The Great Run Manchester 10K is a race that has been on my ‘to do’ list for a while. I think that I’ve previously avoided it as it’s a huge event which uses a number of different waves to ensure that all 40,000+ runners are able to participate safely. In many ways it’s a series of separate events that are run one after the other. Perhaps it’s the eye-watering £38 entry fee, which for a 10K race is bordering on the obscene.
Whatever the reason for not running previously, this year I became part of a team of colleagues that was attempting to raise money for the Christie Hospital in Manchester. With a cause as worthwhile as this, and with the added bonus of being able to encourage colleagues that had never participated in a race before, it would have been churlish not to run. And I’m really glad that I did.
My usual race day earliness meant that I could park my car on the free on-street parking and make my way up to Costa on Albert Square for a customary pre-race caffeine fix. The sun was out, the air still and warm, and to watch the city slowly wake up to a perfect Sunday morning while I looked out onto the majestic town hall was an added bonus. I’m always advocating that people arrive early to important events as I believe that it removes unnecessary stress. The Costa slowly filled with runners, supporters, and loads of Great Run marshals who had all volunteered to ensure that the event ran smoothly.
I was running in the first wave which meant an 11:37 start. I jogged back down to my car, left my kit there, and ran back up to the start line. By this time I felt quite warmed up and would have been happy to start racing. However, as is the way with these mass participation events, you find yourself on the start line waiting for a long time: in this case 30 minutes. With the sun and the crowds of people it because quite warm and it felt like waiting for a giant carnival to commence. At the start of a marathon this is not really an issue as a slow start works to your benefit much later on in the day. However, in a 10K it can be a distinct annoyance. But perhaps more annoying still were the people who insisted on inching ever further towards the very front of the pen. The rule of thumb is to try and start in a position that represents where you think you’ll finish. That way runners spread out appropriately. As it was, many runners started very quickly, only to tire and slow during mile two. Given that many of these were running as groups and teams it made for a very difficult mile or so as I, and others, manoeuvred round them. It was very warm on the carriageway that the course takes out towards Old Trafford and it would have been much better for all if more thought was given to appropriate starting positions by those taking part. Many of those that did set off too quickly would probably have enjoyed it more too. By mile three lots of people were shuffling along with another half of the race to go.
Mentally, it was an odd run; I never really hit my stride. Perhaps the stop/start nature of the opening accounts for this, or the heat, or simply the fact that in the midst of ultra training, 10K races are tough. I did enjoy it though. I enjoyed the sun, the crowds, the support. Most of all, I enjoyed the fact that runs like this do a great job of encouraging those who wouldn’t consider themselves to be runners to…well..run. Although, my usual caveat here: parkrun does this much more effectively. However, it is a brilliantly organised event with a great goody bag too.
But the best thing of all was to be part of a team that raised over £7500 for The Christie. That fact alone is worth £38.