Bank holidays galore, coronation, Eurovision, City’s triumphant leap to the Champions League final – I don’t know about you, the last few weeks have absolutely knackered me out. But with each event came unity, be it through a punch of national pride, a very camp kind of community with our continental cousins, or singing Blue Moon with fellow football fans.
Once more, this weekend, thousands of people will descend on Manchester’s streets for yet another huge event, the 20th Greater Manchester Run. Now, I’m not a particularly energised flag-waver, nor am I a chest-beating Blue, and Eurovision is something of an ironic watch for me.
So, as the runners do their final pre-race preparations, I’ve decided that of all of these huge moments we’ve had in May so far this one might be my favourite – let me explain why.
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Of course, there’s a sense of togetherness for all out there clocking up the miles. For the rest of us watching from home, there will likely be a collective, heartwarming reminiscence of the finest moments of one of the country’s sporting heroes – as Olympian and all-around national treasure, Sir Mo Farah, has chosen to bid farewell to the competitive stage with one last race in our very own fair city, natch.
But here’s one crucial part of the event that is unique to each participant. Almost every athlete lacing up their shoes, professional or amateur, is taking on this challenge for entirely individual reasons.
By looking at the rainbow of charity badges, t-shirts promoting selfless organisations, and inexplicable costumes donned by the runners, you get an idea of the deeply personal circumstances pushing them to go the distance.
Last year, we saw Freya Lewis join the runners in aid of the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. Freya is a survivor of the May 2017 Arena bombing, who had to learn to walk again after the injuries she sustained left her in a wheelchair. She blew the starting horn on the 2022 race before joining the 10k herself.
This year, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham will be running in aid of Coffee4Craig – a charity working with homeless people and those sleeping on the streets. Marking their 10th anniversary, they work tirelessly (literally operating seven nights a week) to offer hot meals, advice, medics and showers to those in need.
These might be two high profile examples, but I am always in awe of the remarkable stories and causes that motivate every single person to get to the finish line, as well as raise much needed cash for issues that can all-too-often be overlooked.
It also always serves me with a reminder that there’s so many fantastic organisations in Greater Manchester working to make our home city a better place. Still, before you get carried away, sign up for a marathon you’re going to forget about, and then wholeheartedly regret in six months once it dawns on you that you’ll actually have to do it, consider the alternative put forth by this much lazier runner.
An hour we might spend scrolling Instagram or even £1 that we get back in change from a parking meter can make all the difference to a group in need of an extra boost. And by taking part in the chain reaction of so many people getting out there in support of something they care about, isn’t that the sweetest kind of unity of all?
So, as you mull on what matters to you over your morning coffee, here are some incredible stories to get you as feeling as philosophical as I am this weekend…
‘I ignored a worrying symptom for months, then got a devastating diagnosis – now I’m fighting it for my daughters’
Exemplifying the personal journeys of those getting on their trainers this weekend for the Great Manchester Run is the astounding Becky Haigh. She is taking on the challenge just a month after cancer surgery, still waiting to hear if she is free from the illness.
The mum-of-two had been ignoring a concerning lump in her breast for a few months back in October of last year. Candidly, she says it was only after encouragement from her own mother that she got it checked out – but could not have prepared for the news she was about to receive.
Devastatingly, Becky was told that she had breast cancer and began months of gruelling procedures including chemotherapy and surgery. Yet, as she waits to be told whether she is finally cancer-free, the 32-year-old is taking on a completely different challenge – entering the Greater Manchester Run while being treated for the life-threatening disease.
“Being 31 and a single mum of two girls, I knew I had to fight – there was no other option. My girls needed me.”
Take a look at her incredible story here.
‘I ditched the scales and stopped fad diets – a year later I’d lost 7 stone’
An almost universal anxiety is how we feel about the way we look, and one mum is showing that you can take control of your self-esteem – while also making huge strides for your health. Our Facebook Live star, Dianne Bourne, tells the story of make-up artist and nail technician Siobhan McDonald.
Siobhan has spent her life helping other women look glamorous, while secretly hating how she looked herself. The Cheshire mum-of-two would constantly worry what others thought about her weight when she was at her heaviest at 18 stone.
But a dramatic health scare in hospital made her address for the first time her unhealthy relationship with food. She realised she needed to eat for health and nourishment of her body, rather than simply for the goal of losing weight.
It sparked a change in Siobhan’s mindset that would see her ditch her scales once and for all. After years doing weekly weigh-ins at slimming clubs or trying the latest fad diets she took a fresh approach based on healthy choices.
Siobhan’s hospital drama would be the spark for her health transformation over the past two years. She caught Covid in early 2021, but became so unwell she ended up in hospital with pneumonia.
She says: “My health in general at that point was just at rock bottom, I was overweight, I was miserable and my health just reflected that.
“I 100 per cent believe I was so ill with it because of my mindset, because I was overweight and I was unhealthy. I just did everything you’re not supposed to do to nourish your body and I paid for it.”
Read the full chat here.
Remembering Maine Road – 20 years on from Manchester City’s final game at their old home
Finally, for those still riding high on CITEH‘s success, how about a trip down memory lane to Maine Road. In a feat of cosmic timing, reporter Tom George reminds us of how twenty years ago this month, Manchester City played their final game at that historic ground.
Almost 35,000 people squeezed into the ground on May 11, 2003, to bid an emotional farewell to the club’s home of 80 years.
This year also marks 100 years since the Blues first moved into Maine Road in 1923. In the eight decades that followed, that patch of green was the scene of many highs – as well as plenty of lows.
The pictures we’ve gathered from the archives capture the ground in all of its glory.
Have a gander at the gallery here.
Read more of today’s top stories here