Phoenix Running Phone Home Marathon 12th June 2016
Although I have been putting a lot of miles lately, they have mainly been over short distances or slow off road runs. My last “proper” fast marathon being London on 24th April 2016, I therefore approached this with a bit of trepidation.
James Pearson and I had signed up for this ages ago. Having not done a Phoenix run before, all I can say is the bling drew us like moths to a flame. If you have a few mins, have a look at their facebook site and you will see the attraction.
The events are held at Walton on Thames, in London and we knew that it would be a minimum of a 4 hour drive away. James had just returned from a couple of weeks in Mexico and looked pretty tired when he picked me up at 4.30am. With the race starting at 9.30am we like to have an hours buffer for a quick service station stop and to take into account any minor traffic problems.
Arriving at 8.30am, we had a chat with a few familiar faces, including Foxy (race director of Enigma Running) and David Brett (who we’ve seen on a few marathons and recently earnt his 100 marathon shirt), before getting our numbers. At the race HQ there were a few of the other Phoenix medals, I was wide eyed and James was positively drooling.
We had a quick stretch, got changed and headed for the race start.
The event is held over a number of distances, from around 10k upwards, with the most popular being the marathon. Everyone does at least 2 out and back laps, each lap being just over 3 miles, the marathon being 8 laps in total.
James has been suffering with a few niggles lately and I knew that he would be taking it fairly easy, plus he hasn’t trained much in the last 3 weeks, due to holidays and trying to recover. I wanted to try and keep with the leading pack, not wanting to get stuck too far back, so set off pretty much at the front of the race. On setting off I quickly found myself in 3rd position, however after the first mile I looked at my garmin and was surprised how fast I was going, so tried to ease a little.
I overtook the 2nd placed runner (1st placed female runner) just before the switchback, however the runner in 1st place was already getting quite a bit of distance in front. I wasn’t overly fussed as the main objectives are always to finish, grab the bling and if it’s flat try and get under 3hours 30 mins.
For the first couple of laps, I was a bit too comfortable and probably going a little too fast. 1st place was building a dominant lead and I was gradually building a buffer between the rest of the runners. I did realise that I had left my gels in my bag, so resigned myself to running the race purely on water that was given out at the end of each lap. By lap 3, I had to slightly ease off my early pace and was soon being chased down by a fellow runner. At the end of lap 3 he passed me at pace. Not to worry, I thought, I was still confident of holding on to 3rd place, as I am usually quite good at finishing strongly.
To my pleasant surprise when I got to the end of the 4th lap, the runner in “2nd place” had stopped. I had a very brief chat as I necked a couple of cups of water and established that he was “only” doing the half. Fantastic, I thought, back into 2nd place.
It had been raining for the first few laps, however now the rain had subsided. Although it wasn’t sunny the temperature was certainly starting to rise.
I was taking on water at the end of each lap, however I decided to grab a bottle of water at the end of each lap and have a short walk to the bin, whilst drinking it. This was a bit of a problem as it broke up my rhythm and meant I had a heavy stomach for half a lap, followed by thirst for the 2nd half of the lap. I would usually carry my camel bak, however I thought the water station would be close enough for me. Lesson learnt, I prefer to carry the extra weight, and be able to have small sips when needed, rather than struggle.
The runner in 1st place kept gradually getting further and further ahead and I began to see a 100 marathon runner consistently looking strong and cutting into the gap between him and me.
I’m not sure whether it was the cramming of water, but a began cramping up in the last 3 laps. It got to a point in the last lap where I thought, I either hold 2nd place and may have an incident or I nip into a pub, that was about 2 miles from the finish. I decided that I wasn’t too bothered about positions and would rather finish without pain than hobble on and have to run to loo at the end.
On entering the pub my heart sank when I was told it was up the stairs. Oh well, at least they let me use it, I’d have happily gone up a few flights at that stage.
I had only lost a couple of minutes or so, and knew that 3rd place runner was about this far behind before I went into the pub. Ah well, it is what it is and I cannot change it. The closer to the switchback I got the more confident I was that he couldn’t be ahead and sure enough when I went to turn back, he wasn’t in front of me. Unfortunately he was just behind me. Only just over a mile and a half to go, I just had to cling on and run my own race.
To my surprise as I entered the last mile or so the runner who had been in 1st went past me in the opposite direct, he had decided to do another lap and was on for an ultra, therefore putting me into first by default, bonus. This gave me fresh impetus and I was hell bent on retaining the lead. I was paranoid about being taken, but continued to “power” on with every ounce of energy I had left.
I got to the end, relieved that I had clung on to 1st. I must have put a bit of a spurt on as 2nd place was nearly a minute behind me.
Although James wasn’t up to his usual standard, it was great to have him running the event. We gave each others a Harriers high 5 each time we passed. It’s great having a mate who is as marathon mad as I am.
We both did the East Hull Harriers proud, with me coming 1st in a time of 3.26.50 and James Pearson coming 7th in a time of 3.51.13 out of about 40 marathon runners.
Next up is Enigma Shaken Not Stirred Marathon in Milton Keynes on 18th June 2016. Well you only live twice.