Manchester Marathon 2023 Race Report

Rik’s Manchester Marathon 2023 Takeaways

I ran the 2023 Manchester Marathon over the weekend. I had not only a great race (I achieved my sub-3 goal) but an ace training block. As is often the case with running though, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. I’ve written up a brief report of the highs, lows and learning points from the race and the preceding 4 months. This is my perspective both as a coach and a runner. I’ll keep it as brief as I’m able and please feel free to reach out if you have any more specific questions.


I usually race longer distance trail races but I’d decided to hit the roads for a while to keep things interesting and work on my speed. I coach myself but will be seeking out a coach for my next marathon block. Even coaches need coaches. Final caveat is that this is what worked for me. It doesn’t mean you should go out and do the same or that I couldn’t have had an even better result training differently. Find a coach or create your own plan which is tailored to your unique needs and be consistent with it.

I started my Manchester base phase in October 2022 which lasted about 10 weeks. This consisted of around 10-12 hours per week of mostly easy running with short, fast speed workouts to improve running economy, top end speed and to help prepare my body to handle harder training loads. The build phase started January and lasted about 12 weeks heading into the taper. The main focus was Lactate Threshold training, medium long runs and long runs with workouts built in. This phase was designed to enable me to hold faster paces for longer and essentially make marathon goal pace feel more comfortable.

Marathon training is tough and I feel running is a social sport so I brought in some training partners to make the sessions that little bit easier and definitely way more enjoyable. Massive shout out to everyone in this crew. Training with you guys was the best decision I could have made.

I made sure that I improved my 5k, 10k and half marathon times in the lead up so that I knew I had a physiological capacity to achieve the time I wanted in the marathon. It definitely wasn’t a sure thing though.

Finally, I implemented a 2 day per week programme of heavy resistance training. Because I started this late, during the build phase, I kept the rep range at 5-8, focusing on multi-joint, compound movements to improve running economy and power output. I also added in some unilateral hip and glute exercises to iron out any muscular imbalances and further reduce my injury risk – my IT band has historically given me jip.

Race Day Lead Up:

The final few weeks of before the race I was pretty run down. This was due to some health issues that I have which were exacerbated by neglecting my recovery and nutrition in the final part of the build phase. I tapered quite aggressively the week before the race and upped my carb intake to try and compensate but still felt pretty ropey going in. This can be pretty standard during a taper to be fair and I had to remind myself of this and look back over all my hundreds of sessions from the previous 20 weeks. Trust your training folks.

Race Day:

Weather conditions on the day were ace, especially after the months of training in howling winds. When the gun went off, I actually felt pretty great. This phenomenon always amazes me. My plan was to run at a comfortable pace until 32k then if I had anything left, to crank down the pace until the finish. I went off faster than planned but it felt good, so I left this effort come to me and just embraced it. It turns out that this pace was pretty sustainable for the duration and I ended up finishing with only a slight positive split. Though I had nothing left in the legs at the end.

The only issue I had throughout was a dreaded side stitch at mile 17 which has scuppered some of my races in the past. For once I actually managed to deal with this by slowing down, belly breathing and landing hard on my opposite foot and after about 2 miles it subsided. For the rest of the race I kept the effort controlled though so not to risk it coming back. This is something I’ll need to address in future races.

The course itself was decent. Quite undulating but the inclines broke up the usual monotony of long distance road running and training on hills in Jersey had more than prepared me for them. The crowd support was phenomenal, the locals displaying their Northern hospitality. I particularly enjoyed the techno DJ under the main overpass and the all-female choir belting out Don’t Stop Me Now. I gave them a hell of a cheer.

Adidas kindly gave me all my race kit, including the their Adios Pro 3 super shoes. I had no issues at all with gear during the race and my legs were definitely less beat up than usual after a marathon. I’m sure the wedge of Lightstrike Pro foam under my foot had something to do with that.  

Finally, for once in my life, I actually fuelled well. This is usually a massive race-day weakness of mine but I took 8 x 20g OTE gels during the race (53g per hour), roughly one per 5k, and felt strong throughout. No bonk in sight – though admittedly a large portion of the carbs were over my face, hands and chest. I still need to improve my workout nutrition and hydration strategies because my carb intake can definitely be improved.

In summary, I was really happy with my result and the preceding training block. I’m going to take some time to reflect on the last few months and soak it all up before switching back to longer trail races for the Summer season. Road marathons are tough on the body and mind so a different stimulus will be welcome.

Key Takeaways:

  • Training with people, especially those who are faster than you (and like cake), is awesome. Enjoying the process, though now a bit cliched, is absolutely the most important aspect of training. None of us get paid to do this, just have fun and don’t take it too seriously.
  • Racing away with other people is far more enjoyable than going solo.
  • Emphasise recovery, both within the microcycle in the form of rest days, but in the form of recovery weeks. Also sleep more.  A lot more.
  • Tapers always suck.
  • Try to ensure calorie intake is sufficient. I personally might return to using a food tracker but please exercise caution with these, especially if you feel you are prone to disordered eating.
  • Fuel longer and more intense sessions better, i.e. more than 53g per hour. The latest research suggests that 90-120g per hour, once trained, might be optimal. Either way, more is usually better.
  • Try to get a handle on the root cause of any issues, (e.g. a side stitch) rather than hoping they’ll go just magically go away.
  • Practice finishing long runs slightly faster if you want to race the end of a marathon.
  • Being fit is great. Being strong is greater. Start and maitain a strength-training routine.
  • Take time to reflect positively on your training and racing and mix up the type of running you do. I’m convinced it will improve your longevity in the sport and make you happier and healthier.

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