What better way could I think of ending 2017 than with back-to-back marathons? Nope, no better way! Off we went to do The Frozen Phoenix Runs two day marathons at Walton-on-Thames in Surrey, England on December 29-30, 2017. The race with the accompanying wind, damp, cold, rain, and mud all conspired to make the experience character forming but extremely satisfying!
Richard and I hopped on the afternoon train from Jurbise to Brussels Midi Station to catch the 14:56 Eurostar train to London in the afternoon of December 28, 2017. Upon arrival at 16:05, we walked from Saint Pancras Train Station to King’s Cross Station to catch the Victoria Line to Vauxhall, switching again for the train bound for Shepperton. A taxi from Shepperton station took us to The Weir Hotel and Pub on Waterside Drive by early evening.
Bib pick-up and race briefing the morning of the race was just a few meters away at the sports complex called The Elmbridge XCel Leisure Centre. The Phoenix runs brought together old friends and recognized major accomplishments of the year. Awards were handed out to people who completed 52 marathons in 52 weeks, 100 marathons in 100 weeks, and 12 marathons in 12 months. It looked like the bigger the accomplishment, the bigger the medal! I can tell you that the 100 marathon/100 weeks medal was almost the width of a man’s chest!
These events were small and family friendly. Most of the runners seem to be repeat offenders of the Phoenix running events. The camaraderie and the accomplishments of these people were inspiring!
One of the race volunteers was wearing this long coat. It looked cozy and warm. I took a photo of the coat so I can check it out online later.
Both races started in front of our hotel at 9:30 AM with no early starts. They are six-hour timed events that actually cater to all sorts of running abilities. You can run a lap of 3.28 miles, a 10K, a half marathon, eight laps for a marathon, or an ultra marathon, all within six hours and you are considered a finisher and a winner in the organizer’s eyes! You are then entitled to the heavy and massive Phoenix finisher’s medal. The marathon distance is recognized by the 100 Marathon Club for those seeking to become members of this hallowed club.
The race headquarters, or the “tuck shop”, was a tent in front of The Weir. It was a well-stocked aid station with water, candy, chocolates, sweets, and crisps to fuel the runners. You could also leave your own electrolyte drinks here. The Weir and the sports complex allowed us to use their toilets for bathroom breaks.
We ran our laps on the tow path along the River Thames. The river was also busy with several rowing clubs diligently practicing every morning. A race marshal was present at the turnaround point past the Walton Bridge and Cafe Gino. The race organizers depended on the integrity of the runners to make the turn at the turnaround point from the second hour on.
There was no elevation on this course except for the ramp up and down the small blue bridge, but why did it still feel like the route was difficult??
I finished the first day in 5:50:45. While the seasoned runners literally ran laps around me, I struggled with the wind, and the cold and gratefully rang the old 1920’s antique school bell. All runners had to ring the bell to signify they finished their target distance, otherwise the clock will continue to run.
My running shoes were caked in mud when we returned to the room. The Weir only had six rooms and ours had a balcony and faced the river. I did not bring extras so I left them as they were for the next day. The radiator was not working so we had to use the space heater.
I enjoyed our dinner at the pub that night. My Thai chicken curry was delicious and Richard loved his chicken burger in an authentic British pub setting. The Weir has been serving customers for the last hundred years or so!
We toed the line again the following morning. It was not as rainy and windy as yesterday, thankfully! I was still tired from yesterday; I anticipated a slower finish time. There were more people on the second day too. The race briefing again recognized some extraordinary achievements.
A different set of lead runners ran laps around me again, while I completed eight laps for the marathon distance in 6:09:23 with just a few more runners behind me.
Although the races were six-hour timed events, the race director Rik Vercoe was nice enough to ensure that all runners achieved their target goals of finishing a marathon distance even if it meant more than the time limit.
Finishers could shower at the centre for £1 if race numbers are presented, otherwise they are charged £5. Lockers were available as long as you had a padlock to secure your things.
The race route was west of The Weir. Richard walked eastward and took some photos of the Sunbury Lock and the river.
I paid £36.75 for the registration fee for each event on the Phoenix Running website. Knowing how they look after the runners, I can’t wait to run another Phoenix race in the near future. I just love the interlocking design of the medals, as well as the peek-a-boo Phoenix!
We stayed one more night at The Weir. We left the following morning to spend New Year’s Eve with my sister and her family in Kent.