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A northern lad, in a northern city, running a northern marathon – Mark Neve shares his story from the Manchester Marathon

I guess I should start this blog with a short history of me and running. I started out on the mean streets of Owlsmoor in 2015 with the NHS couch to 5k app weighing in around 21 stone. After a few tough months I was able to actually run 5k. My eldest daughter and I ran the Frimley Park Jingle Jog from which we laughed about doing a 10k. 6 months later we finished our first 10k race and the next joke was doing a half marathon. My daughter was too young to run a half, so in 2017 I ran Reading, following the 2:20 pacer but watching him vanish around mile 9 and finishing in 2:27 then stumbling home. Just after Reading, I was in London to see a friend of mine – Mel Belsdon, run the London Marathon for the TV program “Mind Over Marathon”, and I told her that if she finished a marathon then so would I.

After a chat with Sophie Le Saux on a Wednesday night SJ run last November, she sent me details of a Black Friday deal for the Manchester Marathon, so being a tight northern lad I signed up!

My training went really well!! About 2 months prior to the marathon, I finished a 16 miler and was looking good for the race. The next weekend we had snow and the paths were covered! I decided not to risk an injury and run intervals on my treadmill on which I pulled my Achilles. I struggled to walk (never mind run) for a few weeks but 3 weeks before Manchester with the help of some KT Tape, I got 20 miles in and I knew I could do it.

My Marathon weekend started with a drive up to my wife’s parents in Doncaster. I decided I needed to take the day after the Marathon off for recovery, but my wife needed to work the Monday, so I would be in Manchester on my own. Initially I felt pretty disappointed about this but I realised that I’ve spent so much time running on my own it wouldn’t make an awful lot of difference her not being there. I did tell my wife that I’d record a mile-by-mile “video log” for her. I’ve linked this here

On to the marathon… I woke up at 5:20am, had a bowl of porridge with honey and chia seeds, packed my kit and set off to my pre-paid parking. I arrived about 7:30 and had to queue for 40 minutes to park, then spent until 5 minutes before start time queuing for the toilet! Thankfully I was really close to my starting position and in a couple of minutes we were moving.

I crossed the line and started my Garmin live track so my family could follow my progress around the course and started my watch then I was away. I made a point of keeping my pace above 12 minute miles and not get carried away with the great support. The atmosphere was fantastic for the first few miles, lots of people cheering us on and some fantastic music blaring out. Around mile 3 there was a choir singing “don’t look back in anger” which is a favourite of mine.

The next mile passed nice and easy and then another runner strikes up a conversion with me! It was Lisa McNally who works with Fiona Slevin-Brown. We had a good chat on and off for about 3 miles, this is one of the really fun things about running, just having a friendly chat with people. Eventually she disappeared ahead and I hit the point where we had a contra flow with the faster runners around mile 9. From the other side of the road I heard a shout of Mark! I saw a red blur which I believe was Jim Laidlaw or maybe the flash!! Either way it made me smile. As I saw the pacers go past I realised the runners coming the other way were probably 2 hours ahead of me and they’d probably be at home on their 3rd beer by the time I crossed the line, but there was still really great support from the crowds on both sides of the road and my pace felt fine.

Mark Manchester mara

The 5 hour 30 pacer and his pack of runners passed me around mile 10 and I started to feel a little more tired and I could feel a blister forming on my big toe. I made the mistake of chasing a pacer in my first half at Reading and was taught a valuable lesson. So I forgot about my target time and just focused on ticking off the miles.

By the time I got to mile 12, there was a bit of a hill and everyone around me was walking up it, I thought it would be rude to run passed them all, so I had a little walk too. At this point I started to feel a bit better; I was mostly running, but having a walk on any hills. The miles were starting to tick off ok now, and at mile 15 I was running back down the contra-flow again, but all the crowds had gone and it was very quiet.

This continued for the next few miles and 18 was really tough, my legs were really starting to hurt and I just had to push through. I made it to mile 20 and this was the furthest I’d ever ran, so now it was just a 10k to go. I was still doing my mix of running and walking, although the transition from walking to running was really hurting my legs for the first few steps, which must have been down to tiredness.

The marshal support was fantastic, even when there were very few spectators around they were all geeing us on. I got quite emotional when someone shouted “well done Mark” to me, my chin had a little wobble. The tiredness was really showing now, but it was only a couple of miles and I was over the line.

I dedicated the last mile to my mum and dad and made it over the line in 5 hours 51 minutes and 19 seconds. There are some real positives to being a slow runner, there was no queue for T-shirts, water or the ERDINGER alcohol free larger stand of which I had 2 lovely pints! After what felt like a very long walk back to my car, it was an easy exit and a 90 minute drive back to Doncaster.

Manchester was a great marathon and I’d love to do it again, overall the support was excellent, the Marshalls were fantastic. There was plenty of water stations, gel packs and people offering out sugar treats. I’d recommend Manchester Marathon to anyone wanting a friendly and flat course in a fine northern city!


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