GMR 20 Stories – Elaine Wilkins

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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.

43-year-old Elaine Wilkins from Stockport has taken part in every single Great Manchester Run, raising money for local charities, often in fancy dress. She even took on her own 10K challenge, doing laps of her back garden, during the pandemic. Elaine explains, “I signed up as a personal challenge, as I had never done any major physical activity since leaving School. I was very nervous initially, as I didn’t know what to expect. Waiting to start and being so close to the elite wheelchair athletes, like Francesca Porcellato, was amazing. I really enjoyed the experience, except for the finish straight, which involved having to run up the car park ramp to get to the finish line inside the GMEX!

“I have raised at least £10,000 for local charities over the last 20 years, including Francis House Children’s Hospice, The Christie and Beechwood Cancer Care Centre, my current charity. My most recent charity, Beechwood Cancer Care Centre, is very close to my heart. They helped me immensely when I lost my Mum unexpectedly, had to learn to care for my Dad who was ill, and then deal with losing him too, all in the space of 7 months in 2017. “I honestly do not know what I would have done without them.

“There is a great sense of camaraderie each time the event takes place. The fact that people you don’t know cheer you on always gives you a massive lift too when you are tired. Taking part in fancy dress since 2011, and somehow persuading a friend to do the same from 2012. I loved seeing my Mum and Dad there to support me, they were there every year until they were no longer able. The biggest change is in the sheer volume of runners taking part now. Back in 2003 there were only 11,000 people taking part. The trepidation at the start line has stayed the same, as has thinking ‘this costume was a really good idea a couple of months ago!

“The sheer feeling of pride and achievement crossing the finish line getting a new medal and T-shirt has never dwindled, and I hope that it never will. I never thought when I did the first run in 2003 that I would still be taking part so many years later and then go on to complete all 20 Great Manchester Runs to date.

“I certainly hope I can carry on running every event! After the second run I couldn’t stop at two, so I decided to do the third one too. However, the challenge of trying to beat my previous years’ time became too much of a draw and three became four, four became five…you get the picture. It was also a good way to raise money for charity.
“Due to a chronic illness being diagnosed in late 2010, I was no longer able to train in the same way, so I decided to run it in fancy dress instead, and that’s what I’ve done every year since. The only downside is trying to come up with a new outfit every year!

The Great Manchester Run was first staged in 2003 as a legacy event following the Commonwealth Games, held in Manchester in 2002. The 10k grew to be one of the largest in Europe, in recent years it has evolved to include a popular half marathon and attracts thousands of new and returning runners each year. The event has become known as an experience which truly embodies the Mancunian characteristics of industry, solidarity and local pride.

Be part of the spectacular running celebration in the heart of Manchester on Sunday 21 May 2023, celebrating 20 years of the AJ Bell Great Manchester Run. Whether you take on the 10k or Half Marathon challenge, you’ll line up on the iconic Portland Street start line and feel the goosebumps as you and 25,000 other runners follow the famous route, pass Manchester landmarks and set your sights on Deansgate for a grandstand finish. With live music and entertainment zones at every turn, roaring charity cheering squads, plus the incredible local support who line the streets to cheer you on, it’ll be a party from start to finish.

To sign up, click here.