Hello everyone. It’s been a while.
First of all, it’s good to be back. Look around you, this place is all new and shiny! And it has a new name and address and stuff. A fresh start. How exciting.
Secondly, apologies for the lack of a writeup in the aftermath of our amazing day out at the Great Manchester Runs all the way back in May. There are a myriad of reasons why I never got a blog out in the aftermath of our successful attempt at running 32.4 miles over the course of a single day, and I still feel bad that I’ve yet to finally update you all on how it went, especially those of you who donated to the cause. I feel I’m doing a bit of a disservice by not doing the day justice with a full report of how it all went, and hopefully when I finally do so I’ll be able to explain in part at least why it’s taken me so long to get round to it. But just before I move onto more recent fare, I do want to thank from the bottom of my heart everyone who chucked into the pot as we raised over £800 for The Wellspring. It hurt like fuck but you lot made it 100% worth it.
So after all that, summer came and went and it was a bit of a shitter this time around wasn’t it? A couple of hot days chucked in amongst a load of general drizzle interspersed with some epic downpours; Manchester reverted to type in 2019 after last year’s three month heatwave. The plus side though was that it made running through the summer a whole lot easier than 12 months ago as I approached the autumn months facing a trio of races I’d done before; Salford, Standalone, Manchester. 10k, 10k, half marathon. Game on.
I went into each race with fairly low expectations as my training this year was wayyyyyyyyyy off what I put myself through last time around. Part of this was a conscious decision as I frankly couldn’t be arsed flogging myself silly again as I dropped back into “running for pleasure” mode. Part of it was simply not having the time to dedicate to it as work escalated and Northern Rail decided it would be fun to keep getting me home an hour or more later than normal almost every day. Thanks as always, lads.
The Salford 10k at the very beginning of September was first up, a race I’d done once before (as well as pulling out of a couple of years before that), and one I hadn’t been too bothered about returning to due to the chaotic start and uninspiring scenery. However, buoyed by a cheap entry and a chance of a fast run on a flattish course to kick things off for the autumn race season I thought “why not” and duly chucked in an entry along with my wife for a repeat of 2017’s escapades.
It was a real treat of a morning weather-wise, the Quays looking pretty resplendent in the early morning sunshine, the water glistening under bright, clear blue skies. Yes it was a pain in the arse getting over as, despite the race pack telling us to catch the tram, the trams were all cancelled, and yes the start was a total mess once again. But as soon as I’d cleared those early hurdles, I hit a good early pace, kept it all of the way round and somehow out of absolutely nowhere ran my third fastest 10k ever. It was a real bolt from the blue and even writing this now a couple of months later I’m still not 100% sure how it actually happened.
The now-customary (but perhaps for not much longer) October double header at Standalone and then Manchester were much more what I was expecting. The Standalone curse was in full swing once again as my poor old man had to drop out after cracking a rib in a fall on a training run, and I almost pulled out as well after contracting some sort of lurgy that I must have picked up from the hundreds of students I helped enrol at work the fortnight leading up to it. Worst of all, the famous finishing arch, which fell victim to its own curse and collapsed mid-race last year, had now finally given up the ghost entirely, replaced by a fancy new little gantry thingy for us to all scurry under at the end of the race.
The soggy weather was definitely a bit of a change from the norm though after a glorious run of crisp sunny mornings since 2012’s eerie foggy affair, and in fact during the week leading up to it there were noises coming out of camp Standalone that the race might be called off entirely. Thankfully it never quite got that bad and except for a bit of a flood across the road just before half distance it was all alright in the end and I put my flu to the back of my mind and chugged round in a reasonable 40:35 on the back of the classic pre-Standalone meal the night before of my Mum’s lasagne and, regrettably, almost a bottle of wine. You can’t argue with the results though I guess.
And so onto Manchester, usually one of my favourite races of the year despite the dogshit Mancunian autumn providing us all with a nice little deluge on two of the three events since its inaugural year in 2016, which was repeated again here just for good measure. It’s a fast course though, there’s some nice little pockets of supporters on the way round, you get a free pint of (0%) beer at the end and it usually rewards you with a lovely medal and t-shirt at the end – more on that later.
I wasn’t expecting much from this one on the back of some pretty terrible long runs in the leadup to raceday, and in fact this would actually be the first time I’d be attempting to run further than 11 miles since May. Nevertheless off I trotted, somehow comfortably under sub-90 pace and with half the race behind me I started to feel like just maybe, as with Salford the month before, I might be able to pull off another unexpectedly good result here. It was all going so well.
It wasn’t to be. OK…here’s the rub. I’ve mentioned a few times in the past on here that I’m one of those people that suffer with, uh, a few “issues” in the lower bowel from time to time when I’m out on some of the longer runs. The infamous visit to the Heald Green Beafeater in 2016 always comes up in conversation whenever I discuss these kinda things, an unscheduled visit to Wetherspoons earlier this year was another horrible lowlight. And now to that ever-growing list you can add a hasty U-turn followed by a frantic dash to an incredibly conveniently located singlular portaloo just after mile eight of the 2019 Manchester Half Marathon.
Urrrrrggggh. Grim. Anyway, with that horror behind me I gritted my teeth and got on with the final third of the race, which was actually pretty decent as the rain mostly held off and I saw a cluster of mates in the centre of Chorlton and then best of all my wife as I sprinted through the last mile. I put in as big a finish as I could muster, unsure if I was anywhere near the magic sub-90 mark as my Garmin had auto paused while I was having a crap in Sale and I had no idea how much time I’d lost down there. I simply couldn’t know how fast I’d run the bloody thing and would just have to wait for the official result to come through, so I grabbed my medal and went to go and change out of my sodden t-shirt so I could head back down the course to go and cheer my mates over the line.
Slight problem there: I didn’t have anything to change into. Because I’m really clever, I didn’t bother reading the the pre-race info where it said there would be no finishers’ t-shirt this year, and as someone who had run this race every year since its inception and collected a t-shirt at the end every time, I stupidly assumed there’d be one there waiting for me again this time as well. I was properly disappointed not to get one, especially as they usually had such nice designs meaning I’ve wanted to keep wearing them out and about on my local runs, and in fact I even had the 2017 edition on for this very race. All a bit of a shame unfortunately and for the first time ever I felt a bit of disappointment with one of my favourite events of the year. I’ve yet to decide if I’ll return for 2020 or not.
As with 2018 there was an extra bonus final race of the year at the always fun Manchester Beer 10k. This year’s edition had a couple of extra challenges thrown in, with a couple of HUGE fallen trees blocking the route and a flooded canal path. I didn’t exactly run my best race, which is a shame as the time I hit at Salford would have put me in first place, not that Salford had a pair of four foot high tree trunks to clamber over at the halfway mark mind you. In keeping with the theme of the majority of my autumn though I was a bit off my best, I lost a couple of minutes in the second half of the race and then struggled over the line feeling a bit disappointed. It didn’t really matter though as it was still a great day out, with a few beers afterwards celebrating with the MRC Manchester crew who brought home the top three places.
Unless something drastic happens, that’s that for this year. Done and dusted. In terms of races, 2019 was one of my most productive ever years, with eight overall including a first-ever two-on-one-day affair. Some highs, some lows. A couple of unexpectedly fast ones, two or three mediocre ones. Success and mild disappointment. Running alone, running with my friends. Running with my wife as she smashed her half marathon PB to pieces back in March. Bright sunshine, torrential rain. Four season’s worth of weather in a single morning. A disastrous mid-race toilet break. A whole load of new t-shirts, although one less than I was expecting. Two new pairs of running shoes. Nearly a grand raised for charity. Overall, not a bad year, I guess.
So somehow now we’re in November, the tail end of the year, and with a gap of over six months away from blogging. Naturally now I’m sat here pondering what the space year 2020 might bring. In around three weeks time I will find out if I have taken the first steps towards what may become THE NEXT AMBITION. Something to possibly fuel another decade of blogging so that I can bore you all senseless about running and all that stuff. Pretty great, eh? It may or may not come off anyway but we’ll soon find out. It’s a bit of a ridiculous idea anyway, I won’t lie. But then when has that ever stopped me in the past?