The Phoenix Groovy Run

It has all gone to shit…

I may have run 6 races (3 tens, 2 maras and a 50K) this year but have been feeling sluggish and slow, heavy and out of shape. Sure, I did finish those but am not happy about the times, other than the Gothic Challenge. The winter is always a bad time, you eat too much, you drink too much, the weather is so bad you don’t want to be outside, you certainly don’t want to run during #snowmageddon, or even walk to the gym. I became a bit of a fat bastard. You eat because you are unhappy, you are unhappy because you eat. It is a vicious circle (for some).

In March, for example, I ran three times, all races. And thus I need to share my shame as punishment. In a year every stat has gone the wrong way. There is no way to put it other than things have gone to shit. I need to turn this around fast, or it will affect my mood and my confidence. Let’s hope things will turn a shade of rosy, the sun will come out, and things will be groovy once more.

Race Review

Last year’s 12 marathons in 12 months was something, but like any progression you make, you are always looking forward. You take the next step, climbing up the ladder a rung at a time. From training to your first 10K, to your first half, your first marathon, your first ultra, maybe a hundred miler, multi-day, or 12 in 12. So building on last year I am going to pull all the stops out, 15? 16? 17? We shall see, 3 down already, and 2 in a fortnight in April starting with…

Phoenix Running helped me to my 12 in 12, allowing me to finish at the Winter Phoenix marathon in Walton on Thames. They gave me my 12 in 12 medal and now it will be fourth marathon of the year, a gentle plod before Vienna, much like the SVN in February being a comfy jog before TGC. It gives the confidence a bit of a boost. And so, to Berkhamsted for the Phoenix Groovy Marathon.

The Blurb

The wonderful Ashlyns School grounds in Berkhamsted was a groovy smash hit in 2017 and so we’re back for more in 2018, so swing on down baby and come find your Mojo with us! Fancy dress is, of course, the order of the day and you’ll definitely want to get your hands on one of our very special bespoke medals. The 2018 medal will be presented in a shiny gold affect with a whole new ribbon.

‘Groovy Baby’ is a 6 and half hour Austin Powers themed timed running event, from 5km to ultra marathon, you can complete as many, or as few laps as you like of a 3.28 mile, 5.3km looped course around the school grounds in the Ashlyns Estate. We welcome all abilities of runner – complete one lap and you’re both a finisher and a winner in our eyes and you qualify for the bespoke finishers’ medal. Or why not keep going and see how far you can get in the full 6 hours.

How I did?

I stayed overnight in Berkhamsted, had a cracking meal at the Giggling Squid and got up early for the short walk through town and up to the school. As I walked through the gates I noticed the traffic cones marking out a muddy path one way, then a muddier path the other. Surely not, I thought, surely we are not literally running around the muddy perimeter for the school grounds? Not for £35. Surely not!

I walked around the school and found the race HQ, a tent as bag drop, and a stall with the water (no coke), and jelly sweets. The changing room, where we had the race briefing, was in the dining hall. The scuffed wooden floors, the names etched into the tables, no Tippex penises drawn on chairs, buy hey! who use’s Tippex anymore? After the talk, basically a “follow the cones with the fence on your left, then a balloon around the front, and then follow the cones with the fence on your right to the start where we put a wristband on you. You only need to do one lap for the medal. Then it’s 4 laps for the half, 8 laps for a marathon, 9 for an ultra.” Right, see you outside.


You know I describe a marathon in it’s most simple terms as 8 parkruns? Well this was THAT mara and it was fucking horrible. As I said, as I walked through the school gates I had a sense of foreboding. My Spidey sense was off the charts. This was not going to be fun.
But I do have the 100 Marathon Club as an aim now, as well as Comrades, Fire and Ice, etc. And I always hate the first 5 miles of any run, and so I joined the 82 fellow runners as we ran out from the Race HQ, the tennis courts on our left, around the field and to a fence and through it. Around a separate field, clearly from the infants/junior part of the school, back through the fence, around the tennis court fields, by the HQ, then up and around the ground at the front of the school (where I had spotted the cones on the way in). A complete loop of these then back to the tennis court field, through the infants/juniors fields, then back again to the HQ. One lap, 3 and a bit miles. Fucking horrible.
And then it started to rain!
During the first lap I wore my Ultraks tee under my 12 in 12 long sleeve as it was cold. I also had my TGC buff. I overheated on the first lap and so ditched the long sleeve as I went straight out on the second lap. This was much faster and the coolness was good. I do hate to overheat. But then the rains came. And more rain, and more. By the time I had finished the 3rd lap I was drenched, freezing, you could cut glass with my nipples, and the mud underfoot was more muddy, slip ‘n’ slide kinda muddy. And so I put on my waterproof and went out on my 4th lap.
As I went around on the 4th lap I thought to myself that this would be by far the worst marathon in the table. It would be scoring 0 for route, personal enjoyment, tee, cost/value for money, goodie bag, and scoring the bare minimal elsewhere other than medal. But fortunately it didn’t come to that as on the 5th lap as I slip splided? slip slid? my way around a corner on the muddy ice rink I decided enough was enough I was calling it a day and bungling. If I was closer to my 100 Marathon club target I would have persevered and could have definitely gotten around in 6 hours but meh not for number 23. I have bigger fish to fry over the next fortnight and so this lap race did not end with a marathon badge, just a pretty groovy medal as I trudged back to Berkhamsted sopping wet with what would develop into a sore throat and runny nose.

The Bling

Its almost fitting that the medal is so bloody awkward it doesn’t fit on the rack like the others. It is cool though. A lot of effort went into the medal. It is just a shame that the same effort didn’t go into the route and the event.

In Summary

This was the sort of event that saps your running mojo. It was grim. I effectively paid £35 for the honour of running around school playing fields in the rain. That was not what I wanted and not what I needed ahead of Vienna. Laps I can handle, but laps on concrete, sea wall, paths around something, not the edge of a fricking school sports field. Even the sight of Race Director Rik dressed as Austin Powers could not stop this ship from sinking, especially as he spent most of the race hiding under the tarp at the race HQ whilst everyone else hid in their vehicles.

Would I run the Groovy Run again?

Absolutely not. And I would avoid this venue like the plague. It was a very very poor course, and even though I have 2 more Phoenix races coming up I have to say I was very disappointed.

Would I recommend the Groovy Run?

NEXT UP: SHHHHHHH! It’s a secret


One Comment Add yours

  1. Sounds like primary school “cross country”, running laps of the school perimeter, collecting plastic cubes on each lap, regardless of the weather – and it’s pure hell.

    I don’t envy this race!


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