Superheroes everywhere

I do love a bit of fancy dress, you might have noticed. I don’t know why, maybe because it’s good fun and a laugh. So when it was announced (though not too widely it seems) that for Netley Abbey parkrun’s 5th birthday they’d be a superhero fancy dress I was all game.

My friend Mike decided to go as Robin and my friend Geoff decided to go as Batman. Well, I’d been Batgirl before so I hunted online and found that superhero females were somewhat limited. I could be Supergirl or Catwoman it seemed. Catwoman’s outfit looked far easier to run in (streamline if you like) so I went with that.My friend, Tom, was also joining me for parkrun on Saturday so I skipped setting the course up and picked him up at 8.15am. So I had a bit of a longer lie-in which was nice. Tom is a fairly new runner and had been doing Lee-On-Solent parkrun so I was chuffed to be able to show him Netley. Though Netley is a harder course than the lovely flat LoS!We got there to find not many people had embraced the superhero theme, which was a shame but kind of understandable as a few people had asked where the notice of fancy dress had been posted as they weren’t aware. *Sighs*

Photo credit: Sheryl James

But I didn’t mind. I love fancy dress regardless. I was going to run with Mike as we’re kind of around the same speed at the moment, though I’m perhaps a little faster. I didn’t want to go to speedy so it would work out well. All week I’ve been being very careful with my ankle and though it was feeling pretty much back to normal I didn’t want to risk it. I say this, but really I didn’t fancy running fast and the ankle was a good excuse 😉

Catwoman, Robin and Batman

Anyway as we lined up I lost Mike in the crowds. Tom stayed with me and was planning on “hanging on” for as long as he could. His PB is around 25 minutes.

As we started I just decided to run as I fancied, which turned out to be a fair clip in comparison to what I’d intended. My other friend, Mark, caught me up with his buggy and ran with me which was nice. He’s a lot faster so running my speed with his buggy was probably a walk in the park for him.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

It was nice running with Mark as we could chat and I could take my mind off the fact that I was running faster than I’d planned.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

The final lap I stepped it up a gear… I was thinking of all the cake at the end. As it was Netley’s birthday a cake sale had been organised (that info had been far more widely circulated…) and I was keen to get a few pieces.

I finished in 22:43 which I was pleased with considering how windy it was. I scanned my barcode pronto and then headed to grab some cake.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

I love this photo because it shows me in my happy place 🙂 The cake sale was to raise money for the defibrillator that we’re trying to buy, so I was only doing my good deed of the day really.I had a slice of Victoria Sponge (exceptionally tasty I must say. I had spotted this cake on Twitter beforehand and was glad to be able to grab a slice!), a white chocolate fudge slice thing and a white chocolate cookie. Pretty good haul! Though nothing like the five slices of the week before. The cake sale raised just over £366!! This is fantastic. Well done to all the bakers! The real superheroes of the day.

Tom did really well, coming in around 27 minutes which he was pleased with given how much more hilly Netley is compared to LoS and how windy it was. He showed me the bottom of his trainer afterwards; the sole was coming off! I told him off for wearing such old trainers, tsk!

After parkrun, showering and all that jazz I met up with my dad later in the day for a spot of Nando’s and a cinema trip to see Logan. I decided to change my usual whole chicken order at Nando’s and be slightly more healthy and opt for half a chicken and a Mediterranean salad.The salad was delicious. It had huge juicy olives, lots of sundried tomatoes and good chunks of feta. But I was a bit disappointed with the size of the chicken (I KNOW, I told you I’m greedy). My dad had gotten half a chicken with a side salad and a cob so we both felt we could share five wings between us 😉

And then we headed to the cinema…where I met a few more superhero friends.Logan was fantastic. Very violent but really different to the normal superhero films. I mean, I love X-Men anyway but this was very different.

The next day I met up with Robin Mike and we headed out for a long run together. I’ve become such a fan of running with other people again. Normally I’m like a lone wolf but having people to run with is a nice change, especially my long run. Running a long run with Mike is also good because as he’s slightly slower than me it means he keeps my pace in check.

I ran about half a mile to meet him and then we did a 5 mile out and back route through some fairly quiet country roads. The route was quite hilly though so a nice challenge at times. It was a great run and the miles flew by, as they always do when you run with someone else. I must do this more! Then I added a little bit more on at the end as I ran home to get to 12 miles (8:38min/miles overall pace).

Happily my ankle felt absolutely fine (as it did the day before) and I enjoyed a normal run without issues. Ahh what a novelty eh!

As long as I remain running injury-free I’ve decided to do the London Marathon. I have a Good For Age place and was wondering whether to defer until next year as it was so close to Tokyo. But as Tokyo went well and, ankles aside, my recovery has been good I’ve decided to go ahead and do it. I’ll keep a watchful eye on any niggles that crop up or feelings of over-training but otherwise I’d love to do it. Again, no time goal but just to tick another Marathon Major off the list and FINALLY get London done.

How was your weekend?

What superhero would you choose to be?

Does your parkrun ever try and raise money?

Stubbington 10k race recap

I’ve been wanting to do this race for about three years. It’s ridiculous because this is a race that literally runs past my parent’s house and the route is one I’ve often used on many a long run.

Finally this year I wasn’t injured (well, coming back from injury but not injured) and it worked well into my marathon training plan (I say “plan” rather loosely). Happily my friends, Kate and Jamie, had signed up too. This was to be their first ever proper road race. They’ve done parkruns and we’ve done an obstacle race together but never a road race.

Unfortunately the weather was predicted to be awful. I mean it’s hardly surprisingly really considering it’s a) Britain and b) January, but us Brits are always so shocked when the weather is in fact terrible. Running in bad weather isn’t so bad but in a race setting there’s a fair amount of hanging around and getting cold before you actually start running and none of us were thrilled at this prospect.I stayed at my parent’s house (it made sense as the race start was a short walk away) and woke up early on Sunday to run two miles before Kate and Jamie arrived after driving from Bristol. I wanted to do the extra miles so I could have a total of eight miles for the day – my longest run yet. It wasn’t ideal having a break between the two miles and the race but I wasn’t going to desert my friends to run the miles just before the race began.

Just one mile out from my parent’s and then one mile back. Fairly easy. The weather was pretty grim but not as bad as expected – a bit drizzly and cold. I wore long leggings to keep myself from getting too cold and as I headed back down the lane Kate and Jamie passed me in the car so it was fairly good timing.

We were all feeling rather grumpy and not up for the race. It also didn’t help that my dad had decided to cook a fry-up for breakfast. Always nice to smell bacon cooking that you won’t get to eat.

We left as late as we possibly could to avoid hanging around in the cold too much. It was only a 10 minute walk, if that, to the race HQ and as we had no bags to drop off (my parents were kindly going to take our coats for us and put them in a big bag they’d brought especially) and we didn’t need the loo, we just huddled inside the community centre.Stubbington 10k is a very cheap race (think it was £16-17?) but it has quite a few of the perks of bigger races, such as a really nice technical t-shirt (which actually fits me!), chip timing, a big inflatable finishing arch with a time-display, lots of marshals and lots of support round the course. It also has waves for the start. As I’m a little faster than Kate and Jamie I wished them luck and headed to my starting area. My neckline felt really tight and I realised I had my black base layer on backwards. Smooth, Anna, really smooth. Luckily, realistically only I could tell.I saw lots of people from my running club which was nice. It’s a very clubby race so there were lots of local clubs from the area. It can feel a bit intimidating because they seem like “proper” runners, as Kate said, but I reassured her that there would be a range of running experience and paces and she wouldn’t be at the back (she wasn’t).

I had the vague time goal of finishing in under 50 minutes, maybe around 46-48 minutes. I didn’t want a hard effort but I did want a sustained effort. I haven’t really done any speed work so I wanted to see what I could do over six miles.

I found the start quite hard going, mentally and physically. I was overtaken quite a lot. And as nice as it was getting lots of hellos from people in my running club and people I knew, it was somewhat demoralising. But I just told myself it didn’t matter, yes I’m not in a great running shape right now and I’m not racing this.

The first mile has a bit of an uphill and then a very steep downhill so it was a mixed bag in terms of pace. A girl I knew ran up next to me and asked what time I was aiming for. I gave her my vague time and she mentioned she wanted to stick with someone. Now usually I don’t mind running with other people or chatting away during a race but I really didn’t fancy it. I wanted to sort of hide away in my mind and just auto-pilot the miles. I didn’t want to offend her though so I slightly slowed down and eventually after some chatter she headed off. It was nothing personal to the girl, she’s lovely, but I just wasn’t in that mood, you know?

There is a fairly sharp incline which seems to go on forever which took a bit of a graft to get up. Then it was plain sailing – I knew this course so well I could just switch off and plan little milestones in my head. A few other people tried to chat to me but my monosyllabic responses discouraged further conversation. I must have seemed grumpy but really I was just wanting to get the race done. 10ks aren’t my favourite, the weather was fairly miserable and the sustained effort was taking its mental toll on me. It sounds like I had a horrible race but in truth I quite enjoyed it; I enjoyed zoning out and letting my legs carry me forward.

The course is fairly scenic, going past lots of farmer’s fields and country lanes and then eventually running along the seafront. It was grim and grey but thankfully not windy. There was a lot of support from the locals and I made sure to smile and thank everyone I could – it must have been so cold for them!

Photo credit: Alan from Denmead Photos 

As the miles ticked off quickly I increased my pace a little and started picking off people in front of me. I managed to pull back some people who had overtaken me at the start and that bolstered my confidence somewhat.

As I reached the last 400m I saw a group of guys from my running club (super speedsters) who were cheering the club in. My running club friend Chris was just ahead of me and they all enthusiastically yelled at me to overtake him (or “chick” him). I tried my best to catch him but I just couldn’t and annoyingly managed to burn myself out before the final sprint. Such a stupid thing to do!

Photo source: Netley Abbey Runners

Anyway I finished strong. I worried I might have pushed it a bit too hard (and at the same time wondered how I managed to pull any of those paces for my last marathon…!).My official time was 46:26, which I’ll happily take! I’m around four minutes off my PB but in reality I’m a million miles from that sort of speed! I’m just happy that my calf/shin felt good (not perfect but decent) and I was able to put in some effort towards the end. A very happy result indeed.There was no medal but we got a lovely technical t-shirt so I’m happy enough. My parents were waiting at the finish line to cheer us in (they’d had a nice coffee in the village while we were running) so it was nice to get my coat quickly back on and to grab a takeaway Costa coffee which was right next to the finish while I waited for Kate and Jamie.Kate finished (1:05) before Jamie (1:05:22) which no one expected – only because Jamie normally beats Kate. Jamie said he didn’t have the best race while Kate said it’s helped re-motivate her for her training for the Bath Half.And then we quickly headed off back to mine where we showered and got ready and headed out to a lovely local pub called the Fox and Hounds in Burseldon. I’ve recently been and had the most amazing sundae when I went out for dinner there (some things are not always blogged about… ;-)) and wanted to recreate the experience with Kate and Jamie, who I knew would appreciate it. I also really wanted something that wasn’t available on the menu the last time I was there.I went for a sharing platter with Jamie (very tasty) and then a hog roast burger topped with gammon and pulled pork. Oh my good Lord this was amazing. Now normally I don’t get burgers as I always feel that the ratio of carb:protein is not at my preference. However, this was a fully stacked burger. My bun could barely contain it. And it fully rocked my world. And of course, the salted caramel sundae for pudding (containing bits of brownie and cheesecake).

Kate and Jamie also enjoyed theirs and ordered the sundaes as well (Jamie refused to give a normal face for this photo FYI).

We had this at 1pm and honestly I could not eat a single thing for the rest of the day (OK that’s a lie, I had two apples). I actually felt a little unwell in the evening and my stomach was making all kinds of crazy noises that night. But it was worth it.

So like old times, a good race and good food!

What do you never normally order at a restaurant?

What’s the best sundae you’ve ever had? Hands down, this one was probably the best I’ve had. The cream on top was proper whipping cream and not from a can.

Do you enjoy chatting to people during a race? Normally I do!

Winchester Christmas markets and a come back?

Oh I feel super Christmassy now. I’ve bought all my presents (wrapping is yet to be done but, details!), sent all my Christmas cards, worn my Christmas jumper, had my Christmas parties and eaten a proper roast turkey meal with all the trimmings. Yes indeed, Christmas is in full force.

The one thing I’m holding back on is the Christmas playlist. That bad boy gets rocked out closer to the day to maximise the effect (or rather, not make me want to tear my hair out too quickly after the 17th time of hearing All I Want For Christmas…).

On Saturday I forwent parkrun for the Winchester Christmas markets instead. Though I obviously love parkrun and my shin/calf is feeling better, the Christmas markets was just too much of a lure. I stayed at my parent’s house on Friday night and we left super early to beat the traffic and rush (well, we left at 9.30am which isn’t that early but pretty good for us considering we’re the most disorganised family known to man).

We got the Park and Ride which is probably the best way to do it (£3 to park the car and then everyone gets a seat on the bus, pretty good and only 15 minutes away from the centre). It was busy already though!We headed straight to the Cathedral where the actual Christmas market was located and wandered around slowly looking at all the different stalls. There were lots of craft-style stalls selling handmade jewellery, scarfs, ornaments etc. There were also food-related stalls selling cheese, dried meats and fudge and then hot food stalls selling bacon rolls and burgers.

There were some quaint old fashioned style ones selling roasted chestnuts, caramelised nuts, hot mulled wine and toasted marshmallows as well which all smelt divine.

There was also an outdoor ice rink as well but we weren’t tempted! I got myself a Schokokuss (a ‘chocolate kiss’) which I’d had in Berlin and loved. There were lots of different flavours, like Baileys, chocolate orange, dark chocolate, but I went for a white chocolate almond and honey flavoured one. It was delicious. Basically it’s like a teacake – waffery base topped with marshmallow fluff covered in chocolate.I shared it with my mum and dad (who didn’t want one of their own as they’re trying to be healthy – who even are they??) and it was delicious.

Obviously got a photo of the nativity scene because…Christmas. Though the sign above kept reminding me of Madonna’s “Step into the groove” song. Not sure why I felt the need to touch Mary’s shoulder. Perhaps I just thought it made her feel more involved in the photo 😉

And then the pièce de résistance… hot churros dusted with sugar and melted chocolate.Despite seeing the churros being dipped into boiling oil and then quickly sprinkled in sugar and chocolate and handed to me within a one minute period I still felt the need to try one immediately. And then, delightfully caught on camera by my loving father, managed to look oh so attractive in my first scorching bite. The burning was worth it though, they were damn good (but if I had one tiny criticism it would be more chocolate was needed…but that’s just coming from a very greedy person).Overall, the markets were really good. There was a choir, it was very Christmassy and the food was good. But it was rather small and there were no gingerbread biscuits or more snacky items like that (again, this is from a greedy person). It doesn’t help that I’ve been to Berlin where their Christmas markets really do steal the show and I’m comparing them to that.

After doing a bit more shopping on the highstreet and general moseying around, we decided to have some lunch at a lovely Thai tapas restaurant called Koh Thai that, funnily enough, my physio had recommended to me.

Usually tapas is a bit of a pain for me as I don’t share food but as I was with company who understands that (i.e. my parents) so I knew I was in safe territory 😉 We all ordered a main (which wasn’t really a true main, but a slightly bigger small dish that you didn’t share) and then I ordered ribs strictly to be eaten only by me and some pork salad bites to share. My parents ordered chicken satay, crispy beef and fishcakes for sharing, because they’re reasonable human beings.My main was a chicken salad. Honestly the food was AMAZING. I’m actually not a huge Thai food fan (or Chinese fan either) but it was so good. The flavours were so fresh and tasty. However there were some very cheeky sneaky chillies in my salad and halfway through the meal I felt like my tongue had had a layer taken off the top of it and my eyes were streaming. The ribs were to die for though, obviously.

Though I wasn’t hugely hungry to start with because of said treats above, we left no prisoners behind. Though to be fair, the meal was pretty healthy for a meal out (quantity aside). Though my tummy was buzzing by the end.

I had planned to do a run that morning before we went to the markets but I decided to leave it until later so I could be a bit more warmed-up and also not have wasted a potential lie-in (though I woke up naturally ridiculously early anyway…*sighs*). As it took a while to amble back to the bus stop, then the car journey home my stomach was in a better shape to attempt a run. I was super nervous and fully dreading it. I decided to run from my parent’s house before I left to go home just because I had a better three mile route and I could moan like a brat to my parents if it went badly (aren’t I delightful?).

Expecting the worse as soon as I stated I was pleasantly surprised to feel fine. As the run continued I could feel an echo of the niggle so just concentrated on my form and breathing and tried not to over-think things. It didn’t get worse so I carried on. I actually felt great running in terms of fitness. I felt very comfortable and within myself, though I loathed to look at my watch, thinking I didn’t need to see how much speed I’d lost. So I was really chuffed to see a nice negative split.

And a good pace for having not run in a far number of weeks! Clearly my boring cardio sessions have maintained something. My calf/shin felt reasonably OK after the run – not better, not worse. Not perfect…so I’ll need to take this very slowly and one run at a time.I mean, Sod’s Law will be that my next run will be terrible and I’ll be back to square one, but hey let’s be positive. It’s Christmas after all 😉

Have you been to any Christmas markets this year?

What would you buy/eat from a Christmas market?

What’s your favourite cuisine?

Things I’m loving in November

November, November…how is it November?? It has to be my least favourite month in the entire year, but it does mean we’re inching closer to Christmas and I love Christmas so at least that’s a silver living. I thought I’d share a few things I’ve been loving recently.

New leggings: OK I officially have far too many leggings. It’s a real addiction. It’s leaking out into everyday life – I wear them all the time. I’m pretty sure I could wear them to work as well as my office are pretty chilled but I’m trying really hard not to. Otherwise I’ll never be out of them! But anyway, I did buy another pair at the weekend. Hear me out. I don’t usually wear full length leggings and I don’t have any grey pairs sooo…ivy-park-leggingsThese leggings are from Top Shop from the Ivy Park range. Yep, I was fully sceptical at first as well. Top Shop? Beyoncé? Sportswear? Don’t be daft. But I tried them on and was really surprised. They’re made from a lovely, thick and stretchy material that hugs and “holds everything in”. I did several squats in the changing room to test them out (does anyone do this…?) and they didn’t slip down or go see-through (a big leggings no-no in my book!). For £40 they are expensive but the quality of the cut and material is there so I thought they were worth it.

iPhone battery: I love my iPhone but it frustrates me that it runs out of battery so easily. When I go on a day-trip somewhere I’ve invariably had to take a charger with me and hope to end up in a Starbucks somewhere where I can plug my phone in. It’s ridiculous. So I bit the bullet and bought a battery caseimg_6033I got this from Amazon for about £38. It’s a cheaper alternative to some of the other battery packs out there (including the ridiculously priced Apple one) and had great reviews. It does make my iPhone more bulky and heavy but I personally think it’s worth it as I now don’t need to worry about my battery running out and can go back to charging overnight. There’s a button on the back you click and it activates the battery and charges your phone up (the battery provides 130% more battery).

Pimped up porridge: I went back to porridge. I couldn’t stay away. I was having scrambled eggs and as delicious as it was each morning…I just missed my warm, stodgy oats. My problem with porridge was that it was just very high in carbs but without a lot of protein, and after going to the gym I like to have a balance of carbs and protein. So I’ve been adding some protein powder to my porridge to boost it up.img_6307Yes it does look like prison gruel…but it tastes really nice. I’m not a big fan of adding lots of toppings and extras to my porridge and normally wouldn’t like any sweetness but it’s not crazy sweet. I only add about 15g so it’s not overwhelming (and adds about 11g protein).

New book: I’m listening to a new audio book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking Susan Cain.quite-susan-cainI actually heard about this book through a TED talk from the same woman and it peaked my interest. I consider myself an introvert so I was keen to read the book. Being an introvert doesn’t mean you’tr anti-social or incapable of social interactions. For me it means liking to spend a bit more time alone and not being fully comfortable in social situations of which I’m not used to. I find them overwhelming. After a day with my friends or in big groups, I prefer nothing more than going home and spending time on my own to “recharge” (and why I struggled quite a bit when I went to the bootcamp in Spain).

It seems that the ideal is to be an extrovert, and being an introvert is often seen as a disadvantage, but the book shows how introverts are powerful in their own ways and how they shouldn’t be overlooked. I’m half-way through and finding it quite comforting and reassuring. It provides me with a lot of answers about the way I am in certain situations and why I feel certain ways.

Good food: On Saturday I went to Chichester with my parents. It’s kind of an annual thing to do around Christmas time as Chichester is so festive and such a pretty town. There are some nice shops that aren’t just your regular high-street ones too.

We booked a table at Bills which, though is a chain, is a really nice chain. I didn’t realise there was one in Chichester and my parent’s had never been to one before so it seemed ideal.

For starters my dad and me shared a meze board, which had hummus, tzatziki, red pepper dip, olives, flat bread, chicken skewers, calamari and falafels. It was delicious.img_6314It also wasn’t huge as some platters can be. For main I almost went for a Caesar salad but decided to go for something different for once. I had the lemon paprika chicken with some long stem broccoli on the side.img_6317It was DELICIOUS. I honestly can’t sing this enough praises. It had honey roasted root vegetables and cranberries and was just divine. And very filling. Originally I’d intended on having a pudding (I spotted a brownie with my name on it) but I sensibly decided not to. The meal had filled me up perfectly and anything more would be greedy and unnecessary and would probably spoil the satisfaction I was feeling. Who even am I?? I’m trying to not be so gluttonous when I eat out…let’s see how long that lasts 😉

And finally…beautiful crisp winter mornings: There have been some beautiful sunrises in the morning when I walk Alfie. img_6255I’m very lucky to live so close to a pretty park and where Alfie can run off his lead while I enjoy the scenery. Yes it’s been very cold, but it’s worth it.

Have you tried anything new lately?

What kind of phone do you have?

What books have you read lately?

Chester Marathon 2016

If there’s one thing I know about marathons it’s that it never gets easier. I suppose after the first one you’ve completed there is a sense of reassurance that you can actually do the distance and not combust after mile 18, but it is never easy. And, at least for me, I’m never going into without feeling nervous and terrified.

On the morning of the marathon I got up at 6am, got dressed, had a quick black coffee and made my porridge to take with me in the car.img_5541My parents were driving me there and then supporting me. So at 6.30am we piled into the car and headed to Chester, which was about 1.5 hours away from where we were staying in the cottage. Thankfully a quick petrol station stop allowed the necessary pre-race toilet requirement to be achieved (whew – runners, you know what I mean!) and we arrived at Chester at 8am, the time that the Chester Racecourse car park closes. This didn’t matter as my parents were just dropping me off and then heading off to find breakfast and mile 15ish to wait for me. However, we were very lucky as the road closures were literally happening around us at that point (we didn’t realise the roads to and from the racecourse would be closed. Normal well-organised people might, but us chancers? Noooo).img_5543The temperature was very nippy and I was thankful for having a charity shop purchased fleece to keep me warm.img_5544The race village was quite cool being in the racecourse. There were several tented areas full of things to buy and the bag drop area but I headed out to the main grass area to get into the loo queue because really what else can you do when you have about 45 minutes to kill before a race?chester-marathon-race-villageThe grass was wet and my trainers were annoyingly getting a bit soggy. I noticed several people had blue plastic shoe covers on their trainers to keep them dry and wondered where they got them from. But I wasn’t bothered enough to hunt them out for myself. A loo visit was more important! There didn’t seem to be a huge number of mobile loos it must be said but I was able to go twice so I can’t complain! No bad loo experiences so that’s always a plus!

Eventually we were called to the start. I felt really nervous. For me, a marathon is never a proper marathon unless I have some sort of ailment to worry about beforehand and in true Anna-style I was worried about my calf. It had been feeling very tight and a bit, dare I say, niggly during the week. I felt it a bit at parkrun the day before…In normal circumstances a week off would have probably put it to bed but not possible when race day is that week! But anyway we started and it just felt a bit tight so I tried to ignore it.

The first mile is run partly on grass as you come out of the racecourse and then onto the roads of Chester. There were quite a few clusters of small crowds and local running clubs who cheered us on. It was a lovely atmosphere. I remember distinctly how easy that first mile felt and thinking how it would later contrast with the final mile…

I hadn’t really got a strict pace plan. I decided to see what felt comfortable and go with that – as long as it wasn’t under 8min/miles as that would be silly considering my training. I stuck pretty consistently to 8-8:10min/miles and felt very relaxed, if not a little bored after we came out of the main city (which happened fairly quickly). Don’t get me wrong though, the Chester Marathon course is beautiful. So scenic. The first bit through the city was cool because of all the old walls, the Tudor-style buildings and the Chester Cathedral that you run past.img_5590

Taken later in the day

To take my mind of the monotony I listened in to other’s conversations around me and checked out what people were wearing. One man amusingly had some sort of race finisher’s t-shirt that for some reason, amongst all the other writing, had the word “Male” printed largely at the bottom. I wondered why!?

As we got deeper into the countryside I decided I just had to take a photo. I was wearing my Flipbelt so my phone (and my gels) were easy to get out.img_5552It was just perfect. Or at least it would have been had the sun not been shining directly in our eyes for about 90% of the first 10 miles! I envied those who were wearing sunglasses.img_5551

But that blue sky! The temperature was still fairly cool, especially in the shade, so it really was perfect running temperature. The course was not entirely flat, with a few undulations here and there but nothing major.10kSo the first 10k went by fairly uneventfully. I chatted to a guy who was running the same pace as me (his 14th marathon) and we had roughly the same time goals, though he was more keen to get closer to 3:30 whereas I was more generally 3:30-3:45. I know it sounds a bit off but I didn’t really want to chat too much. I was happy to just sink inside my brain and not think for a bit rather than make conversation but we stayed in the same pace range and it was nice to have his company there even if we didn’t chat a huge amount.10-miles

We ran over a mat at 10k so I knew my parents would know how I was doing on the tracker thing. My first main milestone was 8 miles as this was when I was to have my first gel. My watch was already out from the mile markers annoyingly so I made sure to wait until the actual 8 mile mark rather than my watch (because I’m neurotic like that). The gel was an SIS Red Berry with caffeine flavoured one which I hadn’t had before. I’ve had SIS gels before but not this particular flavour. I’ve never had an issue with gels before and I’ve tried quite a few and thankfully this was fine. Though the flavour was DISGUSTING. So pleased I have an entire pack of them at home…

At 10 miles I was grateful to final allow myself to listen to a podcast (the BBC 5 Live Film Review). The pace was still consistently around 8 min/miles and though the country side was beautiful I was a bit bored. The podcast really helped though as I lost myself in that until 13 miles, when I had my next gel. Oh the excitement! 😉16-miles

After my gel (one I’d picked up from an aid station – a High5 IsoGel – very liquidy) I started to look forward to seeing my parents. As I got to 13 miles I realised my parents wouldn’t be at 15 as it was a weird part of the course that goes off and does a big square before turning back towards the city at mile 15. So mile 13 and 15 are practically next to each other if that makes sense.chester-marathon-course

At this point you can see the super speedy people running back towards you as they’ve already done the square – I saw the sub-3 pacer storming along and realised that the square would take about 30-40 minutes. It was nice to see the other runners coming towards you so that amused me for a while.

As I got to 16 miles, around a small village called Holt, I spotted a crowd of people and scanned them to see if my parents were there. They were! I was so pleased to see them!img_5575

I went a bit crazy cheering and waving much to the delight of the spectators. I think they must have thought I was mental!img_5576Then I was off again. My next milestone was 18 miles for my final gel. This time it was a Honey Stinger Acai and Pomegranate flavoured one which was a bit thicker but so tasty; fruity and sweet.21-miles

There were so nasty short inclines around this point that were actually quite tough.chester-marathon-elevation

I tried to ignore how tired my legs were and just get them done. The nice decline afterwards wasn’t entirely welcome either because that still works the muscles pounding downhill!img_5554As I got to mile 20 I wondered if I had anything in me to boost up the speed for the last 10k. I didn’t feel I did and wondered if this was the difference between doing speed work during marathon training and not…But I decided to put on my “let’s get going” playlist and see what happened.

Well, it certainly helped boost me along! I thought to myself, just get to 23 miles and then it’s just a parkrun. It definitely helped. When I finally reached 23 miles I was smiling and feeling good and shouted to a marshal it was just a parkrun to go and he laughed and said I looked too happy.26-milesThere was a nasty hill around 23-24 miles but I could smell the finish line and just pushed on. I started overtaking people and several people cheered me on, one guy yelled with a lovely Northern accent, “You go, girl!”. I don’t know what happened but suddenly I was flying. The crowds of supporters got bigger and I kept a smile on my face and they cheered me through. I just kept passing people and it was such a buzz. We ran alongside the River Dee and loads of people were having lunch or coffee in little cafes alongside the river or standing and cheering and it really helped keep my momentum going. One more mile, the quicker I do it the quicker I can stop. The finish was in sight, we were now back on the grass of the race course and I just needed to get to the end. And I was done!

I checked my watch and couldn’t believe it: 3:28:22. Sub 3:30! My A Goal! I also couldn’t believe how I managed to pull out a sub 7 minute last mile. Over a minute faster than my first mile and about 100 times harder!img_3207I got my medal, a foil blanket, a technical t-shirt (very nice) and a goodie bag and then spotted my parents who were waving madly to me. Ahh so nice to see them so quickly after finishing!img_5566I was on cloud nine 🙂

My calf was a bit grumpy, I won’t lie, but otherwise I was feeling fantastic. The sun was shining and I was over the moon with how consistently I ran and how much speed I was able to pick up in the last 10k. It just felt fantastic running past all those people and hearing the crowds. I’ll never forget it.

Right, I’ll leave it there as this post is already far too long. Chester Marathon is a fantastic marathon and I’m so glad I did it. It was well organised, well supported, scenic and just a joy to run. Top marks!img_5592Have you ever done Chester Marathon before?

What kind of course do you prefer: countryside, city, etc.?

How many gels (if any) do you take during a marathon and what’s your favourite?