On the 15th August 2020 I returned to racing. After 5 months of race cancellations, including 8 marathons, 1 Ironman, and many half marathons in between (so far), it is great to be back at an event. I am trying not to dwell on all the missed experiences and financial losses, and instead look to the future, hoping to make future years even better. At the end of 2019 I posted a review of what was to be the best year for marathons ever, and added more events after (check out my marathon plans for 2020 here). That has gone, its time to move on, and the start of that was Phoenix Assemble.
Getting my first flatly in 5 months together was a bit of an education lesson. It is usually habit, and to be honest, I’m out of the racing habit, as are we all. I wanted to wear my new socks and trainers, matching my outfit to bright yellow was not easy. I added in my essentials and I was ready to go, for marathon number 55 (64 towards 100 marathon club).
The organiser at Phoenix Running (Rik) has put in a lot of effort to get his events #covidsafe and I was impressed that he had reduced touch points to just bottled water. The field was reduced to just 6 waves of 6, 10 minutes apart. So although the event started at 07:45 my start time was 08:35. We had to arrive just 5 minutes before, wear a buff or face covering when going to the aid station, and always use their hand sanitiser when going to the aid station. We had a temperature check before we started and were given elastic bands to be able to count our laps. I was given 50 bands which were enough for the marathon. You read that right, 50 laps for the marathon.
Above I take you through one lap, and thats basically it, that lap over and over again. Usually there are more people at the event, more people to run with, and the aid station is full of sweets. For now, to be able to get started again, the aid station is just stocked with bottled water and the field is smaller. I found that I was one of the fastest runners today, so it was fairly difficult to stay motivated to keep pace up.
I started with another runner who ran at a comfortable pace for me. He set off averaging 07:30 min miles, so I tucked behind him for the first 6 laps. I overtook him for the next 6 laps, and pace felt good. I had gone to the event telling my wife to come back to meet me after 4 hours. I had a rough goal of 3:30 hours, but was happy to finish anywhere in between. The first 8 miles I was going too fast, on for about a 3:20, but it felt OK and I was running with the only other guy at a similar pace to me. We were lapping everyone constantly. The field is really mixed, and the great thing about Phoenix events is they are inclusive. You can go run a marathon, a half, an ultra, or event 1 or 2 laps… it does not matter, its your own personal race.
I realised at this point that the guy in front was running the half marathon. I knew that very soon he would be stopping and I would be running on my own, so I eased the pace and let him pull away. The benefit of a small lap is being able to see all the runners around you. I could see that the guy I had ran most the first half with finished about about 1:41. I came through the first half in about 1:45 and then maintained a sub 9 min mile until about 20 miles. At this point my legs started to scream at me. I’ve been nursing injuries, so for the last couple of months I’ve not ran much at all, and certainly not ran long for months. So I decided to be sensible. I have nothing to prove and this is just a training run.
I eased back and just kept putting one foot in front of the other for the remaining 6 miles. The thing about pace in a long run is that when you ease back it becomes very difficult to pick up the pace again. This was ok for me, and I didn’t have the appetite to try to run faster. I was on my own, it was wet and I was running 50 laps.
So that is marathon number 55. Not my usual big event, big atmosphere line up, but it was great to be back running with Phoenix Running. I am happy with another sub 4 finish, and my first post #covid event.
What do you have lined up? I would really love to know what events you have lined up to see what I can join you on. Until then… Phoenix Assemble