything big, fluffy and badly fitting but smiling the smug smile of the righteously toasty. This meant a shower of garments would erupt out of the jostling throng in a hopeful trajectory sidewards as the start pens were released. Genius!
Lost In Translation
The cheer of choice among the metropolitan masses these days appears to be the ubiquitous ‘You Got This!’ - capital letters do indeed apply – or the equally popular ‘You’re Smashing It!’ (see previous).
Now I’ve never really wet my pants in excitement over either of these but I can tell you that they are somewhat removed from the chorus directed at you if you are racing in the more rural hillier parts of this fair isle. To wit:
‘Gerron wi’ eet’ (Get thee on about thy business, sir - exclamation mark optional)
‘Ahreet’ (You are doing just fine – get thee on about thy business etc etc)
‘Aye.’ (Well met indeed – you are doing just fine – get thee about thy business etc etc).
And as for the volume – well.
‘Gotta hand it to the locals though because there were very few parts of the route that were unsupported and we went through many parts of the city where crowds looked to be 10 deep at least. It was all quite a culture clash.
Clearly I need to get out more.
Who Is That Guy?
It took me 7miles to figure out who the ‘Come On Andy!’ cheers were for.
‘There’s an awful lot of Andy’s around me’, I thought as I passed through yet another chorus.
Written under my race number in big friendly letters pinned to my front was indeed my first name put there by race organisation so that the crowds could get personal with me and my 19,999 companions. Eventually I clocked where the meaningful eye contact was directed and the penny dropped – and I spent the next mile feeling suitably embarrassed.
Rounding a corner at around mile 20 there is a girl of about eight holding out a big homemade cardboard sign: ‘Touch Here For More Energy’ was etched in big colourful letters around a large gold circle helpfully available at waist height.
Comprehension is operating on time-lapse and realisation comes only when she’s behind me.
And my race?
I was never really comfortable and found the last 20miles hard – and while I was pleased to stick with it and not fall apart it was all way too slow for my Competitive Bloke side to be remotely happy about. Forensic self-analysis has so far proved inconclusive though the key benefit remains unequivocal: Having this as a focus kept me sane over the winter and gave me structure, progression and something new to get my teeth into.
I enjoyed the process and gave it my best shot on the day.
The rest is just my baggage – and clearly I’m still packing.