With the modern emphasis on fast times and improving standards, simply winning a race is grossly underrated. Particularly when that race takes place in your home city on a course that runs through your very own training heartland. Dave Norman did just that last Sunday, and there was no hiding his elation as he crossed the finish line of the Greater Manchetser Marathon in Trafford in a time of 2:24:46.
“I’d say that in terms of performance it ranks alongside my three sub 2:20 performances at London given the appalling weather conditions”, he said. “In terms of experience, it was far superior to my top 15 in London in 2010 or my 2:18:34 personal best in 2005.”
There could hardly have been a worse day for this event to take place; Manchester’s famous April showers made conditions difficult at best, unbearable at worst. The four and a half thousand runners faced a mental battle equal to the physical challenge of running 26 miles.
For Dave, it was a case of maintaining concentration and attempting to claw back the lead that Andi Jones had built up early in the race. At halfway, Jones was out of sight and Carl Hardman was also 200m clear.
Dave explained: “I really had to concentrate hard on keeping a good relaxed tempo but having Carl ahead as a target to focus on helped me. I passed Carl at 17.5 miles and then had to concentrate even harder on maintaining a good rhythm as I didn’t have anything to focus on ahead.”
He left it late to catch the runaway leader, who was running just two weeks after completing the Virgin London Marathon. But his trademark relentless hard work eventually brought Jones back to him and he passed him in the closing couple of miles to record a victory that seemed to be written in the stars.
“It was only when I got to 24 miles after a twisty section that I suddenly saw the flashing lights of a lead car about 200m ahead”, he continued. “I could see that I was closing Andi down but actually catching him seemed a long shot.”
“I passed him in a subway with a mile to go and I came out of the subway in front with the lead car about 10m ahead of me. From that point, I didn’t dare look back. I just had my eyes fixated on the car and was really going for it. I allowed myself a glance back at 26 miles and I couldn’t see him. It was at that point I knew I had won the race.”
The circumstances of the victory made it even sweeter for Dave. The shock on the face of brother Andy as he approached the finish summed up the feeling of all those who thought that Andi Jones had the race wrapped up. Dave, however, believes that the emotions of winning on Sunday will be difficult to match.
“In 20 years of racing, I have never experienced a feeling like those last 385 yards and I doubt I ever will again. I’m realistic and I know that I am not good enough to go to a major games and so this felt like my Olympic dream. I cannot believe how many messages I have received since the race, it has been totally overwhelming.”
An interesting twist of fate led to Dave lining up in Manchester on Sunday rather than at the more high profile London Marathon two weeks previously. At last years London Marathon he picked up an injury that refused to clear up until Christmas time. With the entry deadline for London fast approaching Dave decided to stall his plans and eventually committed to Manchester when his fortunes improved.
The marathon had returned following a ten year absence meaning that it was Dave’s first attempt at the course, but he was impressed with the event overall.
He said: “Manchester has been crying out for a marathon since the last one ten years ago, so it was absolutely brilliant to see it back on the calendar. The course was a good one and in better weather conditions would be a fast one. It was a well organised event on the whole with one of two teething problems as you would expect for a first attempt at organising one. It certainly has the potential to be Britain’s number two marathon [behind London].”
With all eyes on London and the battle for the remaining Olympic marathon places, Dave’s performance may have comparatively slipped under the radar. But the experience of winning a big race, a marathon, indeed on home turf, is one that should not be underestimated.
By Craig Gundersen