On the 3rd of June 2018 I took part in another Phoenix Running timed event. Today I wasn’t pacing for a change, but I wasn’t racing either… I was just running, doing my own thing. This was my 13th event with Phoenix Running, and I love using these events, when I get the chance, as good long training runs. It is a great concept, with awesome medals, and 5k laps. As Rik always says in the race brief “complete one lap and you get the medal and are a winner in my eyes”. You can do as many laps as you like in the 6 hour time limit. So it’s great for people who want to try a distance in a low key friendly event and if you can’t make it you still get the medal and a great experience. 4 laps is a half marathon, and 8 laps is an official marathon. I always go for the 8 laps to increase my marathon numbers whilst I train. This was my 38th official marathon, and 44th towards the 100 marathon club.
As always I laid out my kit to make sure I had everything I need. I don’t get the chance to train often as I’m always doing events, so I used this as an opportunity to try new things. I tried my new gels I was given to try by ProjectE2Nutrition. I have had these for a few months but not wanted to try anything new on race day. I took a few apple (mainly because it matched my kit haha) and they tasted nice. I also wore my CEP wingtech top that I don’t use that often, but used it as it was hot and meant I didn’t have to use Vaseline.
Race morning I started really early as I helped Rik set up and mark the course. This meant a 5k walk at 7am before everyone arrived. It was obvious even this early that it would be a lovely day, as it was beautiful and warm right from the beginning. It was nice talking with Rik around the course and listening to his MDS stories.
After we set up we had a bit of time to relax before people started arriving for registration. Before long we were ready to go, and following a quick brief and awards (for some crazy marathon running) it was time to run. Having put the markers out in the course it has become customary for me to Pace the first lap to show people the way. The last couple of times have been pretty tough with some speedy runners, but this morning I found myself slowing down a little on the first lap as I was pulling away too much. I had always intended to run a little harder at the beginning and then slow down, but I found I was running better than expected at the beginning. I actually ran the first 5k quicker than I ran Parkrun yesterday (although it was a lot flatter).
Lap after lap went really well. I took a bottle of water at every 5k and drunk it around the course putting my bottle in one of the bins in the park. I usually fill up on sweets at the check points but I tried to limit this and try out the new gels. Each lap I seemed to pull away more and more from the nearest runners. On the second lap I lapped a few runners, and by the 4th lap I had lapped half the field. I felt really strong and was a good few minutes ahead. I didn’t think I would necessarily sustain this pace toward the end, my pace had already drifted from a 1:40 half to 1:45 by the time I hit half way. At half way my family had arrived for a picnic which was lovely. The plan was always for me to join them after I finished. I stopped, gave my kids a cuddle and a lolly each and went on my way again.
Stopping for this minute or two changed my race. I found it hard to get back into the same stride, and rather than push it I eased into the slower pace that I was going. I was happy enough and re-evaluated my race for a 3:45 rather than a 3:30. This was a hard lap and I started to feel tight all along my left side, with a sore hip flexor and tight calf. I carried on, saying hello to everyone I passed. There will be a few out there that think I’m nuts as I coughed and spluttered passed them. I actually went to say hello and a huge fly flew straight down my throat. Fortunately after a few attempts I managed to bring it back up.
Although I slowed I was still leading by some margin and think the nearest runner was about 5 minutes away. At the check point my kids ran to me again, and I stopped to talk/play with them again. I was there for a few minutes and again I seized up a bit. As I began to move out for my 6th lap I saw myself overtaken and there was no way I was going to catch him back up. This is where your mind plays tricks with you. Before I was going at a faster pace, but now I had stopped and slowed I found it so hard to get the speed up. I told myself it’s just a training run, so I didn’t care, and this allowed my mind to keep slowing me down, when the reality is if I tried to pick up the pace I probably could have if I tried hard enough. Instead I shuffled along the course, barely lifting my feet and stubbing my toe on a tree root. I was then passed again brining me to 3rd place, I didn’t care. I watched him pass me and disappear into the distance. I was now running with a lot of people I had lapped, so I was a lap (or in some instances 2) ahead, but now we were running at the same pace. I was happy with this and continued around the course. At the slower pace it felt so hard, as it took so long to get around, and it got very hot. When I finished it said it was 28 degrees, so it might have been hotter before.
When I reached the final lap I decided to speed up a bit for the last mile, this was short lived as I hit a tree root and landed hard. I jumped up quickly with a bruised ego as many dog walkers come to ask if I was ok haha. Anyway I carried on and finished in a 4th place (I thought it was 3rd as didn’t realise Victoria was on her final lap when she overtook me). I finished in 4:11:04 and what a great training run that was.
As always I had a fantastic time running with Phoenix Running. I grabbed some sweets, crisps and then joined my family for a picnic. What a great day. And what a medal.