Billed by sponsors ASICS as the 'Flattest, Fastest and Friendliest' event of its kind in the UK, the Manchester Marathon attracts runners of all ages, nationalities and abilities from around the world. And as they focus their training on the big day - April 10 - it's interesting to reflect on the history and the fascinating facts behind this popular race.
Established in 1908, the original 20 mile marathon, which began and ended at the Saracens Arms pub in Warburton, Trafford, was organised by Salford Harriers, as the northern trial for the Olympics. It wasn't until 1909 that the Manchester Marathon began to attract runners from further afield, as they completed over what has now become the official marathon distance of 26 miles 385 yards.
The course was run from Sandbach to Fallowfield Stadium. But there were no marathons in the city for the next fourteen years. In fact, the Manchester Marathon has had quite an interrupted history. Between 1923-1928 and 1931-1936 the race took place between Fallowfield and Gatley and then wasn't staged again until the late 1960s, when Old Trafford became a focal point of the race, a tradition which continues to this day.
Between 1969 and 1973 the races began at Manchester Town Hall and finished at Old Trafford. There was a further eight year gap before the marathons started up again, featuring in the annual calendar of events in Manchester between 1981-1985. This was followed by another interruption in its history, until it was staged in 1996. But once again the marathon stopped, six years later.
It was a decade before the Manchester Marathon re-launched in 2012, the year the Olympics came to the UK and it is now regarded as a legacy event, building on the back of the fantastic achievements of the country's athletes.
So, it is clear that the event has had many rebirths but in its latest reincarnation it has become a highly popular, well organised, well attended and supported event that has been voted as the Best Marathon in the UK for two consecutive years at the Running Awards. This is an accolade that the organisers are hoping they can turn into turn into a hat trick following this year's event.
The five most interesting facts about this year's marathon are:
1. The number of runners participating in the Manchester Marathon has exploded over the past few years. In 2014 just over 6,000 people ran the course; in 2015 just under 8,000 took part in the race; but on April 10, this year 15,000 runners are expected to hit the streets around Salford Quays, continuing the upward trend in numbers. Organisers are promoting this year's marathon as a great place for first time marathon runners to cut their teeth, as it is so flat. For other veterans of marathons, they are suggesting that it is a great course to try and attain a Personal Best. Last year, the first female runner over the finishing line was 26 year old Georgie Bruinvels, who had never run a marathon before.
2. The prize fund for professional runners has tripled for the 2016 race, which organisers are hoping will attract some bigger names from the racing world.
3. On the back of last year's success, the event organisers, in conjunction with Trafford Council, have launched a new youth sporting initiative. The Extra Mile Events Trafford Athlete Fund, which will provide grants of between £250 and £1,000 to up-and-coming young runners, to support and encourage them to pursue the sport. Eligible applicants will be aged under 18 and come from the Trafford area. Applicants were asked to submit their forms, for a decision in early 2016.
4. The economic benefit to Trafford as a result of last year's event was estimated at around £4.8m. This year the figure is estimated at £6.1m, as the event grows in popularity.
5. Money raised from the various events and entertainments being staged to entertain the crowds will be split between this year's official event charities: Cancer Research UK, The Christie Charity and the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital Charity. Every effort has been made by the organisers to make this a fun, safe, memorable day out for both runners and their supporters. The runners will raise money for their chosen causes, which last year totalled £1.7m but organisers expect this to be beaten given that the number of runners is likely to be nearly double last year's entrants.
The 2016 Manchester Marathon will also include the Half/Half and 4-Leg Team Relay event, as it did last year. For a full history of the Manchester Marathon from 1908-2002, veteran runner Ron Hill's book is a must read.
All details for the day can be found at http://www.greatermanchestermarathon.com for anyone else interested in going along on the day to support the event.