The consequences of being too greedy… ice cream and running don’t mix

The weekend after a marathon you want to basically do nothing. And well, that’s pretty much what I did! Well, sort of.

On Friday night a bunch of my running friends and I went to a very lovely Chinese in Southampton (actually my friend Mike’s stepmum’s) called Shanghai Bay. Now I’m actually not a big Chinese food fan. I’m more an Indian fan, but Mike assured me that this was not your everyday British Chinese restaurant. It was where the local Chinese community come to eat. When you see 90% of the customers are Chinese you know it’s going to be authentic and tasty!As none of us really knew what to order, Mike suggested he just get a selection of bits and pieces to share between us (cue Anna mini panic on sharing food. Needn’t have worried! So much food!). There was a large turning bit in the middle of the table so we could rotate the different plates round which was great for the sharing situation. We started with a platter of ribs, sesame prawn toast, spring rolls, crispy seaweed and peanut chicken skewers.Very tasty indeed. And obviously I loved the ribs. Then following this we had crispy duck pancakes followed by mountains of main courses… sweet and sour, black bean beef and another one (a pork dish, no idea what it was but it was delicious). Oh god, so much food… We barely made a dent! The above photo isn’t when all the dishes are out… I got too distracted eating to take better photos! So yes, we were quite full afterwards. It was also highly amusing seeing some of the “older” generation using Snap Chat filters for the first time. I don’t use Snap Chat either so it was quite an education for all of us!Then after those fun and games we all headed to the nearby Sprinkles Gelato for a bit of pudding… even though we were all feeling quite full. But as we know, there is a separate stomach for pudding.I ordered the Sticky Situation, which I’ve had before… basically a dessert in a jar. It was vanilla gelato with cookie dough, white and regular chocolate sauce, chocolate buttons, real cream (not the cheap squirty stuff). But yeah, it was FILLING. Mike and Kate ordered the peanut butter version of it and they struggled towards the end too… I guess a crepe, waffle or a smaller sundae might have been a more sensible choice (as the others had gone for) but that’s not how I roll!
I was SO full (as you imagine). It was delicious though. We all stumbled out of Sprinkles feeling very much in a sugar coma. I went to bed that night not feeling my best!

And unsurprisingly I woke up not feeling my best. But I headed to Southsea to meet my marathon buddy, Joe, his friend Matt and Matt’s dad for the Southsea parkrun. I parked about a mile away (near The Tenth Hole, where we’d be going for a post-run trip after) and jogged down. A handy little warm-up – which I never usually do before parkrun.The temperature and weather were fantastic. It was lovely and warm and the breeze was fair minimal. The perfect time for a trip to Southsea parkrun!
Joe was planning on testing his marathon legs and I was just planning on surviving. My legs had felt fairly good post-marathon but I wasn’t expecting or really intending on attempting anything too fast or crazy.

We started far too far back. Joe should have been far more forward (being the sub 18min 5k’er he is!) so the first 100m or so I was dodging and weaving between people. Joe and Matt zoomed off and I just tried to get my legs going. Surprisingly things seemed to go OK as I got faster and faster. Southsea parkrun course is quite dull in that it’s a flat 1.5 mile run along the prom and then a turnaround and 1.5 mile run back. But it’s a quick one if that’s what you’re looking for. I managed to get my legs to go faster and overtook a number of people. My legs felt fine and my lungs felt fine… but my stomach was NOT happy. I felt incredibly sick. In fact, I was genuinely concerned I would BE sick. And the smell from the cafes nearby made things so much worse.

As we turned around and headed back I tried to maintain my pace (now with a very slight headwind, but you can always feel these things when you’re trying to run fast) and I remember several guys effortlessly gliding past me (or so it seemed). There was a very young lad sailing along just ahead of me and I tried to hold on to his pace. I did wonder where his “responsible” adult was though as he was very much under 11 and running solo. But that did help distract me from the sicky feeling to consider what you’d do if you had a very young child who could outrun you so much but wanted to join you at parkrun. You’d have to find someone just as speedy that he could run with I guess. Running parent problems!My official time was 21:44 which I was really pleased with. I was more pleased that I wasn’t actually sick. Though after finishing I had to take myself off to a nearby bush and breathe deeply for a good few minutes before I was in the clear. I wasn’t sick but good god I was close. Lessons have been learnt.Joe didn’t do as well as he’d hoped (19.30ish…so slow! ;-)) and Matt got a PB. Matt’s dad did very well as well and we all agreed our previous night nutrition (the boys had had chips and beer) hadn’t been stellar so our performance wasn’t too shabby all things considered!And then Matt and his dad headed off while Joe and I headed to The Tenth Hole for a post-run coffee. We had originally intended on having cake or breakfast but the reality was I felt so sick even the smell of food was turning my stomach. So we settled instead on a coffee and ordered cake to take-away.I knew future Anna would regret not getting cake! I also got three little cake’s for my parents (they come as a trio of cake selection). This way they’d still get cake but it would fit into their Slimming World diet being smaller cakes. I chose a s’mores Rolo brownie and a peanut butter caramel cake (sweet ‘n’ salty – there was more popcorn on top but I nibbled at it).They’ve gone into the freezer to stock-up my cake supply. I honestly couldn’t have had stomached them. Who even am I! In fact, I didn’t actually eat “breakfast” until 1.30pm as I really just didn’t feel right. That will certainly teach me and my greedy self. The coffee was lovely and it was nice to catch-up with Joe again post marathon. Then I headed to Asda to do some food shopping (best time when you really don’t want to be around food…) and had a very lazy day not doing much else.

The next morning, after a deliciously long lie-in, I intended on heading out for about 8-10 miles. I felt so unmotivated and, weirdly, still tired. I just really didn’t fancy going. I took Alfie for a walk to get my head in the game and decided instead to head out for three miles and see how I felt. Well I headed out and within the first 30 seconds I was already feeling like I wanted to go back. But I thought the first mile is always the worst so give it more time. Nope, two miles in and I was already wanting to be home. Everything felt fine, no niggles or anything like that, but nothing felt right, if you know what I mean. I just felt very lethargic and not enjoying the run so I headed home. When I finished I just felt even more tired and not right. I wondered if I was coming down with something…

After getting showered and sorted my mum suggested a nice walk along the Lee-On-Solent prom and then a coffee. Well that sounded lovely. Sometimes you just need to spend some quality time with your mum!We had a nice coffee and chatted away before heading back down the prom to the car. Exactly what I needed! I’m glad I hadn’t tried to push my run earlier as I really didn’t fancy it and I’m not actually training for anything right now (more on that in another post). So for now I can have those days when I don’t fancy running and not run. Lovely. I might have also picked up a slice of coconut vanilla cake and a chocolate beetroot cake to join my other cake friends in the freezer… 😉

The rest of the day was spent chilling and catching up on life admin and Graham Norton. Some days you just need to chill. I still wasn’t feeling entirely well so the relaxing and care-free day did wonders. Especially as the coming weekends I’m going to be busy again!

How do you relax?

Do you ever spend one-on-one time with your mum? What do you like doing together?

Have you ever felt/been sick on a run?

All the food and the Solent Half Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you like to eat food straight after exercising?

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

Do you use headphones during runs or races?

Life Check-In

So life lately. Asides from doing idiotic things in my spare time, life has been pretty good, albeit somewhat stressful.

Work

In terms of work, I’m still loving things. Now that schools have started again the traffic is heavier but it’s still nothing in comparison to my journeys to Basingstoke used to be. We’re still talking 30 minutes. This makes me extremely happy. Having more of an evening means I don’t feel like all I do is walk Alfie, eat and then go to bed. I can actually live a little. However this will be changing again as I’ve now moved back home to my parent’s house (more on this in a bit). Though they live closer to where I work, they actually live in a very annoying spot in terms of getting on to the motorway. So the likelihood is that I’ll get stuck in more traffic in the future. However, it still won’t be as bad as Basingstoke was I’m sure.

And the work itself? I’m loving it. So interesting and something I’m so keen to learn more and more about. Working in such a cool and friendly environment helps a lot as well. Not that my last place wasn’t friendly (I have some great friends I made there and keep in touch with) but I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be now.

Moving

In terms of moving, I kind of left everything until the last moment. I mean, ehhh, don’t we all work a bit better with some adrenaline and looming, flashing deadline in front of us? I’m renting my flat out furnished so this did make things somewhat easier in terms of physically moving. But I still had a lot of “stuff” to move regardless. And cleaning. I’ve maintained a very high level of cleanliness in my flat (the letting agency commended it when they visited. I was proud) but there were still areas to clean of course. Cupboards, drawers, deep cleaning the kitchen and bathroom.

I had Friday and Monday off to master this moving process (while still having quite a busy weekend as well – I never make things easy for myself of course). Friday was literally pack my life away into my Fiat 500, and thankfully my dad’s larger car. I packed about half of my stuff (SO. MANY. CLOTHES. WHY) and then realised actually I had quite a lot of stuff.This giant Next bag and the big blue IKEA bags were my saviour. As everything was to fit into cars, rather than a van, it was all about squashability. Plus I didn’t actually have that many boxes. I’m also going through the very freeing process of becoming more minimalist. There’s nothing like packing to make you consider whether you want to actually move something or not. I’ve gotten rid of (well, donated to charity) a lot of old trainers, shoes, clothes, books, DVDs and random items.I’ve sold more expensive handbags on eBay and given away other stuff to friends (ahh smoothie maker, it’s been quite a while since I used you). So Friday, Saturday afternoon and Sunday were spent packing the last bits. As I had a busy day (mainly eating, it must be said) Saturday and then a half marathon on Sunday, it was quite exhausting getting everything done.My flat was scrubbed clean; the fridge, the balcony glass panes, the windows (inside and out!), the oven, cupboards, bathroom, skirting boards…everything!It’s funny because I keep forgetting that it’s still going to be my flat. I can still move back there at some point in the future. I’m not selling it. So the level of sadness is minimal. I will of course miss it and I will miss my lovely cushty lifestyle there but I know this is the right thing to do. But jeeeesus was it tiring getting it all done. My parents helped where they could but they too were busy at the weekend and couldn’t have the time off of work. But I am an INDEPENDENT WOMAN, yes indeed. There is nothing like walking up and down two flights of stairs carrying heavy bags and boxes on your own to drill that into you.Running

By far the most interesting thing to discuss right? 😉 My running since the New Forest Marathon has been pretty good. Weirdly I’ve gone from the lone wolf runner who does most of her running solo, to someone who now regularly does her runs with other people. On Tuesday nights I’ve been running with a guy at work which has been nice. So far we’ve only run two four milers as we’ve both been recovering from high mileage at the weekend. But it’s been good regardless. It’s nice as well to chat to someone outside of work hours about work. I know that doesn’t sound great but for someone who would literally forget about work as soon as I left the building, to have interest and passion about what I do now means I’m genuinely interested in talking about it further.

Thursdays still see me running with my friend Mike. He’s always fun to run with and we often have good conversations regarding dating, life and the universe. It’s a bit like therapy 😉 Our recent run of 10k went by nicely. Though we both wondered how the hell we’d run regularly 7-9miles before. A marathon definitely takes it out of you. However, our splits were nicely around 8.30s rather than 9minutes so that was something.And Saturday is parkrun of couse. Speaking of adulting fails… I somehow managed to register myself TWICE. So when I’ve been scanning my barcodes recently I’ve been scanning a different Anna (it’s still me, but not my usual account, just one I created YEARS ago when I was just starting running outside). I only realised this when I went to see how many parkruns I’ve done and found I’d only done about five, which is wrong! Stupid me. I’ve sent an email to the lovely parkrun chaps but they said it was too time-consuming to change it. It’s fair enough, of course. This is my own error, but I’m still SO annoyed (at myself). This means I’ll be out of count for milestones… OK my next milestone is 250 which is over 100 parkruns away but STILL. And now I don’t have Brighton & Hove on my tourism list. ARGH.

But anyway, parkrun at Netley this week was nice. It was lovely weather and I did a nice negative split as I started feeling stronger as the run continued.

Photo Credit: Glenn Tyreman

I so much prefer to build up to speed than go out guns blazing. Though with 5ks if you want a really solid fast time you do need to be on the speed as soon as you start… but my body doesn’t really work like that for parkrun. I guess I could do more miles to warm-up but with helping set-up there’s never time. Plus I’m not too bothered by getting a super fast time these days!

Photo Credit: Glenn Tyreman

I look very much “in the zone” in that photo above – this was on the finishing straight. So my time was 22:19 which is not too shabby!I think we’ll be moving onto the dreaded winter course soon (which feels so much harder). I had to dash off quickly after finishing as I needed to get a bit more packing done before meeting my friend for lunch. I did get a cheeky photo though with our new sign. Very fancy shmancy indeed! My friend, Joe, decided to photobomb it which was quite amusing.I’ll do a recap of the Solent Half Marathon that I ran on Sunday in another post…

Basically, the Cliff Notes of the post is, my life is going well. I’m a very happy apple right now (yes I did just refer to myself as an apple). Things have slotted into place and life is feeling good.

Do you enjoy cleaning? This is a random question, but I actually love cleaning. I get so much satisfaction from it.

Do you like the people you work with? And the environment you work in?

How’s your running/exercising going?

My Brighton adventures: food and running, of course

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Do you go to work conferences?

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

Do you have any cheeky life hacks?

The New Forest Marathon 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eventually we were able to leave though! Hurrah!

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

Do you like to eat straight after a marathon?

Have you ever run a marathon with a friend?

Have you ever gone to the Dark Marathon Place before?