Manchester Marathon 2017 – Ian Stapleton

What an incredible course and to top it all off, with this being my first ever marathon, a PB. The journey to the start line was not easy. 8 months of training to only go and possibly pick up an injury 2 weeks before, luckily nothing too serious and nothing that was going to stop me starting.
My journey started when I realised I turn 40 this year and there are a few things I wanted to do before then. For reasons I don’t really understand, running a marathon was one of these goals, especially considering the last thing I wanted to do was run 26.2 miles. So, debit card in hand, I entered the Manchester marathon after being told it’s flat and the cheer squad is brilliant. Then I realised I actually had to train for this and unlike previous runs many years ago, this was not one I could just pitch up to. I spoke to lots of marathon runners at club who all gave me a different training regime. Although, everyone did tell me the same thing, don’t forget Imodium. I didn’t understand why but went along with it. The hardest part of training was fitting runs in with everything else I do. Lots of early mornings and late nights beckoned but with that goal to achieve I knew I had to do something. Although, wet weather and a very cold winter meant running whilst wearing every item of running clothing I own, not a good start! I twinned my training with Slimming World and after losing 1 stone I found running easier and was actually enjoying the training runs, either at club or solo. I never expected to run for a charity and was looking forward to my first and last marathon in club vest. This changed one Monday night when my sons’ judo coach asked me would I run for her charity and try and raise some money, how could I say no. This gave me a better reason to run rather than a mid-life crisis and it will also sound better in therapy in years to come! After a bit of a chat with Danno, I then found myself entered into 2 training races, both being half marathon distance. These consisted of a trail route – absolutely hated it, and a road run – loved this and smashed my previous time so that helped. These really helped and proved to me I can run these distances. My last big training run was 2 weeks prior to the marathon and consisted of running from Woolston to club and then home. Good idea at the time. After roughly 16 miles I collapsed to the floor looking like a footballer who had been flicked. Luckily for me a passing motorist took pity on me and gave me a lift home. Turns out cramp and a calf strain really hurt.
So, onto the marathon. Gorgeous weather, bit of an early start, hydrated, fuelled and ready to go. Nerves kicking in as I waited with all the other crazy people at HQ. Watching their pre-race prep was interesting, porridge was being scoffed; energy drinks topping up the electrolytes and even the odd smoker – never understood that concept but hey! The magical mystery tour of Trafford arrived at just after 8am and the queue for the toilet for that last pre-race nervous wee. On the start line, my last-minute race plan chat from Danno telling me not to go to quick and to remember to hydrate and take the gels. I passed the start line at 0920 to cheers and wishes of good luck. If the crowd at the start was anything to go by then what they said about the cheer squads must be true. Having lost my run buddies, Danno and Trish, after roughly 3 miles, I was on my own and chatting to anyone I could find. I ended up running for around 11 miles with 2 lovely ladies from Felixstowe Running Club. They kept me entertained with stories of swimming the channel for their 40th birthday and their interesting trip up. At mile 19, I met up with a lady running for a charity close to my heart, the RAF Benevolent Fund. She was, like me, ex RAF so I chatted with her from mile 19 to mile 22, which was great as this was the boring part of the course. Running through Carrington and past an Alpaca farm, I did question how far we had actually run and if we were still in Manchester. On the home straight with 2 miles to go the niggles and pains really kicked in. I had been run/walking since mile 20 but with this being the last leg there was no way I was dropping out or not finishing, cramp could do one and my already sore knee was going to cross that line even if I had to drag my leg. With 1.5 miles to go, a man literally fell just in front of me, I helped him up and after a little chat and a run together got him going again. My last little push was at mile 25.2 when a woman was considering stopping with really sore legs, feet and hips. After a little pep talk from me and the elusive finish line in sight we ran the last 0.8 of a mile together, talking and motivating each other. Was such a pleasure to feel I helped someone out and that feeling almost made me cry on crossing the line.
I cannot start to describe the feeling of elation and the dawn of realisation that I have completed the elusive 26.2 miles. Now 4 days after this achievement and my legs starting to come back to life, my smile has not faded and the feeling of pride still hits me every time I look at the medal. This has been an accomplishment I would never have done if it wasn’t for the backing of such a great club and the members of WRC. A huge accomplishment and one I will never do again, now where do I sign up for an ultra!

Ian Stapleton