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?

Thing I’m loving lately – June

*Whispers* I don’t want to speak too soon, but I have had a pretty decent streak of running uninjured.

I mean I had a blip after Tokyo with my ankle, but after a week off I was good to go again. It’s kind of all going…dare I say it, OK??Two marathons and now onto my next bout of marathon training, please let it continue to go as smoothly!

So as I’m in a pretty good mood with my running, I thought I’d continue these happy vibes with some things I’m loving lately.

The new series of My Dad Wrote A Porno podcast: If you’ve never heard of it or think it sounds weird, you really just need to give it a go. It is HILARIOUS. Like actual laugh out loud comedy. I binge listened to the first two series and now they’ve just started the third series. They have fans such as Daisy Ridley, Elijah Wood, Michael Sheen. I can’t recommend it enough.

Dogs of parkrun: I love how many dogs come out to parkrun. Not all of them run, but it’s lovely to see them ‘supporting’. I took a photo of some of the ones I saw at Netley at the weekend and made a collage.All so lovely. I know that dogs at races/parkrun can be annoying but I’m a big dog lover so to me I’m happy to have to dodge around them and their leads. I’d love to run with Alfie but I’m worried that as he’s a bit older (almost eight!) it might not be a good idea. He’s never run further than half a mile so I’d need to start very slowly with him, which at the moment I don’t really have time for. He loves racing about on his own though.

SIS products: I really love these products I’ve been sent. I don’t actually take the Overnight Protein Powder in the evening as it suggests but I have it in my porridge every morning (about 15g). I like to boost my porridge in this way to get some added protein and it adds a nice chocolate taste. It really isn’t overwhelming sweet.They suggest taking the protein powder in the evening due to the casein content (80% casein and 20% whey from the milk protein). Casein works while you’re asleep, stimulating muscle protein synthesis. It’s low in fat and carbs as well. Like I said, I like how subtle the chocolate taste is so it goes really nicely in my porridge (I add it to the oats before I microwave it). I’m not a huge fan of overly sweet porridge. It also makes a nice hot chocolate as well when mixed with hot water!

And as I’ve mentioned previously, I love the Go Caffeine Shots. These are going to become pre-race staples for me. I’d normally have a cup of black coffee before a race but I hate drinking too much liquid. This shot is only 60ml so is perfect, so I can still hydrate well with water.

The tropical flavour is definitely my favourite over the cola flavour though. The cola one is just a bit too sharp/sour.

Having a clear out: My drawers are currently bulging with the amount of fitness clothes and race t-shirts I own so I decided to have a clear out. I donated a load of tops from races that I wasn’t too bothered about (really old 10ks) and then separated t-shirts I wanted to keep but would no longer wear, such as marathon t-shirts.

I’ve decided at the end of the year I’ll get a blanket made up of my race tops as a nice way to keep the t-shirts and remember the race. I’ve found this website that does it. It’s expensive, which is why I’m waiting until the end of the year so I can add (HOPEFULLY) a few more shirts to it.

I’d like to do something with my bibs as well (I always save them as well as my medals) but I’m not sure what at the moment. A friend of mine put them on his wall and that looked cool, but I don’t really have the space. Maybe a big scrapbook or something.

What do you do with your race t-shirts and bibs?

Do you use any SIS products?

Do you have long running streaks or are you injury prone like me?

**Full Disclaimer: I’ve been sent the SIS products for free to test out for a review on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

D Day 10k 2017

I went to bed the Saturday night before the D Day 10k at 9pm. This is despite getting up at the more leisurely time of 7am and having had an hour long nap at 6pm in the day. My body felt knackered. Last week had been a total grind.

All week I didn’t felt myself. I felt unwell, though not in like a dodgy tummy or sickness way but in a lethargic, foggy and overwhelming tiredness way. It felt like a virus as I didn’t feel right in myself, but other people have suggested low iron levels or over-training. But I don’t think it was. My heart rate, in general, had been normal when I woke up and during the day. But who knows.

ANYWAY. So I didn’t have particularly high hopes for D Day. Despite my early night and 8am alarm (so a very cushty 11 hours sleep) I woke up still not feeling like my normal sprightly self. But I wanted to do the race more to just be social and have a run with other people. I’d only mope about on my own and then do a feeble run later in the day anyway.

My friend Mike picked me up with his daughter and we headed to Portsmouth. Neither of us were “feeling” the race and we moaned about how rubbish we felt. We spoke to a few others and in general people were feeling a bit pants about it. But the sun was shining, it’s a flat course (albeit a lot of around a car park) and there’s a Starbucks just next to the finish.I said to Mike and my friend Geoff that I hoped to do sub-50. From parkrun the day before I just didn’t think my legs were going to perform well. Running was hard work recently. Mike was aiming to beat his PB but wasn’t sure how he’d fare. I was pleased to find that I could wear my Aftershokz headphones as they’re “bone conducting” so complied with regulations. I definitely needed something to keep me going!I hadn’t had breakfast that morning as I didn’t want to get up any earlier than 8am but had a glass of water with electrolytes and then an SIS caffeine shot 30 minutes before the race start. I hoped it would rev me up a bit.I did half a mile gentle jogging (something I rarely do but I had time on my hands) and then we headed to the start.We held a minute’s silence in respect for the victims of the London attack the night before just before the start, which was a sombre but respectful thing to do. Then we started. I had my music on and got going. As I weaved around people in front of me and got into my stride I found that I felt quite good. Nothing like the heavy leg and fogginess I’ve felt on my other runs that week. I checked my watch and was surprised to see 7:15min/mile pace. I genuinely wondered if my Garmin was playing up but decided to just go with it.

I kept with a guy from the club, Bernie, for a while and then felt myself getting stronger and overtook him. I actually couldn’t believe how strong I felt and yet how quick (for me) I appeared to be going. I decided to see what I could do. If I crashed and burned then so be it, but right then I felt comfortable.

The course itself at D Day is a bit dull. I’ve done it before a good few years ago but it’s changed hugely. It’s unrecognisable to what I ran previously. I knew there were three laps but I couldn’t work out where that would happen. I just kept focused on the runners ahead of me and gradually picked them off.

As I got into mile two, now down to 7min/miles, I was still wondering where this speed and ease of running had come from. The course was super flat and the wind, fairly gentle, seemed to be mostly going sideways at us or as a tailwind. Occasionally we’d run against it but it was only brief moments. Everything seemed to be on our side.I passed a guy who normally is miles ahead of me and wondered if he was just plodding it or having a bad day (I later found he was using it as a training sessions: first 5k easy, and then 1k sprints – wow!). I gentle passed runners and had no one pass me, which felt really nice! Though to be fair, it wasn’t a particularly big field.

There’s a section of the course that runs down a gravel path and alongside a lake and lots of greenery which was fairly pleasant. It was annoying to run on gravel at 10k speed but it was a nice change from the boring and hot car park that made up a chunk of the race. We were under some shade which was nice, but the path seemed to go on forever.

Halfway there was a water station and I grabbed a drink. I wasn’t terribly thirsty but it was hot so I swigged a good few mouthfuls before tossing it to the side (always a delicate operations to a) not hit other runners, b) not hit any spectators, c) not throw it somewhere really obscure that it can’t be cleared away later).

I hit four miles and now the effort level was high. I was in the zone of “stay with it, keep pushing” while all the time wondering when I was going to blow or have a wobbly. I felt the energy slowly being sapped out of my legs and tried to remember all the amazing food I’d eaten the day before that I was sure would still be helping me. I cursed myself for not having breakfast but wondered if that would have helped. Who knows.

The last mile down that gravel path was tough. I found myself alone now. The runners ahead too far away to catch and no one behind me giving chase. Mentally it was tough. Physically it was tougher. I was then off the gravel and onto the final stretch of pavement to the finish.My watch beeped 6 miles and I told myself to just hold on for a few moments more. A “400m to go” sign appeared and I could see the finish ahead. Ah, smile for the camera (I’m sure that was a grimace…), “200m to go”, keep going, keep going. Annnnnd finish!No wobble but the sheer sense of effort and “God I feel sick” feelings hit me. I bloody hate 10ks. My watch said 43:13. I was over the moon. I couldn’t remember my PB but I knew it was 42-something. I checked my blog as that’s where I keep a list of PBs (so handy) and found I was only 23 seconds off!

There was a small Hedge End Running Club turn-out due to other events happening (*sobs* the Romsey Beer and Cake race being one) but it was a nice gathering. For the most part, I think people did fairly well and were happy. Mike achieved his PB as well so he was happy (once he’d finished dying on the grass).And finally a few of us headed to the very nearby Starbucks and we celebrated with some tasty coffee (I went for decaf as I’d already had that SIS caffeine shot – which, by the way, I think really helped my race!)So from initially not even wanting to show up to D Day, to being close to my PB…well, a definite turnaround! I’m really pleased that since January my 10k time has come down from 46:26 from the Stubbington 10k, to 45:27 from the Brighton 10k in April, now to 43:13. Annoyingly my official chip time is 43:22. Initially the race organisers had issues with some of the chips so I only had a gun time of 43:27 and then they added the chip time later (43:22). Though I’m not sure that’s accurate either as I spoke to a few others in the same boat and their watch times and new chip time don’t match at all either. Hey ho, 43:22 is still a big mark of progress though!

I’m not aiming to improve on this 10k time as marathon training is about to begin, but it’s always nice to naturally get quicker. I have another 10k in July so we’ll see how much of an improvement I can make, but I won’t be losing sleep over it! I do so hate 10ks…

What’s your favourite race distance?

What’s your favourite post race drink?

Have you ever surprised yourself with a race result when you weren’t feeling it?

**Full Disclaimer: I’ve been sent SIS products to test for free in exchange of reviewing them on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

A weekend of running and vegan food

I know, vegan food and me. I’m like the biggest meat-eater and meat-lover alive…but first let’s start with parkrun.

I was back at Netley parkrun this Saturday which was nice. The weather was lovely, though there were some loitering dark clouds overhead which thankfully didn’t come to anything during our time there.I helped with set-up as usual. We were on the summer course…three laps with three hills, oh joy. I actually don’t mind this course as it breaks up the running monotony that can come with a flat course.I’ve recently been sent some SIS products to test out so I thought it the ideal occasion to test out their new caffeine shots. I gave one to my friend, Mike, as well for him to try. We toasted to a good parkrun and downed the 60ml shot.I had the tropical flavour, which has a very sweet and sour flavour to it. It contains 150mg of caffeine so a hefty dose for such a small bottle. I really like the taste of these (though they are quite sour) and I’m keen to test it out in other scenarios, like pre-races and pre-early morning gym sessions when I need a kick up the backside.

Photo credit: Chris Stapleford

I did feel, whether psychologically or physically, ready to hit the ground running at the start. I gave it my best but it was tough having become so used to the flatter courses. The hill kind of breaks your flow a bit but I do prefer a three lap course and mentally it’s a lot more interesting.My time was 21:30. I gave it a good effort and with the hills I’m quite happy with this time. Though looking back the last time I was on the Netley summer course I got 21:38 so the progress isn’t that great! I’m not too bothered about parkrun times in general but it’s nice to keep track of my times and see progress being made. I do feel that my running has become somewhat lazy recently though. I will run the majority of my runs all the same pace. I need to get back into doing some speed work if I do want to get a bit faster. Maybe once every two weeks? That’s the intention anyway.After parkrun, and scoffing down half a large slice of cake that my friend’s daughter was eating (she needed help, I was more than happy to assist!) I headed home to get ready to head out to have coffee with my mum, dad, sister, her fiance and my nieces.We had a lovely coffee and then mooched around the shops. I got some nice pieces from H&M, including a £7 leather jacket! I don’t actually understand why it was so cheap and thought it was marked up incorrectly. There’s nothing wrong with it but I won’t argue with the price! I now have a good outfit sorted for my birthday trip to London next month with my girlfriends. Whoop whoop!

I’d planned to do a long run from my parent’s house the next day, around 10-13 miles, but then via my running club Facebook group I heard a couple of people heading out at 9am for around 10 miles which sounded perfect. It’s always nicer to run with other people so I tagged on with them.

I’m so glad I did as the miles just fly by when you’re with company as you’re chatting away. Also I didn’t have to think about the route as they already had something planned. It was a lovely route through Manor Farm, which is a local park/woodland area with lots of off-road trails and a couple of hills.

Unfortunately one of the guys felt ill and decided to stop at 4 miles. After checking he was OK and him pushing us to carry on, we continued on. It was just the two of us then, a lovely lady from the running club and myself, and it was just such a nice run, both in company and the route.

After the run I rushed back home to shower and get ready to head out to meet my lovely friend, April. She’s a fellow blogger who’s mum lives in Southampton so was down for the week. We’ve been meaning to catch up and she knew of a very cool-sounding vegan restaurant, Off Beet in Wickham. I’ve seen her numerous Instagram posts for this cafe but have never been myself so it seemed like the opportune moment.Located in the old mill, it’s quite hidden away. It’s a small set-up, with only a few tables so booking is necessary, and the menu is quite small but everything is home-made and beautifully presented. I was quite hungry by this point so I was won over by the beetroot burger with polenta chips.

It was really tasty. The burger was made up primarily of beetroot with lots of vegetables and salady bits in a portobello mushroom “bun”. There was also cashew cheese on the burger! The sauce was a home-made sugar-free BBQ sauce with polenta chips.It was very tasty (like like the plate tasty) but I wasn’t quite full afterwards. You know me, big appetite and all that. Thankfully April is the same so we decided pudding was a necessity.

We both had the brownie cheesecake (yes, still vegan!) and I went for a 70% hot chocolate made with almond milk. WOWZA. Rocked. My. World.It was so creamy and tasty. Not hugely sweet like a Cheesecake Factory cheesecake but sweet enough to be very yummy indeed. This certified meat-eater approves! See, I can forgo meat occasionally 😉

It was a lovely afternoon catching up with April (both of us discussing all things running and our wanderlust desires of travelling and seeing the world…). And the sun was shining which just made it perfect.

Do you enjoy vegan food?

Have you ever tried a caffeine shot?

Do you do intervals or speed work regularly?

London Marathon 2017

So I’ve written this from my sick bed. I survived the London Marathon and then got taken down by a virus for three days. I had to have time off work and recover from the illness while also recovering from the marathon. Fun fun fun.

But anyway I’m feeling a lot better now, so onto the marathon recap! I’ll recap the Expo and the pre-marathon days in another post, but this will solely focus on the day of the race itself.My alarm was set for the ridiculous time of 4am. My dad and I had to drive into Southampton to meet the coach at 5.30am. I could have gotten up a bit later because I was taking breakfast with me to eat on the way and wasn’t having a shower (does anyone on the day of a marathon?) but I wanted to get in a coffee straight away to encourage, well, a happy comfortable marathon, if you get my meaning! 😉We got to the coach a teeny bit late – entirely my fault for not knowing precisely where we were meeting. Obviously I’d left it to the last possible moment to realise this. Standard Anna Behaviour. But we arrived and weren’t the last so that was OK.

The coach was AMAZING. There were only like 12 of us on it so we could spread out, there was a toilet, USB ports and super comfortable seats. I did try and sleep but to be honest I was too nervous. I looked over my dad’s plan for the day.Bless him, he’d printed out possible times I’d be passing through the areas he was going to head to, mile by mile breakdowns and the course route. Very organised!We arrived at Blackheath around 8am and then walked to the start areas. It was quite chilly and overcast so I was glad to have one of my dad’s jumpers on that I could throw away at the start. There were loads of coaches and runners everywhere and you could just feel the nervous energy flowing about the place. It was amusing to see all the police officers having coffee and breakfast though before the real mayhem began.I got to the Green Start easily. All the starts were well sign-posted and there were coloured air balloons in the sky per area so you could easily head in the right direction. I said goodbye to my dad and my running club and parkrun friend Aurelio who’d be spectating with my dad.I was early enough in the starting area to get into the toilet queue and only have about 20 minutes to wait which was good (when it was about 30 minutes to the start the queues were RIDICULOUS. I think people were just queuing for something to do). I also saw my lovely friend, Sarah, who works from Xempo and I’d met at the MarathonTalk Runcamp weekend. Her, her husband and friend were all dressed as monks and the Archbishop and were aiming to break the World Record (a sub 3:30 marathon) – FYI, they did!! AMAZING TIME and in fancy dress!

Then I spotted the “Celebrity Area” and like a creeper I loitered near the barriers to try and spot anyone interesting.They had their own tent and a fenced off area but they came out to sign autographs and get photos so it was quite fun to spot the different people. Though a lot of them I had no idea who they were! (Not sure what Chrissie Wellington is doing!).The main celeb I really wanted to see was Adele from the BBC Radio One Early Morning Breakfast Show. I listen to her show in the mornings when I go to the gym (from 5am) and I’ve Tweeted her a few times and text in the show. As sad as it sounds, I was really chuffed she gave me a shout out on the show to wish me luck for the marathon. It’s her first marathon and she was never a runner before training so I was interested to see how she did. ANYWAY, I saw her and said hello, SO awkwardly, and was like “it’s Anna…AnnaTheApple” and she was like “Anna! Hello!” and then hugged me. It was lovely. I know it’s such a pathetically small thing, but it really made my day.I didn’t get a photo but a hug was more than enough! Then I head to my wave. Everything seemed very organised and easy to find, but it was ridiculously crowded.After some hanging around, we started moving forward. It didn’t take that long to reach the start and then we were off.As seems to be common theme for me, I realised I needed a wee. It wasn’t a critical situation but it was just annoying. I settled in to the best rhythm I could given how busy it was. I mean, I’ve been to busy and popular races but this was another level. There was just no space around me. It was good I wasn’t wanting to hit any sort of specific paces or wanting to go faster because I literally couldn’t. To be honest, I was quite chilled. My pace felt comfortable and I just spent my time looking at other people, seeing all the crowds and just zoning out. I did some legging-spotting as well as you do 😉 Always a great way to pass some time!My first milestone to get to was Cutty Sark, around 10k. My dad and Aurelio were going to be there so I was excited to potentially see them. I got to Cutty Sark and realised that wasn’t going to happen. The crowds were like four people deep. I scanned and scanned but just couldn’t spot them. My eyes were so fixed on the crowds that I didn’t see the water bottle on the floor and I turned my ankle on it. I felt a sharp jab of pain and hobbled a bit and then started running again and MIRACULOUSLY it was fine, though a little sore. But it did make me suddenly think “right, eyes on the road”! I was a little deflated having not seen my dad. Not because I needed to see him to boost me along, but because I know how much effort he’d have put into getting there. It’s stressful being a spectator and he prides himself in getting to good spots. But London is clearly just another level.So I carried on to my next milestone, mile eight, where I had my first gel (SIS Blackberry flavour with caffeine). It was now at the point that I really did need to stop for a wee. I’d passed a few portable loos but I’d seen people queuing so I decided to wait until I spotted a free one. At around mile 10 I spotted one and jumped into it. Then I was back out and running again as fast as possible. I probably lost 30 seconds? No issue.

I have to say I can’t really remember anything significant, other than Cutty Sark, from mile 1-10. I find those miles fairly dull in a marathon anyway. You’re just getting into the flow of things, you’re not that tired yet and I was running within myself so it was just plodding along really. The crowds were fantastic but once you’ve seen one London road…

Getting to mile 10 was nice because it meant I could switch my podcast on and listen to that (I don’t allow myself to do this until mile 10 so I don’t get bored of it too quickly). For me when I’m not really pushing for a time, a marathon is a waiting game. It’s a mental game of not pushing too hard and holding on for the harder miles that will inevitably come later.

The sun started to come out so I made sure I headed to most of the water stations to grab a water. They were on both sides of the roads and weren’t too chaotic. I quite liked that they were bottles (though they were treacherous underfoot) as it meant I could carry it with me for a bit. It also helped that I wasn’t dependent on getting to a water station to take my other two thicker gels (GUs) later. My lips were ridiculously dry though and I wished I’d put some lip balm on them. I looked longingly at the Vaseline that the St John’s ambulance people had on their gloved hands but I wasn’t sure I’d want a bit glob. I saw one guy grab some and then have to wipe his hands on a lamp post (it looked very odd until I realised what he was doing!).

It became quickly apparent though that I couldn’t really hear my podcast that well as I was using the Aftershokz headphones which don’t sit in your ears, so it meant when the crowds cheered (i.e. most of the time) I couldn’t hear what was being said. However, it was nice to have the comforting voices of the podcast anyway that I could dip in and out of as I was running.Going across Tower Bridge was incredible. INCREDIBLE. I didn’t think I’d find it that amazing. Everyone talks about how good it is and I was a bit like, “yeah yeah”. But honestly, I got goose bumps. It was fantastic. I had to take my phone out to snap a few pictures of course 😉The views across the bridge were amazing too. After that I knew it was supposed to get quiet as we headed towards the Isle of Dogs. Apparently this is a tricky area. But the crowds were still thick as anything. I almost wanted to have no crowds for a bit. It was quite mentally overwhelming. In other marathons there are times when there aren’t any crowds and you can kind of just put your head down and plod on. Then when the crowds appear again it’s like a big boost, but the boost effect was wearing out now. I was also sad because I’d apparently missed seeing my dad again. He was going to be around mile 13. I wondered what kind of day he was having while I was running and hoped he wasn’t feeling stressed.I just wanted to get to mile 18. It always feels like such an achievement to get to that mile. I ran through Canary Wharf before this point, though I only realised this from seeing a sign. The views of the skyscrapers started to appear around me which was cool. I still felt pretty good. I’d say the only struggle I was having was mentally feeling tired of running. I questioned why I was running yet another marathon. I felt in myself that I needed a break. I love marathons but running this one so close to Tokyo was wearing my brain down a bit.

I remember hitting 17 miles and feeling a stab of hunger. HUNGER. I don’t think I’ve ever felt hungry during a race before. It was weird. I’d had a normal breakfast a few hours before the race so I thought it really weird. I was actually looking forward to taking my gel at mile 18 for the extra calories!As soon as I got to mile 20 I felt like I was in the clear. I know that might sound cocky but I still felt comfortable, like I had energy and my legs felt alright. So I switched my podcast to music and got into the zone for the last 10k. In my head I kept thinking “just two more parkruns”. Now the crowds were even thicker and louder. I looked at my watch and worked out that even if it took me an hour to do the last 10k I’d be within the 3:45 target I’d vaguely set myself. I was in a happy place.At this point I started scanning the crowds to see if I could spot anyone I knew. There were several people from Instagram, Twitter and my running club that I knew would be spectating around these points so it really kept me occupies to look out for them. When I did spot someone it really boosted me when they cheered me on. It was very much appreciated. I got uber excited when I saw someone from my club, as it was just so nice to see a friendly face. London had felt a little lonely so far.I was now feeling very marathon weary. My legs still felt OK but my mind was done. I just wanted to get to the “last parkrun”. I remember looking at my watch with the actual time of day on it and remembering that I said to my dad I’d see him before 2pm if all went well and it was now after 1pm and I felt very close to being finished. At some point I heard around mile 21 my dad shout to me and I turned to see him and Aurelio in the crowd. Ahhh it was so good to see them! I was so pleased we’d both seen each other at some point during the race!

I’m not sure where the photo below came from but thank you to whoever took it!
Then suddenly Big Ben was in front of me to the right and it was like, “wow!”.  It was just one of those “this is why I run marathons” moment. Then we turned the corner and I could almost SMELL the finish, despite still being almost a mile away.Then signs appeared counting down the metres to the end. 800m…600m… but it seemed to take FOREVER to run the 200m between. I kept trying to smile but it was now quite tough and I’m sure I was grimacing more than smiling.

Then we ran under a sign that said “385 yards to go” and you saw Buckingham Palace and turned the corner to run the final iconic road down to the finish along The Mall.SUCH a fantastic finish. I couldn’t quite believe it. I saw the time ticking and realised I could squeak in under 3:35 which would technically be a Boston Qualifier (and another Good For Age).And then I was done! 3:34:01. I am so chuffed with that time as I felt like I was fairly comfortable running (as comfortable as you can be really in a marathon). I think my main issue was mental weariness. I know I need to take a break now from excessive long runs and marathons. It was, dare I say, a bit of a mental grind. So different to Tokyo where I didn’t feel such a mental struggle – mainly because I was running with good company. This felt a lot more lonely and tough going.I collected my medal almost straight away (Tokyo could learn a thing or two about this…), my goodie bag with the technical t-shirt in it (X-Small – awesome!). I took a few selfies and then followed everyone in the standard marathon march (i.e. slow shuffle) to the meeting area.I met up with my dad and Aurelio fairly quickly. They’d had a mare trying to get to all the different places but we both agreed it was nice to have seen each other at least once! And my dad got a good amount of steps in walking about the place, so it was good for him and he felt proud of himself.I was now starving. The TINY apple in the goodie bag disappeared very quickly. Aurelio headed off to support some of the others that he was supporting and my dad and me headed off to find somewhere for lunch. We chose the Byron Burger as frankly it was close, it didn’t look heaving with people and the menu looked nice!It was so good to get some food in me. My dad and I shared some buffalo chicken wings. So tasty but my poor dry and cracked lips were destroyed by the spicy sauce. It was definitely a hardship to eat them! I then had a Cobb salad with some sweet potato fries. Honestly it was just what I fancied (mmm bacon and blue cheese…). I went from being very hungry to very full very quickly. I didn’t fancy pudding at all (weird marathon stomach) so we headed off for a bit of a wonder. We had a lot of time to kill before 5.30pm when the coach would leave!And then we got the coach and headed home! Another Major ticked off the list, just two more to go: New York and Chicago…

Have you ever done the London Marathon?

Did you watch it on the TV?

Have you ever felt hungry during a race?