Race day (again!) . The Great Manchester 10K run. A major televised event with 36,000 tackling the out and back course setting off throughout the morning from 10.35 in colour coded waves.
My pace is significantly slower than my ghost of the past but at least I'm able to still compete nowadays. Some consolation! Race assembly for our first wave is 9.00 but I aim to be nearby at 10.00. I finish my warm up on Brazenose Street. The building which housed the Twisted Wheel club, one of the "homes" of Northern Soul is no more. Shops, cafes and restaurants there now; part of a pedestrianised area. I hand my warm up jacket and tights to Pat and head off to join the masses. Now 10.15 a very loud and vocal warm up is already under way. I duck under the flaying arms and nudge up as near to the chip mats as I can and hope to catch a glimpse of the elite athletes including Heile Gebrselassie who I think might just have the edge on me today!
We turn onto the wide Chester Road and realise just how cold and strong the wind is. At least from 5.5 K it will be behind us. We turn down Matt Busby way, named after the legendary Manchester United manager and on past the Theatre Of Dreams, Old Trafford. A 4.14, followed by 3K in 12.47 brings me to 5K in 21.23.......42 mins. looking an impossible task. The following wind would have to be gale force.
We swing back up to the Chester Road. Several of my team mates from the '60s are on the course marshalling. Dozens now are slowing rapidly, all over the road. A few are coming through. But at no time in the race has a group developed where we are all together running at the pace for the same goal as you would tend to get in a "normal" race. On my shoulder now is a tall, shaven headed young man. He thuds along wearing extremely heavy black street trainers. I look up to him and ,smiling, ask him to keep the noise down! He looks at me quizzically, fiddling with his ipod. I'm still overtaking with Ks at 42 mins pace. a 4.12, 4.11 and anothr 4.11 but I'm still swerving past slowing runners. Just 8K, one swerve too many,a sharp pain at the top of my right leg almost brings me to an abrupt halt but not enough to stop me altogether, I shorten the stride and try to hold on. But the final charge is somewhat subdued. A cautious 4.18 then a final push in 4.11.
Would I run it again? Not too sure. Certainly a sharp contrast to the Salford 5K with just 100 in it. Low key at it's lowest!. But perhaps next year the weather will be kinder. I will be familiar with prerace build up, knowing where to park, knowing where to warm up, toilets, timings etc. the sense of trepidation will not be anything like it was today going to an unknown massive event: and hopefully will not strain my sartorius! Just as long as Nike pay for my entry (Thank you, Adam Sutton)
Value for money? Judge for yourself. A massive organisational exercise closing down half of Manchester for most of the day plus a goodie bag..........