What a difference two years makes! In 2014 I ran my PB at the Manchester marathon- knocking a whopping 26 minutes off my previous time and coming in under the magic 4 hour mark in 3:58. In 2016 I staggered home in 4:34. Now I think this is still a respectable time, but it has led to some pondering about what has changed and why my times have dipped so much. The story from yesterday’s race was one of extremely heavy quads from around 16/17 miles- something that didn’t use to happen to me but has happened on my last few long distance road races. Interestingly I don’t suffer with quad problems on ultras and trail races- possibly because the terrain forces me to activate my glutes/ hamstrings and hips more effectively.
I’m thinking that the root of the problem might well be that I have a weak hip drive. Last year I had a bad and recurring back/hip injury and I think I have allowed myself to get tighter in the hip area despite the actual injury being fixed. Therefore, my plan moving forwards:
- I need to do less pure running. I know, I know, this seems counterintuitive. However, I am a plodder by nature. I find it very hard to push myself and so, when marathon training, I can be guilty of longish plodding runs. The magic year of 2014 (PBs aplenty!) saw me partaking in multiple British Military Fitness classes (‘BMF’) a week alongside maybe one long run every two weeks. More recently this has dipped to once per week at best with more pure running. BMF is probably the best investment I ever made into my health- being pushed way beyond my comfort zone at times helped me to smash all of my race times AND gave me the courage to attempt Ultras in the first place. I also think that all of the squats, lunges, burpees (and a whole host of other delightful exercises- did I mention ‘ninja burpees’?!) help with better glute and hip activation.
- I need to actively work on this problem at home. I regularly do Pilates which helps build great core strength and so I now aim to add in some specific exercises to help overcome my hip issues. Any suggestions or advice would be gratefully received!
Manchester Marathon- my review
After my second trip to my local marathon I can definitely recommend this as a good one to put on the list. As with all races there are pros and cons.
- A fast and flat course. If you are gunning for a PB you have an excellent chance of achieving it here. The route is (I think) the flattest in the UK.
- The support. The local communities really come out in force to cheer the runners on, armed with sweets, banners and Vaseline! The best bit of the course is probably around the 9 and 16 mark at Brooklands where there are huge crowds and a great atmosphere. Altrincham (the turnaround point) is also great, with live music and lots going on.
- A nice finishing area at the Emirates Cricket Ground. As a Man United fan I preferred the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ finish…but you can’t have everything.
- A brilliant medal (we all know the bling is why we do it), lovely tech tee and a jam packed goody bag.
- Plenty of aid stations on the course, well stocked with water, SIS gels and lots of smiley volunteers.
- Free beer at the end. However, this was alcohol free, so maybe that’s a negative!
- Some bits of the route are a little dull- especially the 20 mile area around Carrington. It would be great to maybe get some live music out here or something to help people get over the dreaded ‘Wall’.
- The baggage situation in 2016 wasn’t great. I was one of the lucky ones who got their bag back speedily, but some friends queued for 2+ hours for theirs, which is obviously not good. However, I think that the organisers have admitted their fault over this and have promised to rectify the problem for 2017, so I’m sure things will be better next year (certainly the organisation of bags was fine in 2014!)
- The weather for me was a little too warm. I’m from Lancashire so I’m used to more drizzle and wind. I’m currently sporting a multitude of attractive tan lines and a panda face from my sunglasses. However, this being Manchester, it could easily bucket down next year after me saying this!
I’m now off for a sports massage to ease my sore legs and will take a few days off before picking the training back up for the next challenge- a couple of sprint triathlons are on the horizon, along with the Windermere Marathon. Happy running folks 🙂