The weekend was a busy one. It was the first ASICS FrontRunner meet-up of the year – I had found out that I made the team 3 weeks prior and was so happy that Manchester was the weekend planned for it! I flew up on the Friday afternoon and met the other new female runners (Rachel, Hadeel and Chimzy) at Piccadilly station so we could all head over to the hotel together. We all felt the same – nervous and excited! I was more nervous and focused on the FrontRunner aspect of the weekend that I pretty much forgot about the part where I had to run 26.2 miles…
The Friday and Saturday flew by with meeting lots of new faces, taking part in some team challenges, having photo shoots, learning all about ASICS and eating lots of important pre-race carbs! Becca, Kelly, Matt and I headed back to the hotel early as we were all pretty tired and wanted to prep ourselves for the marathon. As I headed back to my hotel room all my emotions came at once. I felt overwhelmed, grateful, tired and nervous for the marathon ahead. I took a breather, prepped my kit and the moment my head hit that pillow I was out like a light!
The morning rushed by, and before I knew it we were heading to our start pens. It was extremely busy, and by the time we had done our bag drops and last minute pre-race loo visits we didn’t have much time before we were off! My race strategy was to try and stick to 9.20 – 9.30 minute miles and reach the half marathon point by 2:05. I had set myself a gold, silver and bronze target and I knew this would give me a bit of a buffer in the second half as inevitably I knew I would slow down a bit in the later stages. I have to admit, I didn’t feel fresh from the get go. My feet felt achy and 3 miles in my left hamstring started hurting. Not how I wanted to feel so soon, but I ploughed on hitting my paces spot on and it still felt achievable.
I loved all the welcome signs into each district and the residential areas had amazing support as everyone came out of their homes to cheer, high five and pass out water and food. I have never raced with headphones before, but I chose to for this race and I’m really glad I did. Don’t get me wrong, the support was awesome on the course, but I needed that extra boost! My playlist consisted of all sorts of music, but I made sure to include my first ever running playlist from when I took up running in Hong Kong. Songs that I would listen to as I ran lamppost to lamppost trying to break my first mile really helped remind me of how far I have come and took me back to those rewarding moments. In the sections with the crowds I could still hear them and absorb the atmosphere which was also great motivation!
Around 10 miles in, there were runners on both sides of the road. This was my favourite section! I saw those who were ahead of me like Becca who looked so strong and I knew she was smashing her goal. It was so motivating as you knew those on the other side were heading for the half-way point and that it was just around the corner for you! I hit that point bang on target at 2:05 and just kept thinking positively. I hadn’t yet walked, and kept telling myself the next mile take a walking break but I just kept going.
Mile 16 came and I started to get really fatigued and hot. So I took the walking break and took on some water and a gel. My legs were not happy. They felt tired and heavy and this is the earliest point in a marathon that I have experienced this fatigue. My pace had now dropped and at 17.5 miles I had to ring Dom (my fiancé) as I didn’t know if I wanted to finish it. I had stopped enjoying myself and really was in a world of pain. As always, he gave me a pep talk and told me to push on. I did some math in my and told him that my A and B goal had slipped away from me and my only chance now was beating my London time. He assured me that was still amazing and that he could see I was so close to the 30k mark. 30k?! That meant only 12k left! That seemed so doable and somehow my legs picked up the pace. The next 7k was tough. I won’t sugar coat it, I’m giving my honest account of my experience. I started to let myself think that I am not made for these endurance events. I really let the negative thoughts take hold of me and started needing to walk for a bit during each mile.
I was staring at all the amazing dogs on the course (crazy dog lady here!) and I spotted a German shepherd that looked like my Murphy who recently passed away. At this point in a marathon (23 miles or so I think I was at) you can become extremely emotional, and I burst into tears! People started yelling my name and telling me to push on. I kept running and saw the amazing ASICS cheer squad at mile 24… their energy was just what I needed to keep going! Mile 25 I saw my coach Jordan who came and jogged alongside me, just a mile to go she said and she asked what time I was on. My watch said I had been running for around 4 hours 10 minutes, I realised that all the math in my head was wrong and that actually my B goal (Sub 4.30) was still sight!
I decided no more walking, just bear the pain for another 10 minutes and it will all be over! I crossed that finish line in 4:21:07, over a 24 minute PB with the last 5k negative splits! I was initially disappointed, as my A goal was 4.15, but I only came up with that a few nights before the race and definitely put too much pressure on myself. Had my legs been fresher, I really do think I could have done it but do you know what, this is a huge PB for me and I am so proud to have pushed through that negative mental barrier! Winning doesn’t always need to be about your time or pace. It’s about the struggle, facing it head on and not giving up. I won the long run at Manchester and it was an amazing end to a brilliant weekend!
Would I do it again? Absolutely! If you’re after a fast course with great organisation, great support and a fab medal… Manchester is a great option!