Jersey Half Marathon

Though my main reason to go to Jersey (other than to have a jolly with my mate, Mike) was to get my ‘J’ parkrun for the Alphabet Challenge, the timing of the trip was chosen due to the fact that there was also the Jersey Half Marathon.

We could have flown back Saturday afternoon but neither of Mike or I had been to Jersey so wanted to make the most of going there by also doing the race. We stayed another night in our quaint little guest house and my alarm was set for the rather leisurely time of 7am. I had those packages oats you add hot water to for breakfast and a pot of tea before we left to walk to the bus station to catch our shuttle to the start. We didn’t have to pay as it was all organised by the race.The weather was rather muggy and humid. You could see the moisture in the air. It was nicely overcast though and misty which meant though we wouldn’t get the best views of the seafront that we’d run next to we wouldn’t get the sun beating down on us. Though the humidity was annoying.Nothing like being shuffled together with other runners to make you nervous I can tell you. Everyone talking about PB’s, training runs and injuries. Neither Mike or I were feeling very ready for the race. Mike had had some time off due to illness and his furthest run had been a while ago. I was feeling tired and my calves felt tight and one of them felt niggly. I just wasn’t feeling a fast race at all. Weeks before, on my marathon and 5k PB highs, I’d viewed this race as another possible PB-attempt. I don’t usually have big goal races like this as in general I hate the pressure and quite like to just ‘enjoy’ races. However, rarely have I ever been in such good shape. Or so I thought anyway. After a week of rubbish feeling running, I was now backtracking that goal (standard Anna).After 20 minutes or so we’d arrived at the race start area where there were some proper toilets and a few portable ones. We peed, milled around and then dropped our bag (easier to share one bag) at the bag drop and then headed to the start. There were about 700 runners and as the roads weren’t closed it was a bit chaotic getting everyone across the road, but otherwise it was very organised and easy.I wished Mike good luck and decided to head nearish to the front. I’d decided to just see what happened – but give myself the best shot. Start running, see how the legs felt and go with the flow. If I went fast so be it, if I went fast and then flagged so be it. I had my Aftershokz on lined up with some good tunes. Then we were off!
The first mile was pretty much downhill the entire way. It was fantastic but also terrifying. My watch was saying 6.30min/mile pace – FAR too fast. This is my (good) 5k speed!! But I thought “ah what the hell, it is downhill”. I had two really irritating guys next to me getting far too overexcited, jumping about the place and shouting which I wanted to get away from too. They were flying all over the road and yelling and just being a bit mental.

Several people flew past me – including a number of females. Previously when I was eyeing up this race as a possibility of a fast run I’d checked last year’s results. The first female had got a time of around 1:33. As my PB was 1:34:30 I’d wondered if I could place in the top three. There were prizes for 1st, 2nd, 3rd as well as age categories. But as I saw all these girls fly past me I decided to put that dream to bed, as well as the fact that considering how fast I was going on the FIRST mile I was likely to detonate at mile four.

The problem with downhills is that it feels so easy, so when you eventually get back to the flat or an uphill it feels horrendously hard. Like, yes Anna this is what a 6.45 mile really feels like, you idiot. Mile two continued in a similar vein but I managed to pull myself back a bit, as well as the downhill levelled out a bit. But then suddenly we went sharply uphill as we pushed our way up a windy hill. Ooof that felt awful.

As the roads weren’t closed off there were a number of cars that had to slowly creep by us or wait for us to pass. You had to be savvy and aware of what was going on (Aftershokz hugely help with this, allowing me to hear what’s going on). The marshals were great of course but I can imagine it was tricky at times for them. There weren’t a huge amount of supporters as it was a fairly low key event, but it was nice when you passed a bunch and they cheered.

Around mile three I was feeling a bit low. I  knew I’d gone out too fast and now I was dealing with the aftermath of that. I kept going back and forth in my mind of what I should do for the race. I saw some Jersey cows grazing at the side of the road. I realised I hadn’t taken any photos of them on this trip (Jersey cows are are something Jersey is famous for, with their milk and cream). So I vowed the next lot I saw I’d take my phone out and snap some pictures, and that would take the pressure of the run and I could just have an “enjoy the scenery” run. The scenery was beautiful. It was very rural – lots of greenery, rolling hills and the sea next to us. But it was very misty so didn’t showcase it as could as it could have.

By mile four we were running down a long straight road. I started to cheer up a bit as I found my groove and had mentally taken the umming and arr’ing about how to run the course. I decided to just go with whatever and see what happened. I saw a few females ahead and noticed I was catching them. I used that as a distraction, idly wondering what position they were in.This massively helped keep my pace up. Trying to reach the next female, it gave me something to focus on suddenly. What also helped were the small pockets of people (literally 3-4 people). I smiled and waved and enjoyed myself. One guy shouted “you’re my favourite runner so far! She’s smiling!” which made me laugh. I mean, it was random but nice.

The day before I’d spoken to a fellow parkrunner who’d told me a bit about the course. She said there was a killer hill around mile seven but there was some nice downhill after. She also said the final 5k was normally straight against the wind as it was right on the promenade. So when we turned round the corner and hit a horrendous hill I wasn’t surprised. I saw a girl half-way up and decided to do my damnedest to catch her. Unfortunately there was also a photographer up the hill too… great. I’m sure I was gurning away nicely for the shot.

The hill seemed to go on forever and when it finally ended I felt the energy had drained from my legs. Happily I’d overtaken the lady I’d spotted, but then I spotted another female ahead. I was also aware that I needed to maintain my position. I made it my next mission to catch her. It was a good way to get my focus back and crack on.And then it was the blissful downhill. I decided to just go for it. Leg my legs go a bit looser and just lose myself. My pace cranked up but I just went with it. I was running the course for what it was and decided that if I could make up some speed here then so be it. I might crash later but whatever, let’s go crazy. Suddenly the course seemed familiar. I recognised this packed sandy track… we were leading on to the parkrun route I’d run the day before. How cool. Instead of turning around though where we did yesterday we carried straight on down the railway path.

These were the best miles. I was absolutely flying and loving life. I mean, it was downhill so it was pretty good. And I was picking off people as I went. But then I hit mile 11 and suddenly we were back on the flat and life was hard again. I hit the promenade, the sea on my right looking all misty and grey, and the wind was boom against me. The graft was on.It was literally like focus on every single breath, focus on every single step getting my closer to the finish and focus on the miles ticking down. There were two things that hugely helped keep my pace going. Number one there was a girl I could see in the distance, and I could tell I was gaining on her. And number two was the memory of maintaining seven minute miles for the last three miles of the Brighton Marathon. If I could do that at the end of a marathon I could do faster at the end of a half. It gave me great confidence and belief in myself. I wasn’t going to combust, I wasn’t going to break, I could keep going.

What amazes me is that I ran a sub-21 minute for the final 5k! Faster than my parkrun the day before, which felt pretty tough to me at the time. The wind wasn’t behind me and it definitely felt like “oh my god this is hard”. Minimal smiles and larking about now, I tell you. But no one overtook me.I caught the girl and couldn’t see anyone ahead now. This was painful and mentally hard to maintain the pace with no one to catch now (the other runners too far ahead) but I only had a mile or so to go. Two songs. Come on. I finally saw the finish area but as I turned round the corner to get there I was confused about where to go and headed where I thought it was (there was no big arch or anything). As I ran across the grass I saw loads of people yelling and pointing at me, telling me I was going to the wrong way! I had to quickly change direction, leap over a flower bed and actually go the right way to the finishing funnel. Whew!

As I finished I was gasping for air and feeling absolutely pooped. I walked slowly to the medal and t-shirt collection bit and then stood bent over with my hands on my knees for about a minute catching my breath before looking up at the lady who was stood staring at me waiting for my name. She laughed though when I apologised for making her wait.My time was 1:31:06. The race director came over and asked for my name and race number. I asked him where I’d placed and he said second female! The first female time was an absolutely belting 1:23. I mean whaaaat. I’d never have caught her in a million years but I’m super pleased I caught all the other ladies up (and 44 seconds ahead of the third female!). I was 28th overall (out of 529). I will take that! And a PB by well over three minutes!!!The prize giving was to be 6pm that evening but we were catching our flight at 2.30pm so I spoke to the race director. He said sadly I wouldn’t be getting my bottle of champagne then but he’d post my trophy. How cool! Also, turns out I’ll get two trophies: one for second female and one for first senior female (the lady who came first was a +40!!).I waited for Mike to finish, chilling on the steps drinking much needed water, before realising I should probably collect our bag. He finished in 1:56 which he was pleased with, considering he hadn’t trained for it and wanted to take it easier (his PB is around 1:45). He was very happy with how it’d gone, though he had said he had probably gone too fast and would have preferred it to have been 10 miles not 13 😉Then we literally had to quick march back to our hotel, shower and find some lunch pronto. It was now 11am and our flight was 2.30pm. We were going to get to the bus stop for 1pm so we were pushing it. In quick time we got sorted and then hit the street looking for somewhere to eat… Only to find that Jersey turns into a ghost town on Sunday. Literally no where was open. After desperately hunting around we found one of the only pubs open and thankfully serving food. We sat outside as it was warm and noticed several other half marathoners around us proudly wearing their medals and t-shirts. A happy crowd indeed.
I wasn’t hugely hungry or fancying anything crazy so stuck with a simple meaty wrap. Crazy I know. Then we hot footed it to Costa to get a coffee before grabbing a bus to the airport. Easy peasy.

Our trip to Jersey was great! I’m so chuffed I got the ‘J’ parkrun done – that was the most important thing. But I’m also hugely pleased with my new PB. In my head I wondered if I could get close to a 1:32 time when I was ‘feeling’ it, but the week before and the day of I honestly didn’t think I’d break 1:40, that’s how rubbish I felt. So to exceed that beyond what I could imagine, I am over the moon. It’s given me such confidence. I think what helped was racing it for a place rather than a time. Having those females to try and overtake massively helped and took away thoughts about what pace I should be aiming for. I literally just wanted to get past each one and that pushed me on.

I do wonder about those downhills though… I think they definitely helped. So part of me wonders whether to take this time with a pinch of salt. I have two half marathons later in the year that are flat though I might aim for one of those…but then again, this is me we’re talking about 😉

Have you ever not felt a race only to then do well at it?

Do you like a race with downhills?

Have you ever raced a race for a position rather than a time?

The Romsey Beer Race 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are there races you like to do every year?

Do you suffer from hay fever?

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

The Brighton Marathon 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(I took this photo before the race)

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your ideal post-race cuisine?

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

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?