I think I should start this off by first saying, always respect the distance. No matter how many times you have run a marathon, this is a tough challenge. However, the more you do, the more you understand what your body is capable of. For the last year I have been using Phoenix Running events as my training runs. A way to build up marathon numbers, and an excuse for a long run. I can’t actually remember the last time I did a long run in training (outside of an event) it must be over 4 years. I’ve used these as my training and as I mainly pace I find that the more comfortable pace acts as good training for me.
A week after Ironman Kalmar (read about my experience HERE) I was beginning to feel like I needed a good run. I have a lot of events coming up in the Autumn season, pacing some great events, but that’s not for a few weeks. I knew Phoenix Running had some events coming up but didn’t know if I’d want to fit anything in after Ironman. I went out on my work leaving do on the Wednesday night, so after too many steins, the first event on Thursday wasn’t realistic.
On Thursday I sent Rik a message asking if there was space on the Friday for me to turn up. This was very last minute, and a spontaneous marathon. As I said, I respect the distance, but with these events I don’t set strict goals, I don’t run my hardest, and I use it as a training run. I woke up on the Friday and I had decided, I would run a marathon today. This was my 28th Marathon, but my 34th towards the 100 Marathon Club (2 x Ironman and 4 x 100k events all count).
The morning started as any other would before a run. I had some porridge, and packed a Grub bar and banana for the train journey. I hadn’t prepared my race kit as I hadn’t planned the event. Unfortunately once I left the house I soon had far from the most ideal starts to an event.
I had planned my journey and allowed myself plenty of time to relax at the start, and also allowed for train issues with another train after mine. When I got to the station my train was delayed, connection was looking close but then it stopped outside the station for 10 minutes. Plan B took effect, next train would be tight but still get me to the start on time. But then this train was delayed, I then went a different way to try and catch up, and then this route was disrupted. The end result was that I arrived to the start line 22 minutes after the start.
I didn’t mind too much as this would only be a training run, but it’s the first time I’ve missed the start of an event. Not only had I not planned for the marathon, because it was a spontaneous last minute decision, but I didn’t have time for the usual pre race comforts. I usually like to chill out, go to the toilet, have a drink, and calm any pre race nerves. Instead I dropped my bag and started running.
This event was the usual Phoenix Running set up; out and back laps, 1 lap and you qualify for the medal, 4 for an official half marathon, 8 for a marathon and anything more is an ultra. I always come to do the 8 laps. It was a new route, so I was in for some new scenery.
I usually spend the first few laps either at the front, or very near, depending on who turns up. When I started running the event had been going for 22 minutes already. This meant I did not have the motivation of running with people of a similar pace, and regardless what I did I was never going to catch up with the front runners, unless I really went for it, but that was never the plan.
After I started I saw the front runners coming back. It was really strange, I’m sure the front runners thought “where did he come from?”. Also, the further I ran I’m sure that the other runners just assumed I was the lead runner. The reality was I was a whole lap behind everyone.
I saw Simon and joked with him about slowing down for me. We usually run at a similar sort of pace, although the last few times he has pulled away. It was strange catching up and overtaking people, knowing that I was a lap behind. Usually I know exactly where I am, but I had no concept of who was in front after just a few laps. I found it really difficult maintaining a harder pace because those running at my pace or faster were behind me. By the time a few of them caught me up I had already slowed, and had no incentive to keep up considering I was a lap down. I decided to do a bit of speed play, a decreasing pace work out. So I took the first 5 k fairly hard, completing in about 23 minutes. I completed the first 10 k in about 47 minutes, and the first half marathon in about 1:43. After 20 miles I was on for a sub 3:30, but at this point slowed, and the only pushing I did was to ensure I finished sub 4 hours.
On the course there was a small bridge, Rik always likes to put in a bridge. It wasn’t too steep, so even though I had to run over it 16 times, the incline wasn’t an issue. It did however have wooden slats on it, I guess to prevent people slipping in the wet. Which meant that you had to really concentrate on your footing. Rik was also a little cruel putting the turn point on top of an incline, which he could have easily taken out and added the distance the other end.
Overall I enjoyed the run. It had a few more twists and turns than the usual route. It was mixed terrain, and narrow in places (I managed to snag my new CEP socks on a bramble which I’m not happy about). Everyone was friendly on route as usual, but I just didn’t have my usual mojo, or desire to push myself just a little harder. Starting a lap behind wasn’t a great start to the race, but it didn’t totally ruin the experience.
I took my time on the last lap, but then increased my pace for the last mile to finish in 3:55:21 according to my watch. My official time was 4:16:12 based on the start of the event.
As always the medal was fantastic. Someone had got the medals from Mogwai 1 wet, and fed them after midnight, this was the result.