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  • Writer's pictureDarren Last

Manchester Marathon 2024 Race Review - Some Might Say The Best Yet

Manchester Marathon start line

Some might say that the Manchester Marathon 2024 was one of the best marathons yet for me. This is my race review on how the day went for me. A near on perfect training block, a carefully managed taper, to then hitting the start line with injury and illness free. 

 

Everything was set to give me the BEST chance to go run my FASTEST marathon.

 

Manchester is fast becoming one of the most popular marathons in Europe with over 32,000 runners taking part, apparently making it the fourth largest in Europe.

 

Some might say that sunshine follows thunder - is the opening line from the classic Oasis track, ‘Some Might Say’. The sunshine didn’t quite come out but the thundery, windy, wet weather stayed well clear to provide the PERFECT race conditions.

 

No rain, no wind, a little bit of sunshine and a fresh 9/10 degrees. I’m from Kent. The weather in the build-up had been rubbish. Typical winter weather for marathon training, but the strong March winds had not quite got the seasonal message by carrying on, unwanted, into the April showers.

 

Wind and rain urgghh. Spring was very far from being sprung. 

 

Fortunately race day turned out to be VERY GOOD running conditions. I’d booked a hotel just by the Old Trafford Cricket ground for convenience so had a short walk for my wave starting at 9:10am.


Straight away you could sense a fantastic vibe as thousands of runners and supporters started to congregate at the Athletes Village, all the way through to the start line. There was something quite captivating about friends & family being so close to the start line to give their runners reinforced support right up to that last moment before undertaking the gruelling 26 miles 385 yards.

The organisation was excellent and the race started promptly. My strategy was to ease in to the race. My last marathon at London in April 23 had been hard work to say the least, with the second half of the race being ran on empty, broken and in a whole world of mess. It had all gone terribly wrong. It wasn’t for the lack of training, it just wasn’t my day.


 

The Masterplan for Manchester was to make sure I eased into the race gradually (apologies for the ministry of the bleeding obvious plan)

 

  1. 1-5 miles - Start easy just above 7:40 min/mile (4:45 min/km) for the first 5 miles.

  2. 6-13 miles - Gradually increase the pace to sit in at 7:30 min/mile (4:40 min/km) pinching a few below it the mood takes.

  3. 14-20 miles - Halfway, dig in with the pace at between 7:30/7:30 min/mile (4:40/4:45 km/min).

  4. 20-24 miles - Assess the situation from here. Drop the pace a bit to run within myself to get through the final PAINFUL part of the race (below 7:45 min/mile or 5:00 km/min).

  5. 25-26 miles - If there is anything left hold on to the pace and give it what you got in the last mile/km.

 

As mentioned earlier, I had an excellent training block. The long runs included paced sections in the middle and end as well as a tempo and sprint sessions each week. I completed a half marathon in mid-Feb, and another half in early March that were paced consistently with the times and pace maturing to represent the progress through the training plan.


The taper included a 10 mile race round our way at Folkestone, Kent, 2 weeks before race day. Gale forced coastal winds for the second part of the route gave me the confidence I needed that everything was set.


I was READY. Ready as I could ever be......d’you know what I mean?

But as Mike Tyson says ‘everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face’ or in marathon world ‘everyone has a plan until your legs decide to give way

Good prep races before Manchester Marathon

The race started. The first 6 miles/10km taking us into the city centre. The support was INCREDIBLE. The crowd was packed, ROARING and BUZZING. This marathon was AVING IT.

 

Coming out of the town we looped back past the start line to circle round the Theatre of Dreams - Old Trafford. An iconic huge landmark, more than what can be said for the football team right now.


The route then stretched through Stratford and Sale where the bands were banging out the music. There was a bit of head wind here but only for a short period.


My race was going to plan, pacing around 7:30 min/mile (4:40 min/km). I felt good reaching the half way point I climbed a short incline over one of those tram/train bridges. I remembered how crap I felt at London last year, this gave me a MASSIVE BOOST with the last half to go, the business part of the race and I was feeling OK.

There is something satisfying about getting to halfway, you can then start to knock down the miles/km and the finish is getting closer. Well, closer than it was a mile ago. 



As the route headed through Timperley, the support was amazing.  Same with Altrincham, the enthusiastic crowd was really something else, willing and cheering on runners. The biggest hill/incline was at this point. I was waiting for this and had seen a video in prep, on the day is was ok for me but probably partly as my legs were still in good condition. The hill is at that stage of a race where it’s enough to give you that Mike Tyson punch on the nose.

 

Before long I was at the 18mile point and heading back through Timperley (what a lovely place by the way, they all were) I was continuing to put that robotic assessment on my metrics.

 

Legs ok? CHECK.

Heart rate ok? CHECK.

Better than last marathon? CHECK CHECK CHECK.

Gel situation? Hmmmm....

 

My stomach was starting to turn a bit. I don’t think anyone likes gels, I hate them. They serve a purpose but imagine getting 4/5 gels in cup......not nice.

 

But they do work, and they were working, but I did need a pitstop to avoid any potential mishap or breakdown later in the race.

 

At 20 miles (32km) my gel stomach was clear and I felt brand new. Another boost. Still the pace was holding in and around the 7:30 min/mile (4:40 min/km), I was digging in and it was working a treat. It felt manageable.

 

Another mile/km knocked off. The pace is still the same. This is positive, very positive. Heart rate all good. Legs all good. 

 

What is going on? Whatever I’m gonna Roll with it.



As I headed through Sale, then Chorlton, knocking down the miles. The legs were keeping the pace they had trained at?

 

The hardest part of a marathon is always that last 6 miles. In all of the marathons I have done I have NEVER managed to hold a pace and the legs always drop off. Yet here I was holding a pace and there are now 3 miles to go.

 

I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT!

 

It was tough, very tough. But it was doable. I knew if I could get to the last mile then I was going to do what I thought was the impossible and hold a consistent pace.

 

The 25 mile marker finally came. Feck this is hard, but fecking hell I am nearly there now. Looking at my watch I’m heading for PB territory.

 

My best was London in October 22 where I needed a sickly sprint finish to creep under 3:20 by 3 seconds. I never expected to get a PB today, I was targeting 3:20s, sub 3:30. I just didn’t want pain....too much pain I mean (who does?).

 

I was defo on for it, as we turned and entered the home straight, so speak, I saw the Last 500m sign. My watch was on 3:18 something. Dammit. Gonna need that sprint again. Ok.

 

Getting closer, I was waiting for the moment to let the legs go and make a sprint for it. I had it in me I just didn’t want to go too soon.

 

It got nearer, here we go. Leave it all out here. Don’t look back in anger. It’s now or never (again).

 

I sprinted. I crossed the line. Thank god. I did it 3:19:42. AMAZING. Where on earth did that come from? The whole race? WOW.

 

As I collected my medal, got a final photo, and awkwardly walked back to the Athletes Village, I reflected on what an amazing race that was. It had gone PERFECTLY to plan. Pace. Fuelling. Hydration. Heart rate. Legs. Mind. EVERYTHING.



My last 7 miles (12km) were the quickest of the whole run. And the last mile being the fastest. I never thought this possible. Even writing this I am happily bemused.

 

Marathons are a mystery. They will always surprise you. Eat you up, spit you out. Perfect training? WHATEVER Marathon doesn’t care. Never ever underestimate the marathon. Marathon always needs respect. Pandering almost.

 

I have had plenty of OFF DAYS with marathons that make no sense, and in many ways undeserved, but today? TODAY was different. Today EVERYTHING had gone to plan and MORE.

 

Although PB’s are nice, and it’s satisfying when you get what you have trained for. No matter how FAST, or how SLOW, or what happened in the race the BEST thing is CROSSING THAT FINISH LINE.

 

So, best marathon ever? Definitely Maybe……






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