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?

The day before the Brighton Marathon

Friday night was all about chilling and relaxing before the hectic weekend ahead.

The Friday before a marathon… always a weird one. You want a solid night’s sleep, good food and nothing crazy going on really. James came down to stay as he was also doing Brighton and we were driving down together on Saturday. Friday night was nice and chilled with a solid meal of chicken, veg and sweet potato (if I do say so myself…).

In the morning we headed to the super close Lee-On-Solent parkrun. I haven’t been to Lee parkrun in ages so it was nice to pop down there and see some lovely friendly faces. The weather was super foggy. You could barely see the sea. I spoke to the legend Rebecca (parkrun volunteer pro and now beginner runner making amazing strides). I wasn’t going to go mad at parkrun but I did want to stretch my legs a little and Lee is super flat so that helps to have a nice smooth run.Everyone lined up and we were off. I kept it steady, not going crazy but not going entirely super easy either. I felt happy though. Everything felt good. Hallelujah!My friend Ben was there cheering everyone on and took some snaps as I came back along to head out to the second out and back. You can see how bad the fog was in the photo! I sped up on the final mile – seeing James whizz past the other way (fourth male!). Out and backs are nice in that respect, that you can wave and cheer the others on coming the other way.I finished with 22:30, which felt like a good place to sit the day before a marathon. I know some people like to fully rest but I’ve generally always run the day before. I just like to keep the legs turning over. James got 18:44 which he was chuffed with too.

Then we headed quickly back to mine to shower and eat breakfast. We wanted to head to Brighton as soon as possible so we could beat any queues to collect our marathon bibs and then see my friends afterwards. My close friend Charlotte has recently just had a baby and I hadn’t met him yet and my other friend Kate was coming down from Bristol. Charlotte’s hubby, Paddy, was also running the marathon the next day (his first!) so it would be nice to see them and catch up with a cup of tea.

We made good progress to Brighton (James endured my driving and survived the trip). Brighton was similarly foggy. The temperature was cool but you could feel the sun trying to burn through. We found a decent parking spot not too far from the Marine Parade, where the expo was and walked down.Bib collection was super easy and there was literally no queue. Happy days! We had a mosey about – there were lots of food trucks and running pop-up shops all alone the promenade. I mean, it was slightly depressing to see all the amazing looking food but know you couldn’t have any of it because you had to be sensible for the marathon the next day.No sunshine by the sea that day! After moseying about we headed to Charlotte’s and met her adorable six week old. It was lovely to see my friends and catch up and also chat to Paddy about his game plan and preparation for the next day.

I felt for Paddy as he’d had a tricky lead-up with a calf injury and then obviously having a baby not long ago. Not exactly ideal preparation. Sensibly he had reset his expectations and wasn’t going to aim for the sub 4 he had originally planned (though he is more than capable of hitting that time for another marathon).

We headed out for lunch to a lovely little deli just up the road where we sat outside (in the sun it was lovely and warm). Most of us had the halloumi and Mediterranean vegetable wrap, which was delicious.And then because the cakes looked so good James and I got a slice of triple raspberry and vanilla cake each (we did contemplate sharing for all over 0.5 seconds but realised that would be foolish). It was delicious!We then headed back where we enjoyed the brownies James had made and brought with him (legend) and a cup of tea (carb loading at it’s best…). We also sorted out what time we’d meet Paddy in the next day and the logistics of race morning.

James and I were staying in an AirBnb about three miles away so we’d park near Charlotte’s (before the road closures), make our breakfast there just so we could eat a bit later rather than before we left where we were staying and then get a pre-booked taxi to the start area in Preston Park (again, about three miles away – just that bit too far to walk). Easy breezy!

For dinner James and I bought a simple pizza from Tesco (Hawaiian – gotta love pineapple on a pizza) and got to our AirBnb. The Airbnb was quite…odd. We arrived at the time we agreed with the host and after waiting a bit at the door for her to answer, she finally appeared in just a towel having just showered. She seemed a bit shocked we were there “early” (we weren’t, if anything we were later). And then she showed us to our room, which was actually her bedroom as she’d rented our the room advertised to someone full-time.

That was fine – the house was lovely and she was friendly, but the doors were all glass. Even the bathroom was just frosted glass. This made me feel a *little* uncomfortable because the rooms were on the ground floor and so we had limited privacy. She was going to stay with her sister for the night but her lodger would still be there (though staying upstairs).

Well, it was clean, comfortable and we had a relaxed evening watching easy TV. We also managed to hang up some sheets on the door to make things a bit more private. So we had a good night’s sleep despite it being a bit weird. And let’s be honest, it was like £60 or something in a good location so can hardly complain!

Have you stayed in an AirBnb before?

Do you run the day before a big race?

Do you avoid eating certain things the day before a race?

My trip to Dubai

I’ve never been to Dubai or in fact anywhere in the Middle East before so I was quite excited about this trip. I was going to go on my own but my mum said she’d like to come and join me as she’d never been before either. I get on really well with her so this was fine. My dad couldn’t take the time off so it was a girls only trip. A flying visit but a lovely little holiday in the sun.We flew with Emirates, which let me tell you was amazing. So much leg room, so many movies, a very cool camera to see outside of the plan and great service. The flights weren’t ridiculously expensive either. I watched A Ghost Story (very melancholic), Wonder Woman and most of Home Again and the time flew by.

We arrived in Dubai in the evening Dubai time (they’re four hours ahead of the UK). We got a taxi to our hotel, freshened up and did a bit of exploring in the nearby area: the Dubai Marina and the Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR), where there are lots of restaurants, cafes and a few shops right on the beach front. We were quite tired so decided to head to bed. It was past midnight now Dubai time as well, but still everything was open and people were out and about like it was early evening!The first day it was tough waking up at 9am because it felt like 5am but we cracked on. I’d decided to get a short run in because that’s one of my favourite things to do in a foreign country. I kept it to 5k and just ran down random roads near the hotel. It was lovely and warm and I got to wear a new top I’d bought a while ago but hadn’t been able to wear because…winter. We got a taxi to the Marina again (only ten minutes away and very cheap) and meandered down the beautiful path marveling at the giant skyscrapers and yachts while deciding where to get brunch.It was so lovely and warm. coming from a very wintry Britain into such sunshine was just incredible.We decided on a Greek restaurant and had a delicious medley of halloumi, lebnah (soft cream cheese), eggs, olives, pita bread and this amazing chickpea lebneh mix with gyro meat at the bottom.We were absolutely stuffed afterwards! From there we headed into the Marina Mall where we were amazed to find very British shops like Boots mixed amongst American and European shops, like H&M and adidas. It was quite amusing to find a Waitrose as well, so I made sure to stock up on some apples 😉From there we headed to the Dubai Marathon Expo. I say “expo” lightly here. It was literally just a conference room to pick up my bib and my t-shirt.There were no more than three small vendors alongside but really it was just a big empty room. This was quite disheartening as this was neither a cheap nor small marathon. You’d expect a bit more. I mean it doesn’t have to be London-style, but it could at least have done a bit more. I picked up my bib and was informed that the marathon was to begin half an hour later (7am not 6.30am).The woman cheerfully told me that would mean it’d be more in the light. Well yes, but also sunshine and heat… The expo helped alight the fear in me though of what was to come: that boring course. Considering we’d also been stuck in traffic on that road a few minutes ago and seeing how dull it looked in reality as well as on paper did nothing to make me feel excited about the upcoming race.From there we headed to the nearby beach to walk along the sands, take some cool photos of the Burj Al Arab (oh how I would come to hate that building in a few days time…) and then dip out feet into the water (quite cold despite the general heat of the day). And get my Marathon Talk Photo From Around the World done as I had my MT t-shirt in my bag ready (now my fifth photo I think).After a day of exploring and moseying about, we had an evening booked in to go up the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. This was about 20-30 minutes drive from our hotel and being Standard Anna I only gave us 40 minutes to get there. I thought I was being clever giving us contingency time but no I forgot there might be traffic because apparently everyone’s not on holiday like us. Now you might think here that my lovely mother might have stepped in with the organising but no. Where do you think I get it from? She happily let’s me direct the day.So there ensued a very stressful time in the taxi in stop start traffic. The time ticked closer to 6pm, our allocated slot, and meant we had to do some serious power walking (my mum doesn’t run) through the Dubai Mall to get to the entrance. I was STRESSED (my mum wasn’t. She very chilled about life). Thankfully nobody seemed to care we were ten minutes late and we got on the lift for the 124th (in 60 seconds no less).The views were, as you can imagine, phenomenal. I mean it was just incredible and felt unbelievably scary looking down. We had a great time taking photos, peering through the windows at the different views and seeing the beautiful lights of the buildings around us. My one complain however is that it takes SO long to actually get back down. You can’t just take the lift, you have to queue for the lift – not a quick process!

After finishing our viewing and getting down to the Dubai Mall again we were starving. We hadn’t had anything since brunch. We did that very touristy and stupid thing of literally ending up in one of the first places we saw within the mall as we were so hungry. We hadn’t expected it to take as long as it did to get down the Burj Khalifa and it was now close to 7.30pm.

However despite falling into the first place we saw, it was actually fantastic! I can’t remember the name but it was Labanese and delicious (and actually didn’t feel like a “mall restaurant”). And the great thing eating out with my mum is that she often doesn’t finish what she eats so I get her leftovers (which is both a gift and a curse…).Wednesday morning saw my mum and I heading over to an area in front of the skyline and water to do two hours worth of yoga. We’d signed up to this before going on the trip (through AirBnb) and it sounded great. My mum has regularly being doing Pilates so she was very keen to give yoga a bash.Iskander, the yoga teacher, appeared and it turned out we were the only ones in the class that day – a kind of private tuition! He was super friendly and a fantastic teacher. He gave my mum easier poses when she struggled and was very relaxing to listen to. My mum even fell asleep in the Savasana at the end. If you’re ever in Dubai and fancy yoga, check out IskanderThen Iskander guided us back to the JBR and gave us some great Dubai insider’s tips. For brunch we went to Eggpectations which is a Canadian restaurant and, wouldn’t you know it, had a lot of egg-themed dishes. Perfect!We also visited the Gold Souk in Deira later on to explore a bit of Old Dubai. A “souk” is kind of like a market. This area was basically full of shops selling gold. There were so many jewelers it was quite astonishing. There was also a Spice Souk nearby which was cool. But yeah the gold… so many necklaces and chunky pieces. And lots of men trying to sell you fake handbags and watches!If I’m honest it wasn’t really our scene. Neither of us were wanting to buy anything and we more just wanted to wander around. It became quite exhausting though having people constantly come up to you though and (probably because we’re British) we didn’t want to be rude so it was just constantly us verbally batting them away as politely as we could.After that we decided to head back to the Dubai Mall where we could wander round the shops in peace. Don’t get me wrong, it was fascinating and interesting to see that area of Dubai but in reality it wasn’t really somewhere we were going to stay for too long.

In the Dubai Mall we decided to stop for a pick-me-up in The Chocolate Bar. I went for a cake ice cream medley. It was delicious but ultimately somewhat disappointing.It had a few chunks of sponge, marshmallows and two blobs of ice cream covered in chocolate sauce. I guess for a normal human it would be a perfectly acceptable pudding but for me it was just a bit unsatisfying. I wanted to be smacked in the face with the full force of a sugar overload and need to take a small nap on a nearby bench to recover. Instead I was left wanting. So in order to rectify this, as any other greedy individual would do, I went and bought myself some “Camel Cookies”. These were a very curious treat. I thought I could just buy one (there were lots of different flavours) but actually you had to buy the selection box with ALL the flavours. Oh go on then, you’ve twisted my arm.
They were quite small though thankfully and didn’t look like cookies in the traditional sense. They were like little closed cookie cups encasing different fillings, like white chocolate chunks or Nutella. I had a bit of each one and called it a day. The beast was now satiated.
For dinner we popped back to the Marina and had a fantastic Persian dinner. I was feeling really cold and tired – thinking the days of lots of walking and lack of sleep were catching up with me. The dinner was delicious though. I loved that we got salad, dips, pitta bread and Turkish tea afterwards as part and parcel of the meal. With the beautiful view of the Marina next to us, it was a lovely evening.
Sadly though I woke up the next morning having had a bad night’s sleep and a cold. Uh oh! This wasn’t in the marathon plan. I actually don’t normally get colds so this was somewhat annoying. Having my mum (who’s also a nurse) was helpful as she suggested we grab some paracetamol, ibuprofen and Vitamin C.Handily Dubai has Boots so this was very easy.
After a morning of brunch and meandering around the Marina and JBR, in the afternoon we were picked up and taken to the desert for a fun afternoon out there. We were driven in a 4×4 with some lovely Danish girls and an American guy where we had an exhilarating time bouncing over sand dunes in the desert clinging on to dear life. It was all safe but it did feel rather scary (but in a fun way).

We then stopped at a camel farm and were lucky enough (though I say this lightly as actually it wasn’t my thing to see…) a camel giving birth. Then we headed off to through the desert again to a campsite where we had time to have a camel ride and a go on a 4×4.The camel ride was hilarious as the camel standing up is just terrifying as you’re literally thrown about. I did have some worries though about how fair this was for the camel to be continually giving people rides.
After that we tried some Turkish coffee with a fried doughnut thing covered in syrup (soooo good and so fresh). And then I had a go at quad biking through the desert which was mad. Just mad.I got a henna tattoo, saw some crazy dancing and belly dancing and ate copious amounts of food. Heyyyy not like I have a marathon the next day or anything. Yeah sure let’s just eat lots of different random foods. It’ll be fiiiiine. Weird combinations of spices? Yeah load me up.It was a fun trip – and nice to see a different part of Dubai and the culture. It is quite a touristy thing to do to be honest. There are lots of tour companies that do this and it did feel a little bit of a “tick box” activity… ride a camel, get a henna tattoo, see a belly dancer (we used Sand Trax Tours). That said, it was a really fun experience and my mum thoroughly enjoyed herself. Though towards the end of the evening I started to get nervous about the next day’s marathon. I really needed my dad there to  help calm my nerves as he’s very good at knowing what to say – especially regarding my running. My mum…ehhhhh, she means well but her advice was “well, just think of it like the parkruns you do. You do them all the time and it’s fine”. OK. But having my mum there still calmed me regardless of her perhaps not great advice.Well, the marathon went OK (read my post here) – albeit dull, hot and I felt very ill afterwards! But Dubai itself was a great trip. It was a very accessible city with most people speaking English and taxis being so cheap and it had a lot to offer. However, I don’t think I’ll be hurrying back soon unless it was just a stop-over between somewhere else. A very fun holiday nonetheless.

Have you ever been to Dubai?

Have you ever ridden a camel?

Do you go on holidays with your family?

The Dubai Marathon 2018

The alarm went off at 5am. I was aiming to be in a taxi between 5-5.45am. The journey to the start-line was only ten minutes away and we were advised to get there 90 minutes before the beginning (7am) – but I thought an hour would be more than enough time (very glad I did this!). The race was originally supposed to start at 6.30am but I found at the Expo they’d changed it to 7am which was good in terms of having more sleep but not as good in terms of the temperature.

In the morning I got my kit on, including my dad’s jumper to throwaway at the start as it was cool in the early morning, popped my porridge in the microwave that I’d prepared the night before (we were staying in an apartment with a kitchen), went to the loo and said goodbye to my mum. She was heading down to the finish area around 7am to mosey about and catch me running.I had a mini porridge meltdown, literally! My amazing container I’d gotten from Waitrose (yes Waitrose) the day before had melted a bit! (I had no milk but brought a sachet of chocolate protein powder which helped make it taste a bit less bland).
I had no time and no other breakfast options so I just took it with me and hoped I’d not die from plastic contamination.

I got a taxi (they work 24/7) and asked him to take me to the marathon start and after he looked confused I clarified with the Dubai Police Academy. As we got closer to the start area he said to me the roads were closed and couldn’t go any further. He still looked confused when I explained I knew and it was due to the marathon. The marathon was not really known about to people who weren’t involved. I jumped out and surveyed the start area.It was super foggy and dark. It wasn’t that cold – maybe 12-15 degrees Celsius? Positively balmy for us Brits 😉 I ate my porridge (didn’t taste of plastic. Win!), drank my Beet It! shot and then decided to find the loos. The loos (not portable loos but more like posh proper temporary loos) were literally a 10 minutes walk away from the start.There were no loos near the start. I went to the loo, then walked back to the start. It was 6.15ish… 45 minutes to go. So I turned around and walked back to the loo again. Might as well! Nothing else to do.What I really didn’t like was that as the start is right next to the finish we could see all the boxes of medals and could see the finish-line. In fact we had to walk through it. I was getting very bad joujou! What was odd as well was that there were non-runners in this area supporting their runners. So you’d see people clearly not going to be running the marathon (in jeans and flip flops etc.) just hanging around the start area. I guess that’s not too odd but it felt weird as normally you’re separated at this point.Then they opened up the proper start but where we could see the start funnel thing. As we walked along there were barriers keeping us in and on the other side of the barriers and road I spotted more loos… a couple spotted them too and conspiratorially we all decided to hop the barriers and use them quickly. The security didn’t look very happy and when I tried to re-hop back over the security tried to stop me but I begged them to let me through rather than walk all the way back round. Very cheeky I know. They kindly let me through, telling me to go quickly. Whew! I ran across the road and then did a Tom Cruise barrel roll over the final barrier and felt like a superhero 😉 I got a few chuckles from other runners.There were lots of different nationalities. Lots of Americans and Brits. I saw some Poles, some Swedes… a good mix! And then we were off!I’d been worried about my calf but as I started running it felt fine. Good good. But we’re only on mile one. It was less foggy now as the sun was rising. The first “chunk” of the race was the 10k out and back. This was the route that the 10k race (starting a few hours later) would be doing.I’d broken the race down in my head in the most obviously way: 10k, then the two loops (another out and back that runs up the Jumeriah Beach Road). I assumed the loop was around 10 miles.As I was running I felt mentally in a very bad place. I had a lot of anxiety in my tummy that I’d never felt before. Normally I’m really excited when the marathon actually begins. It’s all “oooh” and “ahh” and fresh and lovely at the beginning. You’re running a marathon! This is cool! Look at me go! But not this time.I was dreading the course. I had no major milestones to get excited about, no major variations in the course to prepare for. Just a lot of long roads. As I’d felt this way leading up to the marathon in the days before (especially after seeing the road I was going to run along) I’d prepared for this by creating a “feel good” playlist. Normally I only listen to music in the last 10k to power me through to the finish.But I decided I’d have some music to power me through the first boring bits – but not “go go go” music. Just music I enjoyed and could zone out to.I made myself wait until the first 10k was over though before starting it. I wanted to make it really worth it after a chunk of silence. I really needed a wee (yes another one) but there weren’t many loos on the course. I saw people dash into nearby bushes and I realised I’d run out of bushes soon as we got onto the main loop as it would be buildings and shops on the sides, whereas the first 10k was going past fancy hotels with big foliage areas and the beach. I was clearly umming and arr’ing about it as he man next to me laughed and said “just go and do it!” So I dashed off and under what I can only describe as a very light coverage had a quick wee. I imagine several people probably saw my bum. Hey ho.As I headed to the first loop I saw my mum ahead. That really boosted my mood up! I was so chuffed she’d gotten there safely and I’d seen her! She’s not quite my dad’s levels of support (physically I mean, my mum supports in other ways too of course).So I finished the first 10k, whacked the playlist on and zoned out. Ahh just what I needed. I felt much better – music and seeing my mum. My calf felt absolutely fine – hurrah! I still didn’t feel well tho. I could feel I wasn’t quite right – but I kept an eye on my heart rate to make sure it didn’t start to spike really high. It seemed OK.There were no mile markers, just kilometres. I tried to work out how the first “out” of the first loop was but my brain couldn’t do it. This frustrated me as I wanted to know how far I’d be running away from the finish. It didn’t help that because it was two laps the km markers were mixed up with the laps.I tried not to think too deeply that I’d be back on that same stretch after a few hours… The Burj Al Arab (above photo) was basically at the point when you’d start the next lap. It’s a fantastic building but ultimately quite dull after you’ve seen it once. And literally the only landmark on the course (there’s probably more and this is very narrow minded of me to say).What I noticed a lot of was runners who had friend(s) cycling next to them keeping them company. There was enough space on the wide roads (nothing like the closeness of some other big marathons like London or Berlin). It seemed bizarre them being there. But I guess nice for people to support in this way. I also saw a guy running while kicking a football which was fun to watch! Turns out he was trying to break the world record. I don’t know if he managed it and I’ve tried Googling but to no avail!A cool sports car thing drove past and I tried to get a selfie next to it as it was driving slowly.Finally I started to see people running down the other side of the road and this gave me some indication that the turning point was coming up. I tried to do the maths again by using the km markers on the other side of the road to work out how far it would be. It made my brain hurt.Finally I reached the turnaround point. It was a relief to be heading back down towards the end of the loop, though I knew I had a way to go yet.The sun was now shining and it was warm. Every water station I grabbed a water (mini bottles), took a gulp then tipped it over my head, arms and legs. This helped keep me cool for a chunk of time. I was glad I’d decided to take my sunglasses with me as there was no shade. Speaking of the water stations, they were quite disorganised at the beginning. Some of them by even set up and the volunteers scrabbling in the plastic to grab the bottles and get them set out in time. There were energy drinks in cans but I didn’t try any, and no gels or fruit. They did have sponges and buckets of water tho. There were Nike cheer groups (I think they were Nike!) and other local running groups tho who were great and waved flags, clapped and cheered and handed out extra water and trays of fruit.As I got to 13 miles I decided to switch to a podcast (to maximise the effect of my music at mile 20). That helped pass the time. The road was so long and the fact I couldn’t see the Burj Al Arab ahead further clarified how I’d be on this same road for a good chunk of time. The buildings on either side were just shops. I made little milestones in my head (Starbucks, KFC, Costa…). I spotted a guy taking a photo of his friend (neither of them running) in front of the course so I’d dived behind and photo bombed it. They laughed and cheered me which was good! Finally I got back to the Burj Al Arab and knew I’d be turning soon (my 3rd turning it of a total of 4 in the entire race FYI).I spotted my mum again which was great. And then as I hit the turnaround bit I saw her again as I started my second loop.It was nice to see a friendly face and I updated her that I felt hot and tired but was OK. Just over nine miles to go.Whew, second loop. Last time I’d run on that road now. But jeeze did it go on and on. I worked out I’d have four miles to run up it. Four miles in a single direction is flipping awful by the way. With every step forward I knew would mean one step further away from the finish that I’d have to run the other way. It was mentally destroying.As I hit 18 miles (that’s me trying to show my watch in the selfie above) I was mentally struggling. The road was killing me. It was just so long and straight. The sun was beating down. There weren’t many people around me to latch on to. It was tough.I tried to grab some energy from the spectators by waving and smiling and clapping – that always helps get them cheering you which boosts you along I find. Plus it’s nice for them rather than you just being another miserable looking runner 😉 I hadn’t taken any gels yet as I hadn’t felt completely right but now my energy had dipped I decided to have one. I threw the other away – I wouldn’t use it and didn’t want to carry it. Any extra baggage was draining right now.I couldn’t wait to get to “just a parkrun to go”. I was using road signs, spectators ahead… anything to break down the distance. I started counting down the kilometres and they seemed to crawl by so slowly. Despite this my pace had picked up. I went past a man and he asked where my energy had come from. I replied I just wanted to finish.I took the above selfie at “one parkrun to go”… that was my thinking with the single finger ha! Around me a lot of people were walking. Though a man overtook me looking strong and peeled ahead so I kept him in my sight and tried to use him to drag me along. We were both overtaking quite a few people. It was so hot. I was still pouring water on myself to keep cool. I got a notification on my watch saying my dad had text saying “just a parkrun to go” from my dad which was JUST what I needed. Yes he was slightly out of sync as I only had just under two miles to go now but it was so nice to know he was tacking and spurring me on.

I saw the bloody Burj Al Arab again and then the sign for “To the Finish”. Yes! Less than a mile to go and I was on the edge. My legs felt like they were going through porridge. Surprisingly my pace was still good… just hold on! It was literally a case of mind over matter. One foot in front of the other. The final straight to the finish was the WORST. The finish funnel seemed miles ahead. There were spectators either side of the road but not vast numbers. I just tried to not stop. My legs were struggling! And then I finished. Whew.

My god. Stopping I felt dizzy and exhausted. I lent on the barrier and just thanked everything holy that I could finally stop running. My time was 3:39:58, just dipping under 3:40. Very pleased indeed!I shuffled along with the other runners, got my medal, some water, a banana, a protein bar, some vitamin water and then tried to find my way out. It was really confusing and I had no idea where to go. I mean, I was post-marathon confused so that didn’t help! I decided to ring my mum as that would be the most sensible thing to do to find her. Bless her she hadn’t realised I’d finished, despite sitting in the stands at the finish-line.Thankfully we found each other fairly quickly. We decided to head to the Souk Madinat Jumeirah which was nearby so we could sit and take a moment. We knew there was a Starbucks in there. It seemed a fitting place to collapse – it’s exactly what we did when I did the Boston Marathon!I also wanted to meet up with the lovely Lily who writes the blog Lily Lipstick who currently lives in Dubai. She was actually the one that first got me thinking about doing the marathon and originally she’d even offered to let me stay at hers. But then my mum fancied joining and it seemed sensible to get a hotel. Lily has helped me so much with all my Dubai related questions (what I could wear, where to go, what plugs I’d need etc.). She was doing the 10k which started at 9am and we were going to meet and have lunch but annoyingly my mum and I had to check-out of our hotel at 2pm (originally we were told 11am, which wouldn’t have been possible at all but thankfully we negotiated 2pm before I booked). 2pm was still this was pushing it as I needed to get back and shower. I messaged Lily telling her we were in Starbucks and she said she’d come and join and have a coffee with us.Lily brought her boyfriend and the four of us sat and chatted with iced coffees. It was lovely. It was so nice to chat and hear about Dubai from them – as they both live and work there. But we were both hot and shattered from the run!

My mum was tired too, bless her. She’d walked a long way as well. It was the hottest day so far. After the coffee we parted ways and my mum and I had a tricky job of trying to find a taxi to get us back to the hotel. The roads were only just opening up after the marathon and the road the marathon took place on is quite a busy one so hailing a cab is very tricky. A car, that didn’t look like the traditional taxi, stopped and said he was a taxi and we jumped in. Reading that sentence… yes I know. Absolute idiots the two of us. I told him the hotel name and area and he said OK, though unlike most of the other taxi drivers he didn’t speak English.

He took us on an unfamiliar route but it made sense at the time as the roads were still closed in different places. At one point we went over a dirt track and I suddenly felt scared. Where were we? He could do anything right now. We were very, very stupid looking back. We did that ridiculous British thing though of not saying anything and waiting it out rather than questioning where we were going. When he eventually stopped we were not in our hotel area at all. I was like “er no this isn’t it”. So he made me type into his phone on Google Maps the hotel name. Thankfully we weren’t far away. When we stopped outside the RIGHT place this time he asked for 50AED. Now from the area we were in to the hotel I knew it should have been around 20AED had we gone straight there. I point blank refused and said “no way, I’ll pay 30”. He argued with me and honestly I would have only give 30 had I not had only two 20s. It was his lucky day. We got out of that taxi very fast.

The rest of the day… I won’t bore you. We had a long day ahead as our flight was at 2:50am. I had a fairly rough time of it as I was getting some seriously bad stomach cramps and starting to feel the effects of running through not being well. Thankfully I was able to eat (when am I not, let’s be honest) and topped up my calories sufficiently through the day. To be honest, the choice of restaurant was just the closest one. I’m not a huge Italian fan (not liking pasta…) but we ended up in an Italian restaurant purely because the host mentioned they do burgers. SOLD!I had a double burger with fries. Bliss. Later on after we meandered around the Jumeriah Beach Resort area and then down the Marina we chilled out in another Starbucks with a coffee and a giant doughnut (for me). Perfection.So in closing, I don’t recommend the Dubai Marathon. It is mentally tough with the boring course and physically hard with the heat (it was a hot heat and not a humid heat thankfully). It didn’t have the glamour of the Majors despite being a bigger marathon and it felt rather lonely at times as the course was so wide and the numbers not big enough. But it’s done and I’m pleased. And the calf survived! It feels fine… though the real test will be when I get running again.

Have you ever been to Dubai?

Have you ever run a boring course? How did you get through?

Have you ever run when ill?

New year new me?

Someone at work asked me what my New Year’s Resolutions were. I jokingly replied, “to run a marathon”. They laughed, they know my marathon addiction well.

But it did get me thinking about my plans for 2018. What would I like to achieve, races I want to run, and ultimately the memories I’d like to make. For me, life is all about those life experiences, good times and memories. So what’s on the horizon for me?

Run some more marathons

What a surprise, eh? I plan on doing three… if all is well of course and I’m not injured. I’d love to run more than three but I think I’ve been very lucky this year to run as many as I have and I shouldn’t think this is the norm (I’ve run five marathons this year! For me this is insanely good).IMG_9289

  • Dubai Marathon

This is literally right around the corner of course. Friday January 26th. I’d LOVE to get close to my PB or even beat it (3:24:06) but I really don’t want to stress myself out and put pressure on myself. I’ve said this many times before but I don’t run marathons to achieve a certain time. I run them because I love the whole experience. That said, if I could be the shape I’m in or better beforehand then naturally I’ll be running faster than I previously have anyway so who knows what will happen. I certainly won’t be busting my guts for over 3 hours. That’s not how I roll.

  • Brighton Marathon

A jolly down the beach! This is what I intend for this marathon. Lots of my club will be doing it so they’ll be a fun atmosphere and I love Brighton. I’ve never done this marathon but I know it’s a good one for supporters as the course loops back on itself a few times. Also my best friend’s hubby will be attempting his first marathon so they’ll be there 🙂

  • New York Marathon

Continuing my goal to do all the six Marathon Majors (I’ve done London, Berlin, Boston, Tokyo and still need NY and Chicago). If everything goes to plan I will be joining some other lovely bloggers on a trip to the big apple for this one.

Run a sub-20 parkrun

I say parkrun and not 5k because there really isn’t a chance in hell I’d sign up to do an actual 5k race. My PB currently stands at 20:06 but that’s from 2015. My closest attempt has been 20:18… can I crack it? I don’t know. Originally I was hoping to do this before the end of the year but, again, this is putting nasty pressure on myself for what is essentially a superfluous and pointless goal (no one but me cares about, it won’t make me a better runner, etc. etc.). I was on the ball with my speed workouts but then did a marathon and the fire has somewhat died a bit. I’ll have a crack at a few speedy parkruns and get back on to the speedwork next week but I’m not going to ruin myself over it.

Run a few more half marathons

My second favourite race distance. I have a few in the plan already and I’m quite excited. I have the Jersey Half Marathon in June (more on this later) and the Reading Half Marathon in March. I’ve done the Reading Half twice before and hadn’t really considered running it again until I got offered a blogger place, which obviously peaked my interest again. Reading is fairly near to me to make it quite a nice race to get to and it’s relatively flat. But most importantly it has a fantastic atmosphere and great support all round the course. It’s a huge event with I think around 15,000 runners. Yes it is running around Reading (not exactly the most scenic of the British towns) but it’s a great event with a stadium finish. After a few year’s break I’m ready to give it another stab.

As part of the Reading Half Marathon, I’m also taking part in the training day on Saturday 6th January. The training day (which you can be a part of too if you sign up! Check out their Facebook post for more info) has quite the line-up of exciting stuff for the day:

  • A group workout with the Townsend Twins
  • Pacing advice from Reading Half Marathon Pace Co-ordinator and fitness coach Ali Galbraith
  • A group run (to practise those pacing lessons!)
  • An injury prevention talk and cooldown from Jim at Berkshire Physio (I am MOST excited about this)
  • A Q&A at the end for any specific training/injury queries

Reading half training day - Twitter & FB no timetablePlaces are limited though, so you’ll need to be fast if this takes your fancy!

Parkrun Alphabet Challenge

This will be ongoing as I’m not sure if I’ll be able to finish it next year (due to that pesky Z being in Poland…) but it’s definitely going to be a focus for me. I hope to have ‘K’ ticked off in January and ‘J’ ticked off in June – which is the main reason I’m doing the Jersey Half Marathon, purely to get that J. It’s just time really for me to get around the place. But I do have a few friends to call in on to tick some off!IMG_0142So they’re my running plans for the year. Personal plans? Oh it might be nice to have a bit more success with dating but ehhh who knows. My motivation has dipped to a real low right now regarding that. I’m just busy with life and unless it happens organically (a word I detest) I’m actually going to have to put effort into it…more than I have been. It depresses me when I think too long about this situation, so I shan’t.

I think the MOST important goal is to have fun, enjoy life, run all the marathons and eat all the food.

What are your 2018 goals?

Do you have any races lined up yet?

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?