The Masterplan – Greater Manchester Marathon 2018

Disclaimer: This is my wee blog, and there are highs and lows for me, and results for me that would be seen in a totally different way to others. The Marathon in particular is a very individual challenge, this is just my wee story on trying to hit my own wee target. My wee attempt at the Masterplan.

So last couple of training runs done and the taper was complete barring a wee leg mover in Manchester on Saturday. Weather forecast favourable. Ankle niggly but not enough to stop me running. Going for a long weekend with the family and had left work with absolutely no stresses or evils hanging over my head and I actually had nothing to complain about going into the Marathon weekend. Yeah the weather in the build up hadn’t been ideal but I had worked as hard as time, the conditions and other things that life throws at you would allow. No regrets and had followed the plan to the best of my abilities. What has happened to me? The reek of irritation is only mild so far. It’s OK, that will change. We got down on the Friday afternoon after an ill-advised pit stop at Gretna where Nike, Superdry and Lambretta robbed me of my cash and the hotel was right beside Old Trafford and about 2 minutes from the starting line.

Big difference from London last year where it took me about 2 weeks to get to the start from Wembley, crossing three international time zones and sending postcards along the way. I was that relaxed I even had a pint on the Friday night, my first in months, as one drink wasn’t going to change the world. Up early Saturday and had a wee jog round the start and finish areas then a wee dander round the Quays. Sussed out that the last turn to the finish line would be pretty much bang on a kilometre, and as it worked out this was going to be key come race day, but we will come to that later.

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Patience grasshopper.

Family day to chill and took the nippers to the Lego Discovery centre. No nerves at all. What’s got into me?

But as we got back to the hotel all the other runners staying there started arriving. The svelte rake like creatures looking disapprovingly at my food selections in the restaurant. Breakfast in the morning and as I queued up for the toaster they poured the contents of their own packets and packages onto plates in measured methodical fashion. Then the nerves started. I wasn’t prepared. (I was).

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I wasn’t eating right (I was fine). I couldn’t make 26 miles. What if my garmin won’t work. Do I have enough compeed on. I don’t have enough gels. I can’t breathe properly at the best of times, this could kill me in a marathon. Oh my ankle feels sore now. My hamstrings are sooooo tight. Am I cramping already? The Maranoid Mancunian blues were kicking in.

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I was thankful to get out the hotel and savour the stroll to the start. The atmosphere was relaxing me as I went past Old Trafford and up toward my pen. I had my plan and I was going to stick to it. I had trained at 3.05 pace, I was going out at about 3.08/3.09 pace and my aim quite simply, as it had been since last year was to make an attempt at that 3.15 GFA. That would be a PB of around 8 minutes, but this year I actually felt as if I was capable of giving it a right go. Under the arch to the pen early and even my dodgy nose and breathing was finding the combined aroma of banana and deep heat quite powerful. There was excited chatter. Nerves. I found my GPS signal for the 8th time as it kept dropping. I tied my laces for the 6th time into about 6 knots. Shorts tight enough. Gels comfortable. Feeling nervy then happened to look to the side and saw Elaine and the boys.

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It was going to be alright  :)We were off! About 250m in and a guy in front runs to the side and has a pee!! Good luck for the next 26 miles mate…. The aim was kilometres in the region of 4.25 or so and I was quickly into my rhythm, pulling back a few times. 4.30 was 3.10 pace, 4.37 was 3.15 pace, and again this would be important later. Prepared. The plan. Through the first 3 mile loop and back past the start almost. The crowd noise was immense. Had a brief chat with Ayr’s Ian Young as he did his usual running away from me. He was on his way to smashing his PB in 3.06 and fair play to him. The weather was perfect, little wind, no rain, a lovely day for a run and I was keeping pretty steady as we went out.

About 6 miles in and my old friend Brian Campbell came dancing past having been held up before the start, some kind words from the sub 3 seeking Cambuslang runner before he disappeared into the distance (he would finish in 2.52…..) Bella RR’s ubiquitous Mr Hulse made his usual appearance out of nowhere for a high 5 and a pic and it was great to see his friendly face and impeccable hair, cheers also for the encouragement later in the race.

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The GPS went a bit haywire down the long long Brookland road but I was easy with it all. Timperley had a great atmosphere, then into Altrincham and my first real wobble. I had started to doubt myself thinking my pace was too fast as I wasn’t even half way and I was sure a big hill was coming. Dougie Holmes picked this moment to come alongside me, we had a wee chat then away he strode on his way to a 3.09. Amazing stuff from a top lad. I contemplated trying to go with him, but no, my race, my plan, today not for racing others. I slogged it through the mile 12 – 13, my mile of 7.44 a good 30 seconds or so slower than the ones before it. The head was struggling more than the legs to be fair, but as we came back out of Altrincham and going past the runners who were still coming into the wee loop the shouts of encouragement from RFS John and Jude along with a high 5 from fellow MAC man Ello had me out of my stupour and back onto my pace again. Through the half in just under 1.34, a 1.41 second one would see me home, but I was more than aware the danger miles, like last year, were still to come. I was feeling comfortable as I could be and knew that only cramp was going to rob me of that 3.15. I had no doubts about the stamina. The long run back up Brooklands was tough, but do-able, 10 miles to go. A Tom Scott road race. The crowd was cheering away, bands playing. It was magic. Through Sale etc. Past mile 18, 19, 20 and all going to plan. 3.15 achievable. Man even 3.10 was looking achievable. Mile 21, still on target. 22 and I started to feel the calves. They were in danger mode and I could feel it coming. I had no choice but to start slowing it down. People were dropping all around me, the cramp sniper giving it laldy. Not this year pal. I have not trained the last 3 months to give up, you may wound me but the power of Malkie is stronger. Through mile 23 and it was getting worse. Stride reduced, running style changed, but I won’t stop. I stopped last year and things got worse. MUST keep moving. Crowd cheering. Kids with sweets. Pensioners dancing. Someone says “Not far to go” and wanted to deck them. Not giving up. Talking to myself. “It’s just Strathy parkrun with cramp, not even any wind. It’s like running home from Ravenscraig but without the hill, easy.” Saying anything to keep me going, scaring local children and dogs. Mile 24 slower again. Man this is agony, keep having to straighten up as I run. Calves ready to totally ping, feel the cramp when I even raise my arm to look at the watch. Mile 25, takes me over 8 minutes, don’t care. I’m doing it. Crowd roaring, maybe even Lions roaring, “come on Marko!!!!!”

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Over and over in my head working out my splits, my times. I work out I can afford 9 minute miles on 25 and 26 and sneak under so my head still in the game. Just over a mile to go, but I know this section, I did the recce yesterday. The Hulse man appears again. I mumble this time, can’t raise arm for a high 5.

Onto Chester Road, I see the turn for the finish. Make that turn. Look at the watch. The finish looks soooooo far away and for the next few minutes it doesn’t seem to get any closer but I know it’s a km. I know I have plenty of time. All about preservation, keep the short strides and slower pace and the 3.15 is in the bag. It’s sore but I remember why I did this after London. What I have told everyone.

I just want to enjoy the finish as I never got to do that in London.

I’m smiling, taking in the cheers, the shouts, the support, the atmosphere.

“Come on Marko!!!!”

My arms go up in the air. I am milking it, agreed, but it’s the reason I was doing it. Get that PB, that GFA and enjoy the experience and that finish.

The gun clock goes to 3.12 as I get over the line. Scooshed it. My time is 3.11.36. A new PB by 12 minutes and 3 ½ minutes inside my aim. I won’t lie, I can’t lie, I was buzzing, delighted, ecstatic.

That 3 months training is tough but worth every second when you cross that line. Met another RFS pal Craig who had been 3 seconds faster than me (booo ;)) smashing his PB, brilliant.

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Got the medal, t shirt, pics etc and out to see my amazing family whose support I couldn’t have done this without. Elaine, you earned that medal as much as me.

Had a few pints, a big manky dessert, even the waiter throwing prawn cocktail over Elaine couldn’t take the happiness away.

So no moans this time around. Yeah I suffered that last few miles but I got what I wanted having planned it from start to finish. A big thanks to John Quinn whose advice all through the training helped me through this, and to Ello, delighted for him smashing the 3.30 for the first time, I think we have kept each other sane over the last couple of months as we both aimed for our goals.

So that is that, what now? Will I do another marathon? I’m not saying definitely, I am not saying I won’t, I think the answer is probably, but there is no rush and there is no unfinished business now. Thank you the people of Manchester for helping me achieve my aim today, when the chips were down your support was like extra strides. At my age now PBS are few and far between so I am delighted to have got this one. Now it’s 5ks, 10ks, track and whatever else I decide along the way. If I can keep that smile on my face it’s going to be a good season, I hope each and every one of you get that buzz this year that I got at Manchester.

Manchester, Malkie has been served.

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