February 15th marked my first marathon of 2018. I headed to the familiar route in Walton-on-Thames to take part in my 12th Phoenix Running 6 hour timed event. I use these events as motivation to get my long run in, and these are great training runs. You can do one lap which is a little over 5k, or as many as you like in the 6 hour time limit. I always go with one goal in mind, to complete 8 laps, which is an official marathon. This was my 33rd official marathon and 39th towards the 100 marathon club.
It was an early and cold start to the morning, but conditions looked good for a run. I was not feeling particularly well so didn’t have any great expectations. This was the first of a possible 4 day’s of running with Phoenix running. I would have loved to have done more but I am pacing Hampton Court half marathon on Sunday. That ruled out Sunday, and I wouldn’t run Saturday to ensure I am recovered enough. I would have done the double but childcare meant there was only the opportunity for one.
Whilst walking the route to the start line it became apparent really quickly that it would be a muddy one. I arrived in plenty of time and we followed the usual routine. It’s a really relaxed atmosphere with only around 100 runners. It is full of members of the 100 marathon club, or those seeking the numbers. Many of them complete crazy numbers every year, with awards being given out for 12 marathons in 12 months, 10 in 10 day’s, 52 in 52 weeks and 100 in 100 weeks. But don’t be put off, there is always a dozen or so first timers to these events and always many that aren’t there to do the marathon. Probably half the course usually complete the 8 laps, a few carry on further, but many have different targets for themselves.
I collected my number and once again received number 1. Naturally I received the comments associated with being number 1, but there was no way I would be anywhere near this at the finish. My aim for this event was to take the first half steady at about 8 min miles, then to just ease back to finish the rest. I was particularly conscious about not pushing myself at the end because I’m pacing on Sunday and so wanted to be fresh for that.
Before long we were off. I started steady as planned, and watched a few fly off, I resisted temptation to chase after them. In fact I would have never stood a chance with the course recorded being broken in 2:46 which is incredible, especially in the conditions of the course.
It was muddy, slippery and cold. Regardless, I kept my pacing fairly steady, I tried not to look at my watch too much, I slowed a lot across the mud so compensated trying to get an average 8 minute mile, and when I reached half way I was at 1:45 so bang on. That was the first part of my challenge, so from there it was just about completing the marathon. I have to be honest, I wished I wasn’t there, especially when it started to rain heavily for a bit which left me cold, and made my top rub so I had bleeding nipples. I started to slow, but picked it up again for another lap as I joined Simon for a lap. It’s always great to run with others and it keeps you going. The thing is we both had different goals, and I didn’t have the desire to stick with him, so after a lap I stopped for the toilet and then was on my own again.
When running on your own, with no time in mind it is then hard to keep going at any speed. It turned into a slow yet steady run and I was happy enough, I was just wishing it to be finished. The good thing about this course is they you pass everyone and can give each other encouragement. A few don’t bother, no smiles or acknowledgement, but they are few and far between. 90% if the runners give a smile or shout as you run past, including a few high fives. There is zero spectators, but the runners and marshals make up for this.
I finished feeling good and tucked under sub 4, which I always like to do. Official time was 3:54:25, which I am happy with and a great long training run. I have a number of events coming up that I am pacing: Hampton Court half, oulton park half, Big Half and then Limassol Marathon will be my 40th marathon towards the 100 marathon club, I can’t wait. With so many events coming up again this year I am trying to focus more on recovery, so have started taking recovery shakes after my runs and have just got some new CEP recovery tights to see how they help me. The aim is to be able to build my speed work throughout my pacing, so recovery is key, I know last year this was not possible as I became fatigued towards the end of the year.
One last thing, I know it’s getting boring but the Running Awards voting is still open. It’s simple, the person with the most votes will win, so if I don’t ask I stand no chance. Click HERE and the link should take you through online publications / blog (personal) and find “pick up the Pace paul”. This is the shortlist so you can vote again if you did already in the opening stage. Thank you guys and keep running 💪