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?

Rants and Raves #40

I am in a very happy place right now. Life is good. I mean, a marathon PB does do that to you, but life in general asides from that is going well too. Here are some bits and bobs I’m loving and ranting about lately.

Rave: I had literally one of the best Mondays. My work had organised a bake sale to raise money for Stand Up To Cancer and it just so happened to be on the day after I’d run the Brighton Marathon. Usually the day of the marathon straight after you don’t feel like a whole lot (despite having dreamed of all the food you’ll eat). Though I did refuel well, I was more than ready the NEXT day to celebrate with a lot of sugar.Literally I was the first one at the cakes when the email was sent around and I loaded my plate up. For my first round, I had a slice of Victoria sponge (heavenly. Normally I’m not that big a fan as I find it a bit dull but my god this was a good one), a salted caramel cupcake and a white chocolate cookie.The salted caramel cupcake was very gooey and so delicious. Post lunch I had round two, another salted caramel cupcake (it was just so good the first time), another slice of Victoria sponge and a salted caramel crepe (which I heated in the microwave). And in the afternoon, PURELY to be polite to my friend, I tried his chocolate cake… gahhhh so good.So I definitely think I’ve caught up with what I burnt the day before 😉

Rant: Still on the subject of cake… Right each to their own and all that, but it hurts my soul that Victoria Beckham had a watermelon cake for her birthday. Not a cake in the shape of a watermelon but a cake made of watermelon (some may argue that that’s not even a cake).She’s always been rumoured to not eat much and be super conscious of unhealthy food (and is super slim) so I’m not entirely surprised but COME ON. Just have a slice of cake. (Obviously I’m making a snap judgement here purely on what she projected to social media and have no idea if she did eat cake in her own time blah blah blah so this might be an unfair comment, but whatever).

Rave: OK this is one for the ladies predominately. I’ve recently downloaded Clue. It’s a period tracking app.Now I am a big fan of apps that track stuff. I track my running, my steps, my sleep, sometimes I’ll have a mosey on MyFitnessPal if I want to know the nutritional value of something (I don’t track meals or food though – that would probably trigger me to become overly obsessed, which I certainly don’t want to be). But anyway, I like stats and data.

I love this app because you can fill in lots of lovely detail about your cycle (god I hate that word) – I won’t go into the specifics, but you know what I mean. Lots of things are affected by your hormones and period so you can fill out this data and then after a few months it can help forecast and predict things for you. It also tells you when you’re most fertile and ovulating and uses the data you put it to learn and predict. It’s also FREE and someone else can track your cycle too if you share it with them (yeah bit weird but hey whatever floats your boat).

Rave: I love movies. I love food. I LOVE the sound of Taste Film. Basically there’s a monthly film experience where the audience eats the food that’s served within the film (or basically relates to the themes of the film). Oh my god how good does this sound?? Apparently they did Bridget Jones’ Diary and actually had blue soup. The food looks amazing. I would so love to do this at some point. My only issue is it’s only in London… standard.

Rant: The London Marathon have changed their Good For Age Entries. GFA is basically the way that some (UK based only I believe) runners can get into London ‘guaranteed’ by achieving a certain time. I was able to get into London last year through this method as my marathon PB was sub 3:45. Anyway, they’ve changed some of the criteria.Mary wrote a great blog post highlighting the changes and her own opinion on this so check that out as it’s a good read. My opinion is this. OK it’s a very over-subscribed marathon and I imagine they needed to re-asses and readjust the times (well, the men’s time mainly) because of the demand. I personally don’t think the current ballot system is the best approach (it’s not really explained how the ballot system picks people and some people believe it could be down to the London Marathon wanting a spread of different people etc. etc. so some people who have entered like five times still can’t get in). It’s VERY hard to get a place. So the GFA was one way for certain runners to get in.Now that’s fine. They can set whatever criteria they like – it’s their race. What I object wholeheartedly to is that they changed these times mid marathon season. It’s like changing where the goal posts are half-way through a football match. For example, James was aiming for a sub 3:05 at Brighton so he could then do London next year. If he’d have gotten 3:04:59 he’d have been super pleased – as of Sunday the GFA still stood that his age group with a sub 3:05 could get in. Then a day or so later, the times changed and suddenly he needed a sub-3. Luckily for him he did get a sub 3…but how devastating for people who didn’t but were momentarily happy thinking they had qualified? Or that they’re entire training had been focused on sub 3:05 and NOT sub 3? Five minutes is quite a chunk!

There were a lot of sad people on social media who had this exact issue. That said, I don’t think London is the be all and end all of marathons. Yes it’s easy for me to say that having done it, but I only really did it because it was a Major and I’m trying to do them all. Obviously it depends on your experience, but though I did have a good experience I wouldn’t say it was the best marathon – not even top three for me. It’s a faff. It’s super busy. It’s expensive to get to and from (don’t forget, they don’t send out the bibs either so you need to go to London twice). And most importantly, there are SO many other good marathons in the UK and outside the UK – better than London, in my opinion. London IS NOT the only marathon.

What do you think about qualifying times for races?

Have you ever done London?

Do you like health tracking apps?

Eastville parkrun and tasty burger

Another weekend and more time away from good old Southampton. This time Friday night saw me driving to Bristol. I know I always say it, but I do love Bristol. A nice friendly city with loads going on (especially good food spots, just saying…).

So anyway, I headed up to Bristol and stayed over at my friend’s Kate and Jay’s house where we ordered a mediocre Indian take-away. It wasn’t the best and we all agreed. But the pudding more than made up for it.IMG_7463We shared a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Fish Food and a tub of Half Baked. Pretty good (though a little too melted for my liking – I’m far more a fan of the more “solid” ice cream consistency). While we were in the shop I did spy my dream egg for half price (now £6!). The struggle was REAL to not buy it. I walked away feeling a better person for beating the temptation but equally disappointed.IMG_7483Saturday morning the plan was to head to a relatively new Bristol parkrun called Eastville. Kate wasn’t going to run but she was going to take Doug the pug and support. Doug however was not impressed and really didn’t want to go, especially as the weather was pretty grim and rainy.
IMG_7490We picked up our friend Katherine, who’s a fellow parkrun lover and runner, and then drove about 20 minutes to Eastville.IMG_7487We parked in the nearby Tesco car park and walked the miserable drizzly walk to the park.
IMG_7497The park was lovely, but it was essentially on a hill.IMG_7489I knew this parkrun was not going to be an easy one but I did want to put in some effort. I went for a one mile warm-up (check me out being all sensible) and then Katherine and I headed to the start.

The course was kind of loops of the park but it veered off to go round a lovely lake and had several long inclines as well as some good downhills. A mixed bag really but all on tarmac so no mud to contend with.IMG_7493The start is nice though as you literally head straight downhill. This helped me gain some initial speed without jumping fully on the pain train straight away. Though the first loop curved straight back up into a long dragging incline back to the start area which was quite draining for the legs.

I heard a voice behind me and turned to see my friend Joe with his dog Barry run up next to me. I knew Joe was going to be there (he switches between Bristol and Southampton so it’s always nice when we’re in the same area for once and can catch up). Though I definitely wasn’t going to catch up while trying to maintain some sort of speed (for me). He breezed past nonchalantly and I shouted I’d see him at the finish. He said Barry would need a poo (a parkrun poo if you will) so I may catch up (spoiler: I did not and I’m not).

From there we headed downhill again to do a loop round the lake. There were no fences or anything for the lake so it felt a little precarious taking any of the curves close to it for fear of falling in (I mean, if anyone’s going to fall in it would be this idiot). I felt quite strong and happy with my pace but as we finished round the lake we had to climb this very sharp but short incline. And from there we then had to head back up the long incline for almost half a mile. It literally destroyed my legs. I felt my pace and will to keep pushing plummet.

And then it was back on the flat, picked the legs up a bit, and then downhill again. I caught my breath and felt my legs calm down a bit only to then have to climb back up that bloody long incline again. I saw Kate and Doug at the side but I could barely manage a nod (Kate told me afterwards I looked like I was in a dark place of hell. Accurate). Then a final flat stretch to the finish, whew.IMG_7502Jeeze that was tough, tough. tough. Thanks Joe for the photo bomb, ha!
Eastville parkrunI got 20:54 and third female which I’m super happy with. I put in a good amount of effort as well, which is what I’d wanted. IMG_7508I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a great time so to have a 20:XX was confidence-building.
IMG_7513Katherine did well too. She wanted to run the entire way and smashed it. And Barry, the dog, got himself a  parkrun PB. Happy days all round! A lovely friendly course marshals cheering despite the rubbish weather is always so appreciated!) – definitely worth a visit.IMG_7504 (1)I was wearing my cow cowl because I thought I was going to be a bit chilly but actually I was really warm on the run and had to roll my sleeves up. I’d forgotten about the buff until a man came up to me and started asking me about which parkruns I’d done. I suddenly realised he was also wearing a cow cowl (the unofficial indicator that you’ve hit over 20 different parkruns). He was also doing the Alphabet Challenge as well so it was nice to hear about the ones he still had to do. Love how friendly parkrun is 🙂

Then we headed back to drop Katherine off and then Kate and I headed to Cheltenham to meet up with our other friend Shell and her adorable 10 month old Eloise and her lovely hubby Rob.IMG_7534We all went for lunch in a lovely pub at the top of a hill called the Rising Sun and had a solid lunch. I hadn’t eaten breakfast to save on time so I was really ready for food at this point!IMG_7532I went for the pulled pork, brisket and mac and cheese burger. Now when it comes to burgers for me, more is always better. A burger in a bun is never that appealing to me, but add in about 14 other things and I am THERE.
IMG_7518It was heavenly. Any burger that you can’t actually pick up to eat (in public) is a winner to me. So much filling haha. In a bid to have a little health I swapped my fries for vegetables… and then cancelled everything out with the chocolate fudge cake pudding. Be still my beating heart.
IMG_7527I did get a bit of pudding envy though when Rob ordered the double chocolate brownie. It amused me greatly when he asked the waiter which out of the fudge cake and brownie was bigger. This is my kinda thinking. Though the fudge cake was said to be bigger, the brownie was richer apparently so Rob went for that.IMG_7528We swapped bites (I rarely do this FYI. Only in very rare circumstances…but I really wanted to try the brownie) and though it was nice, my cake was better 😉

I had an amusing moment with Rob (a non-runner) when he asked me what Strava was. Ahh to have no awareness of such things, eh! I tried to explain it as a running/cycling Facebook.

Then it was back in the car and a drive to Birmingham! Whew. Busy indeed.

Brownie or fudge cake?

Favourite burger topping?

Favourite UK city?

Brueton parkrun and so much food

Surprise surprise I was in Birmingham again this Easter weekend. Just can’t keep me away I guess…

I drove up there on Thursday after work. I had a really good dinner of chili in a tortilla bowl. If you’ve never done this, make it immediately. It’s a very tasty way of eating chili. As someone not hugely fond of rice, using a tortilla as a bowl it’s a nice way to get some carbs in (we had cauliflower rice instead, how fancy).Friday James and I went on a run together. Ooooof it was tough. I wasn’t going to be running Sunday as I was going to support James’ 10k race and so would do my long run the next day to parkrun, so it seemed like a good idea to try a little tempo run. Normally I’d have pushed it at parkrun so this was a good switch-up. James was the one suggested it – like I said, he’s good with this proper training malarkey and I probably wouldn’t have gone out and done this on my own (or at least not as fast anyway).

We headed out for a one mile warm-up and then it was pedal to the metal with three miles of tempo effort. I was really dreading this as running fast is just not my bag. We started on a nice downhill so that helped but then headed to a gentle incline. Afterwards though it was just flat. The miles sloooowly ticked by as I tried to focus on keeping my legs turning over and essentially not dying. It’s hard for me to do these sorts of efforts when I’m not in a race or parkrun, or I don’t have music so it helped James was there to push me along. Eventually I finished and had a nice gentle mile cool down. Ehhhh that was tough. It’s nice to see that my miles got quicker… and a 6:19min/mile! I do think there was a downhill that helped speed me up but still I will take that confidence booster!

Saturday was another new-to-me parkrun, Brueton parkrun. I needed to get my long run in so James planned me a route to run there (as he obviously knows the area and how to get to that parkrun) and then I’d do a few more miles afterwards to make it up to 17 miles in total. I mean I could have run all the miles I needed beforehand but I wanted a bit more sleep.

James put the route on my watch so I didn’t have to memorise anything – this was so new to me, having my watch tell me where to go! Very handy as he wasn’t going to be running with me due to his 10k the next day, but he’d meet me there and then drive me back.

But I think there was still a strong level of concern from both of us about where I’d actually end up… the Anna’isms are strong to overcome. I headed out just after 7am into the cold and wet weather. It was pretty miserable. I got my watch going and was fascinated when the little arrows appeared telling me where to turn. It was relatively straightforward but I did manage to go the wrong way WITHIN TWO MILES. I mean, come on Anna get it together. I just couldn’t see the way I was supposed to go as it looked like a dead-end. So I went back on myself and then found a route that followed the little map line as close as I could so I knew I was at least heading in the right vague direction. My watch told me I was off course but when I eventually found my way back onto the planned route it told me I was back on it, which was handy.After that there were no major issues, aside from my hands being rather cold and having to dodge out of the way of cars flying through large puddles in the road and almost splashing me. I took a quick photo on a pretty bridge crossing a canal but otherwise ploughed on to the park and found James warming up. Woohoo! Disaster averted.My legs however were feeling heavy and tired. parkrun was going to be a grind.I plodded round as best as I could and faded majorly in the middle…my legs just seemed to go “nope” before I eventually managed to claw my speed slightly back up as I could see the end was in sight.
The course was a two lapper and split nicely into a loop round the park bit and then a loop next to the pretty lake. It was a flat course and I’m sure it would have been a nice one to have tried some speed on had I felt any oomph in my legs and not run 11 miles there.My time was 24.32 but definitely felt a lot slower. Honestly it felt like a terrible run.After finishing parkrun we went for another three mile run to get my long run up to 17 miles. If I felt tired during parkrun it was nothing compared to this awful crawling grind. I just felt empty and flat. I felt bad for James as I was properly slogging along and dragging my feet.My hands were SO cold. I’d made the mistake of using my Nike gloves which are basically just material and because it had been wet they were soaked and this made my hands colder. Taking them off actually felt a lot better than leaving them on! I enjoyed a very nice hot bath (somewhat of a luxury for this shower-loving girl) when I got back which helped me warm up as I felt cold and damp to my bones.

That evening we went to the cinema and saw Ready Player One, which was so good. The music, the characters and the cool pop culture references throughout were really good. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and will check the book out now. I even managed to not buy any pick ‘n’ mix in efforts to save a bit of money and try and be a little healthier in the lead-up to all the chocolate that would inevitably happen the next day.Sunday the tables were turned as I was supporting and not running running at James’ 10k race. I wasn’t really sure how it would be on the other side but actually it was really good fun. The race was the Massey Ferguson RC Easter Tractor 10k, which was a flat three lapper. Having three laps made supporting a lot more interesting as I got to see James and the other runners three times. It was also nice not having to run a 10k race, which I personally detest and nice not running because I was injured. I’d done my running for the week so I could chill.James did amazingly, smashing his PB and getting 37:04…I mean whaaaat. Makes me feel ill it’s so fast. I did get a little annoyed at a fellow supporter who was near the finish while I was cheering. I was clapping and yelling generic supportive things, as you do, like “final push” and “keep going”, that kind of thing. He turned round to me and said “don’t say that, he was miles ahead of the person behind so just needs to cruise into the finish and not push anymore”. Erm, huh? What if he was after a certain time or wanted to smash his PB? Also, don’t tell me what I can and can’t cheer, buddy. What a knob.That afternoon saw me almost completely demolish my extra thick Daim Cadbury’s Easter egg (good god it was good). I was in a very happy place. I did have a moment of panic when I hurt my jaw though. I think I bit into the chocolate a bit too hard and something clicked making chewing really painful. I had a painkiller and it pretty much disappeared after about 10 minutes, thank god. Honestly, can you imagine that?? During Easter of all times! (Probably karma for my greediness I suppose).That evening to fully concrete my greedy person status, we went to an amazing restaurant called Hickory’s Smokehouse in Castle Bromwich. It’s a BBQ restaurant serving American-style food which just completely rocks my world.I went for the full rack of Kansas ribs while James had a BBQ platter and we both shared some chicken wings. Ahhh heavenly. I even managed to swap my fries for some frickles.Sadly though for once in my life it just got the better of me. I was UNABLE to finish the ribs. I think I’d overdone the chocolate earlier if I’m honest. My ego was very much dented and I felt like a failure 😉 After a pause of eating we did go for some pudding though as I feel like that’s an entirely different stomach.I went for the s’mores…which was a buttery biscuit base with melted chocolate and toasted marshmallows. Ahh soo good. And luckily not hugely rich or stodgy so could fit quite nicely into my already stuffed tummy. Happy days 😀

Did you eat a lot of chocolate over Easter?

Do you like to saviour your egg or eat it quickly? I wish I could but I’m far too greedy.

Have you ever run a route using your watch?

The Ironbridge Half Marathon

After managing to get a last minute place at the Ironbridge Half Marathon, James and I headed to Telford on Sunday (I was up in Birmingham after a work conference hanging out with James). A huge thanks to the Telford Harriers for allowing us to sneak in last minute and the faff that was involved in getting us bibs!

The plan was to get six miles in before the race and then with the race that would give me 19 miles. Great marathon training. However after parking, having a quick we in the nearby shopping centre and finding the registration area in the Telford Country Park we decided to do a shorter one before and then another after as we were worried about time. We picked our bibs up, dropped our stuff back at the car and then headed off for a very gentle 3.6 mile run. James is really good at keeping me slow and focused. I’m just rubbish when it comes to this sort of stuff and he’s a very patient person to my general Anna’isms and idiotic running tendencies. 
Annoyingly the race was delayed by 15 minutes so we could have done the whole six miles but such is life, can’t be helped! Anyway we lined up and got ready. For once I had some awareness of the course and the elevation profile and knew the first five miles would be downhill. And then it would be a mix of sharp inclines over a general incline. Nice
.

As I started my pace was around 7.45-50min/miles. It didn’t feel that easy if I’m honest and made me wonder if I’d ever be able to run a marathon one day at that speed! One day…one day. I guess my speedy parkrun the day before didn’t help matters. Anyway I did eventually find my rhythm. I think this is why I’m more a long distance runner than a sprinter. Takes me time to get into the zone.The course was really pretty (these northern places eh). We were running along compacted dirt and a nice straight track down to the River Severn. I zoned out a bit and relaxed into it, knowing I should enjoy these miles now before it got harder later.

The fifth mile was so downhill it was amazing. Like literally flying down the road. We ran past the Blist Hill Victorian Village museum which I’ve been to as a child and made me smile as I flew past it. Good memories 🙂We hit the river and ran alongside it for a bit. I was just waiting and waiting for the up hills to begin. I was listening to a podcast but decided to switch to a bit of Taylor Swift – very easy listening and I could dip in and out as I liked. Plus I couldn’t be bothered to faff about on my phone while running to try and find anything better, Swifty would have to do.Sadly the actual Iron Bridge was under construction so we couldn’t actually see it as we crossed over because it was all covered up. But this took nothing away from the beautiful surroundings, the quaint little village of Ironbridge with the lovely shops and cafes. The buildings were really pretty, like old school English village style. And there were so many supporters out in force clapping and cheering. It was fantastic!Funnily enough there were so many bridges in this race. You ran over a couple but mainly ran underneath so many. It was just such a beautiful area to run around. But yes, after running through the main Ironbridge area we hit The Hill. My god that hill. It was horrific. Not only was it ridiculously steep but it went on FOREVER. I remember passing a supporter and the guy next to me asked him if we were nearly at the top and the supporter was like “ermm a tiny bit more” but so clearly trying to be nice because it went on for fricking ages! It wasn’t steep enough for me to consider walking instead of running but it was a thigh burner I assure you.

After that hill there were a few more inclines but really it wasn’t too bad. I felt really in the zone now and was happily clipping along. We hit some off-roady areas and I spent some time sliding around in the mud but I managed to overtake people as I went and had no one overtake me. The dreeeeeam. One older chap cheered me on as I passed him saying “well, yes, you go go go, girl!” which made me smile.Then we hit back into the same path we originally started on. Meaning a long incline back to the start area/finish. 

I felt a second wind and managed to out the gas on a bit. In the distance I saw James jogging towards me (having finished a lot earlier). As he reached me he turned and ran back with me giving me words of encouragement. I couldn’t quite hear him because of my music (and I just had no energy to turn it off) but it was nice to have him there pushing me along, even if I did want to hurl. He left me at the final turn up the hill (ehhhhh) to the end and I finished what felt like a strong sprint (in reality, a very small increase in pace ha). My time was 1:40:19. And the announcer attempted to announce my finish but royally guffed it up as everyone seems to do: “And here’s Anna <pause> erm Smith <pause> Smith Jones? No wait hang on… <pause> ah Anna Smith-James!” The thought was there I guess.The goody bag was awesome. A proper sturdy bag with a zip compartment at the bottom for trainers! And the medal, a water, a Mars Bar and a technical t-shirt. Happy days!
James met me at the finish. He’d smashed his PB by like three minutes – 1:23:56. Yeah. Rapid. He’d already done his extra miles by running to me so I headed off to do mine while he grabbed a Costa. My legs felt a bit like jelly to begin with but loosened up and I basically did a very similar run to the first one.
I listened to a podcast and trucked along, probably too fast (no James to rein me in) and managed 3.3 miles, bringing my total for the day to just over 20 miles! I am beyond pleased. And EVERYTHING FELT OK. So so pleased.

I met back up with James and we headed to a dessert place we’d clocked before the race where we picked up a unicorn cake for me…Yeah I have no idea but it looked cool with all its colours, Ferraro Rocher cake for James and corresponding gelatos (that’s how the cakes came) and with two scoops of our own chosen gelatos because we’re both greedy hectors.I went for white chocolate and red velvet while James just had red velvet. I mean, whaaaat. It was so so good. Except my unicorn gelato was not. Not my thing at all – it tasted like overly sweet bubblegum. Nope nope nope.

So a very solid few days of running and eating. Just the way I like it!

What makes a good course for you in a race?

Do you prefer to add miles on before or after if you’re extending a race?

What is your gelato flavour of choice?