Following the tales of 2012's Greater Manchester Marathon – surely rumours – of lost bags, scant supporters, bad weather and a huge flight of stairs at the end of the course, I was interested/nervous to run the 38th GMM in 2013.
First up, no stairs. Second, not that bad weather was the organisers' fault in 2012, but 2013 brought with it something I thought impossible: a Manchester suntan. That's not a euphemism, there was actual sun and no rain.
The event organisation was faultless. In the race village, adjacent to Manchester United's football stadium, the baggage tent was attentively staffed by 100-odd wonderful Army and Air Training Corps cadets. Queues for the loo were predictably long (10-15 minutes wait), queues for the massage tent post-run the same (hopeless to queue by my 3.34 finishing time), but marshals were cheery and Ron Hill was a welcome start line MC. Supporters lined 90% of the flat smooth course, with brass bands, cars blasting the Rocky theme and sweet old ladies banging pans with wooden spoons. Water stops were regular and well-manned with energy jellies, gels and isotonic drinks handed out at well-thought-out intervals.
It is a shame the course doesn't take in any of Manchester city centre, but rather loops from Trafford, through Salford, Sale and Altrincham – with a few dispiriting switchbacks. Chip times with oddly irregular splits hit the website on the evening of the race. And along with a LOT more mile markers, putting the finish line in the Manchester United stadium might be a good idea for next year… though Man City fans might not agree with that one. All said, the atmosphere more than makes this an enjoyable race that has overcome its horror story past. Good for a PB too.