Glyn, myself and Stouty (Photo by Fi McNelis)
The Phoenix Summer Marathon was the second of my planned warm up marathon events for Spartathlon. The Marathon was organised by Rik Vercoe and is designed to be a friendly, low key event. The run itself involves running four ‘out and back’ laps along the Thames Path around the Walton on Thames area.
I had run two of the events previously as they are one of the closest Marathon events to me and the timing of this one was perfect.
As the Marathon formed part of my training plan, I have been logging some reasonably high mileage and I hadn’t tapered specifically for the event but did ensure I had an ‘easy’ run on the Friday (just the one).
Stouty collected me in the morning as he was also using the event as a training run and we made the hour trip to the start to see a few familiar faces and chatted with Fiona McNelis (supporting) and Glynn Raymen (running) at the start.
The plan had once again been to go at a 90% effort so this would be a good workout (i.e. a faster long run than my usual Sunday plod) but not run at an effort rate that would leave me too stiff and sore to run the next day. I set off at the start next to Jez Isaac and Caroline Jackson and we chatted the first couple of laps which absolutely flew by. The weather was bright, sunny and reasonably warm.
We were probably averaging about 7.15m/m pace for the first couple of laps (I blame Jez as it was a little quicker than planned) but the conversation between us meant my mind was so occupied and it hadn’t overly concerned me. I wasn’t really being a slave to the watch, was running feel and if I had to ease off the second half then so be it.
A quick toilet stop at the well positioned public loos at the turn point after lap 2 and I was back chatting away with Jez although Caroline was a little behind us but was still in 1st lady position. There were half a dozen other runners ahead of us all running well when they passed us on the laps.
At the end of each lap, I paused for 20 – 30 seconds to grab a gel or a snack and have an energy drink so I didn’t have to carry anything whilst running. Thanks to Fi McNelis for readying my drinks so this pause was a quick as possible.The weather was pretty warm by now which was great and exactly the conditions I want to run in.
I went through the half way point in about 1.34, a good pace for me but not Half Marathon PB pace and I was feeling pretty good. I had passed Stouty a couple of times on the course and unfortunately he was not having a good day with a few ‘stomach issues’ (details not required) but was determined to finish the race.
Jez and I chatted our way through lap 3 and it was nice to get to the point when there was one lap to go. I was still feeling pretty good although Jez dropped off the pace a little and I carried on the last lap by myself.
I simply just got my head down and ran and surprisingly picked up the pace. I managed to average around 6.45 m/m for the last 6 miles with my fastest lap being mile 26. As I was finishing strongly, I had started to see a couple of the guys who were ahead of me and this acted as a nice incentive to keep up the pace and see if I could get closer to them. I managed to gain a couple of positions on the out leg and one more position half way on the return leg.
By now, I could feel it in my legs. I was maintaining the same good pace (for me) but I could tell the effort level was higher. With a mile or two to go then there was little point in easing off and there was the pressure of a few people not too far behind me now. I kept up with the effort and then for the first time looked at my watch trying to calculate the finish time. I knew it was going to be a sub 3.10, I wasn’t sure how close I would be to my previous PB of 3.06 something. With 2 miles to go I had about 2.52 something on the clock, this would be going to be close… very close.
I didn’t really ‘push’ but just tried to maintain the same pace which was by now a hard effort at miles 25-26 of a race. I was now looking at the Garmin far too frequently and ticking off every landmark, every step on the way back. With a few hundred metres to go I spotted the chap in 3rd place ahead of me. I was more concerned with the time than the position but this was a great incentive for that final push to the line.
I tried to up the pace and Jason (the chap ahead) got a shout out that I was approaching and also started to speed up. I was catching but not quickly enough as the finish was just around the final turn. I didn’t think I could reach him until I hit the final turn and realised I had another 40-50 yards to the end. I absolutely floored it with a full on sprint at the end, my eyes flicking to my Garmin to ensure I would cross the line below 3.06.
With apologies to James, I did manage to out sprint him at the end to finish in 3.05.41, a new PB by a minute or so and 3rd out of 72 runners. I had also run a negative split by 2 mins so the pacing and strong finish was perfect. However, that last effort really took it out of me and I had to lay down on my hands and knees for a minute just to get my breath back.
Pictured at the end (Photo by Fi McNelis)
After a sit down and a drink, I waited around to support the other runners coming in. Stouty came in a little while later having shown some good determination to finish after an uncomfortable run.
Thanks to Rik for organising the event and well done to everyone who took part, I really do enjoy these small low key marathon events. Thanks especially to Jez Isaacs for this company for most of the race. I can’t believe how time flew by so quickly without me noticing when you’re engaged in a conversation.
I’m writing this a day after the race and thankfully my legs don’t feel too stiff or sore and so a short recovery run to make up my mileage for the week is planned. It was definitely a slightly harder effort in the end but I think I’m also running a little more quickly than I have been (all relative of course) and so it’s a another confidence boost that training is going in the right direction.
Phoenix Running organise a Summer, Winter and Year End version of their events. Details can be found on their website here.