Goals for the Brighton Marathon

It’s that time again… my next marathon is almost here. My fourteenth marathon.

So normally when I write these things I’m quite vague and fluffy about my goals. I’d have several soft goals of remaining uninjured, having a bit of fun and probably aiming for a ballpark time of 3:45 or there abouts.

The “remain uninjured” will always be my first and foremost goal. No marathon is worth getting injured for in my opinion. I’ve been there and done that with my first Bournemouth Marathon and if I’m honest I fully regret pushing through. I don’t get warm fuzzy feelings from that one. But you live and learn (or at least I try to).

So this marathon, asides from my unchanged “remain uninjured” main goal, I do have fairly ambitious time goals this time. I had a moment of, “why not?” the other week as I found my training was going well and I’d clocked up some solid long runs (17 miles, 18 miles, 20 miles… the stuff that dreams are made of as far as I’m concerned when it comes to my marathon training).

I mean, I could run this marathon like I’ve run most of the others… take a few selfies, wave and smile at the supporters and take my time on the first 20 miles before thinking “OK maybe time to give it a blast”. And I’d manage to have gas left in the tank because I’d ran fairly comfortably.

But what would happen if I did actually go for it? Like set out with a ‘not-so-comfortable selfie-taking’ pace? I’m not talking about a ridiculous pace but something around 7:50s. Comfortable enough in theory, but for 26.2 miles…? Not as cushty as say 8.30s or 8.20s would be. And then if I have gas left, to push that further to 7.40s and maybe even 7.30s.

This is all very much blue sky thinking dreamworld scenario of course but I do want to put it out there that I’m considering going for it. My final decision will very much depend on how I feel on the day of course and then, if I do appear to feel good, how the first 8-10 miles feel. If it feels like it’s just too hard to maintain for the rest then I can accept defeat and either crawl miserably to the end of bring the pace back down and resume selfie-taking mode.

I realistically have nothing to lose (asides from some painful hours of my life in a living nightmare of a marathon). The Brighton Marathon isn’t a particularly special marathon. I’d never attempt something like this for a marathon like New York (later this year) because I want to actually enjoy New York (if possible) and see the sights and have a good time. Brighton? Well it’s relatively flat and realistically if it goes wrong I won’t cry about it because it’s, well, Brighton (no offence Brighton. I love you dearly as you know).

Now this is scary, throwing your goals down on paper for the world Internet to see and judge (OK, yeah no one cares but me…). My PB is 3:24:06 from the Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon back in 2016. So to beat this I need to run roughly a 7.45min/mile pace. So my intention (very much intention I stress) is to head out at 7.50s and see what I can bring to the table later on. I won’t be upset if I don’t beat my PB. I’m very proud of it and if it remains my PB forever than that’s fine by me. But to beat it would be nice of course.

So my goals:

  • Remain uninjured
  • Gold Standard (if everything goes right on the day, angels sing, unicorns prance, cake drops from the heavens etc.): sub 3:24
  • Silver Standard: sub 3:30
  • Bronze Standard: sub 3:35
  • Everything’s gone to poo: all the selfies and make it to the finish

There we have it. Laid out bare. If it happens it happens. If it doesn’t, who cares? My self-esteem and happiness do not rest on this. It does however rest on the size of the cake I’ll be eating afterwards. Just saying.

Do you set yourself hard or soft goals?

Do you like to beat your PB’s regularly? Are they important to you?

Why do you run?

Collecting things

When I grew up I loved collecting things.

I would be the girl with 10 Tamagotchis. I had more pogs than I knew what to do with. I loved those rubber wrist bands (especially the ones filled with sparkly liquid). I had the Pokemon cards. Spice Girl photos. Gel pens. You name it, I collected it.

As I grew up (have I grown up? I don’t think so…), I stopped collecting things as much in that kind of childhood sense, but I still did things that allowed me to get my kick as a teenager. I played on game consoles and the computer, leveling up and collecting special items. Oh man I was a cool kid.

But then since going to university and then starting a Big Person Job though you just don’t do that sort of thing anymore really. No time, no space, no money. Oh hey adult life.

Then I started running. And my passion for collecting began once again. Races…medals…experiences. I’m not a race fanatic but I do enjoy doing different races about the place – enjoying new areas, seeing different places, meeting new people, getting a nice medal. It’s all good fun. I tend to dislike doing the same races over and over (though some are clearly worth it, hello Romsey Beer and Cake Race) because I like doing different ones. Collecting new ones, if you like.And marathons. Ahh marathons. Doing the Marathon Majors is collecting game for me. It’s a long game, don’t get me wrong, but ticking each one of the list is just something that I love to do. I don’t necessarily care about the times I get or if I break my PB. Nope. I just want to collect each medal and earn my bigger Six Star Medal at the end.And alongside that I’ve been trying to complete different parkrun challenges… get to 50, get to 100, get to 150, now get 20 different ones, now get all the letters of the alphabet, get to 200…250… tick off all the local ones, the Brighton ones, the Bristol ones, the Birmingham ones. Ahh call me a loser, call me a weirdo, but I so enjoy this kind of thing.

Most importantly, it keeps me motivated to run – and with that to be healthy and uninjured, work hard at the gym, take rest seriously, eat a balanced diet. It keeps me mentally healthy as well to not focus on smashing myself at every parkrun or race. It’s been a long while since I’ve felt disappointed about a parkun time. I remember when I first started running and every race I had to beat my last time, every parkrun had to be faster  – and if not, why not? Could I justify why I’d run so slowly? It really ground me down.

But now I’m happy to plod along, get my barcode scanned and add another one to my list. I see progress in a different way. Yes of course I want PB’s and fast times (damnit I want that sub-20 parkrun!) but it’s not everything for me. It’s not why I put my trainers on. Yes maybe this has been somewhat to my detriment when I’m not making “omg amazing” gains in my speed and I’m still no faster than I was when I started but I’m 100% happier with where I am, both body and mind.

I’ll make my progress in the ways that I enjoy. Alongside that I’ll pepper it with the occasional “hard goal” of a certain time but it won’t break my spirit if it doesn’t happen right away (or at all!), because along the way I’ll have other fun goals to tick off as I go that really only mean something to me.

And I’ve found as an adult you can still collect things. Don’t even get me started on my new found love of geocaching… ;-PDo you collect anything?

Why do you run?

Have you ever done geocaching? I’ve just gotten into it and I quite enjoy hunting around and trying to find different ones – the app is great!

Walsall Arboretum parkrun, 18 miles and all the food

Saturday morning saw me going to the Walsall Arboretum parkrun with fellow Marathon Talk fan and runner James, who lives in Birmingham. It’s not local to me at all as I live near Southampton so it was quite the parkrun tourism.Sadly I do already have a W (Winchester) but I love a bit of tourism regardless and it was supposed to be nice and flat and not too far from where I was staying. James and I got there at 8.30am which felt quite early but actually worked out well because it was about a 1km walk to the start area and we both needed a wee beforehand.
The Walsall Arboretum is a beautiful park. There’s a large pond, lots of trees and grass, a little river flowing over some picturesque rocks and just a pleasant atmosphere. It was lovely. There’s a little cafe as well with a loo so that was handy. Apparently Walsall rarely gets called beautiful but from what I could see, it was lovely.It was their sixth birthday so there were a few fancy dresses and a good turn out of people.The run director spent some time thanking everyone and talking about how far they’d come and then the Mayor of Walsall said a few words – quite cool that he was there (tho he wasn’t running). It was really a very friendly and lovely parkrun.
I hadn’t really planned how I was going to run. I set myself a range of between 22 and 24 minutes, thinking that was probably about right. I had my music and was just going to see how it went without too much stress.
As we started my legs felt a little sluggish but then I found my rhythm and got into it. And I really got into it. My legs just seemed to go, go, go. The course was wide enough to easily overtake people and not be hemmed in (where I started anyway) and it was a slight downhill so this worked nicely.

The course is three laps, but it didn’t feel like too much of a drag that some three lappers can because it was split out into two sections really. The first section goes around the lake/pond and then the second runs up a path alongside the river and then comes back down on the other side. So you can see runners on the other side, which is always nice and distracting. (Photos from the Facebook page).The marshals were super friendly, cheering us along – one of them even holding their parkrun birthday cake for the runners to see. It looked great! I saw James ahead near the front going super fast. His training has been awesome (he’s also doing the Brighton Marathon). But then I just focused on the music and getting my little legs turning over as fast as I could.I was running alongside a few other guys and this helped me to cling on to the speed. I looked at my watch and noticed I was fully sub-7 minute pace and this both shocked me and gave me a huge confidence boost.

I finished, thought I stopped my walk and headed to see James (who had finished in the ridiculously fast time of 18:23!). Annoyingly I didn’t realise I hadn’t actually stopped my watch so had no idea what my time was! I thought it might be around 21 minutes but would have to wait until the email/text to come through to be certain. I was really happy anyway as it felt like a solid effort of a run and I’d experience no calf or hamstring niggles. Hurrah!My time came through later as 20:30!! I am over the moon! I cannot believe I managed to get such a speedy (for me) time. James smashed his PB as well by like over 20 seconds. But both of us were concerned about the course being short as James only got 3 miles on his watch and I wasn’t certain at all because I hadn’t stopped my watch, though he checked other people’s results on Strava and it seemed to be fairly accurate – and I guess the trees didn’t help with the satellites. Well, whatever I definitely got a sub 21 minute parkrun (and James definitely got a PB as it was such a significant improvement). Very happy to see the 20s again, despite my rubbish training lately.

I also got to use my brand new very swanky barcode wristband.Very handy and I love the colour. No more barcode confusions for me…

For lunch we decided to go for something unhealthy and entirely delicious at the Original Patty Man burger place (OPM). We got there quite early and thankfully beat the rush – as we were ordering a queue had started to build up outside!

I went for the bacon cheeseburger with a side of cheesy gravy fires. Omgaawwwd it was so good. But extremely messy.In true Anna fashion though it didn’t leave me stuffed and as James and I had spotted a “dessert lounge” called Pirlo’s as we walked to the restaurant we knew exactly what was going to happen next…

We both looked at the menu and I instantly spotted the biggest sundae option – the mega sundae. Happily James has a similar appetite to me and had seen the same one. When we ordered and the server realised we didn’t want one to share hewarned us of its size… we were like, “pfffft, you clearly don’t know our capabilities”.

The sundae came with chocolate, strawberry and Ferrero Rocher ice cream (which I swapped for salted caramel), lashings of Nutella, cream, brownie and Kind chocolate chunks.Oh my god it was good. It was enormous but so much fun to eat. Literally chocolate everywhere. I’m changing my opinion on Nutella. I used to be like “meh I don’t care for it” but now I seem to be realising what the fuss is about.

We went home STUFFED. Full to the brim. Luckily we didn’t have much else planned except for James’ running club awards night (where there was a buffet…ahaha). There was a quiz which our team did spectacularly badly in (we came last) but was good fun. I did feel fairly sick though throughout the evening…but a couple of buffet sandwiches and some chicken nuggets helped calm my tummy 😉

The next morning, as James and I are both training for Brighton, we’d planned a long run. James was going to do some tempo miles while I ran an easy 18 (18 miles is NEVER easy but you know what I mean). I was going to follow James’ route but he’d run back to me after his tempo parts (he’d get a solid 20 miles). He’s really good at training, like he does all the proper speed work, easy runs and tempo sand runs like 70 miles a week. Amazing amazing. I wish I could run as much as him but such is life. He’s good to hit up for advice though because he knows his stuff.

My tummy didn’t feel great it must be said. But as we started running it calmed down and I felt surprisingly good. My legs felt fine and I felt in the zone and on it already. James didn’t feel quite as good and decided to just stick with me for the run rather than do his extra tempo miles. I thought that was probably a sensible decision. Our greed got the better of us the day before! Clearly I’m far better than him at over-consumption of food and then running 😉

We ran about four miles to the canals and then ran along them for most of the run. It was lovely and flat and nice underfoot. I obviously had no idea where we were or where we were going but it was nice to not have to think about the route and to just follow someone else.My dad grew up in Birmingham and one of my granddads lives in Stoke-On-Trent, not too far away, so when I was a child we’d often drive to Stoke and past Birmingham and I’d always remember my dad telling me about “Spaghetti Junction” – with all it’s crazy bridges and roads going over each other. James’ route went underneath the junction so I had to stop and get a few pics.Even though you probably couldn’t describe it as scenic, it was strangely quite impressive and looked very cool.It was quite surreal to be running under roads that my parents used to drive us over back in the day. Oh the nostalgia.The run carried on without any issues for me (asides from a wild wee in a rather open but empty area…the fear was real). I felt bad for James though because his tummy really wasn’t feeling great. But he pushed through. Our pace was fairly easy between 8.20-8.40s and I just felt like I was gliding along. I did get a weird overwhelming sense of tiredness around 12 miles and felt myself lagging a bit but then I managed to pepper myself up a bit and got back into the zone.

18 miles seemed to fly by. The route and company definitely helped it stop being a slog. The weather was wonderful. Sunny and cool, though by 15 miles the two of us were hot and started talking about cold beverages…We stopped at a convenience shop to grab a water which helped!I am SO pleased. SO so pleased that this long run went well. Big thanks to James for pulling me along and finding a really decent route!

So Brighton seems to be no longer in contention. I just hope that I continue to pootle along as I am. Fingers crossed!

Have you ever been to Birmingham?

What’s your favourite ice cream flavour?

Do you have any weird nostalgias?

Post Dubai Marathon and what’s next

As is probably patently clear, my Dubai Marathon experience wasn’t the best. It felt very tough, mentally and physically.Despite this, I’m actually really happy with my time (3:39:58). It was faster than expected. What was nice was that my body fell into a very natural rhythm and pace which I thankfully didn’t have to think too much about while I ran.

I’ve just realised I didn’t actually put my time in my race recap (I’ve updated it since). I had all the splits ready to insert through the text but clearly was too busy putting the selfies in! Whoops. But I guess this shows that times weren’t something that was weighing me down. In fact, I felt like I could probably have run without my watch and maintained that speed. I literally didn’t need to think about slowing down or running faster. My feet just found their perfect speed.Looking at my splits I was quite consistent, though you can tell where I went to the loo twice!I went at mile six (the beach bum saga) and then again at mile 13 (thankfully a proper loo this time).
I’m really happy with how I ran and that I could step it up at the end. I think I’ve just gotten myself into a really good place where I can judge my body and it’s capabilities. Like going out at 8 minute miles was not going to end well, but 8.30s felt good and left enough in the tank to step it up a bit at the end.

Interestingly I found this graph in Garmin that showed the rise in temperature (Fahrenheit annoyingly).Basically the marathon started around 13-15C and then increased to a high of 29 degrees towards the end! Blimey. But thankfully it was lower than that for the majority of the race.

So anyway. Number 13 ticked off the list! I had a lot of worries going into this one, mainly due to my calf. It had felt a bit rubbish leading up the race and I’d reduced back my running substantially so that the longest run I ran was a week after the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon (10.6 miles). I did do some lengthy sessions on the elliptical machine (up to 75 minutes) so that helped. But my actual running was really inconsistent and no further than six miles. Not ideal. And probably why after the marathon my legs felt VERY tired and achy, like they did when I ran my first marathon. Walking down steps was comical. Walking in general was tough!

Surprisingly though my calf felt fine during and after. I mean, I haven’t run yet so who knows what it’ll feel like in reality but at the moment I’m quietly hopeful.

What’s next then? 

Well, the next marathon is the Brighton Marathon and I would love to have a solid training run for that and give it a good stab. I love running marathons at whatever speed but I’d quite like one where I don’t have any issues leading up to it so I can give it a bit of welly and aim to be under 3.30 again. But we’ll see!

Between now and then I have the Reading Half Marathon (entries are still open!) which I’d quite like to use as a tuning-up race to see where my speed is. My best time there (I’ve run it twice) is 1:39:35, so getting a course PB would be nice and maybe nearing my PB (1:34:30) would be AWESOME. Again, depends on how my training goes and how it feels post Dubai. Also, I don’t like pressure as it’s a fun sucker so I’m quite relaxed about these goals.

Reading is 18th March so I have a solid seven weeks ahead of me. It’s a relatively flat course with great crowd support so I’m excited about giving it a bash again. I do only have 11 weeks now until my next marathon but I don’t want to rush jumping back into training. Mentally that’s quite tough and I want to get back to running without issue before any structured training gets started. I desperately want to do this one right! I don’t want to get injured.

If all goes well, when I am back into marathon training I’d like to get some solid long run training going and a bit of speed work (but not be silly about it – aim for once a week only). So if I do a speed session on Tuesday I don’t then blast out a parkrun. No rookie errors…

What races are you training for?

Have you ever done Reading?

Do you like having time goals?

Done being sensible

I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions or “new year, new me” mantras. But I do think it can be useful for people for motivation and some self-reflection.

I’ve definitely done a bit of self-reflection the past few weeks. There’s nothing like being single during Christmas that can make you think a bit more about yourself, I assure you.

In general, I’m quite a positive person. I don’t allow myself to wallow or sink into dark thoughts. I find other things to focus on and I have a solid family and friends unit who pick me up (or tell me to stop being so self-indulgent). I say this a lot and I truly believe it, I’m very lucky and have a fantastic life. I have a family who I can always fall back on emotionally and financially. My mum makes me feel beautiful, loved and boosts my self-esteem. My dad gives me sound advice, supports my crazy running adventures and will always be honest with me (he’s never afraid to tell me when I look rubbish, am being a pilock or need bringing back to earth). My sister is always there when I need those ‘girlie chats’ – boys, beauty and life, you know what I mean.

But I’m only human. Being single is pants. Granted, I haven’t made a huge amount of effort to “get out there”. I’m not a clubber, I don’t go to bars, I don’t use online the free dating apps and I’m not quite at the point to pay for the more “quality” ones. And in this day and age, you won’t bump into your soulmate at the supermarket. Sometimes in my lowest and most self-indulgent moments I wonder, “what’s wrong with me?”. I know, I know, it’s pathetic and I’m not asking for pity or people to say “oh but Anna you’re lovely!” like my mum would. I’m just genuinely reflecting on the fact that I’m not a complete mess of a person and have a solid life, yet I’m sat watching everyone around me jump on a train I don’t have a ticket for. I don’t even know how to buy the damn ticket.

So this year I’m going to become a bit more of a “yes person” and stop following the straight and narrow road.

Basically, I’m a sensible person. [I say “sensible” here but I know a lot of past events have shown I’m actually not that sensible because I’m quite the idiot. What I mean is I’m not a spontaneous person]. I don’t really do crazy things (New Year’s Day aside…). I work hard and I save, something I’m very lucky to be able to continue to do now I live at my parent’s and have rented my flat out despite being on a smaller salary. I have goals and plans for this year but mostly surrounding running (Dubai… New York… Jersey ;-)). But I think a lot before I plan on going anywhere and over-analyse everything to the nth degree. I cost everything up, I work it into my budget, put it in my spreadsheet, ponder and hesitate.

Above all, I make sure my savings remain solid. Other than my unruly leggings habit, I really hate spending money. My father would call me “tight” but being single means you are your own means. If I lost my job I lose my income (well, not strictly true now that I’m renting my flat out but you know what I mean). I know my parents are there for me, but having a large savings is my safety net and cotton wool.

But I’m fed up of doing everything by the book and being sensible. I need to go and do something a bit “non-Anna” and throw caution to the wind. I don’t mean spend all my money and live life without a thought for the future of course…but I also shouldn’t sit on a pile of money that is essentially doing nothing. I don’t have any plans to upgrade my flat or move out, buy a fancy car, have a baby.  Without getting too morbid here, I could die tomorrow. What am I waiting for? Clearly I have no ties, no children and am armed full of independence. The time is NOW.

Basically what I’m saying is, I want to stop waiting for something that might not happen and just go and live life to the full. On that note (and trying, but probably failing, not to be have a stereotypical “omg need to find myself” moment), I’m off to Bali in April. A non-running, chill my mind out kind of holiday. Go alone but with a group of strangers. Find a bit of peace in my buzzing brain without using running as a distraction. But in general, for this year, I intend to take each day as a precious gift that I’m alive and I’m a strong, independent woman. My life is now and I’m not waiting for anyone or anything.

*Cue Beyonce*

Have you ever felt a bit… lost?

Have you ever been to Bali?

Are you a saver or a spender?