On one of the hottest day of the year so far, I ran alongside around 40,000 people from all over the country; all ages, sizes, speeds and abilities, from wheelchairs users to blind people, yet all united in one aim – running to remember and hope for loved ones and at the same time raise money and awareness for their chosen charities.
I take part in a charity race every year for a charity close to my heart, the Alzheimer’s Society, and have tried a variety of events from 10km trail runs to the Great North Run half marathon. The Great Manchester Run was one of my favourites; very well organised and a joy from start to finish.
Created back in 2003 as a legacy after the 2002 Commonwealth Games, the event has grown rapidly in popularity and is now the biggest 10km run in Europe, favoured by celebrities including a host of Corrie stars and BBC news readers. There’s an elite race for the world’s top athletes and junior events – a 2km mini run for 3-8 year olds and 2 miles for 9-15 year olds.
The atmosphere at the start was electric as I lined up next to fairies, superheroes and the occasional banana. Many people display the reasons for their participation on their t-shirts, which is both moving and motivating. If you’ve ever considered doing a charity run but worry that you’ll fail, fear not. The back of the pack with your fellow charity runners is where the fun is at. There’s no talk of personal bests just an outpouring of love and unspoken sense of all being in it together.
The race starts and ends smack bang in the city centre and the route allows for some sight-seeing, including Manchester United Old Trafford football stadium and the iconic Imperial War Museum building. There were bands roadside and a wall of sound from Key 103 radio station to help you along the final stretch.
It’s a road race and, with the exception of a couple of stretches on A roads, supporters lined the route cheering and clapping putting a spring in my step (even at the 9km mark in the searing midday sun) and a smile on my face.
However my favourite bits are the points where charities pitch up to cheer their runners on. The Alzheimer’s Society not only send you training and fundraising tips but also a t-shirt with your name on (as do many other charities) and nothing beats running past your charity points and hearing your name shouted out by a team of supporters. It’s a wonderful boost and a reminder of why you’re there.
The mass of supporters at the end of the race is almost overwhelming and the closest I’ll ever get to a moment of sheer adoration!
You’re rewarded with a medal and goodie bag and as you’re in the city centre, you can take your finish line feeling to any one of numerous places to eat, drink and be merry. Never will you have earned cake more than in these circumstances!
I firmly believe that everyone of reasonable health can run 10km with a little dedication, and the pain of pounding the streets on those first few training runs is rewarded ten times over by the sense of achievement that finishing a race and reaching your goal brings. Some believe that the runner’s high is an urban myth but even if your body doesn’t feel euphoric at the finish line, your soul will be elated.
My place was subsided by my charity – it costs around £40 to enter individually. It’s expensive but it’s a huge event to organise and marshal not to mention providing water for all those runners. Lots of charities offer reduced price places so if you’re feeling inspired, why not see if you can sign up with your charity of choice?