Superheroes everywhere

I do love a bit of fancy dress, you might have noticed. I don’t know why, maybe because it’s good fun and a laugh. So when it was announced (though not too widely it seems) that for Netley Abbey parkrun’s 5th birthday they’d be a superhero fancy dress I was all game.

My friend Mike decided to go as Robin and my friend Geoff decided to go as Batman. Well, I’d been Batgirl before so I hunted online and found that superhero females were somewhat limited. I could be Supergirl or Catwoman it seemed. Catwoman’s outfit looked far easier to run in (streamline if you like) so I went with that.My friend, Tom, was also joining me for parkrun on Saturday so I skipped setting the course up and picked him up at 8.15am. So I had a bit of a longer lie-in which was nice. Tom is a fairly new runner and had been doing Lee-On-Solent parkrun so I was chuffed to be able to show him Netley. Though Netley is a harder course than the lovely flat LoS!We got there to find not many people had embraced the superhero theme, which was a shame but kind of understandable as a few people had asked where the notice of fancy dress had been posted as they weren’t aware. *Sighs*

Photo credit: Sheryl James

But I didn’t mind. I love fancy dress regardless. I was going to run with Mike as we’re kind of around the same speed at the moment, though I’m perhaps a little faster. I didn’t want to go to speedy so it would work out well. All week I’ve been being very careful with my ankle and though it was feeling pretty much back to normal I didn’t want to risk it. I say this, but really I didn’t fancy running fast and the ankle was a good excuse 😉

Catwoman, Robin and Batman

Anyway as we lined up I lost Mike in the crowds. Tom stayed with me and was planning on “hanging on” for as long as he could. His PB is around 25 minutes.

As we started I just decided to run as I fancied, which turned out to be a fair clip in comparison to what I’d intended. My other friend, Mark, caught me up with his buggy and ran with me which was nice. He’s a lot faster so running my speed with his buggy was probably a walk in the park for him.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

It was nice running with Mark as we could chat and I could take my mind off the fact that I was running faster than I’d planned.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

The final lap I stepped it up a gear… I was thinking of all the cake at the end. As it was Netley’s birthday a cake sale had been organised (that info had been far more widely circulated…) and I was keen to get a few pieces.

I finished in 22:43 which I was pleased with considering how windy it was. I scanned my barcode pronto and then headed to grab some cake.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

I love this photo because it shows me in my happy place 🙂 The cake sale was to raise money for the defibrillator that we’re trying to buy, so I was only doing my good deed of the day really.I had a slice of Victoria Sponge (exceptionally tasty I must say. I had spotted this cake on Twitter beforehand and was glad to be able to grab a slice!), a white chocolate fudge slice thing and a white chocolate cookie. Pretty good haul! Though nothing like the five slices of the week before. The cake sale raised just over £366!! This is fantastic. Well done to all the bakers! The real superheroes of the day.

Tom did really well, coming in around 27 minutes which he was pleased with given how much more hilly Netley is compared to LoS and how windy it was. He showed me the bottom of his trainer afterwards; the sole was coming off! I told him off for wearing such old trainers, tsk!

After parkrun, showering and all that jazz I met up with my dad later in the day for a spot of Nando’s and a cinema trip to see Logan. I decided to change my usual whole chicken order at Nando’s and be slightly more healthy and opt for half a chicken and a Mediterranean salad.The salad was delicious. It had huge juicy olives, lots of sundried tomatoes and good chunks of feta. But I was a bit disappointed with the size of the chicken (I KNOW, I told you I’m greedy). My dad had gotten half a chicken with a side salad and a cob so we both felt we could share five wings between us 😉

And then we headed to the cinema…where I met a few more superhero friends.Logan was fantastic. Very violent but really different to the normal superhero films. I mean, I love X-Men anyway but this was very different.

The next day I met up with Robin Mike and we headed out for a long run together. I’ve become such a fan of running with other people again. Normally I’m like a lone wolf but having people to run with is a nice change, especially my long run. Running a long run with Mike is also good because as he’s slightly slower than me it means he keeps my pace in check.

I ran about half a mile to meet him and then we did a 5 mile out and back route through some fairly quiet country roads. The route was quite hilly though so a nice challenge at times. It was a great run and the miles flew by, as they always do when you run with someone else. I must do this more! Then I added a little bit more on at the end as I ran home to get to 12 miles (8:38min/miles overall pace).

Happily my ankle felt absolutely fine (as it did the day before) and I enjoyed a normal run without issues. Ahh what a novelty eh!

As long as I remain running injury-free I’ve decided to do the London Marathon. I have a Good For Age place and was wondering whether to defer until next year as it was so close to Tokyo. But as Tokyo went well and, ankles aside, my recovery has been good I’ve decided to go ahead and do it. I’ll keep a watchful eye on any niggles that crop up or feelings of over-training but otherwise I’d love to do it. Again, no time goal but just to tick another Marathon Major off the list and FINALLY get London done.

How was your weekend?

What superhero would you choose to be?

Does your parkrun ever try and raise money?

Tokyo Recap – part 2

So to carry on with my Tokyo recap… (read part one HERE and the marathon recap HERE).

Warning: this is rather long post sorry!

The day before the marathon was really jam-packed. Because Chris (my new friend from the tour group) and I were thinking of running the marathon together we thought we’d better test out actually running together before fully committing. Basically to ensure neither of us were “Phoebe runners“. We met up in the hotel lobby in the morning and literally bumped into Wilson Kipsang and a bunch of other elite runners. I had a total fan girl moment by going up to him and asking for a photo.I did feel bad though as I didn’t recognise any of the other elites… so it was just Kipsang I had the photo or spoke with (he was lovely, more than happy to have his photo taken). They were then all herded off to a van with a guy who I assume was their coach/organiser where they were going for their own run.

Our run wasn’t quite as glamorous but still good. I was glad to have Chris with me as, let’s be honest, I could easily have gotten lost on my own or would have ended up doing a really boring out-and-back (with some cheeky undulations). Chris has a good sense of direction so I left the route to him! We were well matched in our pace and kept it nice and comfortable and chatted as we ran. We survived the run and decided we’d run together the next day – with the proviso that either us could ditch the other if the situation arose.

After the run and breakfast we headed out for the day. We started with going up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It’s a super tall high-rise and has a tourist observatory floor (202m high!) that you can go up for free. There are two towers so you can choose either North or South. I actually can’t remember the one we chose but it had a longer queue (as we got there just before it opened) so we figured we’d go with the most popular one.

Photos from Chris’ camera as it was better quality!

The views were amazing. You were behind glass so it wasn’t like the New York Empire State building but it was pretty good regardless. Each window had an explanation of what you could see which was cool. And on a more clear day you could apparently see Mount Fuji (actually on the last day I saw it from my own hotel room).

Then we headed out to walk to Yoyogi Park which is one of Tokyo’s largest parks. It was a really lovely walk and it’s where you can find Meiji Shrine, which we wanted to see.It was really beautiful. I think there was a wedding happening (though to be honest I have no idea I’m that culturally inept). Basically there were people all dressed fancily and there was a woman having her photo taken in a white dress. Though not a typical Western dress…but it was white. Who knows.Then from there we walked to the Shibuya area. I got swindled by a fake Buddhist Monk who gave me a bracelet and then demanded money from me. I gave him some change and then a Japanese woman ran up to us and basically explained that we were being swindled by a fake. It was nice of her to intervene. I got a bracelet out of it and lost some petty change so wasn’t too bad – the bracelet now reminds me to not be so stupid (probably need more than a bracelet tho…).

On the tour the day before we’d heard about cat cafes in Japan. Actually I’d heard about these before from Lily’s blog (always a good read for travel tips and London adventures). So I really wanted to find one. As we came out of the park we saw one straight away. Well we just had to go.It wasn’t really a cafe per se. You could get a drink but it wasn’t the main thing. You pay for the time you’ll spend in there (we paid for 30 minutes) and then you’re given a bit of cat food to entice the cats over and you sit and play with them. Rather odd… but fun! The cats were beautifully groomed and basically queens of their kingdom. They really were living the life.
You got some slippers and cat ears to wear while you were there. Very fun! Though we met a super intelligent American scientist working on the Juno project and I sat there chatting looking like a twat in a pair of fluffy cat ears.

After the cat cafe we were nicely placed to walk around Shibuya, where there were lots of shops. There were Japanese brands but also Western brands like Next, Laura Ashley, Body Shop, Nike, etc. It was great. After doing some shopping we found the nicest Starbucks I’ve ever been to.It was right at the top of one of the smaller high-rise department store and it opened out onto this beautiful roof-top terrace overlooking the city. Beautiful!I also enjoyed their blossom cup, which is apparently unique to Japan during the blossom season, though I found it amusing that I had to pay extra for milk!

We then found the very busy Shibuya crossing (next to the Shibuya Station) and watched the madness of one of the busiest crossings in the world happen over and over. Apparently it’s even more busy at night.Then it was time to hunt out some food. As I mentioned in a previous post we found a very small and cheap pizza/pasta place in the area and got our carbs sorted for the next day. The pizza was cooked just behind the counter in a proper pizza oven and it was delicious.

After more walking around we passed through Harajuku where we found two very brightly dressed girls…Then we meandered back to our hotel. As it was about 5 o’clock it was too early for dinner and we were fed up of walking so we decided to head to a bar in our hotel that we’d heard about. It was on the 45th floor and though rather expensive a lovely place to grab a green tea (mine was infused with apple!) and watch the sunset.Bliss! After 36,000 steps this was definitely a nice way to chill. We’d booked for dinner in the hotel restaurant for that evening so that was nice and easy too.

Then the marathon happened…go check out the recap!

After the marathon it was time to fully relax and enjoy ourselves. Chris and I headed out to find some food and had a meal in a tiny little restaurant in Shinjuku. The only problem was we had no idea really what we were ordering…

There was a salad bar buffet with unlimited miso soup which was nice (below photo). But I ordered chicken and it came raw. The waiter then turned on the grill in the centre of the table (we were wondering what that was…) and with comical sign language directed us to cook the food on there.Though the meal was very tasty (we also had rice with a raw egg on top that the waiter quickly mixed into the rice in front of us to cook it), it didn’t quite hit the spot. Bare in mind we’d only had breakfast, run a marathon and it was now about 5pm (and I have a bottomless pit of a stomach). So we went on the hunt for some more crepes.

Instead of crepes we found a fabulous little pudding cafe in Shinjuku (seemingly the only one in Tokyo, they really don’t go for their sweet stuff!). We saw two girls sharing this epic looking bread-pudding thing and immediately knew that was for us. We ordered a chocolate banana one to share and I had a Royal Milk Tea. The tea was basically super milky tea but it was delicious! I’m going to try and recreate at home…so comforting.The pudding looked AMAZING. I mean it was massive. Basically very slightly sweet bread (kind of like iced bun bread? In fact I’m not entirely sure it was sweet…) filled with chunks of toasted bread, a scoop of ice cream, a bit of custard sauce, cream and banana slices.If I’m honest, it looked a lot better than it actually was. Don’t get me wrong, it was tasty and we enjoyed pulling it apart but it wasn’t that sweet – one scoop of vanilla ice cream, a tiny bit of custard and cream… it was more bread than anything. We left most of the sides because it was just bread at that point as we’d eaten the more tasty elements. It was nice to try it but it didn’t satisfy my sweet tooth or the marathon runger within.

[Also, random note, but I love that they give you a warm cloth before meals so you can clean your hands!]

Then we headed back to meet up with others on the tour group to go to an Irish bar for a few drinks. It was nice being on the tour because you instantly had a connection with the other people: everyone loved running, had similar goals of completing the Majors and basically were just nice people. It was nice because you could all chat about how the marathon went. Normally at this point I’d be home and my family would be fed up of talking about it. But everyone wanted to talk about it!

I enjoyed quite a few Coroners and had a really good evening. We stayed until closing and as we walked back, Chris, another guy and me decided to needed a bit more sustenance. McDonald’s it was!

Now I haven’t had a McDonald’s since I was about 14. They’re not really my thing, but honestly it was absolutely necessary. And it absolutely hit the spot.I ordered a chicken burger and fries with a Diet Coke (DIET COKE! I missed this!) and after seeing the other guy (for the life of me I can’t remember his name) eating a Chocolate Triangle Pie I ordered one of those too (“premium cocoa and almond in the crust with a chocolate cream filling” Source). Flaky, warm, deliciousness.

The next morning I woke up at 4am not being able to sleep (I actually sent in my Marathon Talk submission for their Listener Podium, which was probably unwise after hearing my jumbled submission on the show last week…. Though I happily came second on the podium – the first lady was the lady I shared a cabin with at the Run Camp, by the way she’s over 60!).

My roomie also couldn’t sleep so we sat chatting for a bit. I idly checked the BA app to see if I could check in to the flight (we were flying that morning) and spotted that it said the flight was delayed. BY A DAY! What?? Panic and a mad FaceTime conversation with my dad ensued (dad’s always know what to do, Anna’s never do).

After a song and dance we had breakfast, headed to the airport as normal and had BA tell us we were delayed by a day. We were given food vouchers for lunch at the airport, a room at a nearby hotel (with free bus shuttles) and dinner and breakfast taken care of. Not too shabby!

A group of us, led by a very savvy and chirpy American, quickly organised a trip to Tokyo Disney which was about an hour away. About seven us made a mad dash to grab the next bus to the hotel to drop our bags off, to then come back to the airport to grab the Disney shuttle.Whew! We got to Disney just before midday.We were like little kids when we got into the park (we went to Disney Sea as it had more rides and attractions for adults).All the females in the group bought Disney ears and we giggled our way round the place.Tokyo Disney is good fun. It was fairly busy – literally full of kids in school uniform everywhere. Most of the rides had an hour plus to queue for them. But we mastered this by doing the Single Rider queues and managed to get on a fair number of rides. The one ride was couldn’t single riders for was queuing inside which I didn’t mind at all because it was VERY cold outside. It was actually quite fun to be amongst so many Japanese kids – so many cultural differences! So fascinating. And we’d only have been waiting around at the airport anyway so really it didn’t matter to me.However as the day got later and the sun started to disappear, I just got too cold to stay for much longer. Chris kindly said he’d leave with me so we headed back to the hotel together. I fell asleep on the bus back – it had been a long day!

The meals (both dinner and breakfast) were amaaaazing. So much food to choose from. I honestly had about three plates each time. At dinner the pudding was pretty cool – the pink fountain was kind of like strawberry sauce?? There were waffles, pancakes, mousses and cakes as well as Japanese sweets such as Daifukus (I had to google…”a glutinous rice cake stuffed with sweet filling, most commonly anko, sweetened red bean paste made from azuki beans” [Source] – oooh er.).

And another interesting thing in my hotel room (I now had my very own room, thank you British Airways) were a pair of pyjamas left on my bed, apparently complimentary for me to use. How very strange!

The only thing to add is that on the plane back most of us had done the marathon and everyone recognised or knew each other. A super friendly flight 🙂

After that VERY lengthy recap (apologies), I have to say I enjoyed Tokyo far more than I thought I would. I saw far more than I thought I would! I thoroughly enjoyed both the marathon and the trip.

Have you ever been to Tokyo?

What cultural differences have surprised you in different countries? If I thought people in America went Disney-mad it was NOTHING compared to the Japanese. Everyone, literally everyone, was wearing something Disney.

Has your flight ever got delayed? This was my first ever delay. It’s nice to know I should get just over £500 in compensation from BA for it.

Two cities, two runs, and two tasty meals

Well I have definitely had a bit of a whirlwind start to the year. Going to Orlando, then going to the Marathon Talk Run Camp and then going to Tokyo… And the fact that last weekend (the first weekend after Tokyo) I went to Bristol and then Swindon. So I’m really looking forward to a weekend of doing nothing!

To be fair though the weekend was really good. I drove up to Bristol and spent Friday night with my friends, Kate and Jamie (the ones I went to Orlando with). We had a nice home-cooked meal (with chocolate cake, love my friends) and then a gentle evening of TV watching. Exactly what I needed!

In the morning we didn’t have time for parkrun before picking up another friend from the train station so I got out early-ish to do a quick 3 miles on my own. Well, it was supposed to be a 3 miles until I got lost and ended up doing over 3.6 miles. Not too bad by my usual standards. I just couldn’t seem to work out what road I’d come down. It was OK though as I found a pretty pond and water feature to take a selfie with when I got my phone out to check where I was 😉The weather was just lovely and the scenery very pretty so it had to be done though I kind of wish I hadn’t got the bin quite so prominently in the photo!

The run felt good. It was the second run I’d done since the marathon. On Thursday night I’d run with my friend, Mike. Stupidly we’d gone almost 8 miles… I really shouldn’t have post marathon because, well, I’m so fragile and injury prone but we had a lot to catch up on. We call these runs “therapy runs”. Mike’s a good friend and we always have good chats about life and the universe on these runs. My legs definitely felt heavy and it was a slog but it was a good run regardless.

Anyway Saturday’s run felt better. Then I got back and got ready to head out for a day of fun with my friends. We were celebrating Kate’s birthday and were heading to one of those “locked in” room games, called Puzzlair. We’ve done one previously and it was brilliant. This one was very similar but equally as stressful.The people that ran it was so friendly and helpful. The whole reception area was covered with people leaving feedback all over the walls, it was quite impressive. The idea behind the game is that you get locked in a room that’s full of clues. You have one hour to get out of the room. There are things to open using codes and keys that you have to find everywhere. It’s such good fun but you really do have to think hard and clearly. If you get really stuck there’s a TV that gives you clues (the organisers watch you and so can help you when you need it). But even those tips are still cryptic. We got out with 2:35 mins to spare!From there we headed to a really tasty Lebanese place that I’ve been to before and loved. We ridiculously over-ordered. I mean, we would have been OK had there been four Annas not one Anna and three normal people…It was so tasty; lots of lamb koftas, lamb cutlets, chicken wings, prawns, shawarmas, couscous, flat bread, rice…and lots more. It overcame us (yes, even me. I was clearly having an off-day). We got it wrapped up to take back though. I was staying with Kate again for Saturday night so dinner was sorted!

The next morning I headed off early to meet my new friend from Tokyo, Chris, in Swindon for a run. He’s an off-roading pro and offered to give me a fun running experience just outside of Swindon. He warned me it would be hilly and muddy so I came prepared with my trail shoes. I rarely do any off-road running and I’m keen to get more into it as I need to change things up from all the road running. I’m hoping that’ll help keep me more injury free as well!

He’d picked a fantastic route, just a small section of the Ridgeway (apparently the oldest road in Europe! And part of the iconic Race to the Stones ultra race). We parked up and ran a 4.5 mile route out and back. It was muddy straight away but then we headed across grasslands which was a lot easier underfoot. The wind was behind us which was great…but as we were doing an out-and-back not so great for later.

The views going up the hills was really beautiful. I twas a fantastic run where the miles just ticked off because there was a lot to see and the terrain so varied, going across grass, up hills, along stones… it was a lovely run.As we turned around at 4.5miles (after a rather punishing steady incline) the wind was right against us. Then the rain began. It got very tough. Honestly, the last two miles of the run with that icy wind blowing strongly against us (I felt like I wasn’t even moving, or worse getting blown away at times!) I truly believe that the last two miles of the marathon the other week were easier! It was funny because though Chris might have struggled a little on the marathon he seemed absolutely fine against the elements and off the road. I really had to dig deep and have a word with myself. It’s amazing how you can be OK at running one type of terrain but completely out of your comfort zone in another. I was glad that Chris had seen me running at the marathon otherwise he might have thought I was pants at running (and a moaner…).

We couldn’t even talk much (and not just because I was slowly dying), the wind was so strong I couldn’t hear a thing! By the end of the run I was shattered but felt really accomplished. I survived!Embarrassingly when I uploaded the run to Strava I wrote “ridiculously easy” run as the title, meaning “ridiculously windy” – no idea how “easy” came up! It was only when a friend commented that I realised. No it was 100% NOT easy!!As I hadn’t had any breakfast or a coffee that morning and we were both very cold (even though I wore gloves my hands were freezing – I don’t know how Chris managed without any on), we headed straight to Starbucks. We were covered in mud and looking a state (well, my hair was definitely something to behold!) but I just needed a hot drink. Then we got showered and sorted and headed out for a lovely pub lunch. Exactly what you need after a windy, cold and hilly run!

We went to the The Harrow Inn in Swindon and it was lovely, a very cosy country pub. I had a butternut squash soup to start (so thick and tasty) and roast pork shoulder for a main.There was veg as well but I was too hungry to snap a proper photo. It was really tasty and filling. We both spotted something on the pudding menu that took our fancy (brownie for me, no surprises there) but sadly they didn’t have the sticky toffee pudding for Chris so we decided to give it a miss. We were quite full anyway (who even am I right??) so it wasn’t too bad.

Then it was time to head off home and finally be reunited with my furry little friend, Alfie, who I hadn’t properly seen since before Tokyo. A lovely weekend with lovely people 🙂

Have you ever done a locked in room?

Are you good with solving puzzles and clues?

What’s your favourite roast dinner?

Tokyo Recap (with the Tokyo Marathon Expo) – part 1

I literally don’t even  where to start with my recap of the Tokyo trip. It definitely exceeding my expectations!

I‘ve decided to write this up in two portions: the first one a few days before the marathon, and then the second the day before the marathon and the after math. Sorry if I’ve waffled too much!

Yes I was looking forward to the trip – it’s Japan after all and I’ve never been to that side of the world. But I was concerned about the marathon and how that would go (no change there then…) and it was only a very short trip with a ridiculous 12 hour plane journey and nine hour time difference.

The plane wasn’t actually too bad. I’d had a nice big meal at Giraffe and had a plan to watch one film, then take a couple of melatonin tablets and then attempt to sleep.Yes it would be late afternoon UK time but I was keen to get into the time zone as soon as possible (it would be very late evening Tokyo time). Well it didn’t quite work out that way and I only managed three hours of disjointed sleep (the tablets did help tho to get me off to sleep gently). It was just too noisy and I was too uncomfortable to sleep long periods.

The plane, by the way, was completely full, which surprised me actually. And I’d say 80-90% we’re going purely for the marathon. Either to run it or to support someone else running it. Honestly you couldn’t move for people discussing their PBs, last races and marathon game plans. There were a lot of skinny people on that flight I can tell you!

It quickly became apparent that most people were doing exactly what I was doing: getting through the Marathon Majors (Chicago, New York, Boston, London, Berlin and Tokyo). I mean I guess it makes sense, it’s a long way to randomly run a marathon. I felt woefully inadequate with “only” having run two of them.

After the long journey, we arrived at Narita airport. I enjoyed my first Japanese toilet experience… I wasn’t brave enough to try the different buttons (yet!) but I did enjoy the heated seat 😉Our tour group met up (by the way, Sports Tours International was absolutely fantastic. I can’t recommend them enough for making everything easy and simple!) and I found I was standing amongst lots of people who had either made friends on the plane or were there with their support person… I had sat with a lady from another tour group on the plane so felt a bit alone. I started chatting to a guy who looked around my age and was also alone. It became apparent that neither of us were psychos and that we got on well so we stuck together. His name is Chris and we spent most of our time together on the trip, which was nice because I had visions of me wandering aimlessly around Tokyo on my own!

The tour company took us via coach straight to the Expo. This was actually perfect as the Expo is quite a way from the centre of Tokyo where we were staying and though the company provided transfers to the Expo on any of the days leading up to the marathon, it was nice to get it done straight away before the rush.I have to say as expos go, this wasn’t the best. It was fairly small and quite a sensory overload. I’m sure this is just a cultural difference but it was a lot Japanese being shouted at you while being handed leaflets you couldn’t read. Everyone was super polite but it was a bit crazy after my lack of sleep.There were a few samples of strange Japanese products (sweets, strange dried food, a nonalcoholic beer, etc.). And a stand of tomatoes…a big thing for aid stations apparently!The clothing section was just ASICS (the sponsor) and asides from the official jacket it wasn’t great. I was a bit disappointed as I remembered Boston and Berlin being amazing with so much to waste/spend your money on. I bought a jacket and that was it.Then Chris and I headed for some food in a food hall as it was lunch time.So my first experience of Japanese food wasn’t exactly the most authentic but it filled a hole and was quite tasty. I had a chicken steak and a burger steak with rice and vegetables. And it quickly became apparent Diet Coke isn’t a thing in Tokyo sadly!

After getting back and having a MUCH needed shower, we headed out to do some exploring. Our hotel (which was lovely! And also where the elites were staying) was really central in Shinjuku.

So we walked to the madness of the main area of Shinjuku which was just a craziness of colours, sounds and busyness. Honestly it was quite overwhelming on such little sleep! But it was fantastic. I didn’t know where to look. There were just so many tiny little restaurants everywhere and arcades screaming multi-colours and sounds. Eventually after walking around just soaking it all in, we found a tiny little restaurant for dinner. I say restaurant but really it was more of a cafe.And the meal was delicious. I found I was quite adept with my chopstick skills but that towards the end of the meal my hand would get tired! It was pork stir-fry with white rice, miso soup and dumplings. Very nice!Thankfully I managed to get a good night sleep that evening – which was good because I’d randomly signed up last minute to the Mount Fuji trip that Sports Tours International had offered and we were off fairly early. After a delicious buffet breakfast (there was a lot to choose from, from more Western options like scrambled egg and bacon, to ratatouille and fish – I went for a mixed bag)…We then headed to the beautiful Lake Ashi to see the mountain in the distance. Unfortunately the clearest views we got were from the coach as we drove alongside it…But the lake was gorgeous and you could still see Fuji in the distance, though with more cloud coverage. I tried my first ever matcha latte which was quite tasty though quite sweet.And then we headed off to a little town where we could do a bit of shopping (lots of little Japanese shops selling traditional Japanese craft work and food). There was also this shop that sold lots of Japanese treats and the best part was that you could try them all as there were tester boxes everywhere!! I was in my element.We then got lunch, which was another buffet – which I love as it means you can try everything!From there we headed to a rather odd but fun pirate boat which took us across a lake so we could see the views from there and then take a cable car to a volcanic valley (called Jigokudani: the Valley of Hell) in Owakudani, Hakone, where there was a huge crater and lots of sulphuric smoke rising up everywhere.The area of the crater was famous for its black chicken eggs, which are basically just normal chicken eggs but boiled for an hour in water containing sulphur and iron. Obviously I had to try it!Yeah they just tasted like regular boiled eggs and they looked exactly like normal eggs inside. But worth a try!

The day was fantastic! I’m so pleased I signed up to it. I found out a lot about Japanese culture as well as on the coach the tour guide was a lovely Japanese lady and she explained so much about life in Tokyo and how things were.

We got back about 7pm and so headed out to find some dinner. I was ravenous at this point and unfortunately quickly found out that Friday night in central Tokyo is a busy busy place and despite there being hundreds of restaurants everywhere, to get a seat anywhere was proving to be virtually impossible. Eventually we found a little restaurant. It felt like quite a hipster place (if that exists in Japan!). There were young Japanese guys looking rather fashionable and smoking. It’s so odd (and unpleasant) that people can smoke in restaurants!Unfortunately the waiter spoke limited English and after lots of pointing, hand gestures and facial expressions we were able to order. It was kind of like Tapas… you ordered a bunch of small things, like deep fried sweet potato, pork, a single chicken wing (yep, had to be done), tofu in broth and squid dumplings (in the photo). It was very tasty but it wasn’t quite enough for me. 

Luckily I’d already clocked a pudding spot on our journeys…We enjoyed a very tasty fruit, cream and chocolate sauce crepe. It made me laugh when the server asked if I wanted a spoon… like how would I eat this otherwise?? Then it was off to bed. The next day Chris and I planned to have a shake-out run to test the waters to see how running together would be (we were thinking of running the marathon together as we seemed well matched in pace and goals). Then we had a jam-packed day planned to hit several different tourist sites we wanted to see…

Have you ever been to Tokyo before?

What’s your favourite crepe topping?

Do you like Japanese food?

Marathon Talk Run Camp 2017 recap

So this was my third time going to the Marathon Talk Run Camp in Sandy Balls in the New Forest. Marathon Talk is a running-focused podcast hosted by two genuinely lovely and knowledgeable guys, Martin Yelling (running guru for lots of publications and races) and Tom Williams (MD of parkrun).

I love listening to the podcast on my long runs and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the previous two run camps I’ve been on so I pretty much signed up straight away as soon as it became available. I knew a few others who were going, though some of them couldn’t make it in the end which was such a shame 🙁 but I still got to see my running friend, Adrian, who went to the last one and I ran Fareham parkrun with a while ago.

I arrived on Friday night and met my fellow housemates. There was a married couple and two female friends who I was sharing with. What was nice was that I got a room to myself as the friends were happy to share their twin room.The cabins have a little kitchen, two bathrooms and a lovely lounge area with a fire. It’s very cosy but fairly basic. Sandy Balls is a holiday camp set in the middle of the New Forest so the scenery is beautiful with forests all around you.

That evening we headed out to meet other Marathon Talkers around a fire pit and toasted some marshmallows.It was nice to chat to lots of different people. I got to chat to Dan from Xempo, who does all the Marathon Talk clothinig. He was so lovely. A really nice and funny guy. I mentioned to him that I was considering running to the Moors Valley parkrun the next day as I wasn’t going to be able to stay for the Sunday long run. He said that his fellow housemate, Andy, was thinking of doing the same. Funnily enough I realised I knew the Andy he was talking about from Twitter. Though I found out he was a sub 2:40 marathoner so that concerned me a bit that I might hold him up a bit!

After chatting to Andy I managed to persuade him to definitely run it…and he handily said he’d figure us out a good route (the route I’d planned was all road and a bit dodgy with the traffic, true Anna-style planning of course!). He wasn’t entirely happy about getting up earlier than he’d need to for the parkrun but I won him round 😉

The next morning we met after 7am and headed out for the 9 mile planned run he had. This run was fantastic. The route was perfect. It went pretty much all along New Forest trails so off-road and through beautiful countryside. Over styles, along a river, through boggy areas… it was fantastic! We saw lots of wildlife and even had a dodgy moment of almost getting stampeded by horses but it was fiiiiiiine.

Though it was snowing when we set off, I’d worn too many layers and by mile two was feeling rather hot. The pace was good though probably faster than I would have run on my own – but that was nice to be challenged a bit. And there were several stops of jumping over styles and things like that. Though I did worry that I was going too slowly for this marathon pro!We arrived at Moors Valley parkrun with a good amount of time to spare. My pace is all over the place due to the trails and hills.Just enough time to lose our lovely warmth and get cold again! Our smugness of being nice and toasty while everyone around us was shivering quickly disappeared.We had a quick Marathon Talk group photo and then headed to the start. Moors Valley parkrun has definitely expanded since I last did (a year ago) as there were so many people – and not just the influx of 100 or so Marathon Talkers!

Source: Marathon Talk Facebook page

I was going to run with Adrian as he was semi-injured so would be going slower than normal (he’s normally a lot speedier than me!). We positioned ourselves badly though and the first 200m we were stuck behind a lot of people who were going slower than us. This was our fault not ours and we managed to politely (I hope!) navigate past them and get into a good stride.

A lovely woman, Pippa, ran with us too which was nice as did Andy. Then Andy dropped us as he speeded ahead, then Adrian and I peeled away from Pippa, then Adrian peeled away from me! It was quite funny how that worked out. I just didn’t have a sprint finish in me at all on my heavy legs.In the end I got 24:30 (151st! So many runners) which I was happy with after the 9 miles.Then we headed to the cafe to have some breakfast. I’d already decided on a fry-up because I was really craving one. And I knew I wouldn’t be eating lunch because by the time we got back and I got sorted we’d be heading out for another Marathon Talk chat and then interval session. I wanted to do the intervals (gently) as I wanted to increase my miles for the day. I’d done 12 already but I ideally wanted 16 as I wouldn’t be doing a long run the next day.The fry-up was perfection. I got to talk to Scotland’s parkrun ambassador, Terry, which was really interesting. He’d been to a previous Run Camp so he was a familiar face. it was interesting to hear about what an ambassador does and the differences with Scottish and English parkruns.

Then I thankfully got a lift back with Pippa and her husband and then chilled in the cabin with my housemates chatting about random running-related stuff. One of my housemates, Patricia, is also doing Tokyo so it was interesting to speak to her about it. She got a good for age place which I didn’t even know existed! This would be her final Marathon Major so she’d be picking up her amazing HUGE medal as well as her Tokyo one. How cool!

Then we headed to the conference area where we had a talk from Liz Yelling and Professor Andy Lane (one of my housemates!).
It was fascinating to hear Liz talk about her training, the mental and physical sides of being an elite runner and now being a non-elite and adjusting to that side of life. Professor Andy was really interesting as well, as he was last year. He talked about the psychological aspects of training and having several goals for a marathon rather than one. And not just having outcome goals but process goals so you’re hopes aren’t stacked against one thing that is in the hands of so many elements, not just your ability. For example, run with good form (like if you know the way you swing your arms needs correcting, focus on that) or focus on having fun and taking photos rather than I MUST GET SUB-4. Because ultimately a marathon is such a long way to go and there are so many factors that are out of your control that it is really setting yourself up for a fall if you just have one time goal… good stuff!Then we headed out for some intervals. I wasn’t planning on doing a full effort session but just wanted the extra miles and to “be involved”. We headed out a mile very slowly in convoy to an area just outside Sandy Balls. The views were amazing!We were divided into groups depending on our 5k time and I made sure I sand-bagged my time so I wouldn’t be tempted to go full effort. The session was 1k at tempo speed with 15 seconds break before a 300m full-on effort, then 5 minutes break – four times.In the end though I did run faster than I would have but it was nice to have some speed on my legs, even if it was fairly tough. I did feel a little bad as everyone was in pieces around me but I was OK relatively speaking.Then we headed back for a mile cool-down back to the cabins. So a total of 18 miles for the day! I felt pretty damn pleased with myself. I had a nice hot shower back at the cabin and then chilled out again next to the fire while chatting to the others about social media, races and life in general. It was great.

I was SO hungry though by 6.30pm when we all met up again for dinner. Annoyingly though we were one of the last tables to get called to go up and get our food. I was practically climbing the walls with runger. Yes, my own fault as I should have planned food better but there never seemed to be a great time to eat something – either having just run or about to get running. I did have a few snacks but obviously nothing huge.I made up for that by piling my plate high with chilli and chicken curry (weird combination but to be honest at that point I didn’t care) with rice and salad!We then had another talk from the truly inspiring and amazing Vassos Alexander who told us all about his ultra running craziness. Like how he ran around London ALL NIGHT before heading to his breakfast radio show in the morning. He said he stopped for an espresso but otherwise just kept running. He was such a lovely, lovely guy. I’ll definitely be buying his book! And he’s currently in the process of writing another one. What I liked was how he said he was offered money to write a kind of sports “tell all” book as he’s interviewed so many sports stars but he really didn’t want to as he wanted to remain trustworthy and genuine.I went up to him afterwards to speak to him and he was just so nice. I did have a bit of verbal diarrhoea though by blurting out how I didn’t actually listen to Radio 2 but was more of a Radio 1 listener and how my dad would kill me not getting a photo with him. He found this amusing thankfully!

I also got my usual photo with Martin and Tom… I do feel awkward asking for a photo from them but they’re so lovely that they didn’t make me feel like a silly fan girl.After a fun quiz, which our team (the Camp Runners) did terribly at, I had to go home. I had lots to do the next day and I needed a proper lie-in. I was sad to leave and sad to miss the next day’s fun but it had to be done. I loved the time I did spend though. I will be signing up straight away for the next one as it’s just so good. So much fun, so much good advice and information, so many nice people and a way to connect with other runners. I love it. I fully recommend coming if you can!

Have you ever been to a running camp?

Do you often do intervals?