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Manx Mountain Marathon 2022

Happy Belated 50th Birthday!

What an event? I genuinely don't know whether to place an exclamation or question mark at the end of that sentence. What an unusual atmosphere, at least that's how I felt. It wasn't just the run but also the beginning and afters too.

Admittedly I was a little out of sorts having followed my usual inimitable style of preparation for the event. This consisted of booking, on Monday (the week of the event), the overnight ferry to travel that Friday, with the idea of sleeping on the ferry, doing the run, then sleeping in the car and getting the early ferry back on the Sunday morning. Maybe not the best idea? Preparing my overnight bag and kit, involved literally throwing all of my running kit in the car, arranging last minute for someone to look after my dog and after a day full of lessons, hot-tailing it down to Morecombe for my floating bed. Grabbing a fat fuelled Mcdonald's Chubby Meal, aka, my 'fuelling strategy'; in layman's terms 'eating properly' left a little to be desired before embarkation. There wasn't that much sleep to be had on the ferry, I wonder why?

Arriving at the venue about 2 hours before registration, sitting in a cold car park, struggling to grab some last minute zzzzs, another cagey tactic that proper runners would avoid. A breakfast of local shop-bought muesli bar, sweeties and cold coffee, set me up just perfectly for my delayed 50th birthday present to myself. A mountain race on the Isle of Man, the Manx Mountain Marathon also celebrating it's 50th anniversary (barring Covid lockdowns that is). A mountain race on the Isle of Man, indeed? To which I scoffed. A mountain, daresay mountains on the Isle of Man, I'd never heard of a hillock on this little (but beautiful) dot of an island? My scant knowledge about the Isle of Man includes the TT Races, the Great Laxey Wheel, lots of rich people seemingly live on the island and the iconic three=legged flag.

After registration which was pretty uneventful other than getting in the way of people who clearly knew one another, the runners congregated for the usual safety briefing. I really should have read more of the race notes and inspected the route profile. A steady run out of Ramsay and most are bimbling along, laughing, chatting and joshing amongst themselves. Billy Nomates is thinking of the food I should have had, the sleep I could have had and of course, the race route I ought to have studied, oh, well.

I'm sure there's a drink station, or a feed station somewhere? After hitting several unforgiving and unexpected big hills (I really need to train a bit better, prepare smarter and guess what, study the race route), I started feeling grouchy. Not the best head space for a long run. The weather was miserable, cold, wet, foggy and the more I trudged on the more grumpy I got.

That was the feed station? Jelly babies? You are kidding me? Bloody jelly babies at a feed station of 30 miles or so, up bloody big hills (I really should have read the race notes), that's a 10k snack stop, not a feed station. Be kind, it's run by volunteers. So I very gratefully and graciously said 'thank you', took solace in the happy faces but grumbled at what seemed to be the start of a downhill spiral. One of the volunteers at the feed station greeted several of the 'local' runners by name and offered what seemed to be alternative and discreetly located snacks. Of course that's going to happen I tell myself. Wouldn't you encourage someone you knew? My head and grumpiness gets in the way, you're not you when you're hungry, says the advert. No, I'm not! I want a blooming snickers not a marathon.

Still at least the weather is brightening up. Still wet, but getting more and more pleasant. As the weather improves so does my mood, no longer as grumpy, no longer struggling but I know I'm running out of steam so I dig into my supplies. My well planned out and appropriate supplies. Fangtastic! As much as I love Haribo maybe sweets on top of sweets for 30 odd miles is not the ideal fuelling strategy. In for a penny, in for a pound and off I start munching to a complete and utter standstill. For goodness sake, keep moving. And on I trudge. This is bloody awful. Keep going. Just keep going.

The views get better, the weather gets clearer, brighter, almost warmer. What a beautiful island. I'm plodding almost alongside a similar paced runner. Have you done this before, I offer? Yes. Didn't expect it to be this tough? Yes. Then into a boggy bit. Oh well, 'he who dares does it', I declare as I sink up to my knee. Yes comes the stilted reply. Sometimes my daft comments raise at least a titter at my misfortune, not with this local guy. Think I'll give this a rest. As I trudge on, I hear the same runner chatting quite amiably to another plodder. I think better of trying to join in and after a while they're both nowhere to be seen. I'll be okay in my own company.

Only 10 or so miles to go I guess. This is actually becoming quite pleasant, the sugar from the Haribo and a little song flicks into my head and I hum and sing to myself 'Dirty Old Town' by the Pogues. It seems like we have a new batch of runners involved in the run, I didn't know there was a half marathon that started in the middle of the race, I really should read the race notes? We're winding our way down a steep 'hillside', through heather, its wide enough for one person, there's uneven ground either side of me into knee deep heather, so I'm taking my time, this is the sort of terrain that if you go crazy, you could easily turn an ankle on, and there's still miles to go. 'Out of the way' is bellowed from immediately behind me. No please. No thanks. No comment at all, as I step into the heavy brush and stand still to allow an average (at best) runner to pass me. He's not been behind me for long, I'm almost down the hill and as I sarcastically call after him 'Thank you, you're welcome', this interaction seals my opinion of this event. A local run for local people. I seeth with growing intensity as the miles ebb. The remainder of the event passes without incident but am I not happy? There's food and drink in a decent cafe at the end, the medal is okay. There's lots of high fives, back slapping and cheering for the local runners but 'no comment' as other runners finish, but maybe that's just my take on it. I see the runner who passed me on the hill, given his finish time he'd only finished a few minutes before me and run less than half the distance, at least he got a PB. Oh, I overhear, this is the slowest you've ever done the event. I bet he drives a German engineered car? It has been the most unpleasant atmosphere before, at and during a run I've encountered. Once I've refuelled I steel myself to grab a long slow bus to return to the north of the Isle, great preparation Duncan. If only I had a friend.

The bus is delayed at the very first stop by several lads completely wasted, with the drunkest of the lot mouthing off at an old couple who dared shake their head at them when he started swearing in front of a couple of very young children with their mum. The kids looked scared. The bus driver asked the lads to calm down and was met with a barrage of abuse. I cringe. Finally one of the lads decides that it's probably best if they vacate the bus and return into the pub, the inebriated sheep follow. What a day I think. Fish and chips and then I can read and fall asleep in the car overlooking the sea. My reverie doesn't last long as three young teenage girls grab the back seats, no worries, its just the usual chitter chatter, I smile. At stop three though, the mundane becomes monstrous. Another two girls get on, and spy the three on the back seats. Bitches, roars one. Profanities from the second and then she lets fly, 'You're Mum's a prostitute (or words to that effect), I hope she dies of Aids' and on she continues, the language, the expletives, they couldn't have been better said had they come out of the mouth of a 60s Tennent fuelled Glaswegian docker. What an island? What folk? I have never felt more alone, unwelcome or confused in any city, any strange place anywhere I've visited, but here North or South it seems you need to be a local to fit in. Looking at the surroundings more closely now, it seems there is a distinct dichotomy of social circumstance? Who am I to assess? One thing is for sure, I can say, hand on heart that not one person has actually smiled or made me feel welcome in the 24 hours I've been here.

Lets keep out of the way until tomorrow morning at 5am. Fish supper, I move the car into the back of the council offices out of the way and wait patiently for the dawn. Quick, get on the boat and get away, let's not come back any time soon.

A welcome sight as the ferry docks in Liverpool. I fill up with fuel and grab a petrol station breakfast roll, 'Alright Chuck' says the service station attendant with a beaming smile. It's 8:30am, the roads are quiet, I'm still in Liverpool city centre and the first person I exchange conversation with is lovely. You'll Never Walk Alone, Duncan (except on the Isle of Man), don't think I'll be welcomed back any time soon and I might take my time to hurry back too, thank you Royston Vasey.

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