Angela Egan’s Greater Manchester Marathon Report, Sunday 10th April – The experience of a novice marathon runner.

Angela Egan’s Greater Manchester Marathon Report, Sunday 10th April – The experience of a novice marathon runner.

(With thanks to Angela Egan for this great report. Huge congrats Angela.)

 My marathon journey all started one evening when I met “The Lads” Mick Foy and Alan McKernan, two of the most inspirational and motivational individuals on this planet, and attended one of their talks on the half marathon training. I was adamant that I would never run a marathon but started to believe that perhaps I could try a half marathon. Believe and Achieve was the motto of the day and The Lads’ mission was to help us novice wannabe half marathon people to run the Dublin 2015 half marathon. The Lads were successful in their mission and got us all across that finish line. Then there were mutterings of the Dublin City Marathon and thirteen of our bravest signed up to do it and ran it with glory. What a magnificent day that was for all, so magnificent that even I got caught up in the excitement and wanted to take that leap, I was bitten by the bug (Believe n Achieve) and there was no cure. So in November I registered for the Manchester Marathon, which is a Spring marathon giving me, I thought, plenty of time to get my training up to speed and to gently ease my body into the prospect of running 26.2 miles.   I spoke with The Lads and asked for help. Alan McKernan bravely took on the challenge. Thank you Alan and first prize goes to you for endurance. Supporting a first time scared and delusional marathon person is no easy task.

Training plans were set out by Alan which I commenced in November, happy with the thought of having five months to work on my long runs. I soon realised that the marathon journey was not just about the 26.2 miles at the end but it consisted of long hours or training. I had colour coded training plans, started to become an expert on gels, carb loading, weather apps, muscle injuries, and wore a look of fear on my face every time we spoke about that 26.2 mile run. Colds and injuries began to eat away at my timeline. Visits to the Physio became the norm and I learnt about the function of muscles that I had never heard of. Poor Alan had to deal with the panic calls every time I had, or imagined I had, symptoms of an injury. I ran in the rain and wind around the Phoenix Park until I was sick of it and progressed to running from Dunboyne into Dublin and even out to Blackrock. Variety was needed as I was a lone runner and I had to make these runs interesting. When I was not running those miles I was thinking about them, talking about them, dreaming about them. I got confidence however from the knowledge that if I managed to complete my long runs with no company then the buzz of running on the day would surely get me to the end.

Before I knew it, April had arrived and it was time to head off to Manchester. One last visit to the Physio and all was well, I was fit and ready to go.   Flight was booked for Saturday morning and I was up bright and early excited and also delighted that I was injury free and cold and flu free and feeling great. Suddenly disaster struck when I slipped and fell getting out of the shower.  There were tears and panic as I tried to assess the nature of my injuries, I thought it was all over and that I wouldn’t be able to run. My foot started to swell and my hip was sore but as I could weight bear I calmed down and headed to the airport.  I thought that if Geoff Hamilton could run the Belfast marathon with a fractured rib then I could run with a sore foot and hip.

Arrived in Manchester with my husband who was my support person for the week-end.  Thank you Paddy, you were fantastic. The hotel was full of runners anxiously preparing for the event and all wondering if the terrible rain was ever going to stop. We headed into town had another carb loading meal and then back to the hotel where I checked that I had everything and then it was early to bed. Had a restless sleep and my foot was still paining me but morning came around quickly and at 6am I joined all the other runners for breakfast. Everyone was eating porridge, nuts, energy drinks and chatting amongst themselves about their plans on how they would tackle the run.  The rain had stopped and it was a beautiful sunny morning.

At 8am I was ready to go and we headed down to the start line which was only about a 15-minute walk from the hotel. I was so nervous! Then I thought about my Fit4Life colleagues from the club who were heading to the Phoenix Park for the Great Ireland Run and I began to feel strength from their support. I remembered that Jackie was facing the Connemara Run and my marathon suddenly began to feel easy in comparison. I had Alan talking in my ear (in my mind) giving me words of support and I knew that my running buddy Lyndon would be tracking me and uttering words of encouragement.  Once I got to the start line I settled as the place was buzzing and there was a great atmosphere. The starting area was wide and there was plenty of room for family and friends to chat with the runners which was great. My plan was to go easy and enjoy myself. I knew that I would be out for hours and I didn’t care as long as I got back in before dark. I had practised my pacing and aimed to keep my pace at around 11 minutes per mile, which would be comfortable for me. I was a pleasure seeking runner and my goal was to complete and achieve, time was irrelevant.

Suddenly the race was starting and I waved goodbye to Paddy.   I was at the back where there was no crushing or pushing. The first few miles were exciting as there were crowds lining the roads cheering us on. I had my name on my vest and was so encouraged by people calling “come on Angela” and shouting encouragement. I relaxed and started to enjoy myself. The route took us up and back through Trafford where you could see other runners in the opposite direction. I looked out for Alan Doyle who was also running but with so many runners we didn’t meet up. This part was pretty flat and I settled into a slow and even pace and felt comfortable.  I stuck close to the 5-hour pacer and was happy with that.

At about mile 5 Katharine Merry, Olympian runner and now TV presenter, approached me along with a TV camera operator. She was filming the race for a highlights show which will be televised in the near future. She called my name telling me that I looked really happy and asked me what I felt about the race and support. I can’t remember what I said but it was all positive. I was relieved also that I must have looked happy. Lisa Lord says that if you smile it eases the pain and it was working for me.

Next we were heading up the A56 towards Sale which was where Paddy said that he would meet me at around mile 8. I had started on my gels and had plenty of sweets to keep me going. I also had some Nurofen in case my foot started to pain me. I was feeling good and so far there were no major inclines. The support along this route had thinned out a bit but there were still groups gathered cheering us on.   As I approached mile 8 I saw Paddy in the distance and it was great to see him cheering me on.   I felt great and was really enjoying myself but my foot had swelled and was making my running shoe tight hurting my foot. I decided to take one Nurofen to ease the pain, nothing was going to stop me now.

After leaving Sale we headed towards Timperley and Altrincham where the route looped. The support was AMAZING around here. I lost count of the people cheering for me, the bands that were playing and the bystanders were handing out Jelly Babies and biscuits. The main climbs in the race were at about mile 12 around Altrincham, one going over a bridge then another going around the back of Altrincham town centre. I decided to walk up these inclines as did many of the other runners.   When I was heading out back though Timperley at around mile 15 I tripped and fell, I just couldn’t believe that was happening to me again. I skidded along the ground grazing my hands and knees and I lay on the ground for what seemed like an eternity.   Some of the supporters ran over to me and one kind man helped me up and set me back on my way.   My confidence was shattered for a while but the support along the way made me forget about it and keep going, it was just another fall and nothing was broken. A few miles down the road my knee started hurting me from the fall so it was time for one more Nurofen.   I began to slow my pace at this stage as my legs were getting heavy, it was not quite as easy as earlier but I still felt strong and happy in the knowledge that we had passed the half way line and were heading for home. We then ran into Brooklands where I met Paddy again at around mile 18. I chatted with him for a little while and he boosted my confidence by telling me that I was looking pretty OKAY. He said that he would meet up with me again at around mile 24 which gave me something to focus on.

The next few miles were where the support dropped a little and the roads were quieter. This is where I struggled the most, both mentally and physically. I sucked on sweets and took another gel. I was getting sick of gels at this stage and started to look forward to some real food when I finished. I started to focus on my pace and decided to join in with the rest of the runners and run walk for a few miles and just take it easy. The water stations along the way were great and I topped up my water at every station. When I got to the 20-mile marker I started to focus on meeting up with Paddy at mile 24. I imagined that I was doing the Dunboyne 4 mile run as I counted down the miles.   I ran a mile walked a half and ran again. I was feeling stronger again and when I got to mile 22 I was happy, however, when I hit mile 22 again I began to think that I was losing my mind as I was sure that I had reached that already. I kept going and to my delight the next mile was mile 24 – there was a mistake with some of the mile markings and this was one, however it did wake me up and focused the mind a bit. My watch had run out of battery at this stage and I knew that I had been out for hours at this stage but that was of no importance as I was nearly home.

Mile 24.5 and there was Paddy waiting for me. Alan had told me to enjoy this part and said when I reached mile 25 just smile and enjoy the run to the finish, so this was my plan. I asked Paddy to keep me company up to mile 25 when I then handed him my gels, sweets and water and I started my last run to the finish line.   There were still crowds lining the route and plenty of other runners running in with me.   I ran the entire mile smiling, as Alan had told me to do, and felt like a Rock Star (or Emilia coming home to win) as the finishing line was getting closer and closer. It was an amazing and a wonderful ending to what was one of the most fantastic experiences of my life. I HAD ACHIEVED!

I walked into the Race Village where there was a great buzz of relieved and excited runners. I was presented with my medal, which I love, and collected my goody bag and T-shirt. I then met up with Paddy, chatted to other runners and headed back to the hotel before heading out for some real food and that well deserved glass of wine. It was all over!

From my experience I would definitely give the Manchester Marathon full marks, brilliant support, great course and lucky for us great weather on the day. There were a few problems with baggage delays and mile markers but thankfully none of this affected me. I will always remember this experience with pride and pleasure. The training over the months was tough but for me I think that the mental challenge was worse than the physical. The support that I got from everyone and most especially the support that I got from Alan McKernan (The Lads), my family and Lyndon, my running buddy, got me through this. Would I do another? – preferably/maybe not. Would I recommend doing a marathon – most definitely yes.

PS> I forgot to say that I did get in before dark and that it took me 5hrs 14mins to reach that finish line. Time was irrelevant but Believing and Achieving and enjoying the experience was just exhilarating, I had completed my personal journey.

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