I took part in the first of the Phoenix Firebird Marathon Series yesterday. The series is comprised of four marathon events throughout the year. Competitors who successfully complete each of the events will earn the impressive looking Firebird Medal (see picture below).

2016 Phoenix Firebird Medal

This event was one of my tune up events for the Thames Path 100. I spent February plodding out quite a few miles as part of the “Run Until You Drop” challenge (you run a number of miles equivalent to the day of the month in February) and was just about getting to the point of overuse with a huge 177 mile last week. After finishing Mondays 29 miles it was fair to say my knees were creaking and I had a few days off running (just a couple of short jogs home on the Thursday & Friday).

My legs were feeling a bit fresher with the rest and I decided to reverse my normal tactic and go out a little harder than normal and just see how I would get on and perhaps even have a little go at my current 3.05 PB.

The event is a four lapped out and back route. The weather conditions were cool, ground conditions a little muddy in places and a slight breeze so pretty decent overall but not perfect.

I went out with a plan to just try and run sub 7’s and settled into a 6.45 – 6.58 m/m ish range. Unfortunately my usual running buddy at this event Jez Isaacs wasn’t here today and I ran largely by myself with the sight of Ollie Stotten a couple of mins. ahead for most of the race.

I went through the halfway point a shade under 1.30 (so the sub 1.30 at Reading Half looks on) and whilst I was on PB pace, I was just the wrong side of a sub 3 hour marathon.

The second half of the race wasn’t too bad, I was running ‘comfortably hard’ and was maintaining the same mile splits. The couple of times it slipped above 7m/m was when I stopped for half a cup of water. I didn’t want to waste a precious few seconds at the turns and decided to see out the race on little to no fuelling. ( I ended up only drinking 2 x half cups of water, 2 biscuits and a handful of sweets. My lucozade drinks and gels I left in my bag at the start were ignored).

Onto the final lap and I had made up a couple of places where a couple of guys had dropped off the pace and was in 4th position out of the 100 or so starters. My quads were now aching from the effort and I was mentally starting to calculate the finish time which was about 3.01 if I maintained the same pace. I knew I didn’t quite have that extra minute or two in the bank.

As I reached the final turn a PB was pretty much guaranteed unless I had a spectacular dip on the last 3 ish miles and the sub 3 was close but I was a little out of reach. I will admit I gave it a little push to try and make up some time, the breeze had picked up slightly against me and I was starting to feel like I was running out of energy. I found I didn’t have anything else in my legs to give and had to focus on maintaining the same pace as best I can. In terms of racing, there’s nothing like a hard marathon effort!

As I approached the final few hundred yards I gave it the final bit of a sprint as best I could but the clocked ticked over 3 hours short of the finish and I ended up finishing in 3.00.53 which was about a 5 minute improvement in the old PB so a good run overall and I’m pretty pleased with that result. You should never be unhappy with a new Personal Best but I realise I will get lots of “54 seconds short of a sub 3” type comments from people!

Thanks to Rik Vercoe for putting on the event and all the volunteers including Karen Webber (and others) for supporting the event. Looking forward to Round 2 of the Firebird Series in August.

2016 Phoenix Marathon Paul Ali 01