Abingdon parkrun – an expensive accident

A date in the diary that I was really looking forward to was going to the Abingdon parkrun to meet-up with my Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp friends.

These guys are such a lovely, lovely bunch of people and, like I said in my Austria recap, we all got on so well. In fact, two of them actually got together (of which I was blindly unaware of at the time – apparently it was fairly obvious!). What’s been lovely is that we’ve all kept in touch through our WhatsApp group/social media and kept up with what we’ve all been doing. But it’s always nice to meet-up properly, especially for a parkrun and cake afterwards.

We all come from different parts of the UK (and Vienna!) so Abingdon was chosen as the ‘easiest’ location and a few of them had the Abingdon Marathon the next day so it made sense. For me it was a 1.5 hour drive away which wasn’t too bad at all. Actually it was nice driving away from the coast on Saturday morning as Storm Brian was getting going. I set my alarm for 6.20am and was up and out by 7am with coffee for the road. It was an easy drive and I arrived in plenty of time. Amazing for me really.Abingdon parkrun has a handy car park just next to the finish funnel so you can find where it’s all going on very easily. It’s also free for the first two hours and there’s a rather posh public toilet nearby too (you pay 10p but the experience is fabulous). Abingdon itself, if you’ve never been, is a very lovely quaint English town, similar to Salisbury, Chichester or Winchester.By 8.30am we’d all arrived and were hugging and swapping stories. It was just lovely. I love it when you can slot back into place with people like you’ve never been away.Everyone was going to run the parkrun apart from John (John is the legend that ran from Winchester to Canterbury along the Pilgrims and North Downs Way long-distance trail to celebrate his 40th. Yep) as he was suffering from a back niggle.Everyone but one person made it (Zoe, we missed you!) so it was a nice gang of us and when we had our newbie briefing for the parkrun they wrote down all our home locations and when it came to the main briefing they read them all out and asked if anyone from actual Abingdon was there today! It was amusing. So yeah, we had the newbie briefing though we really didn’t need it as Sarah, who’s from Abingdon, had given us a good briefing (if you’re a Marathon Talk listening, Sarah does the designs for Xempo and had a bazillion shout outs in the last podcast episode! She’s amazing and does fantastic running-themed products and designs – check out her website). She gave us a good guide of the course – two loops. I love a two looper. Not as repetitive as a three (or more) looper and not as long as a one looper feels.The weather, as you can see, was glorious. Yes very windy but the sun was beautiful. It was cold in that autumnal British way, but not horrific. I’d already decided I wanted to chat and run rather than do any sort of hard effort so I ran besides Sarah and we caught up. It was a lovely run that honestly flew by. I had no idea of my pace at all. The course is a bit tricky underfoot at times, running along grassy, uneven bits but overall it’s a lovely parkrun. Beautiful next to the river and lots of open green spaces.There were a couple of moments at the start where we ground to a halt. I think there were more people there than usual so a bottleneck occurred along the narrower bit, but I wasn’t bothered as I was too busy chatting! John cheered us on as we passed him which was nice (thanks for the pic too!).My time was 26.13 which I was happy with. It wasn’t a run for a fast time after all. The finishing straight is nice and straight for anyone hunting for a sprint finish.

Photo credit: John Harvey

And we carried on catching up with everyone. As we’d planned on heading to a cafe for some coffee and cake we needed to go back and put some money into the car park machine for a ticket as two hours wouldn’t be enough now (from when we first got there). I was stupidly holding too much stuff, trying to fish out the right change or card from my purse and my iPhone (my brand new case-less iPhone 7, the case is in the post) slipped from my hands…onto the concrete floor. The sound of a naked iPhone hitting the floor will possibly haunt me forever. Those around me looked horrified – everyone understood the stakes here. It had landed face down and I jokingly said, “whoops, that’s an expensive accident!” and the people behind me laughed nervously. As I picked it up and turned it over I just stared in horror. The entire screen was cracked – like a thousand tiny cracks all over it. I just stared and suddenly wanted to cry. The screen was entirely broken and smashed – it wouldn’t even work.

I had the sense to go and put my car park ticket in my car and then walked back over to the Austria gang. I didn’t really know what to do. They all expressed the same sentiments as me: “oh shit”. Yep. I also suddenly realised that the one person I’d normally ask for help in this situation was uncontactable due to the fact that my phone was broken.

Sarah helped me adult and told me to come to the cafe where we could sort out what to do there. She let me borrow her phone and I rang my parent’s house phone (the only number I could remember – reminding me I probably should have a few more numbers written down in my purse for such situations). As my mum answered I immediately burst into tears on the phone as I explained what happened. Bless my mum, she replied “I’ll get your father”. My dad calmed me down and told me he’d meet me in Southampton where we could go to the Apple shop and see what could be done. We arranged a time and I said I’d ring when I got close to Southampton… then realised I couldn’t. Idiot that I am. Instead I wrote down his mobile number on my hand (old skool) and would text him on Sarah’s phone when I was leaving, knowing it would take me 1.5 hours to get there.

I then got in the queue with John to order a peppermint tea and a cake. John asked for cake recommendations and I scanned the options and said that I thought the toffee pecan looked amazing and that’s what I was going to order. As I’d sort of pushed in with John (very naughty of me I know, but I was all stressed out, no excuse I know) I let him order first. He took my recommendation. Unfortunately he also took the last slice. How rude!! He wasn’t even sorry, the cheeky bugger. So instead I went for a freshly baked warm Smartie cookie with Nutella drizzled on it. I mean, I thought I didn’t like Nutella but actually I think I might be converted… I think I had a bad toast and Nutella experience once that put me off, but let me tell you, on a cookie it’s something else. And I think it was probably better than |John’s slice of cake. Just saying.Of course I didn’t have a phone anymore to take a photo of it so borrowed Sarah’s again (thank you, thank you). I felt a bit at a loss without my phone… no way to upload my run to Strava (did it even happen…?). But it was lovely to sit and chat with the guys and eat copious amounts of cake. As it was Michelle’s 50th parkrun Sarah had amazingly baked a cake (how nice is that??) so I had a couple of slices of that as well. Consolation cake, you see. Michelle, by the way, ran in the ELITE wave of the Great South Run the next day. SHE IS SO FAST. I’ll do a separate post on the Great South Run soon!How beautiful is this square where we had coffee? It was a bit blustery but the autumnal colours were just gorgeous. And because it was quite chilly I got another hot drink, this time a turmeric latte. So fancy, eh!It was…interesting. I quite enjoyed it, as I do like turmeric, but it wasn’t the nicest drink on the planet. A bit bitty at the end. Glad I gave it a bash!

And then sadly I had to head off to sort my phone out. What slightly annoyed me was a man, whom I didn’t know, commented on the fact that I was getting my dad to help me. He was being very friendly and nice and he himself had tried to help me with where I could go to get my iPhone sorted but I said no thank you and explained that my dad was helping. He then said, “ah yes, and I imagine he’ll be footing the bill too” – he said it quite fondly but it really rubbed me up the wrong way. I was quite affronted and, as politely as I could, explained that actually wasn’t the case. Yes I made not be a fully functioning adult but I DO NOT get my dad to pay for things for me. I am perfectly capable of paying for my own mistakes, thank you very much. What an assumption!

Anyway, I said my goodbyes and headed off home. I made great time and met my dad outside the Apple shop. We did try a non-Apple screen fixer guy but he said he couldn’t guarantee the fingerprint technology would work when he was done… it would also ruin my Apple warranty and mean in the future I wouldn’t be able to sell the phone.So in the end I decided to go for the more expensive, but guaranteed fix, with Apple (which would also be covered partially by my phone insurance). Annoyingly it would need to wait until Wednesday until they had a free appointment. Apparently I’m not the only idiot who drops and ruins their phone…

So that was my Saturday! Rather hectic but still rather lovely. I was running the Great South Run the next day (a late decision for me as someone in my running club was giving their place away as they could no longer run) so I had a nice easy evening. Michelle, the lovely Michelle, had baked me some blondies as a thank you for a favour I did for her a few weeks ago so I made a rather good start on munching my way through that as well! Honestly, I don’t dare to think about my cake consumption this weekend because it didn’t stop there…! More on that on my Great South Run recap 😉

Have you ever been to Abingdon before?

Have you ever dropped your phone?

What kind of expensive mistakes have you made? Please make me feel better…

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.

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?

A long run and cake – what’s new?

This weekend was quite a busy one! I was off to London on Saturday and then Sunday I was seeing my uni friends. And somewhere in there I had to run 16 miles… which would be my last long run before the New Forest Marathon next weekend. Non-negotiable!

I had a bit more time on my side on Saturday morning than Sunday and handily my friend Mark was planning a long run then so it made sense to join him. And as Mark is far more organised and better at adulting than I am, he planned the route and just told me where and when I needed to be. As he only wanted to do 13 miles and I wanted 16 I ran a few miles beforehand – basically just to the meeting point which he’d expertly made the right distance for me. What a star.

Unfortunately that meant leaving at 6.45am to get in Netley parkrun at the end (part of the route). But as I had a lie in the next day it was fine. Plus it would be a lot cooler than running later (yes, Mike, I KNOW. Sometimes you do need to get up early to beat the heat….).

My route to Mark was pretty much entirely uphill so was a bit of a slog. I listened to a podcast and ignored my pace. I was tired in general and my legs needed warming up. I amazingly made it on time and at the right location to meet Mark and we headed off to begin the next section of the run (well, Mark’s first section, my second section). It started with another slog uphill but otherwise was generally fairly flat thankfully.

Mark was great to run with. He’s usually super fast (aiming to break the 17 min 5k soon) but he happily (so he says) slowed down for me. He had a five mile race the next day so apparently it worked well for him (FYI, he smashed the race the next day but he did say he wasn’t sure it was wise to run so far as his legs felt quite tired during the race…).The weather was lovely and cool, though it did get sunnier and warmer as the run continued. I didn’t take water with me as it was cooler but when we got to Netley – 8.45am nicely timed – I was thirsty. I thought the cafe would be open but it wasn’t and toilet taps had a ‘no drinking water’ sign. I’ll drink from a dodgy tap on the beach but when there’s a sign I stay clear away! I spotted a waitress in the cafe though and tapped on the door and asked for some tap water. She happily obliged, taking pity on the sweaty runner, and I drank a big pint of cold water. Bliss! Thank you cafe lady!

Mark, Chris and me

And then it was time for parkrun. Now my legs were tired and I was not looking forward to getting going again. I ran with Mike who was taking it easier due to next week’s marathon.

Photo Credit: Ken Grist

Mike’s training has gone superbly for this marathon and I imagine he’ll be the one pacing ME when it comes down to it since I’ve not exactly had the most ideal lead up! We plodded around chatting (I say plodded, this is just my plod speed – everyone is different). I felt better as the legs got going and I finished 25:45. 16 miles done!A lovely lady, Lizzie, who I’d been chatting to on Instagram said hi to me and we chatted afterwards, which was nice. It was great to finally meet her as we’d been meaning to face-to-face meet for a while now but our timings and parkruns had never matched up. She’s recently joined the Hedge End Running Club as well 🙂

My other friend, Lauren, also brought me some of her own grown apples (eating ones as well!). I was so excited… And then forgot them when I got a lift back with another friend. Damn! Luckily Mike picked them up for me. What an idiot!Netley parkrun has just acquired its first PB bell as well which is cool. Along with our monthly pacing event, it’s really moving up in the world.I’m very proud to call it my home parkrun. But there are still so many nearby I need to do as well.

I also had some fun trying on my friend’s Garmin Fenix 5X to see how it sat on my wrist. I jokingly put my other watches on with as well. I wear two watches when I run because I like to keep a track of my steps with my FitBit  Surge and I like to track my run with my Garmin 220. The Fenix though would do both but it’s just SO expensive (even with a Wiggle discount…). One day.

I handily got a lift back with my friend as I was carless due to running to parkrun (I had arranged a lift before running there. I’m not quite that slapdash with all things in life…).

I had to get back fairly promptly to catch the train to London. I was heading to the Marathon Talk event to see the running-based film Skid Row Marathon. It’s a documentary about a criminal court judge who starts a running club in LA for ex-convicts and addicts, called the Midnight Mission, and how they train for a marathon. I was quite intrigued about the film but if I’m honest I was more excited about meeting up with fellow Marathon Talkers. There were quite a few of the guys I went on the Austrian Run Camp earlier this year and a few other people I knew going (including Maria from Maria Runs blog!).

Marathon Talk is a running podcast and organise the annual Sandy Balls running camp and I’ve met so many fantastic people through these events. So it’s always great to meet up with them and meet other like-minded people. Runners really are a lovely friendly group of people (provided they’re not injured… ;-)).  Anyway I’ll do a proper post about that as it deserves its own. The film BLEW me away.

The next day my university friends were coming down to Portsmouth for a meet up. As I always say, they’re such good friends and it’s always a lovely day when I see them.

Unfortunately the weather was pants. It was cold and drizzly. Despite the weather though we headed to Southsea and met in the amazing Tenth Hole tea room. If you’ve never been, please do go. It’s BRILLIANT. The cake selection is second to none.We got some hot drinks and caught up first. The hot chocolates that Shell and Kate had looked phenomenal.Then we ordered lunch. I went for the Lardon Salad which was, unlike so many other salads from British restaurants, huge and full of all the good stuff. It had chunks of bacon, new potatoes and a hard boiled egg. It was delicious.I also shared some sweet potato wedges with the girls. Well, I probably ate most of them! After filling ourselves with sensible and adequate nutrition, we then proceeded to order the more fun and exciting food. The cake.The choice was a toughie. The options were just so good. As I’ve been to the Tenth Hole a few times I felt I needed to try something different (the carrot cake is amazing, the honeycomb pie is good but maybe too much cream, and there was sadly no toffee apple cake). So I went for the cherry cheesecake chocolate brownie. What is this strange concoction you might ask? Well, let me tell you.It’s a dense chocolate brownie topped with a good layer of cheesecake goodness and then cherry compote on top. Now normally I’m not a fruit and pudding kinda gal. I like fruit. I like pudding. But together? Hmmm, not so much. I do like a crumble but it’s not top of my list. Cherry is also not my favourite. Anyway, I digress. BUT let me tell you, it rocked my world. The flavours went together perfectly. The cheesecake creamy bit helped balance the rich chocolate and the textures were fabulous. The whole thing was, well, just a delight. Ten out of ten.

Then we did a bit more catching up and chatting before everyone parted ways and headed home. I had a three mile run in the plan. I would have done this in the morning but due to events concerning my idiocy the night before I was unable… I mean, running after a fairly heavy cake isn’t always ideal but sometimes you just gotta get it done. It was raining and cold but actually I was feeling ready for a good run. And there were only a few cake burps mid-run. Actually my legs felt amazing. Despite the long run the day before I really did feel pretty good. I expect it was the sugar from the cake and the lower temperature that significantly helped, but I’ll take it! 7:39 min/mile average pace!

Whew. A fab weekend DONE.

How was your weekend?

Do you enjoy documentaries?

Do you like to break long runs up with parkrun and running with friends?

Rants and Raves #39

A Friday post for you! And I’m ranting and raving… sorry for the complete randomness of this.

Rave: Well I really have no excuse not to go to the local 5k race that takes place literally at my work. We have this lovely lake right next to the big office building (which is why it’s called Lakeside…) and there is a 5k series (Lakeside 5k) that goes on on some Wednesday evenings during the summer. I’ve never gone before because I’ve never been able to get back from work in time and then get there…and it’s a 5k. I hate 5ks. However it was my friend’s birthday and he was going and it is literally at my work so I figured I best make an appearance! I’d probably only run 3-4 miles anyway on my own. It’s always nicer to run with other people.Anyway, loads of my running club turned up which was nice and my birthday buddy, Joe, so it was a lovely social evening. I did a 1.5 mile warm up round the lake with a couple of the guys and convinced myself a fast run was not happening. Why do warm-ups always feel so crap and you feel so sluggish?

But weirdly as soon as we started going as the race began my legs were like “let’s do this”. I managed to maintain a decent speed and chip away at my time as the miles continued. I overtook some Hedgies in front of me and tried to encourage them with me (without sounding like a cocky so and so). My friend, Robbie, was ahead and I caught up with him and we raced to the finish together. I was dying a death inside but Robbie managed to sprint ahead of me (I was barely maintaining my final burst of speed!) and slam dunked the finish. What a sprint finish! Super impressive. Apparently the fastest 5k he’s done in ages, so major kudos to him!

I’m also really pleased with my time. I got 21:26 which is definitely the fastest Ive run in a good while. But jeeeeze, it was tough! Glad I went though as it was some good speedy miles that I’d have never done on my own.

Rave: I’ve now been to the cinema three times in the past two weeks. This is incredible for me. I love watching films and I do love going to the cinema but with my (old) commute and needing to get back for Alfie…well, I just had no time in the evening to really do anything but walk Alfie, make and eat dinner and chill a little before bed! Now that I have more time in an evening and more time in the morning (so less ridiculously early mornings) I’ve been able to get out a bit more. Ahh freedom!

This does unfortunately mean spending more money. And this is both on eating out and the actual film. I’ve been eating at Nando’s each time before the cinema because it’s a) easy, b) relatively cheap (OK it’s not really for just chicken), c) I love it and it’s always a consistently good meal for me. It’s also not something super indulgent on a weekday (all about that balance). I can’t always avoid the temptation of a pudding in other restaurants, whereas at Nando’s I feel fully satisfied after my meal (always a whole chicken, plain, with a side salad and sometimes a corn on the cob depending how I feel) to be content with just a main (I say “just” but we all know it’s a ridiculous meal for a girl my size).

Anyway so recently I’ve seen The Black Tower, Logan Lucky and American Made. The Black Tower was tolerably interesting but ultimately I wouldn’t recommend at all. Logan Lucky was hilarious, quick-moving and definitely worth a watch. American Made was a good watch but it dragged a little. It’s Tom Cruise’s new one and he basically plays Tom Cruise. A fun evening though anyway.

This also means that when I listen to my two movie review podcasts (Empire and BBC Five Live Kermode & Mayo) I actually have an opinion on the films for once!

Rant: Ahh Game of Thrones is over. The last episode was really good and made me feel more positive towards it then some of the other episodes. I really can’t wait for the next two books to come out though to see how George R.R. Martin will deal with the different characters and story-line.

Rave: The Great British Bake Off is back! OK yes it’s moved to Channel 4 (overseas readers, this is such a bugbear for us Brits as it used to be on the BBC, so there weren’t any adverts and it had the very British charm and gentleness that the BBC bring to TV, whereas Channel 4 is a bit more racy and ‘different’). But this does mean that every Tuesday evening I’ll be craving cake *sighs*. I haven’t actually watched the first one yet due to my busy evenings but I’m excited to catch up.

Rave: Speaking of cake…We recently had a successful big project complete at Wiggle so cake and fruit was brought for everyone in the office.Now THIS is how you get and maintain good levels of morale in a workplace. OK, not just bringing in food, but the fact that the workforce is thanked in such a nice way. It’s the little things that really help keep things consistently happy in a workplace.The cakes were really good as well. Lots of different flavours. I had a chocolate one (not normally my flavour of choice when it comes to cake but it had a wedge of Galaxy chocolate in the icing…) and a carrot cake one. SO good.

Rant: It really annoys me when shops try to upmarket something that you can get somewhere else for like half the price. Popcorn kernels are easily available and far more affordable in supermarkets!Don’t be won over by the fancy packaging. Believe me, as a girl who regular pops her own popcorn. They’re the same kernels!

Rant: OK not really a rant but just a bit of a “what?”. These fluffy things seem to be everywhere… I see them all over people’s handbags.And don’t get me started on those weird furry sandal things (sliders?) that girls are wearing. They look like slippers! What is going on!?

Finally… Not sure if this is a rant or a rave. But on my walk with my dad the other day we walked past a farmer’s field to find a load of pumpkins appearing. Summer is definitely over!

Are you sad summer is coming to end?

Do you adorn your handbag with fluffy things or similar?

Does your work treat you to fun things and cakes?