The AJ Bell Great Manchester Run in 2023 will be the 20th staging of the event. In recognition of this incredible milestone, we’re looking back on 20 unforgettable stories from two decades of running in the capital of the North.
23-year-old Azeem Amir from Rochdale was born with sight loss, he has gone on to represent England in Blind Football, become a TEDx speaker and runs his own not for profit. Learn with ESS, uses Education, Sport and Speaking to provide an interactive team cohesion experience, while addressing stigmatized issues surrounding disability. Azeem first signed up for the Great Manchester Run while doing his A Levels, going for a weekly run with some fellow students and staff. They were all working towards the end goal of completing the Great Manchester Run
Azeem explains, “At the start I couldn’t run 5K let alone 10K. Completing the Great Manchester Run was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It meant so much to complete this challenge I had worked towards for several months. I have run the event four times, with my old PE Teacher, Sam. Sam was fantastic when I came to him and asked for help due to me being visually impaired. I needed someone to run with me, alongside me, who can tell when to step up, when to step down, when to go left and when to go right – basically be my eyes and keep me safe.
“He was that person, even after I left school we kept in touch and trained together. We completed four Great Manchester runs over four years.
“I enjoyed the whole experience – from the minute you sign up and get that email that says you’re in, to the preparation, to your pack finally arriving – it all reminds me of summer coming in, seasons starting to change and the weather getting warmer. Experiencing the atmosphere slowly build in the city, Sunday morning when the roads are shut down, those streets being lined with friends, family and all the crowds, other runners flocking to drop their kits off in the busses, it’s an unbelievable feeling.
“Since that first event, running has had a massive impact on my life and played a big part in my training whilst playing blind football. I am very lucky that I get to play for the England blind football team. Running, keeps me fit and active. Running brings us together and it’s nice that you can build up a rapport with someone just from going out running, it keeps you going. There has never been a time when I’ve regretted a run or felt worse after it, it has always benefited me positively in terms of mental headspace and energy.
Azeem has been a huge supporter of the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, alongside the Royal Manchester Eye hospital for many years and used the Great Manchester Run to raise much needed funds. We relied so heavily on the doctors and ophthalmologists to see us through the sight loss journey. I will never be able to thank them enough for that support in terms of reassuring my family that everything would be ok.
“Fundraising through the Great Manchester Run was my way of giving something back to them. We raised lots of money over a number of years that went to great causes within the Children’s Hospital and the Eye Hospital so that relationship with the charity has grown and grown and I will always support that charity just because of the amazing work that they do and the impact they have on so many local people’s lives.”
“The event is so important to the city, it brings everyone together; volunteers, runners, families, school, colleges, charities and businesses. The community spirit that weekend is incredible. The Great Manchester Run is a buzz and atmosphere, and a feeling like no other.”
Be part of a spectacular running celebration in the heart of Manchester on Sunday 21 May 2023, celebrating 20 years of the AJ Bell Great Manchester Run.