Running in the rain
At the beginning of 2016 I had the chance of spending a couple of weeks in Manchester on a work assignment and even though I couldn’t find any races in that period to sign up for, I still took my running equipment with me and took this opportunity to run around the city.
Running is one of my favorite ways of discovering a new city. I love getting out the door into the unknown and just picking a direction and then enjoying a good run while I get to know the new city, admire its architecture, learn the streets, do some sightseeing and interact with the locals. And Manchester was no different.
I am not a morning runner, especially during weekdays when I must be in the office rather early. But I’ve learned to adapt and to really enjoy running in the evenings and late at night. I haven’t changed my style while I was in England either, but what surprised me was that the people there aren’t evening or night runners. In the entire period that I’ve spent there, I only met a group of three runners during a cold and windy night. The rest, 90% of the runners, at least from what I saw, are morning runners. Every morning on my long commute to work I saw countless runners hitting the wet streets of Manchester, from as early as 6 AM and continuing until 8-9 in the morning.
I have always admired the people who run in the morning, but I admire the runners in Manchester even more, since the mornings there in February & March are so grim, cold and wet that it’s hard to imagine how would one motivate himself/herself to hit the road…simply impressive!
Rain, Rain, Rain
I know I might become redundant with this, but it isn’t a thing to ignore and it left a big mark in my mind. While in England it rained every single day, which, if you’re not really used to, can really bring your mood down.
But rain has its beauty too. It has a sort of serenity to it and the repetitive droplets of rain falling rhythmically on the ground, and on your head, bring you in a state of calm and meditation. I cannot say that I’ve learned to like it, but every once in a while, it can do you good.
Roaming the streets
I was lucky enough to stay rather close to the city center, near the Piccadilly Gardens, which gave me the chance to pick a different direction for each run and put on a decent amount of kilometers on every single run(everywhere between 5 to 15 per run).
Being a big football fan, I couldn’t miss the two stadiums, Etihad and Old Trafford, home to the two greats, City and United. In my first night there I ran to Etihad where I got to see a very posh, hyper-modernist, expensive sports complex with the center piece in the stadium itself. Old Trafford is not much different. It has more class and tradition, you can see its age (built in 1910) and it is so big that a running lap around the stadium will give you more than a kilometer.
Other good running places were along the bank of river Irwell and along the multitude of canals that pass throughout the city.
A memorable experience was running through Gay Village, Manchester’s famous gay neighborhood. I got there by mistake on a late evening run while following one of the canals and at first I was a bit confused by the bright lights and colorful streets, but then I quickly realized where I was and I must say it’s a very nice place to run around, especially when people cheer for you as you pass by the pubs.
Manchester, a city of football and rock & roll
Not long ago I saw a documentary about Manchester with precisely this title (which I highly recommend by the way). And indeed, the city lives for football and then there are the pubs, which are always full and welcoming and even though I haven’t seen that many live bands playing, you could still find some rock concerts here and there.
All in all, it’s very clear that the city isn’t built for runners and has lots of other landmarks and things to be proud of, but this doesn’t mean that they cannot coexist there. It’s true that they could build more running lanes, bike lanes, parks and outdoor sports facilities, but honestly I felt safe while running on the sidewalks and streets of Manchester and it was actually a great experience and good practice.
Hopefully one day I will return there for a race.