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Lord of the Rings meets a Doughnut – Nigel Evans tells of his first back to back marathons with an impromptu Ultra thrown in for good measure

It’s amazing what you can achieve when you put your mind to it and are a bit stubborn, add in the odd doughnut and the thought of getting your very own “Precious” and you have the recipe for a great weekend of running.

Last year I so got fed up with time chasing when running events or even training that my running mojo had fallen off a cliff and I also felt that when constantly pushing myself to go faster I was risking more injuries especially now I am no spring chicken at 54.

I decided last April to run Leon’s 100th marathon (only my 4th ever Marathon) which was a Phoenix Running lap event in Walton on Thames.

I was not sure what to expect but it was absolutely brilliant and I loved the lap format and the more relaxed atmosphere where for most of the runners the distance was the challenge and not how fast you could run it. I completed the marathon distance and my running mojo was back with a vengeance.

I already had quite a few events booked in for 2018 so I made the decision to switch to Marathons after a short break from running last year to train on the bike for Ride London 100.

Since Ride London I have been slowly clocking them up and love the slower paced but increased distance of my runs now and so far touch wood it is going well and I am loving it!

For the weekend of February 9/10th I had booked back to back Marathons, both of these were Phoenix Running  lap events where you can run anything from 5k to Ultra Marathons within a 6hr period on a 3.28 mile out and back course along the River Thames in Walton on Thames..

The start is at the Weir pub near the Xcel Leisure Centre in Walton on Thames and another bonus for me is they are only about a 35minute drive away.

Saturday was the Lord of the Rings based “One Run to rule them all” and on the Sunday was the “Doughnut Dash” with the promise of doughnuts at the aid station.

Saturday – One Run to rule them all

Saturday was a very popular event with over 200 runners entered and gathered outside the sports centre for the race briefing before the short walk to the start by the Weir pub ready for the 9.30 start, this would also be  a special run for me because I would complete my 12 Marathons in 12 Months Challenge.

For the Marathon distance you have to run 8 laps of the flat course with the only climb being the infamous small blue bridge with an added bonus of every 3.2 miles being back at the amazing food station which offers a wide variety of sweets, snacks and drink to keep you going. I also keep my running bag there with my running essentials and my own nutrition namely a Marmite and honey sandwich and a bottle of strawberry milk. I also run with a hydration pack and carry 500ml of drink, 2 gels, a packet of CLIF BLOKS and a Kendal mint cake.

9.30 and we were off .

The weather was dry but a bit chilly with a  strong cold headwind  from the start to the turn point just past Walton Bridge which made the run feel like  two separate events because running out the wind sometimes felt like it was going to blow you backwards, so made it tough but when you hit the turn point and ran back you flew with the wind behind you and it was difficult to keep your pace down.

Running the same lap 8 times may sound a bit boring but it really isn’t because along the river there is always something going on and Saturdays are very popular with rowers so there are lots of boats on the water with their coaches cycling along the path shouting instructions at them, you also get lots of support from the other runners who you pass on each lap and of course the marshals on the food station who are all lovely and very encouraging.

My aim for this event  bearing in mind I was running again on Sunday was to run a nice steady 6 laps between  6-7 minute km’s  then walk/ run the last 2 laps to keep something in my legs but as it turned out I actually felt pretty good except for getting soaked on the last lap by a heavy shower so managed to run it all and claim my awesome “Precious” medal and my 12 in 12 months challenge T-shirt and medal.

Sunday – Doughnut Dash.

I managed to get an early night Saturday but was a bit worried because I hadn’t felt like eating very much Saturday evening and my legs were feeling tired.

As usual I was up early Sunday to have my bowl of porridge before setting off hoping that the fuelling I would take on during the run would be enough to get me through another Marathon.

If someone had told me 12 months ago that I would be running 2 marathons in a weekend I would have thought they were crazy but here I was for my second Phoenix event that weekend waiting for the 9.30 start looking at the amazing variety of doughnuts displayed on the food station giving the run its name.

Again the weather was dry but the wind had dropped considerably which was good.

After the first lap I had warmed up nicely and to my surprise my legs felt pretty good but I still made a conscious effort to keep my pace nice and steady at around 6.30/km thinking I would rather run at a slower pace than run quicker and end up walking towards the end, also for me mentally once I decide to walk its seems harder for me to start running again so if I feel tired I will slow my pace right down, recover for a bit then pick the pace up without actually walking and this seems to work for me at the moment.

The run was going nicely, I felt comfortable and as I reached  ½ marathon distance one of the marshals on the food station said I was looking strong (this is standard even if you look awful) and asked me if I was going for an Ultra? “Err probably not” I told her but this planted a seed in my mind that maybe I could do it as I was feeling OK but would I still be feeling this good after another 13 miles? From then on after every lap the marshal was encouraging me to go for 9 laps (29.5 miles) especially when I told her that I had never run an Ultra Marathon before.

For me the mental side of running is very important especially since I have started to run greater distances so if I am getting ready to do a marathon I have no doubt in my mind before the start that I will be running 26.2 miles and with any  luck my body follows, if I start an event with any doubt about running the distance (whatever that distance may be) I personally seem to find it physically harder and more of a challenge. So with the marshal giving me the confidence and the self-belief that I could do it, when I came in after lap 8 (26.2 miles) I gave her a smile and set off on my 9th lap and despite getting soaked again, by a heavy rain shower, ran the lap (29.95 miles on my Garmin as I took the very slightly longer but less muddy route)

I got another brilliant Phoenix running medal and a doughnut to celebrate my first ever ultra!

When I got home and finally crawled out of the car I felt shattered but elated, what a great weekend!

My long term goal is to complete my 100 Marathons during 2021 but for 2019 I have decided to also do the 26 Marathons in 52 weeks (26in52) challenge which if all goes to plan will be in July and I may add 12 Ultra Marathons in 12 months on the way to the 26in52, I say “May”.

Leon, I totally blame you!!!

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