In a special guest blog, Asma Younus from talks about her experiences of the Great Manchester Run. The original blog post appears here.

LAST weekend, I took part in the annual 10km Manchester race, the largest of its type in Europe – The Great Manchester Run.

And you know what, it really is so SO great.

Moving past the fact that I had a few issues… I was unprepared fitness wise, it rained near enough the whole time we ran, I forgot my waterproof phone case so I spent half the time praying my phone wouldn’t die, the other half trying not to think about how I needed the toilet and I pretty much stopped feeling my legs at somewhere around the 8km mark. I beat my previous time by one minute, but this year that didn’t really matter to me.

I’d just run (I use the word ‘run’ loosely here) past Old Trafford and I was heading towards the walls of Coronation Street, when I decided to look up at the runners darting in front of me. I started reading all the notes on their backs and all of a sudden I became completely overwhelmed by my emotions. Every single one I read was for a loved one, for a personal struggle, for fun, for friendship.

And then to look around on the sidelines and see supporters who made the effort to come out and cheer, standing out in the cold and the rain, coaxing us all to keep going. I saw one wonderful lady with nothing but a small piece of cardboard as her umbrella, she was smiling and cheering like she was watching the Olympics, children high-fiving along the stretches, clapping and whistling helping us power through.

Another thing I love about this race, as a Mancunian, is how amazing it is to put feet to road on routes that we normally zoom (again, I use this term loosely) up and down in the car. We run past sights such as the Manchester United stadium, over canal bridges, past the Imperial War museum all the way back to the Hilton skyscraper that towers over the city. I always look around (I know, I should be concentrating more on running) and remind myself to admire our Great Northern city. Dotted around the course are charity stands, bands, radio stations, singing and dancing, creating beats to help runners pick up the pace.

The running community in Manchester is electric, like it is all over the world. The best thing about this sport – anyone can join in, no matter what your fitness level.

The more I read about it, the more I realise there are so many benefits to running. And now that we’re coming up to summer, it’s the perfect time to get started – although some of my favourite races have been in the worst weather conditions. (My happiness levels are majorly multiplied when I’ve managed to complete a 5km in the harshest of weather conditions).

One of the best things about running for people who travel, it’s the one activity you can do anywhere in the world. All you need is a good pair of shoes on your feet. The last time I was away in London, I woke up extra early to run along Embankment and catch the sunrise. It was the first time I’ve ever felt like I had the whole city to myself, not a single soul was there with me, the sound of my heavy-footed stride was the only thing I heard (until rush hour kicked in on the mini sprint back to the hotel).

Starting to slip off track, lets get back to Manchester…

Well, I spent a lot of the run fighting back tears as I watched all these amazing people around me, pushing themselves to get the finish line. I thought about why I was running, my cause ‘Flowers for Fatima’ was inspired by my Grandma to encourage us to support our amazing NHS health service.

But although I was running to support the charity – I was mainly running for my every day inspiration, my sister. Who has been my rock and saviour, more so this last year. She has put in so much time and energy into helping me get motivated to take charge of my own fitness and well-being, since I started suffering from a number of health problems. Even when I complain, protest, play up like a three-year-old, she puts up with it all and still helps me, forcing me to try harder – all the while pushing herself, so she can lead by example.

I crossed the finish line side by side with my Dad on Sunday (although I beat him by a millisecond!) – a stroke survivor and also a fellow recipient of my sisters ‘help yourself get healthy’ campaign. And who knows, we may even make it a whole family affair in 2017!

Coming home, collapsing (in pain) on the sofa, it was the first time in a long time that logging onto Facebook filled me with nothing but joy, as I scrolled through the smiling images of friends and family who had finished, gushing with pride at their accomplishments. I loved it so much I really wanted to share them with you.

Firstly, because I am so damn proud of them all.

Secondly, I hope sharing their achievement and reasons for running will inspire you to sign up and join in on the Great Manchester Run 2017!

Entries are now open for the Great Manchester Run 2017