The Magnificent Manchester Seven! By Steve Lee

The Ryde Harriers team for the Manchester Marathon this year was one of the strongest we have fielded in recent years (or decades even). Les Cupis, Graham Gardner, Dave Hunt, Bryan Jones, Richard Melville, Simon Newman, and Tom Robinson are all known to be strong and fast runners, though Simon was making a low-key return after a couple of years “rest” and Tom was doing his first Marathon within a year of taking up serious running. All except for Simon have been doing regular track sessions involving repetitions of between 800 and 2,000 metres, mostly during the Club’s Thursday sessions, though Dave (and sometimes Richard) would attend Geoff Watkin’s elite squad sessions on Tuesdays. On the Thursday after the race who should turn up at the track but Simon Newman, who had just seen his old training partner Bryan “beat” his best time by 48 seconds!

The squad had the benefit of previous visits to Manchester, which meant the logistics were all sorted and they were able to line up at the start without any stress. The weather was about as good as it could be – with moderate temperatures rising a little towards the end of the race, and no wind to speak of. The results exceeded nearly all expectations, including mine (!), with 5 PBs and only Graham experiencing any major problems. Graham had had a build-up interrupted by illness and injury, and suffered from cramps in the latter part of the race, which was disappointing but didn’t stop him from finishing in good order.

The Manchester course is flat with a good surface which encourages runners to go off rather faster than they think they are going, and as a result both Dave and Les reached 10km in about 39.40, which is 6.23 pace and on schedule for under 2 hours 48 mins! They continued running together until nearly half distance, when Les had to make a pit-stop and lost over a minute. Dave kept his pace at the same high level through 30 kms reached in 2 hours (and 2 secs!), still on schedule for well under 2:50. Les was 2 minutes behind, having moderated his pace very slightly, but in the last few miles he was stronger, and nearly caught Dave at the Finish. Having started a few seconds behind Dave, they had to wait for the chip times to reveal that Les was the quicker by a mere 6 seconds – 2:53.45 to 2:53.51.

Les admits to being “quite pleased” with his PB (his previous best being seven years ago when he was a young man of 49), and his 7th place in the M55 category. An amazing 13 M55s were under 3 hours, one of the most high quality categories in the race. Dave’s PB here was seven minutes faster than he achieved in the Isle of Wight Marathon last year, which indicates to me that he can go faster still with more experience.

Bryan and Richard ran at a very consistent pace through to 20 miles , Bryan at close to 7 min/mile pace and Richard at under 7.20. Both slowed only a little in the final miles and were running strongly at the end, achieving very fine PBs of 3:10.11 and 3:13.52. Tom Robinson covered himself with glory for a first Marathon in 3:27.44 – admitting that he hadn’t forseen just how hard the last 5 miles would be, but still managing to maintain a respectable pace.

Simon had a deliberately low-key run. Although back into training after a four year ‘rest’, he knew he would be unable to match his previous pace, and started at an easy 8.20 pace, gradually picking up speed to finish in 3:36.19 (8.15 pace). Graham, as previously stated, had problems with cramping but was pleased to be able to run the whole distance after a less than ideal winter of training, finishing in a time of 3:43.04.

I’m sure the whole club will join me in congratulating all of them on their excellent runs.