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.
Manchester Arena Survivor, Fundraiser and Campaigner Martin Hibbert’s life changed forever on the night of 22nd May 2017, when he found himself just two feet from the blast zone in the Manchester Arena bomb attack. After having fought successfully for his life through a 14-hour operation, Martin was told he would never walk again. As well as providing a constant public voice surrounding the atrocities, Martin also showed his enormous strength and defiance by completing the 10km Great Manchester Run, which took place just two days before the first anniversary of the attack.
Martin recalls, “My first experience of the Great Manchester Run was in 2018, pretty much 12 months after being injured in the Manchester Arena Bomb. It just felt like the best thing to do to show terrorism wouldn’t win and as a thank you to the people of Manchester for all the love and support they’d given me. I’ll never forget the crowds and even the runners cheering me on all the way around. That atmosphere and cheers on that last 100m coming up Deansgate to the finish line will stay with me forever.
“I’d been in hospital and the spinal unit for just short of 6 months and I saw an advert on Facebook about the 2018 event being open – I thought ‘I’m going to do that’. The date of the run was pretty much 1 year since the attack, and it just felt like a special event and something I needed to do. Despite still being ill and in recovery when I registered for the race, my mindset at the time was nothing was going to stop me doing this. Everything was very new to me, and I was only just getting used to being in a wheelchair, then I had to start training in a race chair!!
“Even getting into the race chair was difficult and the one I choose I was positioned in a kneeling position. Luckily, I was introduced to a former Paralympian – Richie Powell who agreed to help me train. And he ended up doing the race with me. His advice was invaluable and ensured I got round in one piece! Given my story there were a lot of cameras and media at the finish line so I couldn’t hide how I felt when I crossed the line! I think I felt a lot of emotions. Obviously very proud of getting to the finish line and then the journey that I’d been on for the previous 12 months.
“All the pain and suffering I’d endured the moment I crossed the finish line it felt like Martin was back and this was me proving to the world that Manchester couldn’t be divided. This was bigger than just a race to me. I think Manchester is the best city in the world and has the best people. The Great Manchester Run embodies everything that is great about Manchester. It doesn’t matter who you are, the colour of your skin, who you hold hands with, who you pray to, Manchester welcomes you, supports you and embraces you. I felt that in bundles when I did the run.
“Everybody that does the run has a story and a reason for doing it. I think that is so special. Given my trips to Australia and Covid, I’ve not been able to attend the event since 2018, so I’m looking forward to attending this year and who knows I might get my race chair out again…”