After the terrible events earlier in the week, it was welcome news to hear that the event would be going ahead, it showed the togetherness and solidarity running through the whole country.
Team Blind Dave once again headed up the M6, only this time with security at a maximum we decided to stay overnight at a hotel, rather than using the mobile home. The MacDonald Hotel, through a contact in Birmingham, very kindly donated a room for the night.
Tony’s family had booked him a trip to Vegas to celebrate his 50th birthday, as we thought returning on the Saturday. Slight hiccup when he realised his return flight landed in Manchester around 8am on the Sunday morning… with a half marathon start time of 9.00am!
After checking into the hotel, we hit the streets of Manchester. No microwave dinners for us tonight! After we’d eaten, we ventured to the start and finish area, gauging how long it would take us the following morning to walk there. It was quite strange as we walked about, it was busy with people and traffic but at the same time it seemed quiet and subdued.
As the heavy police presence was described to me, we took time out to chat and express our thanks for the great work they were doing. We then made our way to St Anne’s Square, Garry telling me about the flower memorial and reading many of the cards of condolence to me, we all spent silent moments reflecting on the tragic event only days before. As a family man with children myself I just couldn’t take in the horror, the why and the sad waste of many lives.
Waking on Sunday morning to reasonable weather we once again made our way through the city to the start area. Although you could feel and sense the emotion, there was also an air of anticipation, listening to the chat of runners and spectators around us. For me at this point the atmosphere and emotion was overwhelming, but I felt so proud to be a part of it all.
Standing at the start we had a few interviews then received a text around 8am from Tony to say he had landed and was on his way. The atmosphere was now certainly ramping up and with just 3 minutes to spare before the start, Tony appeared. Following a minute’s silence to reflect and remember, our little band crossed the start line of the first ever half marathon in Manchester, creating our own little bit of history I guess.
The support from the crowds was fantastic, I’m told even the police were cheering all the runners on. We weren’t too far on our 13.1 mile journey before the elite runners caught up and overtook us.
Chatting on our way round, listening to the sights being described to me, we passed through the Etihad, home of Manchester City, then continued on our way passing by Old Trafford, home of Manchester United. We stopped on route for a few photos, but I was surprised when I was told the finish was fast approaching.
Completing our first ever Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run half marathon in 1 hour 50, the emotion of the day took over, like it did with many others I imagine. This would definitely be one of those runs that we would never forget.
But no time to put our feet up, relax and think about it. It was a quick dash back to the hotel to get showered and into fresh kit, grab a bite to eat and get back to the start line for the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run 10k.
The whole start area once again felt electric, thousands more runners and spectators, music blaring, you could feel and hear the emotion and as I had earlier in the day, I felt so proud to be one of the many thousands to put their feet on the start line.
This time our little team had grown as my eldest daughter Grace had made the trip to Manchester to run with us along with Jay, the blind runner from Scotland, who Tony was helping to guide this time.
Soon Team Blind Dave were sent on their weary way, legs complaining but banter flowing. Passing Old Trafford for the second time that day, we turned at the half way point and headed back towards the city. Grace was doing really well, having only started her running career about 12 months ago. With about half a mile to go, Grace was handed my running cord and with a few yards left and Jay now tagging onto my arm too, my daughter guided us both across the finish line.
I was so proud of her and her achievement, to have come so far in her running in such a relatively short space of time. But the bit that pleased Grace the most was it meant she beat her old Dad across the finish line by a second!
Hugs and smiles all round, photos taken and interviews finished our legs were certainly tired now. But the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run half marathon and 10k has several reasons to stay in our memories for a long time to come.
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