#RunForManchester - a race to remember
Simplyhealth is title partner of the Great Run Series, the UK's biggest mass participation running events. At every event, we have a team from Simplyhealth attending whether it's to run or volunteer. I'm proud to be taking part in 14 of the 15 events (not the Simplyhealth Great Women's Run) while raising money for our headline charity Revitalise.
Over the last 30 years, I've competed in many races, very few however, that I really remember. But that changed last weekend and made me feel very differently about the world.
The Simplyhealth Great Manchester 10k is the third largest mass participation running event in the UK and the largest 10k in Europe attracting top athletes, Olympic Champions, world record holders, and it was broadcasted live on BBC One. A half marathon was also held in the morning, as well as a junior and mini event.
Following the awful atrocity at the nearby Manchester Arena, the race was transformed into something else. Unsure whether the race would still take place at all, initial shock soon turned to forceful determination and it was clear the city of Manchester was not going to stop one of its biggest annual events in the face of fear. In fact it was going to carry on and show the world its solidarity.
For me personally never had a race felt so important or so heartbreakingly urgent as this did.
Race day dawned early as we got to the start for the inaugural half marathon. The mass of multi coloured humanity streaming across the start line were joined by large crowds, music and cheers. Armed police were evident but the atmosphere was amazing.
Our start in the first wave of runners in the afternoons 10k was particularly poignant as poet Tony Walsh delivered his 'do something' poem and a minutes silence was observed. Thousands of people stood in absolute silence listening to his stirring words - something that will stay with me forever.
One thing you don't often see on the TV is the back of the runner's vests. It's here where people have a space to write a personal message to indicate who they were running for. Time and time again I saw the love for Manchester, how proud people were to run for this city and show their support along with the many charitable causes close to their hearts.
I've been a 'runner' since school and raced all over the UK. Big city marathons, national championships, but none have left an imprint on me as this one has. In other races over the years, I rarely noticed such fervent crowd support, the faces in the crowds, the children clapping and cheering. I can still see the charity buses and the handmade signs willing on loved ones.
But most of all, never have I felt the need to keep thanking the crowd, the marshals, the police and the emergency services. And never have I high fived spectators all along the finishing straight or turned back at the finish to look at the huge stream of humanity streaming towards the big yellow 'RUNFORMANCHESTER' banner.
This is a race I will always remember.