Saturday 26th May – Event 1- The Phoenix Pop Up Marathon:
They say variety is the spice of life and so it turned out this for me this May bank holiday having entered 3 events ranging from 1 mile to a full Marathon.
Having completed the Phoenix Running “ Leon” Marathon in April and loving the lap format and the atmosphere of such a run I was excited about doing the Pop Up Marathon which was on the Bank Holiday Saturday with a 4pm start time and a 7 hour cut off. The run started at the Weir pub in Walton on Thames on the banks of the River Thames where you can complete as many, or as few laps as you like of a 3.2 mile out and back course along the riverside towpath meaning it is flat with only one small foot bridge to negotiate.
This year I have made the liberating decision to remove all time pressures from myself when running and start the journey of moving up to Marathon distance so at the moment this lap format is perfect for me to not only get my body Marathon fit but to also more importantly build my confidence at this distance.
Saturday was very warm showing 27 degrees in the car as I was driving to the event so although this worried me a bit I was looking forward to meeting up with Leon who surprise surprise was also running it. I met Leon in the car park of the Xcel Leisure Centre and we headed off to register and attend the briefing before making the short walk to the Weir pub for the start.
Boy it was hot and humid but Phoenix Running have a very well stocked fuel station with lots of sweets ,crisps and various drinks available at the end of every 3.2 mile lap served up with big smiles and words of encouragement. My plan was to take it nice and easy and do the 8 laps needed for the marathon distance irrelevant of the time it took so if I needed to walk I would and run if I could.
Leon had already run a half Marathon that morning but we decided to start together and see how it went. At the end of the first lap we were both feeling the heat but I was feeling ok so Leon told me to go on and run my own race which I did. The route is lovely and the towpath is open to all so many people were out enjoying the weather, walking their dogs and having a drink in the pubs probably thinking we were all nutters.
I think as I finished lap 4 Leon was at the fuel station having called it a day so we said our goodbyes and off I went for lap 5 but unfortunately I left my drink on the table so had to run the lap with no water and felt pretty dehydrated when I came back in . Up to then I had managed to run but I was now feeling a bit nauseous and trying to re-hydrate and fuel. My t shirt was soaked with sweat and my legs were starting to feel tired so I walked and ran when I could for the last 3 laps saying ‘hi’ to the other runners still on the course and enjoying the challenge.
My last lap was finished wearing my head torch because the sun had set, a big smile on my face and given the heat a great sense of achievement.
I got home about 10.30pm knowing I was up early Sunday to do the Westminster mile.
Sunday 27th May – Event 2 – The Westminster Mile:
I am probably like a lot of runners in Sandhurst Joggers and tend book lots of events months in advance but there is only one event that is set in stone every year in my diary and that is the Westminster Mile so the rule is do not make any plans for the 2nd Bank holiday in May because I will be in London. The good news (or bad news depending on which member of my family you are) is that I try and drag the family along to do it with me.
The Westminster mile is held on the most iconic mile in the world (it says here), starting on The Mall and finishing in front of Buckingham Palace. The first WM was held in 2013 as an Olympic legacy event and caters for all ages and abilities from family waves through to the elite athletes. The first event saw nearly 2,000 finishers with 8,048 finishing this year making it the biggest timed mile event in the world and I have been lucky enough to run in all of them.
The plan was that six of us would run but on the day only myself, Liz, my Son Lewis and Step Son Olly made the journey to Green Park for our 10.40 start in the green family wave. When we got there the atmosphere was great with lots of runners and families all getting ready to run, enjoying the warm weather and fantastic location and because the races are spread throughout the day there were no issues with big queues for the toilets or the bag drop.
Our family race was started by Sir Mo Farah who was great and took the time before the race to talk to the runners, many of them young children and wish us all luck. In our wave were also the couple who were going to try and beat the world record of 6 minutes 22 seconds for running a mile holding hands (which they did in 5 minutes 24 seconds !!)
The organisation was very slick and at 10.40 in the hot sunshine we were off. Lewis and Olly were going to run their own race and with yesterday’s Marathon still in my legs I was going to run with Liz. Since joining Sandhurst Joggers Liz’s running has come on leaps and bounds and today she really wanted to run her first sub 10 minute mile so that was the plan.
The boys went flying off into the distance with me and Liz settling into a comfortable pace. The good thing about the mile course is that it’s flat and they have 800, 400, 200 and 100 metres to go markers which really helps.
By 800 metres Liz was on target but starting to tire so the usual “you are looking strong”, “we are nearly there” and a wave and cheer from Jim Casey and John King on the finish straight gave her the boost she needed crossing the finish line in 9 minutes 32 seconds, brilliant and I was so proud of her. Olly ran a great 5 minutes 50 seconds and Lewis came in at 7 minutes 11 seconds.
We all collected our finishers medal and goody bag in front of Buckingham Palace and headed home having had a great morning.
If you have never done this event before I cannot recommend it enough ,the atmosphere is so happy and relaxed and the location is stunning especially in the sunshine, enter the whole family, take a picnic, you will look back and think yes it was definitely worth the effort to run just 1 mile.
Monday 28th May- Event 3 –Vitality London 10K
This is another event I really enjoy and is also located in Green park using the same facilities as the Westminster mile. I was going to run with my mate Russell who has been nursing a calf injury so again a nice enjoyable steady run was order of the day. It was nice seeing so many Sandhurst Joggers waiting for the train on Farnbourgh station.
Today was so much busier especially for the toilets but the bag drop was well organised with no queuing for us anyway.
The race started at 10am in the warm sunshine and we were both in black wave which was the second to set off. Yesterday Sir Mo Farah started the our mile race and today we were treated to Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill with Mo Farah running it (he won).
As we crossed the start line I ran over to the start platform and high fived Jessica Ennis then headed down the Mall towards Trafalgar Square. The course passes many famous London sights including St Paul’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey so if you want a tour of London in about an hour this is the race for you.
Russell was running well and his calf was playing ball so we soon passed the 2 km marker just in time to see Mo Farah leading the race running in the opposite direction. My legs were feeling tired but I was really enjoying the atmosphere with thousands of cheering spectators and a few live bands situated around the course.
Before we knew it we were passing Trafalgar Square again and heading towards Big Ben and the final km before crossing the finish line in 55 minutes together. We headed back to the bag collection point getting our medal, goody bag and very nice finishers technical t-shirt on the way having had a great run.
Roll on next year.