08 Jun Ben Fish updates us on his run at Wilmslow Half Marathon, National Road Relays & Manchester Marathon
After an encouraging result in the Trafford 10k I was confident of putting up a good performance at the Wilmslow half marathon two weeks later. It was a warm day and the pace was slow early on with myself and Stuart Robinson leading the first couple of miles at slightly over five minutes per mile pace. By the third mile, Ben Siwa of Run Fast took off and my stint at the front was over, it wasn’t long before I found myself adrift of Geremew, Pat Martin and Dan Cliffe. Johnny Mellor came past me steadily at 5 miles and I was able to work alongside him up until I hit a bad patch in the eighth mile; by this point I was barely managing an acceptable marathon pace. Gareth Raven caught me at around ten miles, but I was able to rally back; we were neck and neck all the way to the finish. I was constantly trying to throw him off; with less than a mile to go I could hear Gaz retching and I forced the pace as much as I could but still couldn’t get rid of him, he produced a rapid sprint at the end to get me by a few seconds. It was a great run by Gaz, a gutsy runner who’s clearly coming back to his form of old. My time was a slightly underwhelming 67:45.
After Wilmslow I was keen to get in a good performance in the Northern Road Relays with Blackburn Harriers; as a club we’re having a bit of resurgence and this would be an important competition to keep the progress going. We managed 11th; a solid result and I was happy with my run producing the 12th fastest long leg time. The most notable incident at Sefton Park that day was Liverpool Harriers being disqualified for going off-course in the final leg, where they had a clear lead. In defence of their runner I would say that there was a long stretch of the course where I didn’t see a marshal. This isn’t much of a problem when you’re chasing from behind, but I wonder if, in the heat of the moment, the runner panicked when he couldn’t see a marshal or anyone ahead and missed the turn. Obviously, it’s fair to say the runner should know the course, but when you’re hell bent on maintaining the lead and not being chased down, it’s hard to think clearly when all you are thinking about is running as hard as you can.
Next up was the National Road Relays at Sutton Coldfield; I hadn’t realised how long it had been since I’ve been here with my club, turned out it was eight years ago! I was hoping we would manage a top 40, even top 30 finish if it went really well. Karl Billington got us off to the best possible start running 27:40 on his leg in 9th place, producing the clubs’ best performance that day. I was on the 5th leg and we inevitably had dropped further down; I was happy with my run of 27:44, which was enough to get us near the top 30. We battled hard to maintain our position and in the end we finished 37th, behind Barlick and Rossendale, who had great results; clearly we’ll have to battle hard to be the number one Lancashire club in the future.
The following week was Manchester Marathon, and I felt I had a chance of finish in the top three. I considered winning to be a tad unlikely; still, I aimed to be as competitive as I could without fretting about pace or times. Conditions were good, it was cool with a bit of a breeze. For me, Paul Martelletti was clearly the favourite, boasting a pb three minutes quicker than myself and Paolo Natali and with a proven record of winning big races. I had the second best time, but I hadn’t run a decent marathon since 2012. Andy Norman and Natali would also be a stiff challenge to beat.
The race got off to a cagey start with a pack of ten of us together for the first five miles, which was covered in around 26:30. My main aim at this stage was to keep an eye on the front and only check my watch at five-mile intervals. At this stage Chris Greenwood was leading most of the time, along with Andy Norman and Paul Martlelletti, but the pace soon picked up and the group whittled down in size. Greenwood and Robinson let the leaders go, whilst I, in hindsight rather foolishly, was determined to stay at the front with Kallenberg, Martelletti and Norman. Ten miles was reached in under 52:30 and I was starting to feel it a bit; if this pace continued I would have to let them go. After another mile I backed off, just as Martelletti threw in a surge that seemed to stretch the others. I was running alongside Natali, but before halfway I was unable to keep with him and before long he was off in the distance, then came Crawley and Callaghan, who again breezed past me effortlessly. I hit halfway in 69:15, but I was slowing down and could hear the patter of feet behind me getting louder, along with Tom Cornthwaite’s cheery greetings to spectators!!!
By this stage my main aim was to still to finish in a respectable time, if I could finish at all. Tom Charles came past and I was now in 8th place, I worked hard to stay with him and after a few miles I was starting to move better and settled into a rhythm. 15 miles was reached in 1hr19:40 and after a couple of miles I could see that Andy Norman was in trouble ahead. I passed him at around 19 miles and reached 20 miles in 1hr 47:15, by this stage I was starting to pull away from Charles; whilst I was still feeling far from my best, at least I was still grinding out a 5:30ish pace and moved up to 6th. It was a hard slog to the end, but I managed to keep a decent gap ahead of a strong finishing Chris Greenwood and Stuart Robinson, crossing the line in a pleasing 2hr 23:09; a time I would have thought unthinkable at 12 miles. It may not be a personal best, but it’s certainly the fastest I’ve run a marathon when struggling from halfway, so it’s a pb of sorts!!! I was thoroughly unwell for a few hours after the race, but recovered fine by the evening; nothing a few pints of ale can’t sort out!
All in all it was a great event and I would say this is the best marathon in the country for competitive runners after fast times. The organisation is top class and the support was amazing; thanks to everyone who cheered me on and helped make the second half a tad more bearable!