2016 Top Gun Marathon Paul Ali 05

Welcome to Flight School, Pilot.

“Good morning, gentlemen, the temperature is 110 degrees” says Rik Vercoe, Race Director at the start of the “Top Grun” marathon as I lined up at the start of the Top Gun marathon. (He didn’t actually say those exact words but I needed to kick off the race blog with a Top Gun film quote)

I’ve written about the Phoenix Marathon events before, these are small low-key friendly race events involving laps up and down the Thames Path in Walton. The normal events generally take place throughout the year on the weekends and the film themed events are organised during the week.

A mid-week run is one I wouldn’t normally do as it involves taking a days holiday but the Top Gun theme (classic 80’s Dude-Bro film), a Birthday, catching up with Matt “Goose” Dunn and sitting nicely between the TP100 and Monarchs Way all sort of made this fun, training run a good idea.

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Matt “Goose” Dunn

Matt and I had elected to go full fancy dress with a Maverick/Goose combination (I was the short one so Maverick and Matt was the taller one so Goose and that’s about as far as the resemblances went) so we looked like a couple of cow-boys as we stood on the start line on a very warm day listening to the race briefing. Beads of sweat were already started to drip down my back from wearing a flight suit and oversized Aviator shades and we hadn’t even started running yet. Perhaps we should have gone for the volley-ball outfit instead…

The event itself as a 6 hour challenge run up and down a 5km section of the Thames Path. Competitors could run as many laps as they liked within the time period. For travel reasons, we had elected to “just” run the marathon and stop after 8 laps and I think most people had the same idea.

We set off at 9.30am and it was about time I embarrassed my with Goose so we immediately hit the afterburners and sprinted to the front with some sort of unfunny jet fighter pose (I felt the need…. the need for…. ) before letting people pass us and settle back into a plod.

Daryl Carter (who would have made an awesome Iceman if he had cropped and spiked his hair) hit the front early and was rumoured to have hit a 4g negative dive at the turn point although my data may be inaccurate.

We ran up the path to the turn point, requested a fly by at the turn point and proceeded back. There were 10 people or so in fancy dress each looking decidedly hot and Matt asked how many laps we were going to run before stripping down to shorts/t-shirt. “The whole race obviously” I replied. “Is that your idea of fun?” he asked. Matt didn’t look to sure on that one but he’s a fancy dress rookie and I’ve had years of experience running silly distances in silly costumes.

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Goose & Maverick, just a couple of cowboys

As I ran up and down there were a few high fives and encouragement and a few exchanges about running in costume on a hot day which went along the lines of someone asking “Are you going to run the full marathon in that?”, “Yes Sir” I replied. “That’s pretty arrogant”, “Yes Sir” I replied. “I like that in a runner”… honestly they were quoting Top Gun aswell. My ego may have possibly been writing cheques that my body couldn’t cash as the sun continued to beam away… (yes another line).

One point I wasn’t aware of was Foxy Jr was running a Half marathon which was great to see and if I’d know what I would have said to him that “I flew with his old man, Foxy Bayley. You’re a lot like he was. Only better.. and worse. He was a natural heroic s.o.b. that one..”

Then disaster struck after a few laps. True to the film I lost Goose half-way during the run! I guess I was responsible for setting those events in motion with a reckless approach of forcing Matt to run in full costume on a hot day and my constant behaviour of putting personal glory ahead of a more reasonable and careful behaviour. Dammit I’m just a loose cannon! We were just coming to the turn point at the end of a lap we turned and then seemed to get caught in an uncontrollable spin, Matt ejected but was propelled into the River Thames and that was the end of him.

I was shaken up pretty bad as I felt responsible for Goose. My confidence was low but I only had two choices I could finish the run or I could quit. There’d be no disgrace. Dammit Goose, I’m finishing this one for you!

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Requesting permission to fly by?

(In reality Matt stopped briefly to get out of his jump suit and then had to attend to a work related issue so cut his run shorter than planned but that’s the boring factual version).

I plodded up and down the course by myself for a few more laps. I wasn’t running that quickly (8.30m/m type of pace) and continued at that steady pace for most of the race although I could tell my legs weren’t 100% recovered from the TP100 and the heat was having some affect as even at a slower than usual marathon pace it felt like harder work than it should have been.

I ran alongside a couple of people briefly and saw out the last few laps finishing in 3hrs 43mins which was fine. A few people ran a little more distance to top the challenge leaderboard but most people ran the Marathon distance or a little less.

Thanks to Rik and helpers for putting the event on, event organisation was low-key and friendly and we had some fun with the Top Gun theme included a cool bespoke medal. Holding these events during the week means these events will be an exception for me but they are good fun and enjoyable especially on a glorious day as many of the runners stopped at the Pub near the start for food and drink and watched the other competitors.

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Pictured with Race Director Rik Vercoe at the finish