Asics Greater Manchester Marathon is one of the few in the UK (the only?) that offers a half and half relay option. We don’t know why other marathons don’t but we were more than happy to run half each in Manchester. Not because we’re lazy but because we have different races lined up so we’re not quite in step fitness-wise at the moment. Bibi’s training for her first full triathlon, so a lot of her time is spend swimming and cycling these days (posts on that will follow, for sure, and follow and follow, depending on how it goes). I have the Lakeland Trails Coniston Marathon coming up. This looks like 26 miles of hill, with maybe other the 0.2 miles providing respite. So the chance to do a fast, flat half marathon seemed like a proper treat for both of us for different reasons!
It works like this: one of your team of two runs the first 13.1 miles, you meet up at the halfway point and swap over. Simples. I ran the first half, setting off from Old Trafford with the rest of the relay runners half an hour after the main pack had left. I’ll admit the first few miles were a bit lonely, as there weren’t any spectators and it took a while to start catching up with the rest of the pack. Things perked up around mile 3 when I reached the stadium again. That was where the atmosphere picked up; there were crowds lining the streets for pretty much the rest of the route.
I had the easiest job, I think. Being behind the main body of runners, I had a clear run most of the way and was able to get into a good rhythm. I spent most of my run picking off the pacemakers and trying to calculate my time based on when I thought they’d set out (‘So, if the 5.30 pacer set off at, say, 9.15 and I’ve now been running for 42 minutes, that must mean I’ll finish in xx time’ etc.) Totally inaccurate, of course, but it kept me entertained. I could have just looked at my highly efficient GPS watch (thank you, TomTom Multisport) but that would haven’t have kept my brain anywhere near as busy.
The atmosphere in Manchester is pretty amazing. Although the race does go through some lovely leafy suburbs (it’s like doing fantasy RightMove in motion) you don’t run this race for the scenery. You run it for the crowds and the choirs and the all round lovely northern-ness of it all. Manchester calls itself the friendliest marathon in the UK for good reason. I saw so many ‘You’re awesome’ signs on the run there must be a shortage of cardboard in the city now. Just lovely.
Bibi was waiting for me at the halfway point, we filtered into the handy changeover lane and crossed the mat together, then she took off for the second half. Her run was tougher, as by then the pack was at its thickest. She had to do much more dodging and weaving, ducking and diving than I did. The crowds carried her along too though and I got back to Old Trafford only just in time to see her cross the finish line, having had a lovely natter with Sarah from Crandon Runs at the crossover point.
We came in at 3.47.37, which we were very happy with, it being a full 7 minutes off our 2014 time. We thoroughly recommend the Manchester Marathon Half and Half Relay. If you’re nervous about running a full marathon, it’s a great way to be around the atmosphere of a big race (and you’ll almost certainly be inspired to sign up for the full marathon next year). If you’re an experienced runner, it’s a brilliant way to push yourself for a PB. It’s fast, it’s flat and you get the kind of crowds you rarely see at half marathons. Early bird entries for the Asics Greater Manchester Marathon 2016 are now open. Go on, treat yourself to a great day out.
If you’re thinking of doing the Greater Manchester Marathon half and half relay next year, these are the things you need to know:
– The first runner will set off with all the other relay runners half an hour after the main pack has started. You can stay together until the first runner starts. Then the second runner has time for wait for the first to do the out and back to Old Trafford and cheer them on.
– Bear in mind you’ll need to time your fuelling differently. The second runner in particular has to work out the optimum eating time for performance.
– It’s easy for the second runner to get the tram to Altrincham, the halfway point (trams are free on the day with your race number – bonus!)
– The atmosphere at that point is fantastic – it’s halfway in a marathon, after all – and it’s great fun to hang out there. There isn’t much open though so make sure you have snacks, drinks, etc. with you.
– There’s a bag drop at the halfway point so you can take whatever you need with you and anything the first runner might want when they’re finished. It isn’t manned, though the medal stand is next to it so it’s pretty secure and your stuff will only be there for a few minutes during the changeover. Don’t take your family silver with you though, just to be on the safe side.
– There are also portaloos at halfway so the second runner doesn’t need to worry about finding a loo for that last pee before setting off.
– The first runner picks up their medal and tee-shirt at the halfway point, the second at the finish line.
– There’s a filter lane when the first runner arrives, then you both run across the mat together to end one timing chip and start the other. That way, you make sure you get your combined marathon time at the end.
– The first runner now has chance to enjoy the atmosphere for a while before heading back to Old Trafford to see their team mate finish.
– The trams are busy on the way back to Old Trafford so leave plenty of time just in case you can’t get on the first one that comes along.
– You both get a brilliant marathon finishers’ T-shirt, which is bound to make you feel like a bit of a fraud when you wear it at Parkrun, in the face of people who actually, you know, ran the whole thing.
As an aside, one thing we’ve noticed at the end of marathons – why doesn’t anyone stretch?! This was the scene in the race village after Manchester. It’s no wonder people can’t walk for a week afterwards. Very strange to us. Everyone stretches when they’re training but they forget all about it after a marathon. What’s that all about, people?