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Manchester Half Marathon 2017

Manchester Half Marathon,

Sunday, 15 October, 2017.

The Pumas ready to roar in Manchester.

“If you only enter one half marathon this year, make it the Manchester Half Marathon. One of the flattest and fastest around. Only 41m of elevation gain and a two- mile finishing straight, we expect to see some very fast times here.” So said the event organisers, and whilst all this may be true, many Pumas were backwards at coming forwards. Perhaps some were put off by the unearthly o’clock rising time to be ready for the 6.45 bus. Others maybe by the thought of running thirteen-and-a-half miles. Or it could have been a bit of both. Whatever, there were twenty-eight Pumas running the inaugural Manchester Half Marathon last year; this time around, there were just less than half that number, with only five reappearing. And that despite this event being the latest in the club championship – the last until February. They were all aboard on time, save for Paul Pickering, who, having slept in (by all accounts) and missed the bus, made his own way there, and Philippa Denham, who had elected to stay over in Manchester the night before. “One less thing to worry about,” she said.

Last year, the race got under way in a downpour; there was little chance of that happening this time, and on one of the warmest mid-October mornings we’ve seen in a long time, over eight-and-a-half thousand runners lined up for the 9.00am start. Ahead of them lay 13.1 miles, the route familiar to a few Pumas, not so to most.

Ah, a pre-race selfie. Here, we’ve got Jodie Knowles, Helen Jackson, the shy Carine Baker, Paul Bottomley, Sarah Haigh, Sharon Wilson and Matt Newton.

The course took the runners around the Salford area, up the A56 Bridgewater Way and looping all around Stretford via East Union Street, Henrietta Street, St John’s Road, King’s Road, Seymour Grove and Talbot Road. It then rejoined Chester Road for the long run due south west all the way to the Crossford Bridge and into Cross Street and Washway Road. The runners then negotiated several back streets to join Hope Road, Broad Road, Dane Road, before the run for home back down Chester Road. The course veered off into Talbot Road to the finish line just outside Lancashire County Cricket Club.

As expected, Tim Brook was #FPH, clocking 1:29:59 but thereby managing to finish, as he had done at Fleetwood, inside an hour and a half – if just by one second. Mind, had it not been for an unscheduled pit-stop (and no one actually timed how long it took him) he perhaps could have set a new PB. Next in was Tom Moran, who, having taken his lucky Calderdale Way Relay Leg Six map with him once more, found his way around the course without any problem. But hailing from the area, perhaps it had more to do with the fact that he was running on home turf.

All’s well with Jodie Knowles.

One of the happiest Pumas was Sarah Haigh. Upon finishing in a time of 1:49:27 she admitted to being “pretty chuffed” but was quick to give praise to Matt Newton, who paced her all the way. As the pair hit the ten-mile mark, they consoled themselves with the thought that “it was just a parkrun now” but they were having to deal with increasing temperatures. Matt would describe the conditions as “hot, hot, hot”, but despite this, his time this year was a vast improvement on last year’s – almost four minutes quicker. “Sweet, I’m well impressed,” he gleamed when notified.

Carine Baker obliges for the paparazzi.

Simon Wilkinson continues to defy logic. As his parkrun times have begun to dip under the 24-minute mark, similarly his half marathon times have continued to impress. Last year at Manchester: 1:57:32. Such a time is but a distant memory as he managed to run nearly SIX minutes faster. His reaction? “Pretty damn chuffed,” and like other Pumas, acknowledged the help and encouragement he’s been given at the club. He’s certainly reaping the benefits. Simon was out running on Friday and found the pull up through Shibden Park and Kirk Lane something of a breeze. We all knew he’d smash Manchester!

Matt Newton paces Sarah Haigh,but she will beat him by a second.

Julie Bowman was also out running Friday, grimacing at times, and when put on the spot, admitted she was hoping to get under 1:50. We all know she has it in her to do this, but feeling slightly under the weather, she came home in 1:52:01. But she was still pleased with her time, as was Peter Reason, who also completed the course in under two hours, setting his own personal best. Paul Bottomley was keen to snap up a spare place and in the event he did himself justice. Running ten miles at York seven days earlier, he found the extra three miles no real problem, despite the heat. Also ducking under the two-hour mark was Jodie Knowles, a work in progress, but improving with every stride. Two years ago she ran her first half marathon at Leeds, completing the course in 2:20:57. Acknowledging the help the Pumas have played in her development, particular with the long Sunday morning run sessions with Ian Marshall, this time Jodie ran over twenty minutes faster, admitting, “To say there has been a big improvement in my time is an understatement! Goes to show how much my first year as a Puma has helped me with my running!”

Helen Jackson completed the course in 2 hours 7 minutes exactly but despite running slower than twelve months previously, was still upbeat. “I’ll take that, as race prep hasn’t gone quite to plan. Thanks to Pumas as ever for the amazing support,” she said, then praised Andrew Mellor for helping her over the last couple of miles. Andrew’s another runner who’s come on leaps and bounds; he ran his first half marathon at Leeds in May, clocking 2 hours 19 minutes, so you can imagine that having gone around in 2:05:49 here he was very satisfied. Upon finishing, both Andrew and Helen made a pledge that next time they’ll both crack two hours. And who’d bet against it?

Tim Brook approaching the finish line. #FPH

This run at Manchester was the first of two half marathons Sharon Wilson is running in the space of two weeks; her next on 29 October is at Worksop. She’s raising money on behalf of the Yorkshire Cancer Centre. She didn’t set any records here, but maybe will do in a fortnight’s time. Meantime, Carine Baker admitted to being out over the weekend – not running, just out – and seemed happy with the fact that she managed to complete the course at all! While Rachael Hawkins gave it her all in an effort to beat her target of two hours and fifteen minutes. She wasn’t far off, but her initial disappointment was soon set aside when she realised just how far she’s come, and we’re not talking of the coach trip over the Pennines. And then there were the memories of the day which made it all so special. “I thoroughly enjoyed every step of the way,” Rachael said – and that was before she took to the wine.

Peter Reason’s almost there. This image will go down in Pumas’ folklore.

Having arrived unnoticed, Paul Pickering slipped into the pack, then ran steady away to finish in just over two hours and eighteen minutes. No one knows if he was happy with his time or not – it was a reasonable one when all’s said and done – as he left in the manner in which he’d arrived; unnoticed!

Philippa Denham, achieving things beyond her wildest dreams.

But the runner who surprised herself more than she surprised her friends who know her best, was Philippa Denham. This was her first half marathon, and running one was something that she wouldn’t have even contemplated several months ago. But urged on by Ian Marshall, she geared herself up for the challenge and on the starting line she was nothing but positive. In the end, Philippa managed to complete the thirteen and a half miles – without stopping I might add – in 2:33:54, and on crossing the finish line, was ecstatic. “I feel amazing,” she cried, and claimed completing this run had been the biggest achievement of her life! And if anyone was going to inspire others, then surely it was Philippa. She added, “One thing I’ve learnt today is; believe and you will achieve.” This could be a slogan which may take off.

What about a post-race selfie? Happy to oblige are Simon Wilkinson with Julie Bowman and Tom Moran.
Andrew Mellor is happy to pose with his new best friend Rachael Hawkins, showing off their newly claimed bling and T-shirt.

Once everyone had crossed the line and the latest T-Shirt and medal neatly adorned, the Pumas made their way back to the bus and relaxed on the journey home. Where, waiting for them at the clubhouse, were drinks and FREE food, kindly organised by the new Mrs Coupe. These Pumas are a pampered lot – but they’ll happily tell you that they deserve to be!

Back at base, the Pumas receive a tumultuous reception. Those smiles disguise the desperate need to get to the bar.

Pumas’ finishing positions and times;

404 Tim Brook 1:29:59

1,196 Tom Moran 1:41:35

2,085 Sarah Haigh 1:49:27

2,088 Matt Newton 1:49:28

2,392 Simon Wilkinson 1:51:45

2,434 Julie Bowman 1:52:01

3,167 Peter Reason 1:57:15

3,262 Paul Bottomley 1:57:57

3,461 Jodie Knowles 1:59:04

4,239 Andrew Mellor 2:05:49

4,382 Helen Jackson 2:07:00

4,568 Sharon Wilson 2:08:26

4,887 Carine Baker 2:11:06

5,490 Rachael Hawkins 2:16:48

5,632 Paul Pickering 2:18:21

6,679 Philippa Denham 2:33:54

If anyone sees this man, please stop and say hello. Goes by the name of Paul Pickering.

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