The next marathon in my ‘catch up’ sequence of 4 in 4 weeks was the Phoenix Spring Marathon, the first from the Firebird series. The series consists of 4 events, yes you guessed it: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter organised by Phoenix Running.

I’ve done a few of Rik’s events now and I know my morning routine fairly well: get up early, go to the station, change in Woking, arrive in Walton-on-Thames, figure out how to get to the race Head Quarters. Easy-peasy 😉 The Race HQ is about 45 min walk away from the station – not ideal in the morning before a marathon, I’ve done it before the Dark Phoenix but the race started at 16:00 so I had plenty of time. This time I didn’t have that luxury, so taxi it was!

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I arrived at the race HQ, registered and got my race number, there were many familiar faces there as usual, so I spent the time before the race briefing catching up.

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I’ve done Rik’s races before, going by the river over the little bridge and back 8 times, but this time was special, this time we were going in the opposite direction and there were only 4 laps for a marathon. I was waiting for this different route for so long! Whoop!

 

I had a secret aim for this one, I wanted to do it in 4h 30min and I had my tiger/fire legs on. I knew however, that the fancy leggings wouldn’t guarantee my success, I needed some help!

 

I saw Neil and I thought maybe I could tag along with him, but when I asked him if he was going for a time, he denied and said that he rarely does. Neil is a strong runner and is always much faster than I am, I shared with him my 4:30 hopes and he said that I could definitely do it, he remembered that at the Heartbreaker I wasn’t that far behind him. OK, there was hope.

Most people who run are all about their pace and speed, not me though. I usually run to have fun, have a good day out and enjoy myself. When people ask me about my pace, I can’t really give them an answer, because I don’t know. But then, I decided that I had to start knowing what I was doing a little bit more and looked at my pace on Strava. The thing was, all of my marathons were so different, how could I possibly compare hilly to muddy to hot? I thought to myself that for now, I could just try to run faster to finish quicker and it seemed like a flawless plan! 😉

 

We walked to the start point and I talked to Brian Mills about his running and marathon tourism. Such a lovely man.

I was feeling very excited about exploring the new route.

The run started and I joined Costas, we hadn’t had time to catch up lately and it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

The route took us by the river, passed the Sunbury Lock, Molesey Reservoirs, through Hurst Park, Molesey Boat Club, public toilets (essential) to the turnaround point near Hampton Court Bridge. 5k done, quite fast, probably too fast.

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I had some water at the station; I was very lucky, I had Tailwind in my hydration pack and didn’t need to worry about stopping to eat, but then again it was nice to say hello to ‘Davo’ at the aid station 🙂

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On the way back Neil caught up with Costas and I, and we started chatting about the crazy number of marathons that he has completed. From then on I carried on running with Neil and Sharky, thinking that I will try to keep up with them for as long as I could.

I was a little bit worried though, especially when I found out that Neil’s fastest marathon time was just over 3h… Then I remembered that Sharky finished the Jaw Dropper in a similar time to me, but this was quickly clarified – he was taking it easy because he was running another marathon the next day. Right, I was running with much stronger and faster runners, what could possibly go wrong!

Due to all the chatting we got back to the start-finish point in ‘no time’. 3 more to go!

Here’s our lovely Jackie:

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Lap 2 started and we were running together. The route was picturesque and it was a beautiful, sunny day. The crocuses were out and it was a good day.

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Lap 3, the struggle lap. We were over half way, but this was mentally the toughest lap. I was struggling more and more, therefore slowing down a bit. I wasn’t sure that I was going to make it. During each lap we saw Caroline, Neil’s wife, running with Jo, which would lift our spirits considerably, they are both such lovely, positive girls!

Various things were starting to play on my mind, ‘have I started too fast?’, ‘the guys are so much stronger and faster than I am’, ‘I won’t get my time’ etc.

It was also hard to run all the time, when you are a trail runner, you start looking forward to the hills aka ‘walking break’, it’s difficult to justify that on a flat route. I started to express my fears, mainly the one that I won’t do it in 4:30, but the guys were so supportive.

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‘If it doesn’t happen, you know you gave it your best shot’

‘You can definitely do it, maybe just today wasn’t the day’

As well as:

‘We still have plenty of time, you can do it, you are doing great’

All of this helped to give me peace of mind, where not achieving 4:30 wasn’t a total failure and that was a great result.

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The last lap was quite painful, we were talking less but the guys were encouraging me throughout. For the most part I didn’t want to look at my watch to check how I was doing if fear of giving up all together if I found out that I wasn’t going to make it. The ‘way there’ (to the turnaround point) was definitely harder than the ‘way back’ mentally, but on the way back we were including more walking breaks.

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We were nearly there and I knew that I was going to make it, but I still didn’t want to risk it and do anything to jeopardise my PB as I felt that I really gave it all that I had that day.

 

When we crossed the finish line, Rik announced our time which was !!! 04:22:54 !!!

I was so over the moon that I nearly cried! 19 minutes and 19 seconds faster than my previous PB. Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!

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I thanked Neil and Sharky, I couldn’t have done it without them! Thank you for being so supportive.

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Apologies to Rik – I must have asked you about my time 10,000 times and thank you for confirming it every time and supporting me during this race.

It was also Jo’s 50th marathon, she ran with Caroline all the way.

Congratulations, what an achievement! And thank you for the chocolate Jo, it disappeared very quickly 😉

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I changed and got a taxi to the station with Craig and David (not Craig David – he makes love on a Saturday), the taxi was running late and I was worried that I wouldn’t make my train.

Once we got to the station, I RAN (that wasn’t nice) to catch the train and made it! Unfortunately I didn’t get to Woking in time to get my other train to Godalming and had a wonderful 45 minute wait at Woking train station. It wasn’t too bad, I got some food and spent most of that time consuming it 😀

A big thank you to Rik and the Team for yet another great event!

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