Four AW readers share their marathon experiences as event ambassadors

Andy Pearson, Tom Martin, Gill Bland and Amile Inusa were among the 8053 runners who took to the streets of Manchester earlier this month for the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon.

The four Athletics Weekly readers were the lucky applicants after AW teamed up with event organisers to run a competition to find two male and two female ambassadors ahead of the event on April 19. Here, in their fourth and final blog post, they share their experiences of race day.

If you also ran the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon, let us know! Send a tweet @AthleticsWeekly and @Marathon_Mcr #RUNASICSMCR, pop a mention on Facebook or add a comment beneath this post. You can learn more about the four ambassadors here and read their three training updates on the AW website – On the road to the ASICS Greater Manchester MarathonASICS Greater Manchester Marathon: One month to go and ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon: It’s taper time.

Andy Pearson

Andy Pearson_during raceArriving at the race village on the morning of the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon there was a real buzz of excitement around as there always is on the day of a big race. The excited chatter of nervous anticipation, music and PA announcements filling the airways, the mass warm up, the portaloo queues and of course the mass exodus of runners and spectators to the start line.

The more marathons I do the less nervous I feel on the start line. For me the feeling is more relief that the day is finally here and I can begin the race, get through the “easy” part of the run (around the first 20 miles) and then it’s the bit that matters. The final 10km.

The race went pretty much as I had hoped for. I had a steady start and had a bit of a chat with a few guys that I knew from other races in the first few miles then settled into a relaxed rhythm ticking off the miles. I reached halfway in 1 hour 17 minutes exactly and at that point had caught a large group including the leading lady (Georgie Bruinvels who went on to run 2:37, a course record).

I was spurred on by the time at halfway and as I felt so comfortable still I decided I would try and catch the next group. In my head I thought if I can get the holy grail of a negative split then a sub-2:34 would be in my grasp. It’s never that easy though and although at 20 miles (1:56:58) I was running at 2:33 pace I still had the business end to do. In my head it was simple, sub-6 minute miling all the way home should bring me close to the 2:34 mark. In the end the last few miles were outside this and the time was slipping away. As I turned the corner into the finish the clock was ticking over the 2:34 mark and I enjoyed the run in to finish in 2:34:15 (gun time). A massive personal best by over three minutes which I’m over the moon with. I finished in 17th place overall and thanks to my steady start didn’t get overtaken once in the race!

The atmosphere around the course was superb. I particularly enjoyed the area around Timperley where the crowds were amazing. There was such a lot of support around the course from spectators and fellow runners that made the miles tick by so easily.

The support I have received as one of the race ambassadors has been amazing. I loved wearing the ASICS race kit on the day and ran in the DS Racer 10s. The shoes were amazing and having only worn them for a small handful of runs they gave me no problems at all over the 26.2 miles.

I’m definitely coming back next year for my third go at Manchester. The race made loads of positive improvements this year and it really felt like a slick, well oiled machine of a race. Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this journey!

Amile Inusa

Amile Inusa_post raceHaving had a somewhat restless night before the race, I woke up feeling energetic and ready to finally get this ‘marathon thing’ done.

My recent calf injury was feeling stronger than it had done in while, so I felt able and relieved to participate. The morning began by meeting friends from my run club who were also running the marathon. We got in our minibus and travelled down to the Old Trafford race village. In hindsight, this journey must have dissipated any nerves that I may have had lingering. There is certainly something in knowing that you are not facing a challenge alone.

I got out my phone to quickly re-read my marathon “10-10-10” game plan. This method sees the runner taking it easy for the first 10 miles, running at race pace for the next 10 miles, and then just using your remaining energy to blitz the last 10 kilometres. Tony Ruiz, Central Park Track Club coach, praises this style for “allowing runners to conserve energy for the latter stages”.

As I made my way over to the start line, I went through the motions of my pre-run routine: Earphones were put in, music playlist was turned on and laces were re-tied. A few dynamic stretches later and a quick prayer said, I was ready to go.

I forced myself to stick to the plan and run much slower than I felt natural to begin. This paid off and I was still feeling strong at the 20mile mark, which surprised even me. One mile later after the long stretch of Carrington Lane, friends from the groups were there to cheer us on with their posters and megaphones! I was ecstatic upon seeing them and felt ready to attack the last five miles.

As I approached the 23 mile mark, my calf injury made a comeback and my right leg almost collapsed beneath me. I took a moment, stretched it out but was intent on continuing. Though I had to limp the last three miles, I did so with support from the crowd and runners nearby.

I finished with a time of 4:06 and a smile on my face.

Tom Martin

Tom Martin_AGMM post raceNerves were high, my body coursing with adrenaline as I lined up at the start of the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon. The big day had arrived!

The race ambassadors including myself and so many other runners have spent the past three months training through dark icy nights, strong winds and sunny spring mornings. It has been tough going balancing training around my busy working days and clocking up some decent mileage and now was the biggest test, finally finding out if it had all been worth it.

The day before the marathon I had packed all my race kit ready to go the next morning, ate a large pasta meal and got an early night. The next morning I woke at 4am, had some porridge, made some final kit checks and left for Manchester. We arrived at Old Trafford just after 7am. At around 7:40am I finally met my fellow ambassadors ready for our pre-race photo. It was great to finally say ‘hello’ and have a little chat about running, of course. I could tell that we all were a little nervous as we also had the pressure of being race ambassadors looming over us.

I made my way to the start line and after what felt like only a matter of minutes we set off on our 26.2 mile journey. My initial pace was slightly quicker than planned but I felt great and the first three miles flew by.

As I approached 4 miles I saw my wife, brother and sister cheering me on and that lifted me even higher. I maintained my faster pace at that point and I wanted to make it to at least mile 20 at that pace.

The crowd support was amazing. We passed bands, choirs and many, many supportive signs that gave me a little extra boost.

At half way I glanced at my Garmin and it read 1:36:54. I was really happy. In my head I calculated a possible finish time, I kept telling myself keep going and maintained this pace until mile 21. Then my legs slowed a little and I had blisters developing under my feet but I pressed on. The last five miles seemed like they would never end but as I reached mile 25 I could see Old Trafford in the distance. I was nearly there.

With half a mile to go I had a sudden rush of energy – my technique improved along with my pace and I managed a sprint finish crossing the line in a PB of 3:20:10. Through all of the tiredness and pain emerged a smile that nothing could remove.

The race was amazing, well organised and I had achieved my goal with a massive 18 minutes improvement. I hope to return again next year for yet another PB.

I would like to thank ASICS, My Protein, Athletics Weekly and Breathe Unity for the opportunity and all their support. This experience really has been fantastic.

Gill Bland

Gill Bland_AW post raceIt seems ages ago that I tentatively made my 3-hour marathon goal public and yet all of a sudden I was in Manchester meeting the other ambassadors and the race was underway. A busy first five miles and starting quite far back in the pen kept my mind busy. I took my gels as planned 40 and 80 minutes in and still couldn’t see the 3-hour pacer. I pondered whether I should try and catch them but remembered wise words about running your own race and not going out too fast to the detriment of later miles.

Training definitely paid off, as the first 12 miles flew by without too much worry. After a 13 mile PB it was time to start to dig in and believe that three hours might be possible. I ended up running alongside a lady from Germany and we briefly exchanged hellos. This made me feel a little awkward as I then was worried about not being able to keep up. It was also occasionally a bit crowded near water points but we ended up near each other most of the way.

At mile 20 it was time to turn the volume up on my internal monologue and tell myself how annoyed I’d be if I didn’t hold on now. I thought I was two minutes off pace by this point but was determined to keep going. As people started to pull up around me I was surprised at how strong the urge was just to stop and have a sit down! Seeing an old uni friend at 21 miles was a huge boost but I totally missed the 25 mile marker where I had planned to pick up my pace, though I’m not sure I could have done. The German lady had come from behind and stormed ahead at mile 24.

As I turned the corner into the home straight I saw Mr Bland shouting his head off and tried to sprint finish. Alas, I couldn’t get much speed out as my legs felt slightly out of my control. I crossed the line at 3:01:20 thinking I’d given it everything and convinced I was at least one minute over my target. A moment later as I collected my medal I felt like I could have pushed it more. How annoying. I went to meet Mr B and met Andy who had stormed his race. The chip time came in … 3:00:01. So close! So, Manchester, it’s been an amazing experience being an ambassador but you and I have a score to settle. I’ll be seeing you next year.

Mr Bland has had occasional mentions all through this process, so I feel it’s right and fair that I give him a huge thank you for his amazing tram-hoping, mile-marker-chasing support. Thank you also to all the other ambassadors, Athletics Weekly, Breathe Unity, the sponsors, race organisers, and volunteers. Your support and banter has been a massive help.

Things I have learnt from training for #RunAsicsMcr:

• Speed work is important and I might even enjoy it sometimes.
• Gels are not as evil as I’d thought – I’m glad I can cover the distance without them but the boost (possibly psychological) is worth it.
• Nutrition and rest is important (who’d have thought). I run so much better when I’ve had some good recovery food straight after my last workout.
• Good kit makes a run feel much nicer. You don’t need expensive kit for running, that’s one of the reasons I like it, but it does feel nice and it dries lot faster too.
• I want to run with groups more – I did one run with a London crew and really enjoyed it
• I want to cross train. There’s some very cool sounding classes out there.
• Sometimes you just need to run for the fun of it.
• I’ve lost the lycra fear. I now can be found turning up to places in running gear just because it means I can run there.
• I’m more competitive than I realised.

Things I want to work on:

Leg turnover and breathing. If I could have picked up those two seconds, just think how great that would be! Also, I noticed during the race that when I’m starting to tire my chin lifts and it’s harder to get the air in.

» For more information on the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon and to sign up for the 2016 event see greatermanchestermarathon.com