After the Lake Vyrnwy race I decided to enter the Manchester Half in the hope that I might still manage at least a seasons’ best. It would come two weeks after the marathon, but this has rarely been much of an issue, back in 2009 I set what was then a pb at the EDF Birmingham Half two weeks after doing 2hr 20 in the Toronto Marathon. In 2012, again after a Toronto outing with England, I ran 2hr 21 to win the Preston Guild Marathon. The last time I broke 67 minutes was at Cardiff, a week after a dismal performance at the Nottingham Marathon back in 2014.
After Chester Marathon I felt perfectly fine and was confident of continuing this tradition of sorts; I did 60 miles in that week afterwards and then did 75 miles going into the race. I thought I’d picked up a bit of a cold, but I managed 8x 1km (2 min rec) in around 3 minutes with the club on Tuesday, and felt comfortable knocking out 5 miles in 26:03 on the track on Thursday, so at least the legs were fine. The race boasted decent prize money and time bonuses, so it was a stacked domestic field and my main aim was to be as competitive as I could with some of the top runners. The conditions were perfect for me, perhaps not to everyone’s liking, but cold drizzle with a bit of wind is just how I like it! We were off at 9-am and it was a fast start, but I felt comfortable enough to get myself in the main group up front, which consisted of nearly 20 runners. After three miles the group trimmed down a little with Ben Riddell and Dave Rigby just starting to drop off. I reckoned we must have been moving along at sub 5 minute pace, as nobody was trying to forge ahead from the group, which was mainly headed by Matt Bond. By 10k (30:55) I was starting to feel it a bit, as was Michael Kallenberg, who drifted a few yards further back; it wasn’t long before I too was dropped and at seven miles I saw the group of eight runners move away from me. I was averaging around 5-minute per-mile pace with 34:59 at this stage, though I was starting to slow down. Impressively, running strongly in that group was Paul Martelletti, who won the Yorkshire Marathon in 2hr 19 the previous week, so I certainly had no excuse if I ended up with a crap run! Once you’re dropped it’s important to keep in a positive frame of mind and try to consolidate your position; I was happy to be where I was at this stage, so it was a case of digging in and hoping one or two others might drop off from that pack. Ten miles was reached in around 50:42, which was still okay and I was looking good for 9th place. I caught a glimpse of two runners starting to drop off the pack up ahead; I wasn’t sure I could catch them, but if I could at least work on closing the gap it would mean that perhaps I could distance myself further from Kallenberg, who probably wasn’t far behind me. By 12 miles I was starting to make up some ground on Toby Spencer; a runner I’ve finished close to on quite a few occasions and I could sniff the opportunity of gaining another place. It was a long straight to the finish and in the last 100 yards I managed to pass Toby, crossing the line in 8th place. I also thought I’d done a 66:58/59 to dip under 67 minutes for the first time in two years, but the official result was 67:01 and I missed out by the smallest of margins. Despite this, I was highly satisfied with my run, the past few weeks have seen a massive turn around in my form and I finally seem to performing at the level my training had been hinting at.
The race was won by Adam Hickey in 64:41, who managed to out-do Matt Bond by a few seconds in the closing stages (despite Bond running 4:42 for the last mile!), Carl Hardman continued his resurgence with a new pb to clinch 3rd in 65:35, just ahead of Alastair Watson. There were some great performances by lots of runners on the day and I would have to rank this as the fastest half marathon course I’ve done. It’s well supported all the way round and once you got off the dual carriage-way in the first couple of miles the course was quite pleasant as you meandered around the Trafford suburbs, it’s definitely one to do if you’re after a fast time. I’ll be taking a year hiatus from the marathon and I’ll definitely be doing this race again next year; hopefully as a faster runner with a chance of getting a pb.
Worth honourable mentions are Jacob Watson & Dan Balshaw who flew the TeamFish flag proudly finishing a few seconds apart in (77:33, a new pb & 77:37). Fellow Blackburn Harrier Jack Hindle ran superbly, bagging a new pb with 74:00.
Results can be found here.