The Romsey Beer Race 2018

The Romsey 5 Mile Beer Race is probably one of my favourite races of the year. I’ve done it three times before and it’s hands down always a good day.

It’s helped I’ve done well each time I’ve run it – and it hugely helps that at the end you get a slice (or three) of cake. Each time I’ve somehow managed to get a podium place each time. Actually this isn’t that much of a mystery as the three times I’ve previously run it there was another league race happening on the same day (the D Day 10k) and this attracts a lot of the local club runners, many of whom are super speedy and would almost certainly have beaten me had they been running at the Beer Race.

But anyway, after a couple of years not running, this year I’d entered and the league race was on a different day. My friend Sarah, who is also a second claim Southampton runner and runs at the track with me, was doing it and she’s super fast and won it last year. I knew straight away I wouldn’t be able to beat her (I’m not sandbagging here, she is literally minutes fast than me over all distances). But that was OK. I just wanted to give it a good crack and see where I was at fitness-wise and time-wise. I hate 10ks, but a quaint five mile race with cake at the end is far more my thing.

Happily I didn’t have to get up early for the race either. I got up at 8am, and herded my parents, like cats, to the car to leave for 8.40am…only ten minutes later than planned. My dad, who was driving, apparently knew how to get there, having driven there three times before. Hmmm. Despite this I found myself immensely stressed when he started getting confused and lost. He won’t admit he was lost, but we were lost. It’s times like this when observe how my parents do things and it gives me a great understanding of how I end up in a pickle in so many areas of my life. We are not an organised bunch. We have no contingencies. We do not think before we leap ahead. We’re fairly happy-go-lucky people. And this has been my downfall many times in life. It’s a fun but chaotic way to live, I can tell you.

[Side note:  I spotted that Romsey was twinned with the German town of Battenberg…ironic really considering this race is all about the cake to me.]Thankfully we were only ten minutes later than planned and actually I had plenty of time to pick up my bib and queue for a wee. I spotted a number of Hedgies and did a nice one(ish) mile warm up with my Hedgie friend, Jim. I have to say, he did crack the pace a bit on the warm-up though. I was surprised to find us running 7.30 pace! This is neither of our easy paces! I had a second wee as the portable loo toilet queues were fast moving, it being a small race, and the run director even came over to say he wouldn’t start without us. Very nice of him.It was hot though. No cloud in the sky, sun beaming down, sticky hot. After my warm-up I was sweating already and a little thirsty. I looked enviously at other people’s water bottles but convinced myself I’d be alright. I was also heavily suffering from hay fever. I’d taken tablets, had eye drops and my nose thing but I was still sneezing and struggling. Not a great omen!

My parents wandered off to where they were going to stand (my dad a pro, having supported three times before, had a few different positions he’d be moving around to during the race. My mum, after seeing me once, would then wander off to a café. The difference between my parent’s support levels is stark I tell you). I headed to the start.Since the last time I ran this race it’s upgraded significantly. Now we had a proper blow-up start arch thing. The race was also chip-timed. Things were very fancy. I found myself lining up fairly near the front. This concerned me greatly and I attempted to inch back a bit. I should not be near these people! I saw my friend Sarah and decided to put myself a couple of line behind her.

The race runs around the lovely quintessentially British village of Braishfield. It’s undulating, but there are some nice downhills to help compensate. You start with a lap around the cricket field, then onto the country roads. It’s a lovely scenic route, but it is not flat. As we got going I tried desperately not to get carried away trying to keep up with people I most certainly should not.Having refreshed my memory that morning of the course elevation and my previous paces from the last time I ran it, I knew the first mile would be the steepest and where my pace (if all went to plan) would be the most slow. I was prepared, but it was still tough going. I knew my pace for the first mile last time was 7 minutes. I kept pushing up the hill and my watch beeped 6:50 and I was off on a lovely downhill. Amazing. I was on track to doing better than last time.It was hot but surprisingly I felt OK. I knew Sarah was far ahead and I could see another girl just ahead. I was pretty sure she was second. My pace was good. The second mile is very deceptive though because it’s basically all downhill, so you should feel pretty good.Then the next hill hit and it was a fairly sharp one, though thankfully not as long. At this point I’d managed to catch up to the second female and as I overtook her she said “I thought you’d get me as some point, Anna”. She was actually a girl from my club but as she wasn’t wearing a Hedgie vest I hadn’t recognised her. For the rest of the race I imagined she was right behind me. Whether this is accurate or not, it was a good motivator to keep me going.I saw my dad as I came back round past the finish area (not time to finish yet though) and lots of people cheered me on which was nice. I smiled but inside I was starting to fade. I told my dad, as I ran past, I wasn’t having a good race. I like to keep him updated so he knows not to expect anything magical at the end. I had some water (paper cups, excellent) and then was told by a marshal there was a sprinkler round the corner if I wanted to run through it. I replied, “hell yes!”. It was blissful.I was now hot, tired and struggling. The way the course goes, looping onto one section twice, means that you get to see the 4 mile marker when you’re around 3ish miles in. I remember this being demoralising the other times I’ve run it and it was equally so this time. To think I’ll eventually be back here and then I’ll have a mile to go shouldn’t be as disheartening as it was to me.

The marshals, as always, were super supportive and cheered us on. I was told I was second female and I started passing people on their first lap of that loop as I came back round to the four mile marker. I tried to cheer people on as I passed but it got harder and harder as I began struggling more and more. I found I was getting a stitch on and off and my breathing was becoming harder. My chest felt like it was restricted and my sports bra felt far too tight weirdly.A lovely Lordshill runner, Ben, started running next me and he helped push me along. I told him I wasn’t aiming to speed up or a sprint finish, I was now just aiming to maintain my second place position. I was on the pain train and I was not happy. I was so hot and my breathing so laboured. As we came back round to the finish area I couldn’t even raise a smile to anyone cheering me on. I hate ignoring people but I honestly couldn’t. I was just desperate to finish and desperate to breathe properly again. I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything like that before. I was literally gasping and grunting to breathe. It wasn’t like I was running super duper fast, I just couldn’t seem to get oxygen inside my lunges quick enough.The final stretch is a lap round (another) cricket pitch. At this point I honestly thought I was going to have to walk.
I had a sneaky look back to see if the third female was about but she wasn’t but decided to save face I couldn’t walk the final stretch. I kept going. I saw my mum and dad and they cheered me on and then FINALLY I finished. My mum said later she’d never seen me so laboured during a race and was genuinely worried.I literally had to sit down straight away after I finished. I was not in a good way immediately after the race. A lovely lady rushed over and made sure I was OK and handed me some water. I just needed to sit and breathe in the shade for a few minutes.
Blimey that was tough. I checked my watch… 33:47.Great, four seconds off my PB. But, on the plus side, second female. Another podium finish for the Beer Race! A happy streak to maintain. And then, of course, I took my cake and beer tokens straight to the cake and beer tents and got myself a happy reward.
The memory of the hard race quickly disappeared as I surveyed the selection. I imagine this is what child birth is like…Again, it was clear that things had upgraded with proper branded plastic glasses.I gave my beer to my dad (he deserved it with his stellar support as always) and then perused the cake selection. I had a MINT millionaire shortbread which was delicious.The beer was provided by the cool guys at a local brewery called Flack Manor.I also managed to find another cake token on the floor! Can you even believe that?? Only me eh! Ha! I got myself a beetroot brownie (gluten free apparently), which was very tasty. I also went back and donated some money to get a cookie as well… in for a penny, eh!

We also cheered the lovely Rebecca in, who was running this for the first time and the furthest she’s ever run! She smashed it. I’m so proud of her. She really is a legend.I then got to collect my second place prize. I’m very pleased to add another tankers to the collection. I’ve given them to my dad so he now has four – a lovely even number!It was a lovely day. Hard and hot but always a good atmosphere and a lovely set up. I even got a free sports massage at the end. Happy days! Definitely be doing this race again next year 🙂

Are there races you like to do every year?

Do you suffer from hay fever?

Do you like a race without a medal but something quirky like this?

parkrun, afternoon tea and dogs – a few of my favourite things

For once, I was in Southampton this weekend.

I went to Netley Abbey parkrun on Saturday and was (semi) glad to see that we were doing the cricket pitch course rather than the winter course as there was an event setting up in the area on the summer course. The cricket pitch course (five laps around, you guessed it, a cricket pitch) is an exceptionally dull course. It’s flat and repetitive. However, I prefer it to the winter course has six hills and can be windy.

I helped set up, which was super quick because it’s a simple course, but all on grass so I gradually felt my feet getting more and more wet due to the previous day’s rain. Mike had sensibly brought a spare pair of shoes but unfortunately for him had not brought a spare pair of socks… haha. Wet feet all round.

The barcode sign in the distance in the middle of the field…

I did a quick warm-up (just over a kilometre) and found my legs to be quite heavy and tired. I had umm’ed and arr’ed as to whether I’d put some welly into this run but I could see it probably wouldn’t be that fast. We lined up and headed off. I had a long-sleeve on and even gloves as it was that chilly that morning! It was just a bit of a miserable morning – so different to last weekend (I’m sure all the London Marathoners and Southampton racers were feeling a little cheated).

Photo Credit: Ken Grist

The first mile was a slog and I quickly realised a quick time (for me) wasn’t really on the cards but decided to keep with the effort level and get a solid tempo effort in. I ambitiously wanted to stay around 7min/miles but on the second lap it just felt like a total graft to maintain any sort of speed. There were also tricky areas to navigate through as the grass got more and more muddy.

Photo Credit: Ken Grist

A man was running next to me who was using a metronome – basically it audibly gives off beats so he could work on his cadence (As he told me afterwards). At first I thought I’d find it annoying once I began hearing it but then it became very rhythmical and nice to zone out too. We stuck together for most of the run.On the final mile (and God knows what number lap – I had to keep count on my hand) I felt myself have a spurt of energy. Probably because at this point I just wanted to finish the monotony of running in circles on sodden grass. I finished in 21:19 and a surprisingly high finish of 24 (2nd female). I think a lot of people were resting their legs after London and Southampton half/marathon last weekend.I helped close down and had a drink in the cafe after. Two of my running friends, Kate and her husband Mark, are heading to Devon and it was fun discussing the parkrun challenges of them trying to get all the Devon ones – apparently there are quite a few! I think down South we do very well with parkruns, there always seem to be new ones cropping up all over the place. This is both good and frustrating because just when I thought I was almost done with Bristol and Brighton they start creating new ones!

Later that day I went for afternoon tea with my friends from home. I hadn’t seem them in a while so it was nice to catch up. It’s mental to me that so many have had babies or are pregnant. While also discussing about turning 30 and arranging a big joint birthday party and how we’ all getting “old” I had a moment of, “shit am I a failure here?”.

It’s so easy to find yourself falling down that silly comparison hole. I absolutely do not want a baby right now. I actually couldn’t think of anything worse. I have a lot of plans I’m excited about and I love my life. I love the freedom I have, my holidays and running… not that having a baby means that everything you once loved disappears but it certainly means change and a whole lot more responsibility and proper adulting. But I think it’s so easy to let society tell you you should be living your life in a certain way, especially when you’re surrounded by people who are living that way. I don’t regret the choices I made and the way things have gone – I’m very happy with my life 🙂 Random tangent over!Now onto the important stuff… 😉 Afternoon tea was good but it was a bit too “delicate” for my liking. I’m a big fan of the big slabs of cake and chunky scones and regular sandwiches. Teeny tiny “pretty” cakes aren’t really going to cut it with me. That said, I was the human dustbin for everyone else so I did get a good share of extra cakes and sandwiches!The scones were delicious and the sandwiches were nice but I didn’t massively enjoy the tart (which was like a bland egg custard tart) and I’m never really a fan of creamy desserts that are like posh yogurts (I think it was a lemon posset?). My friend Anna (good name) said to me, “Don’t look behind you Anna, it will really upset you”. Obviously I did… a whole table with so many scones and cakes left behind. NOT EATEN. What!?

Anyway it was lovely to catch up with my friends and eat cake. Good times.

The next morning I met my friend Martin (who I ran the Gosport Half with back in November). I haven’t seen him for a good while so it was nice to touch base with him again, especially while doing a very scenic (albeit hilly) 13 miles. We did an out and back route through Durley which was really very pretty and, for the most part, car free. The hills were pretty savage though!After finishing the run I dashed home to shower and eat breakfast quickly before heading back out to meet Mike for a dog walk. Mike has a 13 week year old Siberian Husky crossed with a Golden Retriever who is just adorable, called Luna. I brought Alfie so Luna had a new friend. We met up in Royal Victoria Country Park (where parkrun is held) and walked round the field before heading to the dog fair that was going on.Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many dogs in one day! There were just so many. All of different breeds and sizes. Alfie was a little bit more wary of the other dogs – he’s very much a lone wolf, whereas Luna wanted to play with EVERYONE and EVERYTHING. Ahh the excitement of a little puppy. I remember when Alfie was like that. He’s almost nine years old. That is MENTAL. I still remember how tiny he was when we picked him up and he sat in my lap. I also remember feeding him a slice of apple and then him promptly throwing it up on my lap five minutes later. Lovely.Anyway, we walked round the stalls, chatted to other dog owners and enjoyed watching the “dog recall” competition (how quickly your dog runs back to you – there was a leaderboard and everything). Then we sat and had a coffee in the cafe outside while Luna enjoyed chasing every napkin that flew past her while Alfie rolled his eyes and tried to avoid getting jumped on.They got on well though despite the age gap. It’s a shame the weather wasn’t a bit brighter but thankfully we dodged the rain on all accounts.

How was your weekend?

Do you like dogs?

How many courses does your parkrun have? Netley has several!

What Fridays were meant for

One thing I love about my job is that usually every last Friday of the month we have a selection of organised cycles or runs (and swims, badminton sessions and walks!). You can get involved if you want, or not. This time we had three runs (a beginners, a 5k and a 9k), two rides (one fast and one more beginner orientated) and a walk.

I’d decided to do the 5k because I knew it would be a bit slower and ‘easier’ and as I was adding this as an extra run to my usual four, this would be perfect. I knew a lot of the people who would be doing it and it was a nice friendly crew (well, generally everyone at Wiggle are friendly but I knew these guys well from working with them regularly every day). I helped plan the route as the original route was going to be too muddy. It came out as about 6k but it would be better as it was going round the lake and we could stop when necessary to regroup or if people wanted to finish earlier they could.

We also had Gore in the office showing off their new nifty jackets and kit. They too were going to join us for the activities. Several people got to try their new jackets as well which was fairly well planned considering how rainy the afternoon was (Gore do great waterproof kit). It’s great with this aspect of my job, seeing new kit and meeting people behind the designs and the brand. It’s a bunch of people walk past and someone goes “Oh looks it’s the guys from adidas” and you get to see the new coming shoes. It’s often a “pinch me” moment at work with stuff like this…obviously amongst the scary presentations and boring parts of everyday work! I don’t intend on working in the sports industry forever as I know I’ll need to expand my horizons and learn more about the digital marketing industry in general in other sectors, but for now it’s pretty damn cool.So after a morning of rushing to get everything done that I needed to, at 2.30pm we congregated in the canteen before the run/cycle. Gore had also brought along Fabian Cancellara, their ambassador athlete. I won’t lie, I didn’t really know who he was (after a quick Google…he’s a four time world time trial champion and won countless of other cool races, like the Tour de France – I’m no cyclist so this is not really my area of knowledge!)But I still got involved in the shameless selfie situation obviously 😉It did make me laugh though as he took the phone off the girl who was going to take it and said “I can do this, I know the best angle”. No rookie selfie-taker clearly! Ha. He was super friendly though. He did seem confused by what I was wearing though asking if I was going to be cycling. Clearly I did not look like a cyclist! I explained there was also a run that was going on.

Then we got ready to head out for our run. We had a nice friendly crew of mixed abilities. My friend Kyle (who I sometimes go runching with) was leading the run but I helped out to take the front and he took the back for anyone who might get left behind. It worked well. Kyle had some serious amounts of enthusiasm and everyone joked that whatever he’d been taking we wanted in on it too. It was a fun run. Nice and relaxed, with everyone having a laugh and chatting.Annoyingly my adidas Boosts have run over 460 miles and really need to be changed but I won’t be picking up my new ones for a week and the Mizunos I thought I’d be able to wear feel dreadful. It’s so weird because I’ve worn those models before but they gave my foot cramp when I put them on and just felt SO structured and unwieldy. I’m thinking it’s better to go with an old pair of comfortable trainers than a new pair of uncomfortable ones.We didn’t manage to avoid the rain but luckily it didn’t tip down on us… Seriously lucky because I was off for dinner straight from work with my sister and didn’t particularly want to look like a drowned rat.The run felt so gentle and relaxed. I literally felt like I was jogging. I guess my marathon training is still helping. We had a couple of stop breaks to gather the group together when we separated out a bit and in the end did 3.8 miles.Then I quickly showered, did a bit more work and headed to pick my sister, Rachel, up so we could head for dinner at Cabana in Southampton in the new West Quay restaurant bit (the cinema there, Showcase, is amazing. Reclining seats and everything).

It was lovely seeing my sis and we caught up on life and the universe and ate some tasty Mexican/Brazilian food (I’m not really certain of the cuisine if I’m honest but it seemed a mix of that). I had chicken with a side of crispy cassava (a Brasilian root veg that were a bit like big chunky chips) and chicken wings. Delicious.Originally I’d planned on getting some pudding but decided to be sensible with my money… instead I enjoyed some Halo Top (Cookie Dough, best flavour) in bed watching Captain America: Civil War. I need to get up to date with the Marvel movies as I’d quite like to see the new Infinity War in the cinema. It looks crazy epic. Ice cream in bed with a good movie? Pretty good.

Do your work ever organise team events like this?

Are you into the Marvel movies?

How many miles do you use your trainers for until you replace them?

A whole lot of food and not as much running

Well done to anyone who ran the London Marathon, the Southampton Half or Marathon and everything in between! After the crazy Brighton Marathon weekend, this weekend was set to be a lot more chilled. Less running, more chilling, but still good fun and good food.

Saturday I was back at Netley parkrun for the first time in ages. Though Netley isn’t as close as some other parkruns near to where I’m currently living (Lee is just down the road and Fareham is about 10 minutes away), it’s my “home” parkrun. It’s where a lot of my running club and running friends go and as parkrun (and running really) is such a social thing for me, I’m happy to go that bit further. This time I was able to take James as well and show him how we do it daaaaan Saaaath (down South).

Happily it was the summer course – so instead of six hills on the winter course there are just three. It’s still a fairly tricky course though because you go over the grass a lot and it was quite damp and slippy. But I wasn’t aiming for a speedy time so it didn’t bother me. It was a lovely warm morning and the sun was shining. It’s so nice when you get days like this, though it’s always going to be a more sweaty run.I got to meet my friend Mike’s ADORABLE new puppy as well, Luna. Oh my god she was cute. Her fur is so so soft. It was her first time at parkrun (not running, supporting) and she’s only just been allowed outside for walks, so as you can imagine she was quite excited. I look forward to Alfie meeting her! I only managed to snap this photo of her… Anyway, it was nice to see lots of my running friends and catch up briefly. My friend, Mark, had recently had a knee operation so was easing slowly and sensibly back into running. His plan was to run 15 minutes and then walk the rest. He’s also one of the casualties of the change in GFA times for London, having got 3:04 at Chester in order to do London next year. I’m gutted for him.

Mark and I ran together. He’s a lot faster but as he’s coming back from the op my pace suited him and it was nice to run round together catching up. James was steaming ahead at the front – by some significant distance it must be said (I had anxieties on his behalf that he wouldn’t know where to go, despite knowing just how many flags are put out on the course having set it up many times myself.

The legendary Carlo (who raises so much money for charity running as the Cookie Monster and just being a general legend above next to James)

But still, part of my is very glad that I’ll never be in that situation where I’m leading the way and having to know exactly where to go rather than just follow those ahead!).My legs felt good post marathon (SOMEONE TOUCH WOOD IMMEDIATELY). Just a bit tired and heavy, but no niggles and no issues. Jesus, who even am I? It felt tough though running at a less than comfortable pace and I wondered just how the hell I managed the time I did at Brighton. Mark, precisely to the minute, stopped to walk and I carried on. I managed to get faster as the run continued and finished in 21:35 and second female.
James smashed it and came first (18:24). His first ever first position so he was chuffed. Six days after a marathon PB, not too shabby eh.New Brighton Marathon t-shirt – an actual female small that looks good and fits nicely. Happy days.

After Netley, we headed back to shower and eat breakfast before doing what any self-respecting seaside living Brit would do when there’s a tiny HINT of sunshine… head to the beach! We walked along from Hill Head down to Lee-On-Solent where we stopped for a lovely cup of tea and slice of cake in the Penguin Cafe. I don’t know why it’s called the Penguin Cafe but inside there are loads of penguin pictures and penguin themes. It’s random but lovely and friendly and the cakes and food well priced and delicious. How I’ve never actually been there in all the years I’ve lived on the coast I don’t know. But it was nice to pretend I was a tourist for a bit with James.It was hard though to choose just one piece of cake. The lure of chocolate won me over and I had a chunk of rocky road. Omg it was good. Big chunks of biscuit, cherries, marshmallows. Gooey, sticky, melty… heavenly. James had a slice of crunchy chocolate cake which was apparently delicious too (we rarely share food. This is a rule I’m very happy with).The towering many-layered lemon cake looked immense though so we both got a slice of that to take home of course. We decided though that as it was pretty much summer (let’s ignore the bit of rain we had on our walk…*cough*), ice cream had to be done too. I got a scoop of white chocolate brownie and a scoop of rocky road (obviously the chunk I’d just eaten wasn’t enough). Ahh exceptional.I’m such a sucker for anything white chocolate really. To think I used to not like it. I mean, what!?

OK now withhold your judgement here please… In the evening we headed to 7Bone Burger for dinner. In fairness we didn’t have lunch (just all the ice cream and cake…). But anyway, we both ordered the blue cheese and bacon burger and I had frickles (fried pickles) and we shared halloumi fries. Daaaaamn it was good. I mean, yeah probably horrendously bad for you blah blah blah but I don’t do this every day (God I just couldn’t. I’d die). *Cough* we then headed to Sprinkles. In retrospect, this was unnecessary.I got the “Sticky Situation”, which is essentially a whole lot of cookie dough, ice cream, white chocolate and cream. I couldn’t finish it. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME. It was just too much sweetness. My body rebelled and said no. I enjoyed what I ate (which was probably 75%) but it really pushed me over the edge and I needed a little lie down and a quiet word with myself. Why do I do this to myself? No regrets though because I’d been craving one of these for ages. I think I’ve had my fun though… time to get a bit less piggy. At the weekend I do enjoy my treats but this weekend was a little bit overboard.

The next morning we were up super early to get in a long run before the London Marathon coverage started on the TV. I say long run, but 10 miles doesn’t really sound “long” anymore since marathon training. That said, it did feel long. A strange oxymoron really because during marathon training 10 miles would have been easy peasy.

It was lovely and cool when we set off. James had forgotten his Garmin so I was the one to keep an eye on the pace… hard going when one of you is a lot faster than the other and you feel a bit like you’re dragging them back when you say “slow down a bit”.

It was a lovely morning, not too hot but still sunny. In fact it was perfect temperatures to be honest (if only the London Marathon and the Southampton half/marathon had started as early as we had it might have been a bit easier as it really heated up later for them).Happily for us we didn’t get too hot. My legs felt good, still a little heavy and tired, but no niggles. In fact it was a nice run to just zone out and enjoy. We followed the Stubbington 10k route for about five miles and then ran along the coast from Hill Head to Lee-On-Solent and back round to Stubbington again. It was a nice quiet run.Then it was action stations to shower, have breakfast and watch the London Marathon. It was a good watch but I truly felt for the mass runners who had to endure such hot temperatures and sunshine. What troopers. We were so lucky with Brighton and how cool we had it. I’m almost certain I wouldn’t have done as well as I had if it had been as hot as London was.

Didn’t Mo do well, eh! Very pleased for him to have gotten third. But how cool is Kipchoge – smiling and looking cool as a cucumber as he smashed it out for first place. And in the interviews before and after he just sounded like such a nice guy. Really down to hill and humble. Mo did make me laugh a little in the press interview with the top three men…taking selfies and messing around. A little disrespectful to the interviewer but let’s be honest, he was probably quite chuffed with himself and deserves a bit of fun.

For lunch I made cottage pie with sweet potato mash and it turned out quite well I think! Not a particularly summer lunch granted…but it filled a hole.So another solid weekend with a bit less running but lots of food. And time to think about some new running goals I think…

How was your weekend?

Did you watch the London Marathon?

Is your home parkrun based on location or something else?

The Brighton Marathon 2018

As I previously mentioned, I had fairly ambitious (for me) goals for this marathon. I was going to “go for it”. I haven’t done that for a marathon in a good while! I was going to start at 7:50s and see what happened, with the ambition to speed up as I went along (not crazily but enough to get close to my PB of 3:24:06).

But after chatting to James a bit the night before I decided to go out a bit faster. He made a good point that if I was going to go for it I should actually go for it with a pace that was a bit scary and was genuinely a risk. At least then if I blew up or it went wrong then it happened because I had the balls to try a tasty pace, not halfhearted one that wasn’t as tough. It needed to be a true test.

So anyway. The morning of the Brighton Marathon… woke up at 6.30am, had a black coffee, got my gear on and drove to a road near to Charlotte’s flat where parking wouldn’t be an issue with the road closures. Paddy, Charlotte’s hubby, was ready in his gear. Charlotte would be spectating (while simultaneously looking after their six week old baby, what a superstar!) as her road was literally next to the course.We made and ate our breakfast (porridge) at Charlotte’s and then headed to meet our taxi, to avoid having to have left super early to have walked the three miles to the Preston Park start. I almost drank my two year out of date Beet It! shot but decided to err on the side of caution and give it a swerve. It saddened me to throw it in the bin (I’m quite reckless with out of date stuff).We got to Preston Park where Paddy and I said goodbye to James, who would be heading to the fast start up the road (due to his fast predicted time – it gives the elites and faster runners a flatter first mile than the rest of the marathon field). I stupidly left my gels by accident in his bag, the numpty that I am. That was fine because though as I knew there would be High 5 gels on the course and I’m fine with them. In fact, it was nice to not have to carry any gels in my Flipbelt to be honest.Paddy and I then separated as we headed to our respective loo queues, which were SO long it was ridiculous. But hey ho, what else are you going to do? Then I made my way to my start pen, where I proceeded to stand in line for another portable toilet. I saw Stephanie briefly and we swapped pleasantries having only ever conversed through social media. So that was nice.The start went without a hitch and I was over the moon when Paul Sinton-Hewitt yelled “go Anna!” to me as I ran past (I had my name on my vest – he doesn’t really know me sadly). It really buffered me along though and I was smiling happily to myself, the parkrun nut that I am.

As we started we straight away hit an incline to climb. Oh man, I knew our first mile wouldn’t be flat but this was quite demoralising. Already my legs felt tired. My dream goal pace of 7:40 quickly disappeared as I was over 8 minute/miling up that bad boy. The incline (it was definitely an incline) went on for 0.6 miles. But then we had a nice downhill that, to be honest, probably evened up the first mile in the end. But it was a shock to the system to start that way.

I straight away found myself wanting to go too fast and had to focus on not getting overly excited. 26.2 miles is a lonnnnng way and though a pace might feel easy now it most certainly would not feel easy later. Keep focused on the goal Anna. Annoyingly I had cramp in my side. Nothing to stop me or slow me down but I did have to do some weird arm stretches and change my breathing up a bit, but it didn’t really shift.

At around three miles a runner friend, Matt, sidled up next to me. I know him through social media and we also ran together at a London 10k a year ago – I remember him dropping me half-way round as he was a lot stronger than me. He’s been having a crummy training time due to a niggly hip so had said he was going to take it easy as he also had the London Marathon the next Sunday (I mean, whaaaaaat). After chatting for a bit I glanced at my watch and realised we were running 7:10s so told him I was going to slow down as this pace was too fast for me. So he headed off into the distance. Happily my cramp had gone away too.

Part of me was a little sad to lose a chatting buddy but I knew I needed to be sensible and focus. I just find the first 10 miles of a marathon very dull. I don’t let myself listen to anything other than the environment around me. The crowds were great and the course was interesting enough to let my mind just wander.After five miles we hit the seafront and started to make our way along the coast past Brighton Marina and up to Ovingdean. It was somewhat undulating but not hilly. Eventually the front runners starting coming back the other way. The lead runner was so far ahead of the pack. It was fun watching them storming down at wincingly fast speeds.I picked up a gel from an energy station ready to take at mile eight. My plan was to take three gels. I can manage on one now in a “normal” marathon but because I was going for a speedier time I decided to go back to how I used to do it and have one at 8, one at 13 and one at 18. I remember taking to James about gels beforehand and how he had his orange flavoured High 5 ready and I poo-poo’ed it as I’m not an orange flavour fan at all, smug with my tasty Honey Stinger that I then didn’t get to use. All the High 5’s were orange. Wonderful.

As I came up to the turning to head into another mini out and back in the Ovingdean area I heard someone shout my name and spotted James heading back down the other side. It was a shame really that I’d been caught unawares because I’d been thinking of all the cool things I could shout to him if I did spot him during an out and back. All I managed was a pitiful “Go James!”. Ah well.

Then someone else called my name and I spotted the lovely Rob and Fi, friends from last year’s Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp.At first I just thought it was just a random supporter cheering my name because it was on my vest so I just smiled and waved. Then I spotted them properly and did a little screech and cheer. Always graceful and calm, me. Ha. It was lovely to see them.Then we finally headed back down the way we’d come. I heard someone next to me say “well that’s the last of the hills” and felt a huge relief. I mean there were a couple of undulations as we headed back down, but nothing to really kill you.

I was easily maintaining a 7.30-7.40 pace and feeling really comfortable. I was looking forward to allowing myself to listen to some music at mile 10 but otherwise I felt fresh and happy. In the back of my mind I knew I might crash later but as it was I was good for the moment and kept with it. Nothing risked, nothing gained. Mile 10 ticked by and I put my pre-planned playlist on. These were songs I was enjoying but weren’t GO GO GO tempo so wouldn’t suddenly rev me up or make me want to break out a 7 min/miler. I could lose my mind to the music and just drift along. The music would be low enough so I could still hear the crowds and marshals though.

Along the front the crowds were fantastic. I mean the crowds were great everywhere but especially this front. I honestly lost count of how many people cheered my name. I’m a bit of a loser in that I will try and smile at people and get them to cheer as well because it HUGELY helps me. Plus if you’re a supporter I know how nice it is to see someone genuinely happy that you’re there clapping them.

As we got towards half-way the crowds were quite thick and I felt buzzed along. People cheered my name over and over and I was so pleased to have chosen to wear my vest with my name on. I smiled at everyone and just fed off of the support. I’ve read a study somewhere where it says there are some runners who are super motivated by external factors, like music and crowds. That is me 100%. Give me cheering and music and I will truck along happy as anything. I was going a bit too fast for my original plan though but I decided to just go with it. It didn’t feel harder per se. But that said, I did have the voice in the back of my head saying “you’re going to crash soon…”.

I saw the lovely Lauren from my club and I squealed again. It was lovely to see her and have her cheer me on.What helped was knowing that there were people “watching” my progress through the Brighton Marathon app. Every time I ran over a mat I knew my times would be zooming their way to people’s phones who cared to track me. Especially my dad who I know would have loved to have supported me in person – especially as I was going for a time. I felt like I was doing him proud each time I ran over a mat as my times were consistent and I was well on track to my goal time.At mile thirteen I took another gel and started pouring water on my head as it was getting warmer. I was looking forward to reaching mile 15 as that’s where Charlotte would be. The miles just seemed to fly by at this point – where normally they’d be dragging. I always find 13-19 a real grind. There were so many people standing on the residential streets and waving to them, high-fiving and hearing them cheer passed the time so well.

At this point though I realised I probably could do with a wee. Now once you’ve thought that you need a wee it takes a lot for that thought to go away. It reminded me of the podcast I’d listened to a few weeks ago from BBC Five Live film review where Simon Mayo was discussing how his son said that runners in a marathon just pee and poo as they run. It was such a funny discussion I remember laughing literally out loud as I was running listening to it. Mark Kermode was so aghast.

To be fair, so was I. I’ve never considered just peeing as I run and certainly not pooing. I also don’t think I’ve spoken to any runner where this is the norm during a race. That said, you don’t talk about these things that often so who knows? Maybe I’m the minority. Anyway, as this discussion flitted through my head I momentarily thought, I could just pee as I run. But the sheer embarrassment of a) someone seeing b) someone SMELLING and c) then running along covered in pee just wasn’t worth the SECONDS I’d probably save myself. I didn’t want a PB that badly. I spotted a portable toilet on the other side of the road (for the runners coming the other way on the out and back) and relaxed knowing in a mile or so I could use an actual toilet.

I saw Charlotte on the other side of the road just after mile 15 and it literally made me squeal and cheer. She had Arthur strapped to her front (what a legend) and she waved and shouted. Ahh it was SO nice. Honestly, nothing beats someone you care about cheering you along in a race. It peppered me along nicely, especially as I knew I’d see her at mile 17 on the way back along the same road.

I also saw a man holding up a large sign for someone called Felix and he cheered me on saying he couldn’t believe I was smiling, which was nice.

(I took this photo before the race)

Sadly I passed Matt, who was suffering from hip pain. I tried to give him some encouragement as I passed. He still looked in reasonably good spirits though (and FYI still finished 3:35!). Then I was back to passing Charlotte again. Ahhh such happiness. And she had a proper crew with some friends and her neighbours who all cheered me along. I also passed the Felix man again and he laughed that I was still smiling. Weirdly I saw this man TWICE more before the end of the race. He laughed each time he saw me and called me “smiling girl”. I hope Felix did well!I jumped into that portable toilet I’d spotted and had a very quick wee before jumping out. Ahh relief. The next section was heading off towards the dreaded power station. I’d heard a lot about how depressing and quiet this area was. But I was feeling good, my pace still strong, nothing niggling and no issues. Without sounding arrogant, I knew that as long as I didn’t suddenly get an injury I had a PB in the bag. I took another gel at 18, made sure to keep sipping water and pouring it on my head (I liked that they were in paper cups – easy to squash up and create a small funnel to drink out of, easy to run over if there were loads on the floor and more environmentally friendly). At 20 miles I decided to wait until I was heading back to the finish area before switching my music over as I didn’t want to use all my energy with a spurt of speed too soon. Plus there were enough crowds to keep me going.

I smiled and waved to everyone I could. As I got to a turning point I smiled at a cheering squad and they gave me a huge cheer. Then later when I came back round to head back they were literally CHANTING my name. I’m not kidding. It was probably one of the best moments in the race for me as silly as that sounds. Anyway, as we ran through the power station bit there were all these stacked bits of timber and the smell was amazing. It was like one of those candles trying to be like a woodland forest. It was a nice smell.Then as I turned back to head to towards the finish (still about 4-5 miles to go) I switched my music to my “GO GO GO” playlist. As I got my phone out to do this I thought “ahh might as well” and snapped a selfie and a few pics. Had to be done!
I was passing people and feeling good. I remembered last week’s run where I was able to up my pace after my 10 mile run for the five mile race and that gave me confidence. I remembered the sub 7 minute mile I did at the end of the undulating Iron Bridge Half Marathon. I could DO this. We ran onto the prom and the crowds were solidly cheering and shouting. I literally smiled at everyone. I was in Happy Anna Marathon Land. I literally remember thinking “I bloody love marathons”. Yes I was tired, yes my legs were feeling like they’d been running for far too long, but I knew I had this and just had to HOLD ON.

I got to 23 miles (“parkrun to go”) and was able to up the pace. Just finish. Just get to the finish. Not long. I tried briefly to think about the time I might finish but I couldn’t work it out. Would it be a sub 3:20? Could I push for 3:18? I kept smiling and occasionally fist pumping (I know, what a muppet, but it works for me) which helped get the crowds to cheer me. I got to two miles to go and I was firmly on the pain train. It became harder to smile, harder to wave. I could just about nod to people and grimace smile my way along. The weather was turning slightly, a few drops of rain and a lot cooler. This was good.I saw the finishing straight and was overjoyed. ALMOST THERE. Not as long as the dreaded Dubai finishing straight which went on F.O.R.E.V.E.R. And right at the end I saw my other friend Mark, the Run Director of the Hove Promenade parkrun, and he gave me such a fantastic cheer. It was such a great way to cross the finish line. As I went underneath the timer I spotted 3:19:45. Omg sub 3:20!
I stopped my watch and did a double-take. 3:16:28 – WHAT??? I was literally in shock. And then, I walked straight into Paul Sinton-Hewitt – the parkrun founder. The next few minutes were a highly embarrassing fan girl flurry of gushing “omg I love parkrun” sentences of which I can only hope flattered him rather than terrified him. My phone was suddenly going off with James ringing me and my dad ringing me but I just had to get a selfie with the legend. He happily complied and honestly was the NICEST. He congratulated me on my run (and reassured me that if my watch time said 3:16 it probably meant I’d run that time and not the gun time on the board). He was so nice.

I then spotted another guy from my club who I’d managed to just pip at the end (I finished first in my club overall amazingly – OK there weren’t that many doing it but I will take it!). A guy then said hello to me saying he knew me from Twitter after photo bombing a previous photo of mine. How funny to see him at the finish line again then!

I probably made no sense to anyone I chatted to because I was literally on cloud nine. I spoke to my dad and he just cheered down the phone at me. He was over-the-moon, saying he knew I had it in me and how proud he was. I honestly could have cried. I got my medal and a water and then went to meet James.

James had finished in the CRAZY time of 2:56:38. Yeah. I know right. INSANE. So he was over-the-moon too. In my haste to meet him and in my PB haze I completely missed the goody bag pick-up!I could have gone back but I wasn’t that bothered. I had a water which was exactly what I needed at that moment.
As this has gone on already too long now, I’ll just say that James and me, both in euphoric PB happiness, hunted down some decent post race food from a fabulously lovely Mexican restaurant called Dos Sombreros where yes we did indeed wear our sombreros as we ate.
Sadly our eyes were bigger than our tummies and though we easily polished off the delicious chicken wings, we were both overwhelmed by the main course (I had fajitas while James had a burrito).My tummy felt somewhat delicate, but it’s OK because I was far too happy to care.Have you ever “gone for it” at a race with a time goal?

What’s your ideal post-race cuisine?

Do you like people to cheer your name when you race? I thrive off it.