Race Date: Friday 7th April 2023
Race Report by Hannah Murton
The Manchester 2 Liverpool Ultra is a unique 50-mile event heavily supported following the Trans-Pennine Trail, the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Mersey from Manchester to Liverpool.
In the run up to this race, I had been having issues with my knee after falling while skiing a few weeks previous, so I wasn’t even sure if I would make the start line. So to be stood in the Piazza of Media City with 350 other runners in the chilly morning air as the sun started to lighten the sky, I counted myself lucky to be there. My husband John was not so lucky however, injury once again side-lining him after finding out that he has a bone stress response in his sacrum only a couple of weeks before the race. Having been injured for most of last summer with an achilles injury he was bitterly disappointed to not be taking part, but on the plus side I now had a race crew!
The race had previously started in the car park of Old Trafford (John and I had volunteered at 2022’s event and had been handing out race trackers from 5am in said car park) and we booked into the Premier Inn opposite the stadium meaning we had an easy two minute walk to the start line in the morning. That was until we found out they were moving the start to Media City in Salford Quays due to Sky TV needing to use the Old Trafford car park. It turned out not to be as bad as we thought as Media City was less than a mile from our hotel, and the walk served as a nice and gentle warm-up and a way to expel some nervous energy.
The race began at 6am and we crossed the bridge out of Media City, along the waterfront which looked amazing in the early morning sun, past Old Trafford and then along the Bridgewater Canal for several miles. The route then takes you for a short out-and-back section and a loop of Chorlton Waterpark, after which you re-join the Trans Pennine Trail and start heading through Sale and towards Liverpool.
The course then continues on the TPT then the Manchester Ship Canal until mile 32 where you reach Spike Island in Runcorn. You then run along the River Mersey before turning ‘in land’ and start making your way towards the finish line at Aintree Racecourse. The final 10 miles were all quite ‘samey’ compared to the rest of the course, which is quite varied. It was also in the last 6 miles that my knee started to hurt again so it all became a bit of a slog, but I had a rough aim of wanting to finish the course in under 10 hours, and I could see that quickly creeping up on me. I pushed on and was elated when I finally finished and received a silver medal awarded to those who finished in the top 200 finishers. I felt surprisingly good as I sat and sipped my celebratory pint in the sun, and had been amazed by how much running I had actually managed during the race before switching to a run-walk.
The GB Ultras website describes the event as “a well-marked, fast 50 mile race with a 14 hour cut-off, and is ideal for both the seasoned ultra-runner looking for a personal best on the distance and also a great introduction into ultra-running for beginners”. I would really recommend their events for anyone looking to increase their distance from the marathon and get into ultras.
There are checkpoints / aid stations roughly every 6-9 miles along the course which are really well-stocked, offering a huge range of snacks including pretzels, crisps, sweets, chocolate, peanut butter sandwiches, salted potatoes, squash, and flat cola, demonstrating why ultras are often referred to as picnics with a bit of running thrown in! Personally I don’t like to linger at the aid stations for too long as it can be hard to get going again particularly towards the end of the race, and I struggle to run with a stomach full of sandwiches so I grabbed a few pretzels and potatoes, and a cup of cola and get on my way again.
Some readers may have seen the controversy that emerged from the day, with Great Britain ultra-runner Josasia Zakrzewski who took third place on the day was eventually disqualified having been found to have accepted a lift for 2.5 miles of the race. It felt very surreal to see this relatively small event plastered all over the news, and I felt it was very disappointing that she felt the need to do this. It left a bit of a sour taste after an otherwise brilliant day.
The race was won by Leo Loughran of Belle Vue Racers in a blistering 5h 53, and the women’s race was won by Kelsey Wiberley of Spa Striders in 7h 04. I was the only Strider and finished in 9h 51.
349 runners took part in the Ultra.
Full results can be found on the MyRaceResult website.