Sunday, 23 November 2014

Phoenix Riverside Marathon

Wet, muddy and cold yet strangely enjoyable!

Driving to Walton-on-Thames this morning I had to weave around flooded sections of road.  The rain was getting heavier as I headed South.  Despite the rain the Weir Hotel was buzzing with runners, these were mostly a hardy bunch not to be put off by a bit of bad weather.

I opted for shorts, t-shirt and thin, showerproof jacket, with baseball cap to help keep the rain out of my eyes.  Eighty-five of us set off along the Thames towpath, initially on tarmac, but soon onto muddy puddles which messed with sticking to the the racing line.  I settled down into 20th place on my own, not being at the right pace to get into the shelter of a group.  After two miles there was a bit more tarmac then back onto grass alongside the main path, before more mud and then the leaders running towards me on a final section of tarmac, before the turnaround at 5.3km.

There were cheerful marshals here, offering drinks and a smile despite the weather.  First of eight identical sections done.  I could now see all the runners behind me, including a group of 6 or 7 maybe a minute behind, which spurred me on to try and keep ahead of them.

The return leg felt effortless at PB pace, although the pace wouldn't last, picking up a bottle of water and adding a Gu tablet at the finish line.  The bottles worked well as I could put them on a wall a mile back along the course and pick them up on the way back, and it was nice to run without a backpack for a change.

Lap 2 felt effortless and I added a hat under my baseball cap to help keep the cold off.  Lap 3 the cold was starting to set in and the rain got heavier so I added a pair of purple nitrile gloves.  Maybe a clash with my bright yellow rain jacket but I've used them before, being weightless to carry, stay they dry before you put them on and keep the wind and the rain off your hands.

The leaders were further ahead at each turnaround, as expected, and I was enjoying seeing them each time and then counting off everyone behind me, using the runners just behind me to spur me on.  Each section passed quickly and I could see some people starting to suffer, but other runners were smiling all the way.  About 2km into the return leg of lap 3, Dave Ross flew past me in the opposite direction, well into his last lap.  That kept me going to try and avoid being lapped, which I did.  I felt good starting lap 4, knowing I had just over 10km left to run and not feeling too cold.

On the way into the finish for the last time, I saw runners just starting their final lap - one in a fleece, another in a bin bag and another in a foil blanket!  I think one had a cup of tea.  The only time I've previously seen foil blankets used during a race was the 18 mile Dirty Weekend, after the lake swim in the middle!

Phoenix medal and number

I finished in 3:47:43, pleased with that given the conditions underfoot and my fifth consecutive sub-4 marathon.  Of the 85 who started, ten didn't finish this one.

This was a great first event from Rik Vercoe and I hope to see him organising more marathons.