When they let idiots run marathons!
This was my secret marathon, which I only booked recently – I blame Facebook and friends for causing me to be so daft! The great thing about this race was that you could run as many laps as you want in the 6hrs, but you only needed to run 1 to get the amazing medal, 8 would get you a marathon distance. (officially recognised by the 100 marathon club)
Up until very recently even Mary was unaware I was racing another marathon (maybe) so soon after Liverpool. If I hadn’t needed babysitting for the children (although 14 is old enough isn’t it?) which involved them having a sleepover at my mum’s, she wouldn’t have had a clue until she proof read this report for me. Yes, someone actually reads what I write before I post it online!
Due to my visit to the medical tent after Liverpool, I followed St John’s Ambulance Brigade’s advice and visited the doctors. My usual GP wasn’t available (which was lucky?) and the doctor I saw said I would be fine to do a little run if I was sensible. Clearly this GP knows little of runners or running – We are rarely sensible and there are more marathons than London. 😀
Having had a disaster at Liverpool forgetting many items I created a Marathon Check list so it would never happen again. I have even added a version number so I can amend and improve it.
It is a super list; In Massey colours, double sided for Race needs and before and after. I even added a section to put the postcode so I could quickly google map the route.
However good a check list is, they do require some degree of user sensibility – which clearly after today I am shown to be lacking! Allow me to continue with my tale.
At 6am the alarm went off – kit was ready – although not all in the car waiting but I had half an hour to get ready so I thought I had plenty of time. After preparing my post race protein shake and putting it in a cool bag with ice packs, (well I would be running a while and milk left in a car could easily go off) shaving (I want to look slightly better than a moving corpse in any race pictures) and loading the car it was 6:30 – time to leave. The night before Goole maps told me it would take 1hr 50mins giving me a 10 minute margin of error – perfect.
Problem 1. My porridge was scalding hot when I made it… at 6:25 it was still far too warm to eat. What is a runner to do?
My solution. Belvita Biscuits, they seem bland enough and promise to keep you full for 4hrs! So I grabbed a packet and got into the car and drove away.
Problem 2. The journey was 120miles the car had an estimated 130miles of fuel in!.
I couldn’t risk running out of diesel or that where the race was the diesel would be very expensive so I would have to fill up before I left Kenilworth. This would use up my margin of error on time but that was what it was for.
Problem 3. Google Maps changed its predicted time… Gone was 1hr 50mins from last night hello 2hrs 20!
Who would have thought it… Rush hour makes driving into London slower! Arrhhhhhhh.
Rather than panic or speed I reassured myself that the race actually started at 9:30 so my arrival at 9 would still be enough time to register, put on my race number, lube myself up and make the start line.
Thanks to Google Maps sending me… actually I have no idea where it did route me I just followed her and her faster route options and arrived at 8:50. After collecting my number I had enough time to get ready and change out of my driving shoes – I hate to wear my running trainers for anything but running – I believe it extends their running life and wear.
Problem 4. My running trainers (Trail and Road) are in our stinky kit bin in KENILWORTH!
Mary banished my running shoes to a box outside our house! Apparently they smell like a 6 day old rotting cat on a hot day! In my rush to get going I forgot the one thing I would really need for a run.
Rather than be down hearted I had on old my £12:99 decathlon special trail shoes. Okay, they are very worn with a few holes and the sole has been hot glued back on, and they may have no tread but I only need them to drive in normally. One lap got you the medal – so that was the plan, 3.28miles collect the medal and go home – lesson learned.
Problem 5. The weather was hot and sunny!
On the great instructions from Rik (The RD of Phoenix running) the forecast was for cloudy and overcast, – it certainly wasn’t that. For a big lad like myself the worst conditions possible would be anything over 20C and bright sun!
At least my kit list included sun cream, sun glasses and a hat! So the list wasn’t a total failure.
The briefing at 9:15 covered a lot that was in the instructions… the course details – run along the Thames until you get to the turn point, turn around and go back! Follow the landmark to guide you. THE THAMES. Lose sight of that, stop, turn around and find it again and you are no longer lost. Even Mary couldn’t get lost on this one. After a presentation to runners for completing 52 (YES you read that right 52) marathons in 52 weeks a short walk to the Thames and at 9:30 the run started.
I pick parkruns based on water features, so running along the Thames was going to be great – even better the start / end of the loop was at my favourite water feature of all: a Weir. (The pub that overlooked this was called The Weir) So after completing one loop I felt that as I had travelled so far and love a river run, maybe I should do a second.
The great thing about small marathons run on loops or laps is company; you fall into step with someone for a mile or two and you chat about running. Today I had a great conversation about parkrun for a half lap, the quest for the vest (joining the 100 marathon club) and Dave Phillips – everyone seems to recognise the red and white quarters and have met him at a few marathons.
There were no problems with lack of gels or lucozade sports drink or them running out at this race as the aid station (Every 3.28miles) was actually a sweet shop stocked with an array of sweet treats. As it would be rude to eat a sample of everything then go home after two laps I decided that as I had come a long way I may as well make it worth it and run a half marathon.
Thankfully some of the route offered shade from the trees so although my factor 30 was being washed into my eyes with sweat – it stings like mad! I didn’t feel I was burning up.
Running up and down the Thames was fabulous for distractions; pleasure boats and rowers on the river, gaggles of geese on the bank, and families and dog walkers. The only negative side was passing the pubs and the café, the food looked amazing. If I had more than my emergency £5 on me I might have stopped for a nice meal and an ice cold drink and watch life and the runners pass me by. I was sorely tempted to pinch a chip from the plate of someone eating but I doubted my running speed would be enough to get me away – and I would have to run past them again – and wearing the red and white quarters I might be recognisable!
On my way back from my fourth lap, there was an ice cream van parked up at the Angler pub; remembering that I had my emergency £5 in my new waist belt, I decided that I would treat myself once I got a little further maybe my 7th lap.
So on I ran. Lap 6 was a bit of a right off as I had to walk it all. My eyes spied a jelly snake and a Freddo! Having had a rather sparse breakfast I was hungry. However eating such a large jelly treat and trying to run didn’t work for me. I needed a while for it to digest!
Problem 6. The blue bridge of doom!
The route description had it down as a flat run – and I thought it was. My Garmin believes otherwise in that it slow went uphill for 26 miles (Although by lap 7 it truly did feel like that) The only major (major used with lots and lots of italics) slope, I can’t justify the term hill or even undulation, was the bridge to allow boats to get to Walton Marina. 16 times I had to cross the bridge, by the last time a walker asked me if I was okay!
By lap 7 my lack of cushioning and the wear and tear on my shoes was being to be felt by my feet, ankles and knees, but the plan of an ice lolly kept me going. So nice was this icy treat I had a second on my 8th final lap.
As I lumbered towards the finish flag and a final turn; a glance at my newly repaired Garmin had 5:58 on the clock. One final burst of speed and with Rik counting down the time before I rang the 1920s school bell to call time on my race I sneaked under the 6hr mark (the official cut off.) Only 5 others out on the course.
Walking back to the Leisure centre my neck hurt under the weight of the medal – knowing how much Mary loves the Indiana Jones movies she will be very disappointed not to have been able to run this race! – I took the option to have a shower for £1 before the drive home.
This was my first ever Phoenix Running event but hopefully not my last as it was a superb route, great medal and terrific organisation. If you have the chance to race one in the future do it. Whether you run 3.28 miles or 36.08 I am sure you will enjoy the experience as much as I have, although don’t forget your running shoes!
Daniel Connolly 5:59:53