It was this time last year I ran a last minute marathon with Phoenix Running. It would seem that randomly (probably for similar reasons) I have done the same again. Take a look at last year’s blog HERE.
A bit of background for you. I always have a couple of slow months in July/August. This is the off season for most mainstream events. I use this as an opportunity to take on some longer events such as Ironman and Ultras, and give my body time to recover to not impact my pacing. It is also an opportunity to just spend time with family rather than having runs most weekends. So in July I paced the British 10k, and in August I completed Hamburg Ironman. That’s still a lot right, but outside that I’ve barely ran, work has been very demanding, and I’ve not had much opportunity outside that, so bearing in mind I did a marathon in August, I only ran 36 miles for the whole month. This leaves me feeling very lethargic and underprepared with a lot coming up over the next couple of months. I always pace within my comfort, but running more provides me with confidence. So I asked my wife late yesterday if she minded me taking part in a Marathon; contacted Rik who could fit me in, and the rest is history. I believe I went through the same thought process last year.
The last minute marathon
This was set to be my 39th marathon, or 46th towards the 100 marathon club, when you take into account 4 100k and 3 Ironman events. This is also the 14th event with Phoenix Running, and a great organisation to take on runs at any distance (as it’s a 6 hour timed event) and 8 laps make an official marathon. I use these as long training runs, as I don’t get the chance to go and do much running at home, and these are the perfect opportunity to get out and complete a marathon in a friendly event with no pressure and lots of lovely runners.
The journey had a distinct feel of last year. It was a new course route when I took part last year, and this is only the second time ive ran this route. It is actually easier to get to, if the trains arent playing up. If you look at last year’s blog you will see my trains got cancelled, delayed and I ended up arriving late, it was a horrible experience. So in the morning I checked before I left and there was industrial action from my station, so I had just under a 4 mile run to get to a connecting station and on my way. Not a bad run and glad that trains were running from that station. Obviously not ideal just before a marathon to run a 5k.
As always Rik gave a briefing at the start, along with various awards. These type of events attract the most crazy people I have ever met. When I tell a “normal” person I’ve done a marathon they are impressed, if I tell them I’ve done 39, they think this is extreme… today awards were given out for people running 12 in 12 months, 52 in 52 weeks, 100 in 52 weeks, AND 250 in 250 weeks, along with someone running their 100th marathon. Some very impressive achievements, and running amongst many others who have achieved similar. But the great thing about these events is that there are also many there running their first marathon, along with those there to run 1 lap, or anything inbetween up to 6 hours.
My plan at the start was simple. After not doing much in August I wanted to put my legs through running a marathon. I was tempted to pace a 4 hour marathon, but in all honesty, I’ve never done this outside of pacing an event, and I don’t enjoy it. I LOVE pacing the 4 hour #funbus but when training the pace is too slow for me, and I would only do it if I was pacing someone. So I thought I would just run at a comfortable pace and see how I felt. First target around 3:30, if not settle for 4 hours, but also with a faster start.
As always when doing these events I set off faster than I probably should. The problem is the 7:30 pace is natural for me, and I used to be comfortable at 6:52, but I haven’t put the training in to sustain it. On this training run it’s a good opportunity to just do as I feel, and one way or another I would finish.
I ran with a hydration vest on as I knew Rik had started looking at minimising plastic. I usually take and carry a bottle of water each lap, so that’s 8 bottles. I didn’t know if that would be an option, but also thought on an event like this I would happily carry my own water.
I led the first lap averaging 7:30 min miles. It felt good, but my legs felt tired. Partly as I had to run to the station and thought I would miss the train. But mostly because I’ve not ran much at all over the last two months, so of course my legs would not be used to the pace nor the distance. On the second lap I was caught by the winner, who finished in 3:13. As he sustained, and increased the pace, my pace slowed each lap. I felt very drained, and the initial fast lap made my legs feel heavy. I always talk about the importance of a steady pace in a race, and this is the reason why. I kept a smile on my face and kept going.
I got to half way in 1:46 Which is just shy of an 8 min mile average. I usually stop for about 30 seconds per lap for sweets and to top up water, so it was about 1:44 running time. From here I kinda made excuses in my head and started telling myself that all I need is to run 10 min miles to get sub 4. Of course as soon as I had that in my mind I was fighting a losing battle to run any faster than the 10 min mile.
One of the great things about these events is the local support. The marshals are runners, and with the out and back laps you get a smile and nod of encouragement every time you pace each other. Even though I was struggling on the inside I kept a smile, and gave out a little encouragement each time I passed.
At lap 7 I stopped for a selfie, and some more sweets, and knew I was cutting it fine for sub 4. On my final stretch I hit 26.2 on my watch in sub 4, and still had a little way to go, so I basically walked the final bit. I was done. A great training run, my legs are shattered, but very pleased to get this run in before the next 9 events in 2 months starting next week.
I always get one of the marshals to take a finish picture for me, and Simon did a fantastic job of taking a selfie. Whilst I was waiting for him to take a picture, once I stopped, I didn’t feel right. He finally took this picture. And immediately after I asked Rik (who I should have known would be photobombing my picture as he always does, and I kinda like) where I could be sick. I turned the corner and was sick. Only the second time ever after a run. I think a combination of the heat, and not feeling properly, but after a 5 minute rest I was fine again.
I am pleased with my latest instalment to my medal collection, and I finished in an official time of 4:01:29. My moving time was 3:58:40. I had a good first half, then the second half turned into a LSR. Overall I’m happy, and feeling a better for getting out.
Now to relax and recover. Great North Run is next for me, what’s next for you?