I was convinced that I had run my last marathon of 2014 but the Phoenix Year End Marathon was an unexpected last minute treat. This is my race report and review. I ran Portsmouth Coastal Marathon last weekend and did ok. 3 hours 35 minutes was my fastest time of the year and I was happy with that. You can watch the video of that race here.
But my friend Richard is a hard task master and no sooner had we finished that race, than he was on the Runners World website seeking out new adventures. He spotted this small marathon by the Thames called, fittingly, the Year End Marathon and organised by Phoenix Running. Unfortunately the race was listed as full.
However, I hadn’t seen the ‘full’ notice and had clicked straight through to the online booking page. It seemed as though it would let us book, but just to be sure we decided to text the organiser. He confirmed that, although the race had filled up very quickly when it initially opened, three spaces had just become available. So we snapped two of them up.
Phoenix Year End Marathon
So, on Sunday morning, we were on our way to Walton-on-Thames and to the Weir Pub. It was a cold morning and obviously still dark when we left Worthing. However, by the time we arrived there was blue sky up above and the sun was about to come out and stay out for the rest of the day. We collected our race numbers from the pub, queued for the toilets and chatted to MarathonManUk, who seems to be at every race we do these days!
Since I set my PB in Paris in April 2013, my plan for flat or road marathons has been the same; to finish in 3 hours 28 minutes or less. So far I have failed in Paris 2014 (3:37), Milton Keynes (3:38), Lisbon (3:43) and Portsmouth (3:35). I guess Portsmouth could be classed as a trail marathon because the terrain is variable with mud, grass, beach and shingle as well as tarmac. The Phoenix Year End Marathon is also technically a multi-terrain race, but it would be stretching it to class it as a trail marathon. It is completely flat and, provided it hasn’t rained too much, the course is very runable.
Marathon Man UK
Richard started in his usual way, running off ahead like a crazy man. MarathonManUK, Rob, also seemed to go off like a madman. He was leading the race for the first lap. I set about things in my usual way too. I wanted to try to run every mile in around 7 minutes 40 seconds, consistently. Obviously I’ve tried this before and it never works perfectly. I always tire significantly in the final 10-6 miles. At 9am the clock started and we were off.
I felt pretty good. I had two sachets of baby food stored at the drinks table at the start which I intended to take slowly over the course of a couple of miles around 8-9 and 18-19 miles. Each lap was 6.6 miles with a drinks station at the turn point at 3.3 miles. I wasn’t sure how I would cope with this. Would it get boring and tedious? Thankfully, the weather and the scenery made sure it wasn’t boring at all. There are some very nice houses on the other side of the Thames at Walton.
Baby Food Nutrition
By lap two MarathonManUk had tired and was dropping back. Richard was way ahead and I was ticking along nicely. I finished my first baby food sachet towards the end of lap two and drank a mouthful of water at each drinks station. I also took one S-Cap tablet each hour. Half way through lap 3, at around mile 17, I would be expecting to start to tire. But I felt strong. I felt really strong and I was still ticking over at 7:40 minute miles. In fact I was having to hold myself back as I kept popping in some faster miles.
Then I saw Richard up ahead. I knew he wasn’t too far ahead as I could see him at the turn points on each lap. But I could now see him a few hundred feet away and I was catching him. Again I had to hold myself back because I was expecting to hit the wall at any minute. I passed Richard and once I started the final lap I knew I had it in me to beat my PB. I was passing a few runners now, including Rob MarathonManUK. When I got to the final turn point at 23 miles, the wall was nowhere to be found and I knew I had the strength to power down the final 3 miles. I shouted to Richard as I passed him that I was going to try for a Sub-3:20. By now I would have had to have a total disaster to miss my PB and if I ran really, really fast I could possibly even make 3:15.
Massive Marathon Personal Best
As it was, I crossed the finish line in 3 hours 18 minutes and 37 seconds, in 6th place overall. My best marathon time by 10 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. It seemed unthinkable to me that I could do that. But sometimes your body just works and things go your way. I certainly think my change of diet has helped. I’m lighter and less bloated. I also think I am beginning to nail my race nutrition. Baby food is the way forward. Finally, I guess I have been doing a lot more on the bike recently. I’ve put a lot more hours in on the turbo trainer and this has probably begun to have an effect on my general fitness. So, part of me thinks, how have I done this? But I guess if you look at it, there are some clear indicators as to how it happened.
Richard came in at 3:28 in the end, finishing in 11th place. He had been suffering with a stitch for much of the race. We would have stayed to cheer in some of the other runners, but because we both had to talk our wives into letting us do this final marathon of the year, we thought it best to get back to our respective families as quickly as possible. Highly recommend the Phoenix Year End Marathon though. The course is great, the organisation is good and it’s a very friendly atmosphere.
The only problem now is I have to try to beat 3:18 in Paris in 2015. That’s a full 10 minutes faster than I had been planning for!! I’ll keep putting the extra bike training in and I have plenty of marathons to do before then to keep the long distances in my legs.
Update: I did beat my PB in Paris 2015 with a run of 3:16. But then I beat it again at the Kent Viking Coastal Marathon with a time of 3:13 and a podium finish to boot!! I have since run the Year End Marathon 2015, which you may now like to read.