This will start well and might eventually descend into a rant. Sorry, but that’s what it needs!
Leaving the house this morning was tough. It was raining, cold, windy and generally horrible outside. And I had another marathon to run. Not the best day for a very long run eh?!
My hands are so cold I can't get my trousers off BEFORE THE RACE!
We parked the car and started the long walk to the ‘race village’ involving walking through the start and some considerable way beyond. Once at what we eventually decided must be said race village, we had to find out which of the 4 or 5 marquees was for baggage. I couldn’t see any signs anywhere. (It turned out later that all of the signs were on the finish side, read OTHER SIDE, of the marquees. Not much good if you’d parked in the official car park near the start!) Baggage drop off was a mess. You sort of wiggled your way through the crowd to hand your bag to a bemused looking bloke in army fatigues who seemed to pass your bag blindly into the tent. Ah well, they’ve got nearly four hours to get it sorted…
By this time my shoes were soaked through as the field we were in was three inches deep in water and mud. This is not a good way to start a marathon for those of you who were wondering! I headed over to the start, light rain peppering the bin bag I was using to keep dry.
The PA announces the front runners including local guy Andi Jones who ran 2h18m last weekend at London (and whom I met last year during the 1095miles.com challenge – click here). I tear the bin bag apart just before the gun and chuck it out on to the pavement. The rain gets heavier. The gun goes and off we run.
The next few miles are a bit of a blur really. (It was raining. I had water in my eyes. It was somewhat blurred for the next three and a half hours if I’m honest!)
The route winds through small villages and areas of Greater Manchester and what was really very good about it was the locals were out, braving the horrendous weather, to cheer the runners on. I can’t imagine what makes people do that when the rain is hammering down. They must really be excited by the idea of the marathon coming to Manchester to want to stand around under their umbrellas getting cold! I saw the most hilarious moment too, one of the runner’s laces came undone. He couldn’t tie it up because his fingers were so cold so a little old lady with a walking frame had got him to put his shoe on a garden wall and was tying his lace up! Made me chuckle.
After a few miles I got chatting to an Irish guy called Pat who was running for the Stroke Association. Nice bloke and helped pass a few miles in an entertaining fashion. We were both overtaken by a young lad running for Macmillan, with a skipping rope. And yes, I mean he was skipping along! we wished him luck through gritted teeth and agreed to keep him in sight if at all possible until we overtook him later!
The roads were heavily waterlogged and you just had no chance of avoiding the puddles. As I ran I could see that my shoes were throwing out large quantities of water with every stride, but just as soon as they had thrown out the water, along comes another puddle the width of the road and they fill up again!
I don’t recall any mile markers for the first 12 miles at least. They were sporadic at best in the latter half too. Not very good really.
The route passes through Dunham Massey, and I’m pretty sure that it was around this point that the already very waterlogged shoes became much much worse. The tree lined mud track we ran down became one long muddy puddle. At it’s worst it was easily eight inches deep! (And yes, I know that from personal experience!) I could actually feel that the heavy shoes were weighing me down and tiring my legs badly.
At about 18 miles Pat said “I spy a skipping rope” and we duly crept our way forward until we overtook the skipping lad again. All credit to him, he was still skipping at this point too! Well done mate.
The rain alternated between worse and better, only stopping once to allow a hailstorm to break through, and then back to rain again. It was really terrible weather conditions. The wind was strong too, meaning there were a couple of times you were flying along for brief periods with a tailwind behind you but more often you were being blown around by crosswinds! It also meant I spent the last six miles running into a strong headwind which made me feel like I was completely out of energy and frankly I wanted to stop. I’ve never once stopped to walk in a marathon and vowed I wasn’t about to start now. Besides which, it was raining, I couldn’t feel my fingers or my toes and I wanted to finish and get warm!
There appeared to be a distinct lack of first aid and marshals for the last 10 miles. There were one or two, but certainly nowhere near enough of them for the size of the event. I saw a couple of people at the side of the road shivering and looking decidedly off colour in the last few miles. There didn’t appear to be anybody around to help them, aside from the nice people in the crowds, luckily. I personally think this was a really risky situation given such poor weather conditions and the organisers deserve some serious criticism for it. I have to say I don’t think the event was properly organised from many different points of view and do worry that they put some runners in a seriously dangerous predicament through scant support staff.
Smiling through gritted teeth. I think my jaw was frozen at this point! ;-)
At about 25 miles I passed Tony Audenshaw. In fact I felt I had to. Someone in the crowd shouted “Run faster and beat the guy from Emmerdale!” So I did. I commended him on two marathons in eight days and went on my way. Crossing the finish line was a welcome relief. The finish was heavily waterlogged too. More trudging through 4 inches of muddy water.
I was presented with my medal and some water and energy drinks. Off I went to find my bag. This is where it went very wrong. I was wrapped up (badly because my fingers didn’t work) in a space blanket standing in a crown outside the baggage tent. They hadn’t sorted the bags out in the last four hours, they had just piled them up randomly. It was utter chaos. I was getting colder and colder, shivering along with the rest of the crowd. We were all cold and I’m sure you can imagine getting pretty frustrated. People were starting to get angry and shout. There was no organisation and the army cadets who seemed to have been dumped with the worst job of all just walked away due to the attitude of the now freezing cold runners. I’ve done a few marathons now, I’ve done plenty of running events. I’ve never seen anything so badly organised.
In the marquee, things were starting to get dangerous. It was too crowded and one guy passed out. I wandered outside, shivering. An old lady asked if I was ok and helped me to wrap the space blanket round me properly. My hands were so cold that I couldn’t move them to even swing the thing round my back. Terrible.
As the crowds got bigger in the baggage area it seemed that the organisers had done a bunk and were nowhere to be seen. I wonder when the disclaimer ‘we take no responsibility for loss or damage’ becomes null and void due to negligence? People started chucking bags out of the tent so that runners could at least get to the bags and try and find theirs. My bag appeared about an hour after I had crossed the finish line. By now I was seriously cold, very wet and pretty angry too. I couldn’t get my trousers on as my fingers were curled up and cold so I just threw a couple more tops on, got my space blanket tied round my waist and headed back to the car.
So, I’ll refrain from ranting and just leave you with the following important information: This event was ‘organised’ by XTRA MILE EVENTS.
UPDATE: XTRA MILE EVENTS have issued a public apology for the farce that was the ‘secure’ baggage storage at the GMM. Nice to see they’ve (somewhat half heartedly) accepted there was a problem, though it is carefully worded such that at no point do they actually accept responsibility for any of it. Time to just say “We screwed up, sorry” isn’t it?
Needless to say, I for one won’t be back next year to see if they get it right!