Two Halves of Manchester

Published in Reports on 24th April 2015

Now for a report with a difference. How else to report on a marathon than in two halves….by two separate people! Mary Rohan & Esther Leahy give a great account of their experience in the Manchester Relay Marathon last weekend.

Part 1 – Mary:

Fancy a weekend away in Manchester? I should have known it was not a romantic proposition but a loaded question from Gearoid. Before I could answer I hear the word Marathon. I had just completed DCM the day before and I thought I'd never walk normally again let a lone run. On further reflection I'm thinking he runs and I shop, great!

Come February, in the midst of training for Craughwell 10 Esther asked me if I would be interested in running the half marathon relay with her. I was heading over anyway, had the miles nearly done, so why not and I'd just have to put the shopping on hold.

We headed over early Saturday morning from Shannon, handy 50 minute flight, hotel perfect location, sun was shining and great company. Things were looking good. We picked up our race numbers at the Old Trafford Stadium and got the all-important photos outside.

Our tour guides, Jane Ann and her sister Laura, arrived the day before & had all the ground work done so we headed for the "last supper" in T4/2. Gearoid and Chris felt very at home with the pink and white decor and the large hen party beside us. The food was amazing! (As in Esther's words "the most important meal of your life")  Kudos Jane Ann.

Sunday morning and weather conditions couldn't have been better. Cool and overcast. Everyone was remarkably relaxed especially the four marathoners.

The marathon relay started 30 minutes after the full marathon got going, just up the road from Old Trafford and I was delighted to get moving. I was soon passing the Coronation Street studio & was hoping to spot a star or two but nothing.

The route was a lot of out and back tracking for the first 3 miles so I could catch a glimpse of the marathon runners. It was good to spot another Athenry AC singlet of Ray O'Connor with a few cheers and a wave as we passed. Things were good!

I began to gain ground on the marathon participants, ticking off groups of runners and the 5 hour and 4.45 pacers. The miles ticked away quickly as I spent the time weaving my way around the runners and the “cheesestring” guy (I find it a great distraction) and taking in the atmosphere. I really enjoyed listening to the many different pronunciations of Athenry as people in the crowd spotted my singlet.

From about mile 9 the marathon starts to pass back on the other side of the road. It was amazing to see the speed of the elite runners zooming past making it look so easy. I came around the next bend to shouts of my name & there was Orla, Laura and Grace in full cheers of support. You couldn't miss them, Thanks Girls!

As I negotiated my way around people and traffic cones watching out the whole time for Gearoid, it was a great buzz to see himself and Jane Ann flying by around mile 16 looking fresh and strong. More cheering and waving (this was fun). Shortly after them Chris flew by and Roseanne hot on the trail. With all the cheering and waving it didn't feel like I was running a race.

Back to my task in hand, now that they had all passed, time for me to knuckle down and get to the finish. Before I knew it I had passed the 12 mile mark. The crowds were getting bigger and the atmosphere was electric. I took the turn for the last 250 meters following the signs for the relay changeover to the angelic voices banging out the tune of "eye of the tiger", a school choir of kids no older than 10. They were fantastic! I knew I was nearly there, I spot Esther waiting and then she explains we must run over the mats together which was more of a sprint in my case. No time to speak as she was ripping up the road with purpose.

I was left looking at my watch in total shock 1:38:46 and a 5 minute shiny PB. With time ticking I made a mad dash for the jam packed tram to get back to Old Trafford in hope I would see a few of the sub 3 hour finishers! I sprinted to the finish line and squeezed my way in and with 2 minutes to spare I watch Gearoid and Jane Ann finish in style in front of the "Theatre of Dreams". Job done, they both smashed the 3 hour mark, a whopping 2:54!! And me looking and sounding like a maniac.

Could this trip get any better? (Now over to Esther)


Part 2 - Esther:

Manchester, where to start… well in this case the half-way point!  I originally had planned to run the full marathon in Manchester but events conspired against me so it was time for Plan B and thanks to Mary the 2 person relay team was the perfect plan.  Travelling with the others who had serious ambitions for the marathon and serious work put in to back up those ambitions the half seemed very modest and well one couldn’t really be seen to be complaining. So on the back of very little training I boarded the plane to Manchester and decided above all else I was going to enjoy the experience.

Travelling to Manchester was almost easier than getting to Dublin for DCM.  A very quick flight, a quick taxi to hotel and we arrived fresh and eager.  Roseanne and I had booked the most perfect hotel; we were the envy of our travelling group.  You could almost see the start/finish line from the hotel’s lobby.  However disaster almost struck when later in the evening we went to check in and handing in my printed reservation slip (so organised) it was pointed out I had booked for August not April!!!  It is safe to say it was not the best news to get while all around us we could hear “not a bed to be had in Manchester”.  The staff at the hotel were beyond helpful and with some frantic clicking of the keyboard a room was found for us.  Disaster averted (and Roseanne is still talking to me). We all met up for a great “last supper” and the mood in camp was totally relaxed with lots of laughs and banter.  We said our goodnights and off for a well needed early night.

Morning arrived and weather was exactly as promised, cloudy and cool – in other words perfect.  Our wonderfully located hotel was the rendezvous point and all were very calm and focused.  Mary and I left the marathoners to their preparations and went to get our bearings on relay start points.  9am the marathoners were off, 9.30am Mary joined the fray.   I then had to make my way to changeover point, this was all very well organised.  Free trams were laid on and took us directly to the changeover point.  I had a good hour to wait but this was nicely broken up as I got to see Jane Ann and Gearoid power through the half way mark looking strong and fresh, closely followed by Chris and on his shoulder Roseanne.  When I saw how strong they all were it gave me a magnificent lift, this was going to be Athenry AC’s day for sure.

Mary had estimated her half marathon time at 1hr 42min so I thought ok be ready 2mins before just in case, it was extremely cold standing around and I was loathe to get rid of the layers too early. Next I look up and here was Mary charging towards me, I was not expecting that, 1hr 38mins.  I started to peel off layers as I ran to cross the mat with her and had barely time to shout “well done”, I was off.  I was really glad to get going and join the party.

I can safely say I ran with a smile and the miles ticked along nicely.  As I had no expectations on time I decided to not even look at my watch and just run and enjoy.  By the time I was reaching the eight mile mark I was surrounded by people who were hitting the 21 mile mark in their marathon, in other words a whole lot of pain was showing.  I think this helped me as I was so fresh and knew I couldn’t possibly think discomfort in comparison to these warriors.  I was doing a lot of weaving and overtaking and was very mindful of not getting in the way of the true heroes, another great distraction.  Before I knew it I was approaching the 11 mile mark, I had a little in the tank and decided to put the foot down.  I felt wonderful running in through the finish gantry, job done and feeling good.  Mary, unawares to me had made her way to the finish line to cheer me in but I had done to Mary what she earlier had done to me and arrived home earlier than expected 1.46.32. I didn’t delay at finish area as we all had agreed to meet at the very well-appointed hotel and I still had no idea if dreams were realised.  I made a dash and as I rounded the corner I could see all the happy faces, I think I was more overwhelmed by their success than they were, once again they were relaxed and fresh looking!!

After much hugging and back patting we all put the heads down for a little recovery before the party commenced in earnest. Once again Jane Ann’s event planning was spot on.  Another great dinner location with the added bonus of cocktails on the menu.  Throughout the night the miles were recounted and the laughs were plenty. The perfect running weekend away.

Lessons learned in Manchester:

·         Manchester and it’s people are great

·         Always double check hotel dates

·         How to spell cocktails (you had to be there)


·         Mojitos are yummy