Sunday saw the running of the Asics Greater Manchester Marathon – in, well Manchester.
Whilst it is definitely the smaller of the ‘big three’ UK spring marathons – it’s 7,800 runners and 54m of elevation make it quieter and flatter than both Brighton and London – it has won numerous runner-voted awards since it’s relaunch a few years ago.
The race certainly did not disappoint. The organisation was faultless, the marshals were very friendly and the race village facilities were excellent.
The race HQ is located close to the start and finish, in the shadow of Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium, which was easily accessible by the excellent Manchester tram system. Those who arrived early had ample opportunity to grab a pre-race cup of tea before getting changed in the designated marquee or indeed to have their picture taken alongside the bronze statue of The United Trinity – Best, Charlton and Law. Many were using the Munich Tunnel as a place to warm up and it certainly provided a good 400m stretch to get warmed up in relative seclusion.
The weather was unusually perfect – 9 degrees, overcast and barely even a mild breeze. Conditions that our club mates at Brighton would no doubt have cherished.
The race got underway bang on 9am – with the runners from the various waves setting off down the Chester Road dual carriageway. The race is run on entirely closed roads with just the odd part of the race having traffic in a far-away lane. Whilst excellent for the runners, it did apparently make driving to the race a challenge which unfortunately led to Alastair only making the start line with a couple of minutes to spare.
The first few miles – in a similar vain to the Maidenhead Easter Ten – were in and around the industrial and business park area around Trafford. An early double back gave good opportunity for the majority of runners to see the front men and women steaming past in the opposite direction. 26.2’s own Alastair McGeoch-Williams was amongst them and was looking strong in the first few miles. One other fairly rapid runner was not so fortunate and he unfortunately took a tumble over a traffic cone around mile 3 and was seemingly in a bad way having hit his head on the way down. Fortunately the medical team were there and apparently he was ok save for a mild concussion – sadly for him of course that was the end of his race.
The race then headed south down towards Altrincham which marked the halfway point of the race. The roads en route there are largely residential and somewhat reminiscent of the Southborough Estate which most of us know well in Surbiton. Support in this area was surprisingly good and Mrs Bromley reported how easy it was to get down there via the tram system.
The halfway point brought about one of the race highlights – a choir entirely made up of 20 or so five year olds singing to the runners as they went by – the first time I can recall an audible collective ‘ahhhhhh’ at the 13 mile point of a marathon. Enough to melt even the most knackered of hearts and not something you’re likely to forget. The support at halfway in Altrincham was really first rate and the Manchester equivalent of the Tower Bridge section at London – much smaller in scale but just as encouraging.
One thing that can definitely be said about the race route in Manchester is that it is flat – pancake flat. There are two mild sections of incline – both of which only have a moderate incline and are reasonably short. This is the interesting thing about the route – it doesn’t have even elevation because of equal amounts of up and downhill – it’s just overwhelmingly flat.
The finish of the race is in the shadow of the Sir Matt Busby stand at Old Trafford and the crowds are right up close for the final 400 metres. The noise was deafening and in this area, I would say the race excels and is a real highlight of the route.
The race winners were
Paul Martellitti from Run Fast in 02:17:46
Georgie Bruinvels from Aldershot, Farnham & District AC in 02:37:16
Two runners from 26.2 RRC made the trip north and the results were
Alastair McGeoch-Williams – 2:43:43
Lawrence Bromley – 3:21:51
Two of the above results are notable in that they were debut performances. Georgie Bruinvels was making her marathon bow and to win at the first attempt is a fantastic achievement. Closer to home, our very own Alastair McGeogh-Williams was also making his debut and with his tremendous performance has achieved the qualification time for next year’s London Marathon Championship race. Alastair only decided to take on this marathon two months ago and that decision has clearly been vindicated!
All in all a race that lives up to its billing as a flat and PB friendly course.