“A fast, flat, suburban marathon that takes 7000 runners through towns and villages around Trafford. What it lacks in iconic or interesting scenery it makes up for with lively support straight from people’s front gardens.”
Where: Greater Manchester, north west England.
Size: Approx 7000 runners
Official race website: here
- Bring disposable warm clothing or a bin liner to wear and discard as this race is famously wet!
- Write your name on your T-Shirt with a big fat pen – organisers print it on your race number but it’s too small for spectators to read
- Don’t race off too quickly at the start as it’s downhill a bit and can get runners carried away for the first mile or so
- Memorize the place names on your route as the mile markers aren’t that easy to see and some sections can be a bit nondescript
- Don’t crowd around the pace setters as, at the start, they are mobbed by runners and it can cause trips and falls
- Be prepared for a drop in support from mile 19-21/22
- Look out for Old Trafford on the last mile and a half and use it as an inspirational landmark!
- Head out the Northern Quarter after the race for a massive beer/ burger
Short Race Report from Joe…
What’s the set up and organisation like?
The Greater Manchester Marathon is a long-running event that’s been going on and off in one shape or form since 1909. The route has changed and organisation improved and this is now a brilliantly run event.
Approximately 7k runners take part every April come rain or shine (and it does tend to rain quite often!).
A comprehensive race pack is sent out to all runners weeks before the event and on the day everything you need is
in the race village located at Old Trafford Football Stadium. It’s got all the usual bits and bobs you’d need (lost race number tent, massages tent, plenty of loos and a few food vans). The baggage handling in the year we raced (2013) was superbly organised by volunteer cadets from a massive tent with no queuing necessary. It comes after an apparently disastrous 2012 when runners had to find their own bags in terrible weather conditions.
The start line is a short walk up towards Manchester and the start line was hard to distinguish but there are signs for various timing zones (3:15, 4:00 etc) to get the fastest runners off first.
Out on the course there are plenty of stewards to direct people and just about the perfect amount of drinks stops – approximately 1 every 3 miles and more frequent towards the end. They ‘serve’ water pouches, energy drinks and sugar fruit cubes.
Quick shout out to the amazing pace setters who do an excellent job at keeping runners on course. Look out for these expert marathoners as they have big flags with the time they’ll finish in (3:00, 3:15, 3:30 all the way up to 5:00).
What’s the course like?
The start and finish couldn’t be much more iconic, especially for football fans. Apart from Old Trafford there aren’t any other landmarks along the route and you don’t really get anywhere near Manchester city.
The course winds its way through half a dozen small towns and villages typical of Greater Manchester – leafy, residential and sometimes pretty. Towns on the route: Sale, Brooklands, Altrincham, Urmston, Stretford, Salford Quays etc.
Altrincham is the halfway point and one of the highlights as the town is at a standstill for runners as they weave around the small streets.
The course is the flattest in the country with a total gain of just 54 meters and a smooth road surface throughout so it’s really fast and great for any PB pushers. The winner of 2013’s race did it in 2hrs20!
Race highlight – Last 1.5 miles as Old Trafford can be seen in the distance and calls you home!
How’s the atmosphere?
The field of runners is pumped up but not overly serious. Not many people are in fancy dress and most appear to be fixed on a particular finishing time but everyone’s friendly and up for a fun race. The spectators are incredible and the support is eye-wateringly good.
If you write your number on your t-shirt, people will relish the chance to shout it and give you a massive boost.
The organisers print your name on your running vest but it’s too small for people to read so make sure you write it big and bold on your top.
The atmosphere drops like a stone at mile 19 to 21/22 as the course winds out along a country road away from residential areas which makes for a challenging period with no support when you need it!
How difficult is the Greater Manchester Marathon?
As far as marathons go this is the flattest in the UK and therefore a great place for first-timers or people looking for PBs.
The road surface is consistent and steady with tarmac all the way and there are a brilliant amount of nutrition stops. The size of the marathon is also pretty perfect as you get a great atmosphere but space to get out ahead if you want to chase a good time.
The only thing that can make this marathon tough is the weather. Parts of the course are very windy (Miles 19 – 21 where you are out in an exposed field) and it does tend to rain. A lot. 2012 was legendarily horrendous but in 2013 it was dry with sunny spells and only 5 mins of drizzle so great conditions.
Is there much to do in the area after the race?
Yes! Manchester is a brilliant city and the race village is just 10 mins walk from Old Trafford Tram stop which is just 10 minutes away from the centre of town. Tri Review recommends getting to the Northern Quarter for a nice celebratory burger at Home Sweet Home or Almost Famous!
Here’s the local tourism website with all the details you’ll need.
My Race Diary
Marathon No.: 3
This was a last minute decision for me as I wanted to do a big training run for another marathon in a couple of weeks. I called up to get a press place on Friday and turned up early on Sunday with a target of 18 miles. I did the 18 miles at 4:15 pace although I found it particlularly tough from mile 14-17 maybe as my head wasn’t in the race mode.
At 18 I stopped and was going to save my legs for my next marathon (the sensible thing to do!) but thought I’d walk/ run/ amble my way to the end to make this review more complete and get a medal!
I finished with my slowest time (fastest Loch Ness – 3hrs57) but had a great day and loved the finish as people were shouting my name and spurring me on for my sprint finish!