Phoenix Track Ultra Marathon – March '20

Every so often an opportunity falls into your lap.

The idea is not new, it’s tried and tested and one I had done twice before at marathon distance, but it was the first time the Phoenix Running outfit had dreamed bigger.  A 13hour timed event round a 400 meter running track.  People could also enter a 6hr timed event in the morning and a 6hr timed event starting in the afternoon to slot in alongside the 13hr race.

The format was so simple that explaining this to normal people sounds mental.  Run around an athletics track for as long as you want and ring the bell when you’re done.   The usual question that follows “is that not boring?”  Short answer is “No!”  The long answer….

8:30am and the gun went off.  To make things interesting a side competition was set for the fastest lap of the day.  The prize, an Easter egg and given the current Corona bulls*it a toilet roll was also thrown in.  I put in my effort on the very first lap.  Throughout the day I loved seeing the likes of bezzie Rob Cowlin and Ollie Dawson throwing in their attempts and people like Rich Watts openly discussing their strategy on when to execute their fasted lap.  Just hilarious – not boring.

I had managed to persuade one poor unfortunate soul I have the pleasure of coaching, Carrie Law to attempt 3 hours running round and round in prep for her debut marathon.  It was a great run and so rewarding to see as she slammed out 16 miles at a consistent pace with loads left in the tank.  Is that boring?  Nope.

In the mix a fellow Mole Valley club runner Emma Crayton.  I’d not met Emma before and we shared some laps.  Turns out she’s only gone and run all the world major marathons ain’t she!! These are six major city marathon races recognised as the most high-profile on the calendar.  Tokyo, London, Boston, Berlin, Chicago and New York City.  Boring?  Nope, quite fascinating!

After a few hours everyone settles in and gets comfortable.  People start chatting, gossiping and catching up. It’s amazing what information long distance runners are more than willing to discuss with each other.

After the 6th hour the first race had finished giving around 15 of us in the 13hr race the track to ourselves before the afternoon mob turned up for their session with us.  Sharing the track with the 15 in the afternoon sun was a real highlight.  We were turnaround around at this point giving me the opportunity to run against the traffic for one lap and high fiving in an attempt to boost the energy levels and morale as we all started to tire.

Running in close proximity spending time with faces that I never normally get to run with due to everyone’s different pace is such a rare opportunity.  I will always remember this as the last bit of time I had with the marathon family prior to the Corona outbreak.  A whole day spent with loved ones running round in circles who I will most likely not see for a while.

Would I do this again?  Absolutely.  My previous track experiences at pure marathon distance I remember were challenging, a struggle and too repetitive.  This experience was the total opposite.  The 13 hour characters slowing life right down in order to spend as much time out there as they wanted. No rushing, just us, the track and our thoughts.  Definitely give this a go and come and meet the characters! Thanks Phoenix Running, a great day!

Credit to Sven-Dietmar Schmidt for the photos

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