All the running and all the food

Two things in life make me very happy (amongst other things of course, but in general these two rank pretty high). Food and running. And these things have been going nicely hand in hand over the last few days.

So you know I said I love my new job? Well I REALLY love my new job. On the last Friday of the month Wiggle organise a run and a cycle for everyone to join in with, if they want. For the last couple of months I haven’t been able to join in, either due to coming back from injury or just not fitting in with my running schedule. But this month I was good to go finally!

They had a few different events you could sign up to: a speedy cycle, a mountain bike session in Queen Elizabeth Country Park, a gentle 5k, a trail 7k I’m QECP or a scavenger hunt walk. So it’s very inclusive. You didn’t have to do any but it was all free and started at 2.30pm Friday. I signed up to the trail run and was feeling excited. I had actually won an internal competition as well so had some brand new season dhb gear to test out too.Friday was also the national Macmillan bake sale so there was a ridiculous number of cakes floating about the office too. Happiness all round! I’d already come pre-prepared with cash ready to donate and invest in some solid pre-run fuel. I actually wolfed down my porridge at double speed when I saw them putting the cakes out as I didn’t want to miss any of the good stuff (I have s genuine fear of food running out. It’s a symptom of being the greedy person I am).So before 9.30am I’d already eaten my porridge, a peanut butter brownie, a questionable vegan brownie, a sausage roll and a GIANT scotch egg (with bacon in it). It was incredible.My work colleagues laughed at me in wonder. I like food, what can I say! 

By 2.30pm everyone who wanted to get involved was changed and ready to share lifts to their destination. We arrived in short time to QECP and got going. The group was a nice mixed bunch of men and women, some super speedy and some less so. The pace was nice and easy though the hills were sharp and frequent. We actually followed some of the parkrun route. We’d stop and walk for a but so people could catch up or catch their breath and it was a lovely amble through the beautiful countryside. The trail was a bit muddy and slippy with some tree roots and rocks about but nothing too technical. I got to know a few more of my work buddies better and chat to people I didn’t know, which was just great. Some were avid ultra marathoners, some occasional parkrunners so it was a nice mix. I find it so easy to chat to people who I already have the common ground of running with.The 7k flew by and I felt great. A few of the guys suggested another 7k loop and after a moment’s deliberation (and a quick calculation of mileage) I decided to join. I think there were about seven of us in total that did the second loop. I was a bit worried that they’d shoot off as they were all quite speedy but hey promised not to leave me behind. And asides from the first 1km straight up a giant hill, it was fine and I felt quite comfortable running.We didn’t push the pace to any extremes but we didn’t stop this time. I actually felt really good. I forget how much I love running off-road and should really do it more.At the end we grabbed a quick drink in the cafe and then one of the guys drove me back to the office to collect my car. It was a lovely way to end the week!

I got back to my parent’s house (which is now where I live) and had a lovely hot shower and a light dinner. I say a light dinner only because my lovely mum and brought me back a few pieces of cake from her bake sale at the hospital where she works. A scone, a slice of Victoria sponge, a slice of lemon drizzle cake and a chocolate crispy cake…well I was done!The next morning I was up early to catch the train to Reading to meet up with my friend, George, who I used to work with at my old job (I also did the Tough Mudder event with him a while ago) and his fiancée. He’s such a nice guy (and his partner is lovely too!) and we’re very likeminded in our love of food. In fact they have a blog which they’ve recently just started (check out their CookNoBook Instagram). The plan was to do the Reading parkrun and then go for lunch. They’ve never done a parkrun before so I was more than happy to introduce them to it.Amazingly I got to theirs without a hitch and we headed to Thames Valley Park where the parkrun was held. It was super busy and cars were parked all along the road. We parked a little walk away and got there just before the first timer’s brief.The course is nice and flat and relatively simple. A straight run out over a small bridge and then two laps around the country park bit. It goes alongside the Thames and the rather was thankfully just a little chilly but the sky was blue.

Ala, George’s partner, isn’t a regular runner so was a little nervous but we were all looking forward to it. George is like a Duracell bunny and has tons of energy. He’s in good shape from lots of martial arts. I wedged myself towards the front so I wouldn’t get too crushed or held back and George and Ala headed further back. I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel after the run the day before by as soon as we got going I felt good and decided just to see what I could do.

The first km or so is on grass and it was a little slippy but then you get onto more compact trail and it was fine, although with a few muddy patches and puddles to jump over.  As we got through the first loop I worked out what kind of speed I could hold onto and planned when to push the pace a bit more. It’s nice having two laps because you can be a bit more strategic about how you can pace without rinsing yourself too soon.As we came over the bridge again and headed on the finishing straight back to the beginning it did seem to go on forever however and it took a lot of effort to keep pushing. I managed to overtake a couple of people at the end and finished in 21:46 with a negative split. Very happy indeed. George, who I thought would overtake me at some point, was just behind in 22:01. Damn those two seconds! For his first parkrun and his first crack at running in a while that’s insane!! Nicely done indeed. Ala came in not too long behind us around 28 minutes. Again, this is amazing for her first parkrun and her not being a regular runner! I’m so happy for them! And they enjoyed it too 🙂 they said they felt very accomplished.From there we headed back to theirs to shower and get sorted. Then we headed out for some coffee, followed by lunch. The lunch spot, Bluegrass BBQ, was everything and more that I could have dreamed for. BBQ fodder at its best.We were eager beavers and actually had to walk round the block before the breakfast menu turned over to the lunch menu at 11:45. When it came to ordering, I went for the Boss Pit Platter with a side of frickles (fried pickles).My god it was good. I was glad I ventured away from my usual safe bet of just having ribs and having a platter of different things to try. There were baby back ribs, brisket, pulled pork, burnt ends, 1/4 chicken, cobs and a mountain of chips. I traded George some brisket for one of his St. Louis ribs and I was all set!
I couldn’t manage all the chips or frickles but everything else was hoovered up. God it was good. No room for pudding though for once! We did a little bit of walking after lunch (an absolute necessity to help digestion…) and headed to a lovely local event called Reading Town Meal. It’s a great event supporting the local community and fresh produce. It had chefs in training from the Reading University cooking a two course meal FOR FREE for people to munch on. It was first come first serve. Obviously we didn’t need a meal by we did get a fruit crumble to share between us…though I could only a mange a couple of bites!
There was lots going on, like face painting, free cake decorating for kids, vegetable stands, bread and things like that. It was great! But I couldn’t even think to have any more cake sadly…as good as it looked! In fact, on my way back to the station I couldn’t even manage a free Hotel Chocolat chocolate! Who even am I?? I was a very full and happy bunny in my train back home (and for once, the right train!).

The next morning I met up with fellow Bournemouth Marathon trainees, Mike, Matt and Joe, and we headed out for a 10 mile run. It was quite humid and warm but otherwise good weather to run in. We all agreed that it might be nice to have a day like that for the marathon next week… But who knows eh!

We kept the pace conversational and it flew by. When we finished the 10 I wanted to carry on and do two to three more miles afterwards so waved goodbye to everyone.I just like to do 13 miles the week before a marathon, it just works for me doing half the distance. I also wanted to see how my legs felt running solo after a long run. I really don’t know where I am with my pace for this marathon so it was nice to see what my legs naturally felt like doing. I don’t think I’ll be running near the 8 mins though! But I’m just going to see how I feel on the day. If anything at the beginning feels too hard, I’ll slow it down. I’m not aiming for a PB (that would be foolish considering I’m not in that sort of shape!) but equally I think I can do a bit faster than a four hour marathon. We shall see.

How was your weekend?

Have you been to Reading recently? It’s got quite a nice selection of coffee shops and restaurants.

Do you enjoy a platter at a restaurant? I quite like a meze board for the variation.

All the food and the Solent Half Marathon

Aside from all the packing madness, last weekend was really fun. Anything involving seeing good friends, eating ribs and having a solid race and long run is a big tick in my book!

So after parkrun on Saturday morning (and more packing), I met up with a good friend of mine for a catch-up and some tasty food. I told her to bring her appetite as the place we were going was not for tiny stomachs. I picked her up from the Southampton Central train station (as she was coming from Basingstoke) and we headed to Sadlers. If you’re ever in Southampton and you’re a meat-loving fan, you really must check this place out. Actually to be fair, they do a fantastic vegetarian menu as well – lots of options!I always mean to try new things but then I know how good the ribs are at Sadlers and can’t help but stick with them. They’re honestly some of the best ribs I’ve ever had. They had two options: medium (800g) or large (1.5kg). I asked the advice of the waiter (even though I knew what I’d go for regardless) and when I told him I was a “whole chicken Nando’s kinda girl” he agreed that ordering the large would be best. And I’m so glad I did (though I am slightly wondering if they were indeed 1.5kg worth of ribs…I remember last time ordering the ribs and really struggling whereas this time I was fine). The cornbread was really good for mopping up the BBQ sauce but the chips got left behind. No room at the inn!

My friend ordered the St. Elmo’s Fire, which was super spicy. She’s literally the spice queen (she’s been known to send plates back when they’ve not been spicy enough and asked for more chili!) and she said it was good.We then decided that pudding was in order. Luckily our pudding of choice was a mile’s walk away, which gave our stomach’s a bit of time to recover. Because we definitely needed to make space for a trip to Sprinkles Gelato! The last time I went to Sprinkles I’d had major food envy as I’d made a poor choice on what to have. this time I knew exactly what to get: a Sticky Situation.
This was chocolate and vanilla gelato mixed with milk and white chocolate buttons, cookie dough and melted milk and white chocolate topped with cream. Oh god it was amazing. But no I didn’t manage to finish it. It was just too much sugar. I started to feel a bit sick as I got to the bottom… big chunks of chocolate and cookie dough sadly remained uneaten (I mourn this now). But it was totally worth it. I’d always prefer being defeated by a pudding than finishing it easily and wanting more (greedy person syndrome).My friend ordered a kind of make-your-own dessert jar which included a random mix of gelato (Pina Collada, raspberry cheesecake and Ferrero Rocher! Everything she fancied basically) and a side of banana. She loved it too. And then we parted ways, full to the brim but having had a lovely afternoon. I was then fully fuelled to tackle more packing and cleaning when I got home. I didn’t need anything else to eat that day for definite!

The next morning I woke up early to head off to the Solent Half Marathon. My plan was to run three miles beforehand and then the half itself to make a total of 16 miles, which would be a good training run for the Bournemouth Marathon in a few weeks. I skipped breakfast as I was still quite full and do most of my long runs fasted anyway (well, as fasted as you can be with having eaten that much the day before) and drove to meet with four other ladies from my club to convoy together to the race. We had a nice turn out for our club and there was a very friendly atmosphere.After collecting our bibs, my friend Kate and I headed out for our pre-race run. She wanted two miles while I wanted three so we ran a mile out and back and then I ran another 0.5 mile out and back to make it up. I could already feel that it was going to be a warm one.

I’ve run the Solent Half Marathon a few years ago so vaguely remembered the course being fairly undulating. As I was just planning on running it as a training run I decided to wear my Aftershokz to listen to a podcast to keep my speed under control and my mind occupied. Basically I was treating it as a long run. It’s funny because this is exactly what I did the last time I ran it too, doing three miles extra. However the marathon I was training for (my first marathon I’d signed up to – the Portsmouth Coastal) I never actually got to as I got injured.The race is fairly low-key and the roads aren’t closed. There were a few spectators but the marshals were super friendly and happy which made up for the quieter parts. We started off and I tried not to get caught up in the beginning surge. I let my running friends zoom ahead while I found a comfortable pace and zoned out.The race goes through some lovely countryside roads and passes through the New Forest so there’s lots of greenery to help take your mind off the boring road (it’s all on road). I was glad to have my headphones, but I was paranoid that people would be judging me or that a marshal would disqualify me. The race rules said that “in ear” headphones would lead to disqualification (and this is a race that did actually disqualify people – I remember when I ran it last time I saw them listed in the results as DQ) but the Aftershokz are out of the ear headphones as they work on bone conduction – and are UK Athletics approved. But I still worried. I hate how people judge people for using headphones, like it’s not proper running or something. But hey ho.At one point I found myself overtaking a guy, only for him to then overtake me and then slow down, so then I’d overtake him again, and he’d overtake again… this happened like three times! It was a little frustrating. I wasn’t increasing my pace at all.It was a very warm race so I made sure to stop at each drinks station (there were only three as it was a smaller race) and walked with my water to ensure I drank it all rather than throwing it down myself. I took a few photos – especially when we got past the coast as it was very pretty.I decided that at mile 10 I’d switch to music and try to push the pace a bit. I was enjoying drifting in and out of the my podcast but I wanted to liven things up a bit towards the end. Unfortunately there are some nasty inclines at this point too but I luckily I had enough strength in my legs to get me through. It was really encouraging to pick people off and pass them as I sped up. It was a good way to keep myself going, “one more person” or “just that person ahead”.
It got a lot harder on the final mile, which was my fastest, but I managed to hold on until the end. What was good was that the end of the race followed my warm-up run so I knew exactly how far it was until the end so could work out what speed I could hold until the end. Very handy. I came in at exactly 1:44. I will happily take that time! We got a lovely singlet as well (female extra small woohoo!) which makes a change from a medal or a buff. The finish was great as there were people dressed as Mini Mouse and Elmo. Very fun! I made sure to get a photo of course…It’s funny because though I ate so much the day before I was quite hungry when I finished (I actually remember feeling hungry during the race as well, which never used to happen to me!). Normally after long runs I don’t fancy food but actually recently I’m ready to eat almost straight away. I remember feeling this way after the London Marathon this year too. I guess not having had dinner or breakfast wasn’t entirely wise! But at the time I wasn’t hungry.

I practically hoovered up my porridge as soon as I got back – I was famished! And lunch wasn’t too many hours after either. The calorie balance was definitely addressed; carrot cake from my dwindling freezer stash can help that!

I’m really pleased with how the race went, but it’s given me a few thoughts on what pace I should aim for the marathon, especially if the temperature is similar. Perhaps closer to the 8.30s than the 8s per mile I think!

Do you like to eat food straight after exercising?

Do you stick with safe options you know you’ll enjoy at restaurants or branch out for a change?

Do you use headphones during runs or races?

My Brighton adventures: food and running, of course

There are a few cities in Britain that I have such a love for. One of those is Bristol, one is Cardiff (I went to university there and just love that city) and another is Brighton.

I mean there are so many lovely and interesting places in the UK, of course, but these places I hold dear because of the memories I’ve made there and the fun I continue to have. Through my new job I was lucky to acquire myself a ticket for the Brighton Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) conference. It’s funny because when I was in Brighton earlier this year for the 10k I remember walking past the big conference building and seeing the Brighton SEO sign and saying to my dad, “ahh I’d love to go to that”. And lo! and behold!

I had a somewhat stressful morning on the Friday I was going as I a) forgot to pack a bra (I was wearing my running clothes when I went to my parents as I ran the night before) and b) I didn’t leave myself enough time. I mean, this is standard Anna behaviour obviously. Luckily I had a fresh clean sports bra with me as I’d planned on running the next day in Brighton, priorities eh! And luckily it was a nice purple one which matched perfectly under my pink top – thank god I didn’t pack a bright yellow one!

Anyway, as I was late I literally had to jump out of my dad’s car at the train station (very grateful he gave me a lift) and run for the ticket machine. I mean, it was almost like fate that I was wearing a sports bra after all! Thankfully I made it with a few minutes to spare, albeit a little flustered, but boobs non-jiggled.I met my two colleagues on the train and on arrival at Brighton we walked from the station and to the conference. We grabbed a coffee en route because caffeine and headed inside for one of many interesting talks regarding search optimisation (all to do with digital marketing… topics such as what makes good content, micro influencers, virtual reality and voice technology with search and things like that).I felt overwhelming uncool amongst the very young and hip crowd that seemed to dominate the conference, but I held my head high and convinced myself I deserved to be there. But seriously, everyone looked very trendy and hipster. Beards ahoy!

There were lots of freebies, like cocktail ice lollies, sweets, beer and smoothies. In fact, it kind of reminded me of an Expo or that first day at university when everyone wants you to join their club.It was just all so interesting and exciting. I’m sure the novelty of this career area will wear off eventually but I’m just loving what I do right now. I find it fascinating.

For lunch we headed out into more central Brighton to avoid the crush of people exiting the conference with similar plans for food. We found a Wahaca and decided on there. I love Mexican food (well, the more mainstream version of it anyway). We got some tortilla chips and guacamole to share for starters and I ordered a chicken salad in a tortilla bowl with a side of sweet potatoes. It was all very tasty and felt like such a treat on a Friday afternoon. We then walked back to the conference to continue on with more talks. I parted ways with my colleagues as they’re from a different department and our talk choices weren’t the same. I noticed how suddenly there was a lot more free beer and Prosecco going on now it was post-lunch!I made the unwise decision to have a cheeky Prosecco and it took a lot more work for me to concentrate during a particularly dull talk (ironically on content optimisation…). After struggling it out for a few more talks I decided to leave. The weather was lovely and I walked down the Brighton prom to meet my friend, Charlotte. I’d already pre-arranged to stay over her and her husband’s flat that evening. It was so nice to be able to see her so randomly in the week. Normally I’d need to wait until our usual uni meet-ups but since I was in Brighton already it made sense.We headed back to her house where Charlotte and her husband (Paddy) ordered pizzas and I ordered a Deliveroo from a really tasty Arabian restaurant. ALL THE MEAT.It was so tasty. Lots of skewers, koftas and chicken wings on a bed of rice with the tiniest side salad. The meat to salad ratio was quite a way off! Even after all that food I was still good to go for a nice walk and an ice cream down the seafront. I went for a scoop of salted caramel and a scoop of raspberry cheesecake. Delicious!
It was such a lovely evening of good food, catching up and easy TV watching. Perfect.

The next morning we got up relatively early to walk down to the Brighton and Hove parkrun. Charlotte lives in the luxurious position of being a relatively short walk from the Hove Prom parkrun and the Brighton and Hove parkrun. And you know what? She doesn’t even do parkrun! She also informed me of a fantastic life hack…the local Furniture Village next to the park has free FRESHLY BAKED cookies when it opens. OK so they are meant to be for browsing customers but still 😉 Sadly I didn’t quite have the time to “browse” that morning, what a shame!

 

Brighton and Hove parkrun is run in the lovely Hove Park. It’s all run on tarmac and is fairly undulating. It’s 2.5 laps of the park and is a nice one for spectators as they can easily see the runners several times. Unfortunately I missed Charlotte and Paddy cheering me on TWICE. I don’t know how I didn’t spot them! Apparently I looked like I was “in the zone” so maybe I was just too focused.I did a short warm-up (it was quite chilly once we’d stopped walking) and then headed to the start. I heard the lady in front of me saying she wasn’t going to make Spin after parkrun… Wow that’d be keen! Anyway I had told myself just to run how I felt and at the start I got caught up in the excitement and realised I was running fairly quickly.
That was soon put to an end as we reached the first incline. The inclines were gradual and fairly long… but it was a beautiful course and the downhills were nice.I felt strong and attempted to pick people off in front of me. A man with a buggy zoomed past me and I tried to keep him in my sights, though never managed to catch up with him. There were a few supporters cheering us round which was nice and strangely a man on the sidelines counting us as we ran past (I remember a man doing this at the New Forest Marathon as well actually – is this a new thing??).

I managed a nice negative split, though my lungs were burning. My time was 21:51 which I was so pleased with! I haven’t had such a fast time in ages. It was also really nice to have my friends there at the finish line as well, though I was dying at this point.Then we said goodbye and I had to quick march to the train station (with a Starbucks stop en route of course). I just made my train… well, might as well finish how I started this trip eh!Sunday saw me waking up at the lovely time of 8.15am to meet my running friends for a long run. A few of us were meeting a fellow Bournemouth marathon trainee half-way through his run in order to help him through his 20 miler.I only really wanted 8-12 miles. I ran to the meeting spot, which was only 1.5 miles away and then met up with the running crewWe ran a lovely, albeit undulating, route through to Southampton and back round again. This did mean, of course, running across the dreaded Itchen Bridge (if you’ve ever done the Southampton 10k/half/marathon you’ll know about this). It wasn’t too bad. The run was really nice and relaxed and I managed to chip out 12 miles exactly in the end.Then the rest of the day was spent walking Alfie and packing to move out. Not particularly relaxing I must say… but needs must!

Do you go to work conferences?

Do you get Deliveroo in your area? I don’t, so it’s always a treat when I’m staying somewhere that does (probably for the best I don’t get it in my area though!)

Do you have any cheeky life hacks?

The New Forest Marathon 2017

The New Forest Marathon was my 10th marathon. I ran it with my good friend, Mike, who for whatever reason has yet to get a sub four hour marathon in his previous two, despite his other race times indicating he should. On Sunday morning my alarm went off at 5.50am (actually not feeling that bad considering I often get up at 5am during the week to go to the gym).My dad was supporting and was going to drive so I’d stayed at my parent’s house the night before. We got going at 6.20am and I had my porridge, Beet It! shot and a flask of coffee en route (time-saving tactics so I could have more sleep). We picked Mike up and headed to the New Forest.We got there within plenty of time (thankfully though not the three hours beforehand that they’d advised!). We arrived about 7.15am, picked up our bibs and were ready for a 9am start. We saw a few others from my club who were doing the half or the full and we shuffled around in the misty, cold waiting to make a move to the start area.I went to the portable loos several times (as you do). Interestingly they were split into males and females, not that people really paid attention! I was cold but not overly so. In fact, I was happy I was cold because previous Sundays had proved very warm.
And then we headed to the start. After what seemed like a rather over-zealous instructed warm-up, of which we halfheartedly followed, we were good to go.We tried not to get carried away in the enthusiasm of the start and kept things nice and easy. There were about 1,000 runners in the full but separated into two different starts so it never felt too busy. As soon as we started running I realised I needed the loo AGAIN. Can you believe that? I’d been THREE TIMES. I told Mike I’d dash off for a wild wee in a bush and catch him up. The plan was to stay around 9-9.10min/miles so I knew I could catch him up without killing myself.Wild wee was successful (though I was in an area where there seemed to be quite a lot of ants so the risk of actual ants in the pants was quite strong). Mike and I chatted away easily and I checked in with him every now and again to make sure he was finding it easy. These miles weren’t meant to be challenging at this point. The elevation for the first 10 miles was relatively flat so things should be nice and simple here. Our first mile stone was at 5 miles when Mike took his salt tablet. He’s suffered from cramp in the past and found that taking salt tablets helps prevent this – one every five miles or so.The scenery around us was beautiful. Lots of huge redwoods, ponies and pretty foliage. I tried to snap photos where I could while also not be that annoying to Mike. But I figured that while he was in a happy place and things were going well, selfies were acceptable. I’d post them on Twitter and send a few updates to my dad as I knew he’d appreciate it. With no tracker it was good for him to have an idea of what was happening.Along the route there were lots of funny signs that said things like, “Run? I thought you said rum!” and things like that. It kept us entertained. There was also a sign next to a huge tree saying that it was the biggest redwood in the whole of the UK. Pretty cool! I tried to get a pic but kind of failed.At mile 9 I took my gel. I planned it badly as it was my thick GU gel (Maple Bacon flavour, delightful!) and needed a good amount of water to help stop the “cloying” effect in my mouth. But I decided to take it just before the water station so ended up having to do a sort of gel-then-water swallowing combo. I should have taken the gel a few minutes before the water station and then gulped down a lot of water to help it all down. Oh well!I was also very aware not to litter, not that I intentionally do, but in the race pack it was said that litter outside the aid station areas would result in disqualification so I had a limited area to get the water and gel down! I could hold a gel wrapper but not a cup as well.My dad was stood at the mile 10 marker, exactly as he said he would bless him, and he cheered us on which was a lovely boost. We were still sailing along happily so everything was very relaxed and cheerful.
Then from mile ten we had a a number of undulations, but they weren’t anything terrible so far.We were slightly unnerved that both our Garmins were out of sync with the mile markers, pretty much from mile three, by about 0.2 miles. We figured it was probably due to all the trees and as we were reaching the mile markers before our watches were beeping the miles it was quite an advantageous place to be (better it this way than our watches beeping way before). It gave us some comfort that we were kind of ahead of target.So from mile 10 to around mile 14 it was basically a gradual incline. There was a section along the road where we had to run within the confines of some cones and curb and it meant single file running. This wasn’t too bad but you couldn’t zone out as you’d drift into a cone and be taken out! It also meant I had to keep looking behind me to ensure I didn’t go too fast and lose Mike. The incline didn’t feel terrible but it did mean we had to work harder. I was hoping that because we’d found the first 10 miles so easy and had kept to a fairly quickish but sensible pace we’d be able to gain back time later when we had some downhills.Mike and I continued to chatter, but he was less enthusiastic and upbeat as before and I found myself trying to think of any random nonsense to keep him distracted. Underfoot the terrain was compacted gravel and not the easiest to run great distances over. We were always pleased when we hit some road where we didn’t have to focus so much on our foot placement or jumping puddles etc. There were lots of ponies hanging around on the sides of the course in the expanses of grass around us. Several times we had ponies gallop across the roads in a rather dramatic fashion (like a Lloyds advert…). It was fine until they charged across the road very close to us and I wasn’t sure where to go to not be trampled! I remember hearing someone behind me shout about how they were so pleased there were unicorns in the marathon which made everyone around chuckle.

At half-way I remember saying to Mike we were counting down now. The temperature was quite warm and it was somewhat humid. Nothing crazy – in fact, it was quite a nice temperature to run in, but I was getting more and thirsty between the water stations. I hadn’t taken water with me as I don’t normally do so in a marathon and the water stations were frequent and plenty, but I think there were about 3 miles between each one and this proved a bit too far for me.Thankfully there were some lovely people who lived in one of the houses we passed that had put out their own water station and we happily glugged some there. The course was fairly sparse in terms of supporters though. There were the odd few people who stood outside their houses with a cup of tea cheering, and when you got closer to the villages more people were out, but otherwise there were long stretches of no support.I decided to not take my gel at half-way as I’d planned as I didn’t think I needed it and decided to wait until 18 miles instead. As we got closer to 18 miles, Mike appeared to be finding it tougher. I’d frequently (probably annoying the hell out of him) ask how he was to keep in check. Our pace started to slow down and he kept looking at his watch and panicking a little about time. At this point I text my dad to say we were hitting the struggle train just to keep him in the loop. We were hoping to see him at mile 25.

A brief spell of light rain and wind hit us which was both a welcome relief but also an annoyance as it meant we were working against it. The cooling effect though was worth it in balance. Sadly the rain didn’t stay for long though.I saw my friend, Ben (possibly 21 or 22 miles?), and he cheered us on and helped encourage us. We got to another water station and both of us guzzled down two cups of water and Mike dumped another on his head. He mentioned he was feeling a bit sick and his fingers were tingling. I didn’t like the sound of this but I needed him to not focus on it unless it got really bad. I could see he was starting to drift into his head and go to a dark marathon place.
We hit some nice downhills which helped keep us going but he started to need to take a few walking breaks. I desperately wanted to keep him motivated and moving forward to his goal but there’s only so much you can do. I had to have another wild wee (weird, two wees in a marathon!) and then sprinted to catch up with him. It was quite nice to get my legs moving quickly – though it definitely was not sustainable at this point!

As we hit mile 23 Mike had really hit a dark place. Along with feeling dizzy and tingly he complained that his side was hurting (like his ab muscle). He luckily stretched away his knee hurting (another thing to add to his struggles!) but this side thing wouldn’t budge. Looking at his watch was just stressing him out so we decided to shelve the sub four and focused on finishing without injury and misery. This involved walking to a certain milestone and then running some more. I tried to encourage him as best as I could but I could tell it wouldn’t really help. We’ve all been there! But taking away the time goal now seemed to lessen the edge off the darkness.

I really didn’t know how best to keep him moving forward at this point. We got to mile 24 (I think) and he stopped. A fellow runner asked if he was OK and then Mike decided to sit down on a verge which possibly wasn’t the wisest idea as he immediately got cramp. The runner told me I could go on and get my time and he’d look after Mike. I was like “hell no, buddy, I’m running this thing to the end with him”. The guy said he’d stay with us as well and we’d run it to the end together and helped Mike to his feet. The runner did stay with us but for about five minutes and then disappeared which I thought was a bit odd considering he was so keen initially! But it didn’t matter as I wasn’t leaving Mike and we really didn’t need someone else offering empty words (I was doing enough of that!). It was kind of him to have helped us but in reality the only person who could help Mike was Mike.The final mile we were back to running more consistently as the end was in sight.
I spotted my dad and headed over to him to have a quick chat as Mike continued on. I explained we were struggling a bit. He said he’d see us at the finish and shouted encouragement to Mike.We ran all the way to the finish – so strange to be running the same path we’d been at four hours ago.
Sadly our time was 4:10:46 – not quite the sub four we were hoping for, but still a stellar time considering the hills and terrain. I mean, looking at the splits we only hit trouble in the last three miles really. It’s definitely an encouraging run for Mike. Had the course been easier he would have smashed it I’m sure. But such is life and such is the decision we made to use this marathon as the one to go for.
This was a very strange marathon for me as I spent about 90% of it not thinking about me at all. During the majority of my other marathons I’m constantly analysing my pace, thinking about how I feel, monitoring any niggles or weird feelings and just zoning out. For this marathon I had to be in tune with how Mike felt and constantly think about Mike. My own feelings were pushed back. I only remember one time during the marathon where I thought, “oof still a long way to go” (I think this was at about 17 miles). It was also really nice to be running at a very relaxed pace (for me). I didn’t struggle at all (sorry, Mike) and found that I was easily sailing along. Not only this but I felt I could have continued running rather than being in complete relief at the finish line. I felt good!I’m sad we didn’t hit Mike’s goal but I do think he did amazingly – and he really pushed through some tough times during those last few miles. He should be very proud of himself. I think initially he was quite disappointed but I guess that’s only because the last few struggling miles were so sharp in his memory. On reflection I believe he’s more happy now. As he should be!The New Forest Marathon was a great event. There were lots of other events happening on that day too at different times (children’s run, 10k, half). And to be honest it was mostly very smooth and well run. The medal and t-shirt are cool, and the goodie bag was reasonable with a few freebies, a banana and a water.

My only complaint was getting out of the car park. Everyone was parked in a field and it was a bit of a mess trying to get out. There were several streams of traffic from all different rows and the security wouldn’t let anyone actually exit. We have no idea why. We could just see the security team shaking their heads at each other and throwing their arms in the air… And yet there seemed no obvious reason why we couldn’t exit – there wasn’t anything blocking anywhere. People starting getting frustrated and started beeping. I think the lack of information was really annoying people as as far as we could see everything was fine to leave.

Eventually we were able to leave though! Hurrah!

We invited Mike to join us for some food but he declined (understandably not everyone thinks about food straight away after a marathon!) and we dropped him off. My dad and me headed to Coast to Coast as I had a 50% voucher and we needed some large portions and a “not too posh” restaurant.I ate to my heart’s content (that’s to say, I ate everything I ordered; chicken wings, fajitas and chocolate fudge cake) and then my dad took me home so I could pick Alfie and my car up and then head home. So, at 5pm after walking Alfie, I could finally shower! Lovely.

Do you like to eat straight after a marathon?

Have you ever run a marathon with a friend?

Have you ever gone to the Dark Marathon Place before?

Skid Row Marathon and another adulting fail

On Saturday I headed up to London just before lunch for a running-specific visit. However, there actually was no running involved…not even for a train!

I always seem to harp on about this in my blog, but I’m a big fan of the Marathon Talk podcast and have been on a few different of the events that they run. They tend to run an annual run camp located in the heart of the New Forest (at a place delightfully called Sandy Balls) which I’ve been to three times and really hope to make next year too. I’ve also been on the Austrian run camp that they trialled this year, which was FANTASTIC (even if I did come back injured from over-zealous running).

At these events I’ve made some fantastic friends who I’ve kept in touch with and hope to continue being in touch with for years to come. Running really does bring people together and, as I always always say, is just such a warm hug of a community.

So when I heard about a running-based documentary being shown in London and a few of my fellow Marathon Talk friends had decided to go I immediately signed up. The film, Skid Row Marathon, sounded interesting enough but really I just wanted to hang out with some cool like-minded people and geek out over miles, splits and races.

Through the magic of social media I arranged to meet up with a Marathon Talker, James (@Runeckers on Insta) who I didn’t really know in “real life” but knew vaguely through Twitter and Instagram. But I thought he didn’t sound particularly like a psycho and it would be nice to grab some lunch somewhere before the 3.30pm showing. If I’m going to go to London I might as well make more of a day of it.

We arranged to meet in Leicester Square and had a brief moment of funny awkwardness when I could see him across a busy crossroad but he couldn’t see me but I couldn’t get across the road. I was messaging him saying “I can see you!” only to watch him look around bewildered. Eventually he spotted me, but it did scream slightly of a weird stalker girl 😉

James turned out to indeed not be a psycho and we chatted easily, as runners do, about all things races, PBs, injuries and goals. As I’d run 16 miles earlier that morning I could feel my runger start to emerge even though I hadn’t had breakfast that many hours ago. So there ensued us walking around trying to chat but also trying to make our minds up on where to eat. As tempting as Nando’s was, we both decided maybe something a bit more original and found a lovely spot called The Hummus Bros. It was lovely.I must admit the portion sizes did look alarmingly small to my highly greedy eyes, despite having “gone large”. However it was actually incredibly filling. It was quite intensely packed with hummus (surprise, surprise), shredded chicken and guacamole. It also came with two lovely warm thick pitas as well. James had the beef stroganoff hummus bowl which sounded bizarre to me but he said was nice.

On our quest for lunch I’d spotted a fro-yo spot, Yorica, and as James had never tried fro-yo I pretty much demanded that we go there for pudding. You know, to spread the good fro-yo word.The fro-yo flavours sounded good and the lady behind the counter tempted me to trying a mix of chocolate with “mellow macha”. We saw someone having large chunks of brownie put onto theirs and immediately followed suit as well. They looked pretty tasty! It was an interesting spot with a machine for free sprinkles which was rather jazzy. Of course we had to have a little go.Though my fro-yo looks huge in comparison to James’ I actually had quite a big hole within the depths of the fro-yo which was somewhat disappointing but actually it was quite a decent portion (even for me). Then we ambled back towards the Prince Charles theatre in Leicester Square to meet with the others who’d arrived.Quite a few of the Austria run campers had come so it was nice to see them and catch up. Martin Yelling (one of the Marathon Talk presenters, who had organised the event to take place) and his wife, Liz Yelling, were also there and it was nice to say hi and briefly chat again. They also introduced us to the producers of the film which was very cool indeed.

I then bumped into Maria and had a nice chat briefly. She was far more organised than me and had printed off her ticket. I suddenly realised I didn’t have my ticket. What an idiot! I realised it would be on my phone in my emails but I was struggling with Internet signal. And suddenly everyone was going in! Ensue major panic. Luckily my lovely Austria run camp friend, Zoe (who incidentally was the one responsible for organising the cinema screening with Martin – they actually organised it while we were in Austria after Martin asked if anyone had any contacts for cinema screenings in London!) said she knew I’d bought a ticket so I didn’t have to struggle anymore. Thank God. Why am I not more organised!?

John (he’s just completed a ridiculous week of running silly miles every day, legend), James and me

The film itself was just fantastic. It was so interesting, so moving and so well made. I mean, I’m clearly no movie critic but I thoroughly enjoyed it and it deserves to be seen by more people. The film roughly followed four years of an LA criminal judge, Craig Mitchell, and a running club, called the Midnight Runners, that he helped set up. The club is part of the Midnight Mission which is a shelter and addiction centre in the heart of Skid Row where around 6,000 homeless people live (LA actually has 47,000 homeless people in total). It honed in on a number of real people who were trying to make a better life for themselves. They were previous addicts, criminals – even a murderer. A theme through the film, that the producer highlighted at the end, was that no single act defined a person and that people should be given a second chance. It really spoke volumes to me.

I could go on and on about how good this film was but I won’t. I will stress though that if you get the opportunity to see it (hopefully it will become available to stream) then you really must. It gave me a lot to think about.After the film had finished there was a Q&A with the film makers themselves, Gabi and Mark Hayes. They were lovely and were very generous with their time and patience to answer a number of questions. They shared a hilarious tidbit that during the Rome Marathon that the running club took part in, one of the main “characters”, Rebecca, stopped half-way for a pizza and a cigarette as she was struggling so much. I think we’ve all felt that pain before!

When we broke out into the foyer I hung out with other Marathon Talkers. Gabi and Mark were there too so we could ask them a few more questions. They were so willing to chat and so friendlyEventually a bunch of us headed off to grab a drink and food as it was now around 6pm. We stopped at a nearby Slug and Lettuce. A few of us ordered a chicken salad in a tortilla bowl (very tasty) and my lovely friend, Deni, ordered four portion of chips for us all to share.Runners know how to eat, of course!

After chatting away it was time to head back home. An easy train ride for me at 8.09pm to Portsmouth Harbour, which would stop at Hedge End where I’d walk the 15 minutes back to my flat. Easy peasy.

I got on my train (yep, it said Portsmouth Harbour, yep it was around 8pm) and happily chilled out. It was only when I got chatting to a lovely couple near me that I realised I’d made a mistake. Well, they highlighted to me my mistake. I was on the wrong train. The wrong Portsmouth Harbour train. I’d gotten on the one that didn’t go through Southampton! Why put TWO Portsmouth Harbour trains running at VERY similar times on neighbourghing platforms!? Don’t they realise they’re dealing with people with limited common sense, AKA me??

I quickly checked online on my phone and the couple were, of course, correct. This train did not go anywhere near Hedge End. Anna Standard Behaviour right there. So I made the dreaded phonecall to my parents to see if by any chance they could pick me up and take me home from Havant (a legitimate stop on this train), which was about 15 minutes from where they lived. As ever, they came to my rescue (and may I add, not at all surprised. After all, this is not unusual behaviour for me to be without my brain at crucial moments). In fact, my dad went as far to say that whenever I travel a distance away from home one of them won’t have a glass of wine that evening as they never can guarantee I can make it home safely alone. Jeeze.

What made it even worse was that the train was delayed by 45 minutes. My dad remarked when he finally saw me that only I could get on the wrong train and then have it delayed. The couple who I was sat near were lovely company though and we passed the time chatting away. Bless their hearts, they said they had a daughter “my age” too…she’d just finished travelling after university (she’s 23! Ha! I’m almost 30 don’t you know!). That said, this 23 year old could evidently make it safely and happily around South East Asia for six weeks without any issue. I can barely navigate two hours from my home.

*Sighs* but I made it home safely thanks to my life-saving parents. A silly way to end a fantastic day. At least I go to talk their ears off about the film that evening…

Have you ever got on the wrong train?

Do you enjoy documentaries?