When is a run more than just a run? When thousands of runners fall silent at the start, tears rolling down faces. When the voice of an enthusiastic spectator breaks with emotion as she shouts ‘Come on runners, we need you in our city’. When the race announcer pays tribute to the emergency services at the event, some of whom were working just 6 days ago when a terrorist attack hit the city. When runners wear placards with bee symbols, the number 22, I love MCR and one which simply said ‘F*** You Terrorists’.
When I set out on my challenge this year of 15 races, I was thinking mainly of myself and my situation. I wanted to celebrate my son who sadly never lived, and raise awareness of the 15 babies who are stillborn or die within the first four weeks of life every day. Although I am only 6 races in, so far it has been a pretty amazing journey, one which I can’t wait to look back on in full at the end. Each race has been memorable in its own way; mega hills, beaches, rain, sunshine, PB’s. But I can’t imagine they will touch the emotion of today’s race.
In truth, a few months ago I wished I hadn’t booked this race. I had heard of the Rock n Roll run series in Liverpool and thought it sounded tonnes of fun. But when I went to book, I realised it was on the same day as the Great Manchester Run which I inadvertently got a place for about 7-8 months ago. I looked at the route and didn’t think it looked very exciting or as appealing as running in the City of Music. Still I diligently trained and decided to make the most of it, with all my 10k races so far helping with my preparation.
And then Monday happened. The unspeakable, barbaric atrocity of a concert venue being bombed as thousands of happy, young people left. A night that will change the lives of those people forever, as well as their friends, families and the wider population. Within a day or so, I received an email from the organisers saying that there would be a decision made as to whether or not the race would go ahead. Then on Thursday it was confirmed. Honestly, I never once contemplated not running. For many reasons really. Beginning with the most selfish (my training for this half marathon has been better than any of the other four I have run!!), to realistic (Manchester would probably be one of the safest cities in the UK with all the security, checks and police), to defiant (why the hell should we let a small group of crackpots, intent on causing fear, panic and disruption, win???).
I can tell you that they did not win yesterday.
I don’t know how many people chose not to run or come and watch. But I can tell you that thousands did. And we all stood shoulder to shoulder at the start, in silence, paying tribute to the 22 people who lost their lives, the countless injured and the many traumatised. We remembered all the brave and selfless people who saved lives, helped the injured, provided food and shelter and drove taxis for free.
And after the silence came the opening bars of ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’. Never again will I listen to that song without thinking of that moment.
The race will forever have a place in my heart. Not least because, for me, I ran like a dream!! So I’ve only run the distance a handful of times before, but took 11 minutes off my PB … which I set pre-3 babies ago when I had all the time in the world to train (12 years ago to be precise!). I’m still pinching myself now and can’t believe I came home in 2 hrs 11 minutes 41 seconds. To put it mildly I am estatic! Maybe I’ll find time to write about it later, now I am too knackered!
To all the other sheer bloody-minded runners who came out – we were all winners.