The flattest marathon course in the UK tempted 4 road runners into entering the Greater Manchester Marathon on Sunday. Just 180ft of elevation across the entire course makes this a perfect opportunity to run a PB.
James Shoulder and Ross Wilkes made the 250 mile journey in the quest for a PB, whilst tracksters Darren Cole and Abigail Farwell both picked this one as their debut 26.2 mile journey.
Organised by the Salford Harriers, it was first run in 1909, this marathon has had several periods of absence and accompanying course variations. In 2012 the marathon was revived and brought back to Trafford, the heart of sport in the city.
It was nippy but dry as they nervously lined up amongst the 20 000 strong field outside Old Trafford for the early 9am start. James stood side by side with his twin brother George who was there to pace him to crack the 4 hour mark.
9am came and went and they were set off in their coloured waves. Taking on the first 10k at their planned paces to leafy Sale. The streets were well supported and well marshalled, with plenty of entertainment on route. From blues bands to choirs, the local community really get behind this fantastically organised event.
“There was a brilliant choir outside Sale Town Hall at mile 6” said James’s Dad, David “They kept us entertained whilst we waited for James and George. They were very smiley as they came through”
Winding through Timperly, Brooklands and Altrincham , the course takes the Runners on a tour of Manchester’s suburbs.
“I stuck to my race plan” said Abi “I felt really good as the miles ticked by. I was high fiving the kids, dancing to the music and enjoying the support of the thousands of people shouting encouragement. I caught a glimpse of a IWRR vest at one point, it was James. I cheered him as I passed by”
Onward they went toward Aston upon Mersey and the 18 mile mark. Darren had been flying along until this point, maintaining a speedy pace on course for his target sub3 hour time. However a niggle he had been nursing reared it’s ugly head and his muscles started to tie up.
“Effort wise I felt comfortable, it was just my legs. I made the decision to ease right back and wait for my fellow club mates”
No niggles for Ross though as he kept up his target pace. He caught up with Darren at the 20 mile mark
“I was just starting to lag a bit when I spotted him and he ran with me next couple of miles. That bit of support from a club mate went a long way”
Riss continued his journey back to the finishing line at Salford, dipping under the 3 and a half hour mark and taking a remarkable 17 minutes off his PB”
“That has been a long road of hard work” he chirps
What an amazing achievement for rocket Ross. Back out on the course, Abi and James were still plugging away, the smiles faded now as the hurt started kicking in. At mile 22, Abi caught up with Darren
“I was in pretty bad shape by then, my aches had turned to pains. I saw Darren. I thought he’d finished and jogged back to find me. I had no idea that he’d had issues and hadn’t finished yet! He decided to wait for me and run me to the finish. It was emotional having him at my side and the support of the crowd. He really kept me going. We got to the finishing straight and Darren said “once round the track to go!” She fought through the pain to give it everything for the last 400m. They crossed the line together.
“Spurring Abi on was amazing” said Darren, beaming with pride “I would rather have shared that with her than carried on on my own. It was a special experience”
Speaking of running together, James was still out there with his twin. George doing a fantastic job of keeping him on pace the whole way, always a few steps in front, leading him, pushing him, putting up with his grumbling and the occasional swear word. He came into the sight of his dad and sister Victoria with just 200m to go. The crowds thick, the atmosphere carnival like. The clock was ticking down and James was battling to get under the 4 hour mark. It was going to be close! He crossed the line, he’d done it! With 12 seconds to spare! On the sidelines there were tears in his dads eyes, watching his two boys share this beautiful moment.
Ross Wilkes – 3.27.39
Abigail Farwell- 3.46.48
James Shoulder – 3.59.47
Darren Cole – 3.59.50