My Manchester Marathon 2022
Written By: SportsShoes
Our Sportsshoes Systems Administrator, Penny Drake, shares her recent experience of competing in the Manchester Marathon.
Let me be perfectly honest with you: Manchester 2022 was not the best marathon I have run.
But before I tell you about my experience in Manchester, I have to tell you a little bit about who I am.
Here are my bona fides: I have run 6 marathons. The best I've ever run is a 3:34, but I know I have it in me to break 3:30. I've been chasing that goal for 6 years.
I'm originally from Chicago, Illinois. I moved to the UK in the early spring of 2020, just as Covid was starting to truly disrupt everyone's lives. I imagine it would have been hard to acclimate at the best of times. But with no human contact other than my wife and my co-workers, I felt like an outsider. That in turn led to a kind of relentless homesickness. The only through-line from my life in the States to my life in Yorkshire was running.
I missed the Chicago lakeshore, but I soon fell in love with running along the Leeds-Liverpool canal. The year before I moved here, I had qualified into Boston 2020. Because of the timing of my move to the UK, there would have been no way for me to run it. So, you can imagine how excited I was when they announced it would be held as a virtual marathon open to any qualifiers. And I could run it along the canal, which was ideal. I trained hard through the summer of 2020 and when the day arrived, I ran a decent time. I was elated.
But as lockdown restrictions eased, a strange thing happened: over the course of the next year, that wellspring of energy dried up. It didn't happen all at once... but by late summer of 2021, all of my motivation seemed to have left me. It was a rocky training season from that point on. For the first time since I began running regularly, I was having trouble motivating myself to get out and run. Slowly but inexorably, my pace started to slip. I couldn't run the distances I needed to be running. My weekly mileage dwindled down to almost nothing. Something was wrong, but I didn't know what.
That dark period lasted through the winter months. I'm a midwestern gal, I'm used to brutally cold winters. I am accustomed to thriving in the very coldest months of the year. It's when I do my best work. Still, running wasn't bringing me any joy. I needed something to work towards. I started looking for a marathon near me, and I discovered that Manchester was being run on my birthday. I decided it was fate. I signed up.
With only a few months to train, I knew I wouldn't be performing at my peak. So, I set myself a simple goal for this one: Just finish. Under 3:45 would be nice, but I would take what I could get. I had to abandon the idea of a personal best. It just wasn't in the cards. I had to figure out how to be ok with that. It wasn't easy. I repeated "run without pride" to myself over and over as I ran. I taught myself humility.
Then race day came, and the tide nervous energy finally turned to excitement. I knew I would be ok. Is it confidence to know you can perform below your best? I don't know, but it felt like confidence.
Of course, I went out too fast. I always do. But every time I looked down at my watch and saw my pace increasing, I forced myself to ease up. I reminded myself that with no PB to chase, there was no reason not to conserve my energy. I could just cruise. I could enjoy the act of running, undistracted by the kind of urgency that usually drives me when I run a marathon. I could enjoy the crowd. And what a crowd! The energy was amazing, intoxicating. In the 2 years since my last marathon, I had forgotten how the energy of the crowd could help you along. To hear strangers cheer you on by name is a powerful thing.
I was surprised at how quickly the miles seemed to tick by. I felt strong. Somewhere around the 20-mile mark, a young woman called out "You've got this, Penny!" With a big, stupid grin on my face, I called back "You tell them I was still smiling at mile 20!" I don't know who I meant by "they." The whole world, maybe. I sure felt good.
I would be lying if I tried to claim that the last 10k was easy. It wasn't. My pace dropped off quite a bit, and I had to really push to hold it steady... but that was ok. I had planned for that. Going into the home stretch though, I realised that while I might not be running a personal best, I was far ahead of my original expectation. It wasn't going to be a personal best, not by a long shot. But it wouldn't be half bad either.
In the end, I ran a 3:39. Not too shabby for an easy cruise. I will still keep chasing that 3:30, but for now I am very happy I decided to let this one go.
So, no, Manchester Marathon was not the best marathon I have ever run. But I will let you in on a little secret: It was the best experience I have ever had running a marathon.
Are you feeling inspired to lace up your running shoes and train for a marathon yourself? Check out our Marathon guides for tips and advice on everything from kit to nutrition. hit the road? You can also check out our recommendations for the best marathon running shoes here. For more general advice and inspiration then head over to our Running Hub. Need to get kitted up? Our Running Store has everything you need including Running Shoes, Clothes and Equipment.
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