Phoenix Running are known for being, friendly low key events, with amazing medals. They organise marathons, but also 6 hour timed events which are great for every ability. Complete one lap and you qualify for the amazing medal, one lap is 3.3 miles, so just over 5k. Four laps is a half marathon, and eight is officially recognised as a marathon under UKA rules. As such these small events of only about 120 have a really good mix of people. There are a few just there for the medal and do one lap, all the way to the keen ultra runner doing as many laps as they can in 6 hours. This event attracts a lot of marathon runners, and there was the noticeable dozen or so at the start wearing their 100mc tops, and clearly many around working towards this magical number.
I have done one of these events before earlier on in the year “who ya gunna call- ghostbusters”. I really loved it so have booked a few more and I intend on using these events to add a few friendly marathons in throughout the year, in between the big mass events that I enter.
The principles of “A day at the movies” are simple. It’s an end of year clean up, allowing the organiser to get rid of spare medals, meanwhile allowing runners a second chance at all the medals we missed throughout the year (many of which have been movie themed). It was first come first served on booking, so we knew what we were running for, so many good medals to choose from, but I went for “Hey you guys- Goonies”.
As this event runs up and down the Thames path at Walton-on-Thames, it was close enough for me to get the train. I walked up the route to the start and apart from one particular bad spot, which is always muddy, the course was not too bad. It was a beautiful morning, it was cold as is to be expected in the middle of November, but the sun was out and skies clear.
I made my way to the start, and as expected the registration was quick easy and friendly, I then went for a coffee before I started. I look at these events very differently than normal, and use them as a nice long training run. I usually wouldn’t have a coffee before, and I would usually carry energy with me. However I did not bother today, as I knew there would be a pick and mix I could access each 3 miles. My intention for this race was clear: do 8 laps to add towards the 100mc; pace myself and conserve energy for Wednesday; have fun.
We had the usual friendly race briefing and what was great is half those there had never ran a Phoenix event before. We made our way to the start and I stood near the front as usual… and then we were off. Very, very unintentionally I found myself leading the race… I checked my watch and I wasn’t going too fast, perhaps 6:30 mm. this was clearly much faster than I would run the whole event, but hey I just went with it for a while, actively slowing myself to just over 7:00 mm. My aim, that I told the wife, was that I would run between 3:30 and 4 hours. As we got to the end of the first mile I had slowed to a pace I was settling into at around 7:20 mm.
At just over a mile I heard the pounding of feet behind me. I naturally found myself picking up the pace and had to stop myself. I wasn’t here to win the race, and didn’t want to be going any faster, especially with another event only 4 days later, and my closest gap between marathons. I therefore conceded the front and let him slowly pull off into the distance.
This is such a lovely event, for a number of reasons. First of all, it is ran along a lovely section of the Thames path, mostly on stoney trail, and mostly flat. As this is open to public you pass numerous people who are using the path (mostly move out of your way and say hello, but not all unfortunately). With a mixed group the course becomes thinned very quickly and you pass lots of people, numerous times. With 8 laps that’s 16 crossing opportunities. Although it slowly gets quieter there are always people around, and all but one of the runners said hello and smiled as you passed (one guy was a miserable git, but we can’t help that). So, to summarise, it’s a low key friendly event with lots of great people of mixed abilities, but there’s more… each lap you pass the check point which is like a tuck shop… not the best nutrition but great if not taking the event too seriously. And then there is the medal. All the medals are amazing, it was good having the mixed event as I got to see all the medals for the year, and this is a great addition to my collection.
There were a couple of busy areas, and if people don’t move out if your way it becomes a hazard. There are also a couple of muddy points, but it wasn’t bad at all. The major hazard was a section that was constantly full of swans, geese no other scary looking birds.
I previously ran here in my ultraboost but was not offered enough grip. Instead I gave my brooks glycerin14 a run, which gave plenty of grip. It’s perfect for road shoe although some were wearing trail.
After about 14 miles I started to slow. Obviously I was tired, but mostly I was on for a 3:15, and this was much faster than I wanted. At about 15 miles I was overtaken by the second person and this was the only other person to overtake me. A few more gained on me, but although I slowed I finished the marathon in third. Well technically I was the second fastest at the marathon distance as the second place guy went on for an ultra. I was really surprised by this finish, especially as looking at the times the winner clearly slowed and I could have comfortably kept with him towards the end. But when it comes to the marathon this is full of many experienced runners, but not necessarily people going for a pb every time. There were 6 ultra finishers, and 52 marathon finishers (of which I was 2nd). I came in with a 3:36:45 which is exactly where I was aiming for. I am really looking forward to Wednesday to do it all again, and it will be a real test for me. My closest marathon distance and I want to see if I can do it again with the same target of 3:30-4 hours. I am genuinely not fussed if I’m slower, but also as its my last booked race of the year I will be more tempted to go faster if my body is willing… let’s see how it goes!
Finally, the start and finish is at a nice pub. My wife picked me up and unfortunately was an hour late picking me up… such a shame, but I managed to find some way to pass the time 😂😂😂