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Great Manchester Run 2013  - The Big Push 6!    
 
Sunday 26 May Manchester city centre 10 AM onwards.  
 
Training    
As usual, the team have been trying very hard to keep fit through the winter months in exotic destinations like this one:   
 
However, anxious to avoid media intrusions some members of the team have been training covertly.  Sometimes so deep undercover they haven't been seen in the last 12 months!  It is understandable that many are concerned about record times and other such statistics, but at the end of the day, it really is supposed to be fun isn't it?  Beating Jane again and setting records is secondary (ish) to raising money for good causes, having a good day out, and a couple of beers at the end (obviously the last is most important to some members of the team!)  
 
Fundraising   
This year's chosen charities are fly2help and The Joshua Tree   
Fly2help   http://www.fly2help.org/   and
 
Fly2help amongst other things, provide flying experience for the disabled, disadvantaged, families who have suffered tragedy or trauma, chronic illness or abuse.  As many of the Big Push team have a flying background, we sometimes take for granted the fun, and freedom of being in the air.   The Joshua Tree was established in Cheshire, by Josh's parents, to provide short breaks and support in the Cheshire countryside to families of children who have battled with cancer or other immune-suppressing illnesses.  Josh was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2004 when he was only 5 years old.  Now an active teenager, I had the pleasure of meeting him, and his family, when we were both involved with the Olympic torch relay last year, they really are a truly inspirational team.   
 
Please visit the fundraising website at:   http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/Fattysbigpush6    
 
Free practice and qualifying.
In previous years the NHS battleship wheelchair has been plagued by front wheel shimmy at high speed (hi speed for a wheelchair anyway!)  Big push Big F1 Engineering have always tried to counter this by tightening up the front casters so that they will hardly swivel at all.  With this in mind it was no surprise to find that the week before The Big Push the wheelchair was on its side, in pieces, outside the front of the garage being attended to by several "technicians" armed with large spanners, the socket set and a large hammer.  After all, no job would be complete without the hammer!  The casters were tightened as far as they would go, but the team still felt sure this could be a problem on the day.  The second part of this year's modification program was to install a lightweight pushing bar on the rear of the chair.  A quick visit to the local hardware store and £1.35 later we had something which bore more than a passing resemblance to a broomhandle.  As soon as this was wrapped up in pipe insulation and gaffer tape it immediately started to look a bit more high-tech!   There were still some concerns about what would happen if we caught someone from behind with what appeared to be a "Boadicea chariot" like implement up the Jacksie.  We decided this was a risk worth taking, and that it might even prove to be a useful weapon in our armoury! 
  
Race Day  
So bright and early (and yes the sun was shining in Manchester) the team transporter arrived in the city centre.  Unlike previous years our chosen charities were not represented in the charity village, but as the weather was beautiful, having our own pit area just outside was no problem.  The transporter was of course loaded with drinks and snacks, and every stand in the charity village seemed to have a mountain of bananas, so fuel wouldn't be an issue.  One thing however which might be an issue was tyre degradation over the rough surface of the roads in such dry sunny conditions.  The team chose the hardest possible tyres for the race, despite them giving a much harder ride and the chair having no suspension.  They could then set about the final part of the push handle installation.  This involved significant numbers of tie-wraps and even more gaffer tape.  And in no time at all the team were ready to make our way towards the start line. 
While this was all going on, Mark had decided to go for a light morning jog, not convinced that his training had got him up to the task of The Big Push.  Joining our friend Haile from last year he ran with the elite athletes in the first wave, finishing in the quite unbelievable time of 38 min, placing him 196/40,000 athletes, no mean achievement.  Well done Mark!  He was back in the pits before the final fettling jobs on the chair were even finished. 
 
Thereafter, qualifying was an absolute breeze, and despite some changes in race organisation Fatty's Big Push were on pole again, and could relax in the VIP enclosure.  We were lined up at the start really early, which provided a great opportunity to plug the charities in an interview, (Fatty hogging the limelight as usual!) and meet the celebrities.  
This year's starter Fabrice Muamba came to chat with all the team along with "Mr Great Run" Brendon Foster.  Fabrice has done remarkably well to recover so quickly after his collapse in a football match against Spurs, he provided some very welcome words of encouragement.  Fatty had met Brendon a few years previously, so they ended up gossiping briefly about this year's race conditions, and which beer to drink afterwards!  There was a quick reminder from Fatty to the team about the enormous potholes just after the start line and then we were ready for the blast off.  
The klaxon goes, and we're off!  
The modified push handle provided fantastic traction off the line, and we safely negotiated the big hole, only to go crashing through one about 10 yards further on!  Fatty was nearly out of the chair before we'd travelled 50 yards, fortunately, further large bumps bounced Fatty back in the other way, and the team quickly settled into a good steady pace. 
 
 
The road conditions have definitely deteriorated, and every time we hit a rough patch the front wheel shimmy nearly shook the chair to pieces, despite the modifications by the engineering team. This caused us to have to slow down significantly (most unusual for The Big Push Team!) until we were back on the smooth stuff.  The good weather had certainly brought the crowds out, there were people everywhere.  
Luckily, we had a great run guy on a bicycle ahead of us to clear the path otherwise we would have been solely reliant on the Boadicea modifications, which may have caused serious injury to the other racers, or worse, incurred a drive-through penalty for the team!  We were well into the fourth kilometre before traffic started to become an issue, thereafter a certain amount of weaving from side to side was required to thread our way through.  The pushing handle was coming into its own, changes of direction were really smoothly executed. Soon we were approaching the scene of our "near miss" last year, the water station.  We hugged the centre of the course while a couple of the team collected bottles. After last year, I wouldn't have been surprised if they'd thrown them at us!  
We dropped down onto Salford quays and started on the way back to town, with the sun on our faces.  Unlike previous years the drive-through shower looked really quite inviting, however, on slick tyres it might still have been a tricky obstacle, so best avoided.  The big bump up the curb and back onto the Chester road was no worse than some of this year's potholes, and in no time we were in sight of the Hilton and the finish line.  The team were almost altogether, with a couple outfront to clear the traffic and save us using the "Boadicea's".
 
The support from the crowd, the band's and all the charity helpers in the last couple of kilometres was tremendous, as were the handfuls of jelly babies for added fuel!   We powered round the last left-hand bend and smashed through the finish line in 53 min 2 secs, no record this year, but a great team effort with everyone finishing within a few seconds.  The pushing bar had been a great help, it even enabled 4 people to push going uphill, and more surprisingly, I don't think we collected anyone with it on the way round.  As soon as it was removed we were ready for the pub, burgers, and of course beer! 
The Thank You's 
As usual, the great run organisers including Jamie, Nigel and Nicola couldn't do enough to help, and we are tremendously grateful for their support over the years.  All of the event marshals, are keen and enthusiastic, and always willing to help. It makes the Manchester run, friendly and fun for everyone in the team.  We really do appreciate all the effort that goes on behind-the-scenes, and all of the time given up to enable us to fit in.  We were even getting recognised by some of the regular supporters this year, Fame at last!
  As well as Mark`s achievement, special mention must be made of Jonny, as Simmo was unavailable this year he is the last surviving member of every big push! Amazing support, thank you Jonny!
 
 
 
 
 
Time now to get into training for The Big Push 7.