Full circle

While I love taking myself off to new and far flung places to go and do me a big old running race sometimes, there’s something reassuringly familiar about coming back to one you’ve done before, taking away the usual pre-race nerves of; how busy will it be? What’s the course profile like? Where can I use the the loo beforehand (because I will definitely need the loo)? And most importantly, where is the nearest pub after the finish?

Regular readers will be aware of some of the more frequent races I tend to go for, the Standalone 10k in particular being an annual thing these days with this October’s being my fifth in a row and my sixth overall. The Mersey Tunnel 10k I’ve done a couple of times now, the somewhat bleak We Love Manchester 10k another repeat. I’ve even done the bloody Manchester Marathon twice now (well, almost). Basically, it’s just nice to go back every so often and have another bash at one you know and see how you can improve the next time around with the benefit of hindsight.

Which brings me nicely onto tomorrow’s Great Manchester Run, the scene of my very first ever 10k all the way back in 2008. I didn’t really have much of an idea what I was doing back then, if I’m being honest, but I’d raised a good few quid for charity along the way and so armed with my £20 pair of trainers from TK Maxx and a few evening jogs around the block in the weeks leading up to it I lined up with around 30,000 others (after the now-customary panic queuing up for the portaloos) and then trotted out of the City Centre, up the A56, round Old Trafford and all the way back again, bringing it home in 41:14. I was officially a runner.

The following year I went in a bit more serious, with my first ever proper pair of running shoes and an actual training plan in place. And the results were pretty spectacular as despite a wretched headwind all the way back into town I took just under two minutes off that first effort and set a time of 39:29, and then that was that. I’ve not raced it since. I’ve headed down a couple of times to cheer various friends on, and always enjoyed the buzz of a Big Event (the largest 10k in Europe, in fact) but in terms of racing, I guess a combination of the expense and the familiarity led to me exploring other 10ks in such scenic environs as East Manchester, Birkenhead and Southport instead.

Now though, finally, it’s time to return to the very roads where it all began. I’m looking forward to having another bash and seeing how it feels sweating round the course with all these years of experience I now have. Seven years after setting that time and I’ve still yet to better it, over a dozen 10ks later despite all the improvements I’ve made in training, footwear, nutrition and whatnot. It took me four and a half years to even get back below 40 minutes again FFS and although I unexpectedly ran it close in 2014, the 2009 Great Manchester Run still remains my race PB. Or most likely I’ll end up having a few beers for the FA Cup final and end up regretting the whole bloody shebang. Either / or.

Anyway, regardless of how I get on, the best thing about tomorrow is that after the failure (on my part at least) of The Race Where We Were All Going to Run Together, this time it’s actually happening (assuming I’m not dealt a dose of crippling insomnia again anyway). I’ve literally lost count of how many of my friends are also out running on Sunday but it’s probably approaching double figures, with all of us having our own aims and challenges for the day. Two of these are Jonny and his sister, both running in full MNDA colours and adding a few more miles towards our 1000 Miles for Motor Neurone Disease challenge. It promises to be a particularly poignant affair coming just a week after the first anniversary of Neil Scott’s untimely death.

So, with that in mind I’ll hand over to Jonny:

“The 14th of May was a year since losing my dad to MND and means we only have one more horrible first anniversary to go through, the funeral.

I woke up at 7am on the 14th and thought “sod this for a game of soldiers (a phrase my dad used regularly), I’m off out training”. So with the 245 mile bike ride on the horizon I opted for a nice long pedal over a run. With the Manchester 10k I’m still working on the principle that I’m fit enough from my every day training to drag my fat arse round. The pedal proved perfect therapy but sitting the day before the 10k I’m starting to wish I had done a little more running to prepare. I’m going to approach it with a mind set of “set a pace to finish”.

As I’ve written before that’s just not really in my nature so I’ll let you know how it works out.”

This time tomorrow, we’ll all be finding out exactly how it’s working out. Hopefully the weather will be decent enough so that those finishing earlier can then take their spot to cheer on the rest in the waves setting off behind them, but without the 25 degree sweatfest served up in 2014 that absolutely ruined everyone out on the course. And then, we all hang up our running shoes and get on our bikes. The events are coming thick and fast now with Jonny taking part in a 245 mile cycle from Leamington Spa to the Stadium of Light next weekend and then we all begin to look build up to the the Coast to Coast ride in July. But first, the last run of the 2016 spring events, and on the streets where all this bloody running nonsense all began. It’s good to be back.

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