Friday, 2 June 2017

Race Roundup: Manchester Half Marathon

This year marked the first time that a Half Marathon has taken place on the same day as the very well known Manchester 10km, so what better time to try it than for the inaugural run? I, along with 5,774 other runners, took to the streets of Manchester and if you're thinking of trying it too then here's what you need to know.

manchester half marathon finisher medal

Ahead of the day 
Signing up to for the Simply Health Great Manchester Half Marathon is a very simple via their website simply fill in the online form, make your payment and you're good to go. 
Once you’re signed up you’ll receive your entry pack a couple of weeks before the big day, inside you’ll find your race number as well as a magazine offering helpful training advice and information about facilities and transport on the day – if you’re driving in we recommend the Charles Street carpark, it’s £2 for a full days parking, it’s fairly close to the start line but also avoids manages to avoid the road closures throughout the city.

sub 2 hour runners sign

On the day organisation
We arrived into Manchester at about 8am to give ourselves plenty of time to park up and find the start line, there were already crowds of people around Portland Street  - so you can't miss it! There are also loads of portaloo's around this area too - in case you're feeling nervous!
Whilst the size of the crowd might seem a bit daunting it's pretty easy to navigate to a good starting spot, there were a few signs up indicating the divide between sub and over 2 hours. The pacers were very easy to spot with their large flags. The pacers were situated to be 10 minutes apart starting at 1h 30mins -there are marshals available close to the start line should you have any queries.

half marathon start line crowd

It was great arriving into town and there already being so many participants warming up - the masses had turned out to give the new race a try! To get the crowd warmed up there was a man calling out a stretch routine although no one really seemed to know where they were up to so you can give that a miss and just do your own thing.
Leaving the city there were plenty of spectators out ready to cheer you on however it thinned out quickly after the first mile, with patchy support until the Etihad Stadium. Once we reached City's ground we certainly hit the best atmosphere along the route outside of the centre, there were plenty of people there to cheer us on, I even managed to Hi-Five my brother who was on his way there as I was heading back to the city! Old Trafford definitely didn't have the same feel as the Etihad and the support seemed a bit underwhelming. At this point you were at the 10 mile mark so at least it felt like you were on the home stretch! Heading back up Deansgate finished the race off nicely as the largest crowd of the route had come to support our final 500m. People would even look for the name on your number and cheer it as you crossed the finish!

manchester half marathon start line

The Course
As you've guessed from my review of the atmosphere you pass a few of the city's famous sites on route - in summary it's straight out to the Etihad Stadium (the home of Manchester City), straight back into town, a pretty straight line out to Old Trafford (Manchester United's ground) before heading back to Deansgate - the second stretch of the route follows that of the traditional 10km route.
The course is very flat with long straights, excellent for fist time half marathon runners as well as those (like myself) who are pushing for a new PB.
Water stations are frequent along the route so you're never too far should you need a drink (roughly 4 equally spaced along route). If you're getting a bit too hot there are mist showers (more like heavy rain showers...) along the route, however these are placed for the 10km run so both are them are quite late on in the route and fairly close together.
The race is chip timed with splits at 5km, 10km and 15km which seems a fair place for the gates to be placed. 

manchester half marathon finisher

manchester half marathon runner

The Goodie Bag
The bag itself was a plastic drawstring bag (think a mini version of the classic JD bag everyone used for PE…) inside was a purple technical t-shirt with “Half Marathon Finisher” which were available in small, medium and large - they’re unisex sizes. The medal is pretty impressive, it’s a fairly weighty one on a thick blue ribbon, with a nice design to it - although for some reason (I'm assuming space) decided to say 13.1 miles rather than half marathon...
Also inside the bag was a foil blanket, a chocolate bar, a porridge on the go “drink” and a bunch of fairly useless flyers.
It's worth noting that 10k runners were diverted away from Deansgate after collecting their bags whilst us lucky half marathoners were allowed to continue down the road. There a few advertising stalls were handing out freebies including some pretty tasty Nando's crisps and a passionfruit smoothies! 

manchester half marathon medal holder

Key Stats
Entry Fee: £44
Atmosphere: 4/5 
Race Organisation: 5/5 
Course Difficulty: 1/5 
Goodie Bag: 3/5

Overall Event Score: 4/5 

How did I do? A new Half Marathon PB of 1:25:33!

Key Stats explained
Atmosphere rating (1-poor, 5-excellent) based on other runners, the crowd and general feeling of the event.
Race Organisation (1-poor, 5-excellent) based upon key information being communicated ahead of time, race information including number arriving in plenty of time, speed of response from organisers on requesting information, facilities available along the route and ease of starting the race. 
Course Difficulty (1-very easy, 5-extremely difficult) based on gradient of the route, running surface eg. Road or trail, obstacles along the route and ability to stay on the correct route through markers or marshals.
Goodie Bag (1-none available, 5-best goodie bag ever!) based on prizes given out post event such as medals and t-shirts.
Overall Score (1-Would not recommend, 5-would recommend to everyone) based on all factors above to give an overview of how good the events was. 

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