April gave those attempting the Manchester to Liverpool this year some fantastic weather. Over 300 people finished in this 50-mile race that stretches across the Trans-Pennine trail from Manchester’s Salford Docks to Aintree Racecourse.
The 2023 edition had a new start line in Salford’s Media City. Assistant Race Director Laura Yates said this fresh start was a great success that many of the volunteers and participants appreciated.
“It was a great backdrop for the start location. We had the facilities we needed. As they set-off, they ran towards the set of Coronation Street, so that was nice.”
Competitors set off at 6 am from Media City, traversing a route that passes along the Trans-Pennine Trail, Bridgewater Canal and the River Mersey, with a small loop around Chorlton Water Park.
“Chorlton Waterpark is a great location, it has a huge lake, and it is quite a nice little start to the race. It’s probably the part with the most trail because then you join onto the TPT, which has had a revamp over the last few years, and most of it is now tarmac. Making it a lot more accessible to wheelchair users.”
“Checkpoint two is just outside of Dunham Massey; checkpoint three is at Latchford Locks, checkpoint four is at Spike Island, checkpoint five is at Speke, which is quite close to Liverpool airport, and checkpoint six is along the Sustrans route in Liverpool.”
After a chilly morning, the sun began to shine, and racers were blessed with a warm afternoon. Laura explained that the race could only be successful with all the volunteers who manned each checkpoint and offered encouraging words to racers.
“We have a variety of food at each checkpoint. The most popular thing we do is salted potatoes. We had 36kg of salted potatoes for this event across all the checkpoints. We do sandwiches, sweets, biscuits, cakes.”
“With this being a flat, fast route, I find people don’t take on as much food as they do with the mountain ones, so we’re still trying to get the balance right there. They seemed to be well received on the route.”
“We’ve partnered with Tailwind for all of our events in 2023; more often than not it is mandarin orange flavour, uncaffinated. I think more people used that on this route than taking on solid foods.”
Checkpoint three is at Spike Island, the infamous spot where the Stone Roses played in 1990. Now a beautiful green park, Laura commented that this checkpoint is always a great one for spectators, and there is always a good vibe.
“There’s a lot of support, clapping, and cheering. It’s always a good one to drop by for spectators.”
“There’s a 14-hour cut-off for the event. It’s a well-marked route. Not only is it marked with TPT signs, but we also go out and put in additional markers. Between CP2 and CP3, it’s a straight line, so there’s a tiny margin for error.”
“We had a team that went out at 3 am to recheck Chorlton Water Park, so well-meaning passers-by wouldn’t remove them before the race started.”
The race saw 351 people cross the finish line, of which 28% were female. Laura explained that all of GB Ultra’s events for 2023 have more female entrants, which is an exciting step for the sport.
Race directors are invested in inspiring more women to enter their races, hoping to see them push themselves and take on these challenges.
“As a female Race Director, it’s great to see more females taking part in these races and being successful at them as well.”
First over the finish line was Leo Loughran in 5:53:19; “It was great to see him achieve the win because he has worked really hard.”
“Leo has had his eye on this prize for quite some time now. He’s done the race several times before and never managed a podium position. This year, he was focused and determined to win the race.”
Matt Fields took second place, a regular for GB Ultras, after his success at the Chester Ultra in March, with 5:57:25.
An exciting race occurred for the final podium position, with only 4 seconds between them. Kyle Williams received third place with 6:32:37.
Kelsey Wibberly took first place in the women’s race at 7:04:23.
“She took on the race last year and DNF’d, so she was back to prove a bit of a point with this one. She said her goal was to finish, so to finish and be the first female is amazing.”
Emily Newton, who also took a podium position at the Chester 50 mile, took second place in 7:24:55. Mel Sykes finished 3rd female in a terrific time of 7:32:58 after the later ‘disqualification’ of Joasia Zakrzewski from the race results.
“It was a good race. There were very minimal DNFs, and only a few were timed out. The weather helped, although I think it got quite hot in the afternoon.”
“Because this race falls on Good Friday, the weather can be temperamental.”
Two special mentions go to Dennis Yarwood and Denise Zachariasz, who have completed every race edition since its inauguration seven years ago.
“We had a lot of amazing feedback regarding our volunteers and their support; they know what [the participants] want before even they know what they want. We’re blessed to have these fantastic volunteers because our races are nothing without them.”
The GB Ultras Manchester to Liverpool 2024 edition is open for registration and will take place on the 29th of March, 2024. Laura urges those who want to sign up to do so quickly, as they are almost sold out. Find out more about the M2L Ultra here.