Skid Row Marathon and another adulting fail

On Saturday I headed up to London just before lunch for a running-specific visit. However, there actually was no running involved…not even for a train!

I always seem to harp on about this in my blog, but I’m a big fan of the Marathon Talk podcast and have been on a few different of the events that they run. They tend to run an annual run camp located in the heart of the New Forest (at a place delightfully called Sandy Balls) which I’ve been to three times and really hope to make next year too. I’ve also been on the Austrian run camp that they trialled this year, which was FANTASTIC (even if I did come back injured from over-zealous running).

At these events I’ve made some fantastic friends who I’ve kept in touch with and hope to continue being in touch with for years to come. Running really does bring people together and, as I always always say, is just such a warm hug of a community.

So when I heard about a running-based documentary being shown in London and a few of my fellow Marathon Talk friends had decided to go I immediately signed up. The film, Skid Row Marathon, sounded interesting enough but really I just wanted to hang out with some cool like-minded people and geek out over miles, splits and races.

Through the magic of social media I arranged to meet up with a Marathon Talker, James (@Runeckers on Insta) who I didn’t really know in “real life” but knew vaguely through Twitter and Instagram. But I thought he didn’t sound particularly like a psycho and it would be nice to grab some lunch somewhere before the 3.30pm showing. If I’m going to go to London I might as well make more of a day of it.

We arranged to meet in Leicester Square and had a brief moment of funny awkwardness when I could see him across a busy crossroad but he couldn’t see me but I couldn’t get across the road. I was messaging him saying “I can see you!” only to watch him look around bewildered. Eventually he spotted me, but it did scream slightly of a weird stalker girl 😉

James turned out to indeed not be a psycho and we chatted easily, as runners do, about all things races, PBs, injuries and goals. As I’d run 16 miles earlier that morning I could feel my runger start to emerge even though I hadn’t had breakfast that many hours ago. So there ensued us walking around trying to chat but also trying to make our minds up on where to eat. As tempting as Nando’s was, we both decided maybe something a bit more original and found a lovely spot called The Hummus Bros. It was lovely.I must admit the portion sizes did look alarmingly small to my highly greedy eyes, despite having “gone large”. However it was actually incredibly filling. It was quite intensely packed with hummus (surprise, surprise), shredded chicken and guacamole. It also came with two lovely warm thick pitas as well. James had the beef stroganoff hummus bowl which sounded bizarre to me but he said was nice.

On our quest for lunch I’d spotted a fro-yo spot, Yorica, and as James had never tried fro-yo I pretty much demanded that we go there for pudding. You know, to spread the good fro-yo word.The fro-yo flavours sounded good and the lady behind the counter tempted me to trying a mix of chocolate with “mellow macha”. We saw someone having large chunks of brownie put onto theirs and immediately followed suit as well. They looked pretty tasty! It was an interesting spot with a machine for free sprinkles which was rather jazzy. Of course we had to have a little go.Though my fro-yo looks huge in comparison to James’ I actually had quite a big hole within the depths of the fro-yo which was somewhat disappointing but actually it was quite a decent portion (even for me). Then we ambled back towards the Prince Charles theatre in Leicester Square to meet with the others who’d arrived.Quite a few of the Austria run campers had come so it was nice to see them and catch up. Martin Yelling (one of the Marathon Talk presenters, who had organised the event to take place) and his wife, Liz Yelling, were also there and it was nice to say hi and briefly chat again. They also introduced us to the producers of the film which was very cool indeed.

I then bumped into Maria and had a nice chat briefly. She was far more organised than me and had printed off her ticket. I suddenly realised I didn’t have my ticket. What an idiot! I realised it would be on my phone in my emails but I was struggling with Internet signal. And suddenly everyone was going in! Ensue major panic. Luckily my lovely Austria run camp friend, Zoe (who incidentally was the one responsible for organising the cinema screening with Martin – they actually organised it while we were in Austria after Martin asked if anyone had any contacts for cinema screenings in London!) said she knew I’d bought a ticket so I didn’t have to struggle anymore. Thank God. Why am I not more organised!?

John (he’s just completed a ridiculous week of running silly miles every day, legend), James and me

The film itself was just fantastic. It was so interesting, so moving and so well made. I mean, I’m clearly no movie critic but I thoroughly enjoyed it and it deserves to be seen by more people. The film roughly followed four years of an LA criminal judge, Craig Mitchell, and a running club, called the Midnight Runners, that he helped set up. The club is part of the Midnight Mission which is a shelter and addiction centre in the heart of Skid Row where around 6,000 homeless people live (LA actually has 47,000 homeless people in total). It honed in on a number of real people who were trying to make a better life for themselves. They were previous addicts, criminals – even a murderer. A theme through the film, that the producer highlighted at the end, was that no single act defined a person and that people should be given a second chance. It really spoke volumes to me.

I could go on and on about how good this film was but I won’t. I will stress though that if you get the opportunity to see it (hopefully it will become available to stream) then you really must. It gave me a lot to think about.After the film had finished there was a Q&A with the film makers themselves, Gabi and Mark Hayes. They were lovely and were very generous with their time and patience to answer a number of questions. They shared a hilarious tidbit that during the Rome Marathon that the running club took part in, one of the main “characters”, Rebecca, stopped half-way for a pizza and a cigarette as she was struggling so much. I think we’ve all felt that pain before!

When we broke out into the foyer I hung out with other Marathon Talkers. Gabi and Mark were there too so we could ask them a few more questions. They were so willing to chat and so friendlyEventually a bunch of us headed off to grab a drink and food as it was now around 6pm. We stopped at a nearby Slug and Lettuce. A few of us ordered a chicken salad in a tortilla bowl (very tasty) and my lovely friend, Deni, ordered four portion of chips for us all to share.Runners know how to eat, of course!

After chatting away it was time to head back home. An easy train ride for me at 8.09pm to Portsmouth Harbour, which would stop at Hedge End where I’d walk the 15 minutes back to my flat. Easy peasy.

I got on my train (yep, it said Portsmouth Harbour, yep it was around 8pm) and happily chilled out. It was only when I got chatting to a lovely couple near me that I realised I’d made a mistake. Well, they highlighted to me my mistake. I was on the wrong train. The wrong Portsmouth Harbour train. I’d gotten on the one that didn’t go through Southampton! Why put TWO Portsmouth Harbour trains running at VERY similar times on neighbourghing platforms!? Don’t they realise they’re dealing with people with limited common sense, AKA me??

I quickly checked online on my phone and the couple were, of course, correct. This train did not go anywhere near Hedge End. Anna Standard Behaviour right there. So I made the dreaded phonecall to my parents to see if by any chance they could pick me up and take me home from Havant (a legitimate stop on this train), which was about 15 minutes from where they lived. As ever, they came to my rescue (and may I add, not at all surprised. After all, this is not unusual behaviour for me to be without my brain at crucial moments). In fact, my dad went as far to say that whenever I travel a distance away from home one of them won’t have a glass of wine that evening as they never can guarantee I can make it home safely alone. Jeeze.

What made it even worse was that the train was delayed by 45 minutes. My dad remarked when he finally saw me that only I could get on the wrong train and then have it delayed. The couple who I was sat near were lovely company though and we passed the time chatting away. Bless their hearts, they said they had a daughter “my age” too…she’d just finished travelling after university (she’s 23! Ha! I’m almost 30 don’t you know!). That said, this 23 year old could evidently make it safely and happily around South East Asia for six weeks without any issue. I can barely navigate two hours from my home.

*Sighs* but I made it home safely thanks to my life-saving parents. A silly way to end a fantastic day. At least I go to talk their ears off about the film that evening…

Have you ever got on the wrong train?

Do you enjoy documentaries?

What I ate when working in London

Whew last week was tough. I was in London for four days as part of the final bit of a project (for those who don’t know, I’m currently a software test analyst… yes very geeky). These last few weeks have been very stressful as we’ve had some unmovable deadlines to hit and lots of work to get done. But I won’t dwell on that for this post, this post is about the good stuff. FOOD.

I was in London Monday until Thursday. I was the only one in the group to be staying in a hotel. Everyone else lives in Basingstoke or nearby so the commute was a bit more manageable (well, I say that but one guy had commuting issues all week… something I was glad to avoid!). Luckily the office we were in had a very fancy pants kitchen area so I bought porridge oats and almond milk at lunch time on Monday so breakfast Tuesday until Thursday was covered as I could make it in the morning there. Saving money and still able to enjoy my usual breakfast 🙂

My job expenses travel, hotels and dinner but for breakfast and lunch I need to buy myself. The office was located in Victoria so at lunch there was a wealth of options available, from the Shake Shack, Subway, Pret, Itsu, McDonalds, Starbucks…etc. I’d heard good things about Leon so went there on Monday to grab something.

I went for the South Indian Spiced Fish, which was delicious.It was really tasty. It contained chunks of smoked fish in a mild coconut and turmeric sauce on a bed of rice. It was lovely and hot but not too spicy. I actually did buy some extra cooked chicken though to add to it as I knew I wouldn’t get much of a chance to eat again until dinner and I generally have quite a big appetite! It kept me going until 8.30pm (we didn’t finish work until 7pm).

That evening after getting to my hotel, which was in Paddington (so not too far from Victoria) I’d made sure I’d already made a Deliveroo order on my commute back. I didn’t fancy going out as I was exhausted from the day so this was ideal. I ordered from Lokkanta, which is a meze and barbeque restarant. I ordered a Tavuk Shish, which was chicken with Bulgar wheat with a halloumi and sundried tomato salad. I also ordered some bread on the side. I’m always wary of ordering when I don’t know portion sizes so I’m always willing to get more than I need than risk not getting enough 😉 Turns out I didn’t need the bread, but it was tasty.

My hotel… *sighs* was dreadful. It was tiny and not part of a chain, which can be nice sometimes but in London a chain is sometimes better because there’s a level of quality that needs to be maintained however basic the actual amenities are. When I was lying on the bed watching TV after eating I noticed tiny little white dots slowly moving on the sheets. On closer inspection I found that they were tiny mites. URGH. I headed downstairs to talk to the manager (the only person who seemed to work there…) and complained.

He literally looked like he couldn’t care less (by the way, this is the same guy who gave me a master key for the hotel when he couldn’t find the key for my specific room – oh yeah, I felt safe!!). When it looked like he didn’t really a) know what to do and b) want to do anything I suggested quite firmly new sheets for my bed. He looked really grumpy and finally agreed. He appeared at my door a few moments later and handed me the sheets. I handed them back to him and said I was going to step out to make a phone-call. I was not going to change my own sheets thank you very much. I came back and thankfully my bed had been made and the mites had disappeared. But Jesus. So yeah, that delightful abode is called Mina House Hotel FYI.

The next morning I headed out for a run. Despite my hotel being awful, it was very close to Hyde Park. As my last solo run in London had be disastrous I was glad to have somewhere specific to run around that had lots of maps about the place (and water fountains)!

I thoroughly enjoyed this run. I decided to go around the perimeter and see how far that was. It was very warm but the sights were so pretty with trees, grass, fountains, flowers and statues. I don’t think I’ve ever actually been to Hyde Park before so it was a lovely way to explore it.At one point there was this huge line of horses with very fancy looking men all in special uniform walking graceful through the park. Apparently the Queen’s Guard! The Queen wasn’t there (obviously, it was like 7am) but it was very cool to see this procession.In the end I ran 8 miles which felt great! I had breakfast at the office again (porridge) and for lunch I headed out to find what delights I could embark on. I decided on Pret (how original) because I love their salads and their miso soup. I got that with the extra chicken from Sainsbury’s and some apples. The salad was the Greens, Grains and Chicken Salad. Sorted!

For dinner I decided to find somewhere on the way home from work as we finished after 6pm again and I wanted to prolong the time before I had to face my hotel room again. I found a lovely little Turkish restaurant (I think it was called Raffles) in Paddington. I went for something simple so had chicken wings to start (*cough* I know, I just can’t help what I like!) and chicken with rice and salad for main.It was really tasty and just what I fancied. When you have to spend a number of days away from home (and not on holiday) eating out on your own can get a bit tiresome and annoying. Granted this was only my second evening but I was pacing myself. I’d have loved to have eaten crazy exciting meals each night but I didn’t want to be too unhealthy. My usual mantra is eat fairly balance and normal meals during the week and then splurge at the weekend on more fancy and exciting meals.

The next day I headed out early to go to the local PureGym. I’d rung up the day before to extend my membership to the Bayswater one (which was about a 15 minute walk from the hotel). It would cost me £4 for the week on top of my month’s membership which sounded good to me. I punched in my code when I got there and found it wouldn’t let me in. I got a text message from PureGym informing me that my code wouldn’t work at this location. WHAT.

I tried ringing them but at 6.30am the hotline wasn’t open and there was no one in the gym to help me. So I huffed and puffed and then walked back. Luckily the weather was nice so that was something. I rang them later to find out what was going on and it turns out the person who I rang the day before hadn’t extended my membership properly. They were very apologetic and said I could go to the gym for the rest of the week without the £4 charge.

I had the same Pret lunch again (as I did for the next day – I just love that salad) and after work went for another run round Hyde Park.I decided to do something similar to before by running the perimeter. There were some live events going on (music, cinema and things like that) but being on my own I didn’t really fancy getting involved.A run was a far more fun activity for me as a solo person. As I was running I thought I might as well run somewhere to dinner and really fancied Nandos. So basic but I do love it. And handily Nando’s was just over a mile from Hyde Park so I incorporated that into my run.It did mean me sitting there in my shorts rather hot and sweaty but no one seemed to mind and I actually didn’t look that weird amongst the other assorted London folk… I was very warm though and cleaned up a bit in the bathroom. I went for a half chicken, with a side salad, char-grilled vegetables and a corn on the cob. I would have loved a whole chicken but it was only a Wednesday night after all!

The next morning I got up early once again to attempt the gym for the second time. I am but a girl of very small brains. Of course a trip to London must mean at some point I will go wrong and have an adulting fail moment. This was my time to shine. I put in my maps app what I thought was the Bayswater PureGym and headed off. I used a different app from the day before just because I prefer it to the Google one. It took me on a different route, which I put down to it being a different app. But as I became a bit more awake and compos mentis I realised I was actually no where near where I was the other day. And lo and behold, the PureGym I arrived at was not in fact the Bayswater one but a different one entirely. And nope, I could not get it. So I had to turn around and walk all the way back again. Well done, Anna.

My last day in London saw the same breakfast and lunch as the days before. I’m fairly glad I don’t work in London all that often because spending £6-7 at least every day on lunch was becoming expensive! Normally I make my own lunch and take it with me, but for four days it was a nice treat (especially considering dinner was sorted for me).

This will be my only post for the week as I’m actually currently in Austria on the MarathonTalk running retreat (SO EXCITING!). So catch you on the other side!

Do you go to London for work often?

What do you eat for lunch during the week?

What’s your favourite lunch restaurant?

Birthday celebrations – friends, running and ALL the food

This weekend was a scorcher! I was so pleased the weather was good as I was off to London on Friday afternoon to see my friends to celebrate my birthday (which is today…booo! On a Monday!).

I headed up to London on the train and met my lovely friend, Charlotte, for dinner. We decided to go for a Mexican meal and it fully hit the spot! Charlotte’s just changed from being a veggie to eating meat, and this still blows my mind. She ordered a chicken skewer and chicken tacos, while I ordered chicken wings and chicken fajitas.It was SO good. It fully hit the spot of what I wanted that evening. I even got to finish off Charlotte’s skewer as it was just a bit “too meaty” for her (she’s still adjusting to being non-veggie) and she’s also a normal person who doesn’t eat stupid amounts like I do! And of course, a cheeky frozen margarita was in order.

And what finishes dinner perfectly? Some pudding of course! I was on the hunt for something tasty…and found a lovely little waffle and dessert cafe to satisfy my cravings.From there we headed to some bars for drinks and then met our other friend Laura, who lives in London, and headed to Camden for some dancing. It was such a fun evening. I’ve been feeling a bit stressed and a bit frustrated with a few things so this was EXACTLY what I needed. We got to Laura’s, where we were to be staying overnight, at 2.30am. Pooped!

Now being the running-obsessed person I am, I had my alarm set for 7.30am to head to Wormwood Scrubs to meet our other friend, Kate, for some parkrun tourism. She’d driven down from Bristol and had found Wormwood Scrubs parkrun was the easiest for her to get to and a good spot for her to leave her car without paying a fortune. Also, she spec’ed out the place and found that the local running clubhouse had showers! So she brought me a towel and some shower gel to use, bless her.

When my alarm went off at 7.30am I was a little worse for wear but got myself together to leave by 7.45am and onto the tube. I was a bit of a walking zombie but got there on time and with no issues. Have I finally become a real adult!?Wormwood Scrubs is next to a huge prison (you can see it in the bottom left photo above). I had no idea but it was literally right next to the park. Interesting!Wormwood Scrubs parkrun is all run on grass and is 2.5 laps. It’s a bit uneven underfoot and though it appears flat, does actually have some deceptively sneaky inclines. I was having some serious hay fever issues that morning (damn Stingy Anna for buying Tesco’s own hay fever tablet) so this was giving me problems. Lots of sneezing and my eyes were SO itchy. Being in the middle of a field didn’t help.Nothing huge or could be called a hill, but it does increase the effort level. Considering I was feeling a bit, er, tender and the temperature was already at 23 degrees I made the sensible decision to go easy. Actually, that’s a lie; I couldn’t have gone faster even if I tried!!

I finished drenched in sweat and glad to stop. That was a tough one! I got 23:07 and was happy with that!

Sadly my friend Kate lost her footing a bit and hurt her calf. She had to walk a fair bit of it. But she powered through. Hopefully it’ll heal up quickly – we have another obstacle race soon!Wormwood is a really small parkrun. They regularly get less than 100 people there each week (it was actually a course attendance record on Saturday with 107 people). It was very friendly and felt very welcoming. It was nice to go to such a small one. It gives it a nice community spirit feel.

Thankfully we were able to find and use the showers in the nearby sports area. They were very basic but they did the job! Very grateful for Kate bringing her shower stuff as otherwise we’d have had to have been sweaty all day because we weren’t going back to Laura’s. Instead, after showering, we headed to Covent Garden to meet Laura and Charlotte again. They had had a lie-in (very jealous) and were feeling a bit more refreshed than I did when I woke!

We then headed away from the main Covent Garden area to look for somewhere for brunch. It was now past 11 and we were all hungry. I spotted a nice looking place but it was heaving and had no seats so we headed to a pub across the road. It was empty. I was dubious. But with no other nearby options we decided to go for it. I am SO pleased we did. And, to be fair, it wasn’t exactly peak pub time so you can’t really blame it for not being busy!

I ordered a Full English (of course) and honestly it ranks as one of my top three Full Englishes, EVER.It came with home-made hash browns. Normally I’m not a hash brown fan but home-made? I thought I’d give them a go. And I’m so glad I did!

The whole meal was incredible. Te beans were homemade and had a slightly spicy kick. Everything tasted amazing. I was definitely well refuelled!

We then walked to Green Park (with iced Starbucks, it was SO hot) and relaxed. We passed through Leicester Square and saw them setting up the premier for the new Transformers film. Very cool (though I don’t actually like the films. Urgh Michael Bay).It was such a beautiful day and so nice to catch up and chat with my friends. We weren’t a full group as one of our friends has just recently had a baby (this blows my mind) but it was nice to see the other girls.

Then we headed back to Covent Garden to indulge in a very tasty treat. This was my only request for our time in London, having seen these bad boys on Instagram and heard about how tasty they are. Freakshakes from Maxwell’s. Oh. My. God.A salted caramel milkshake with a salted caramel donut on top. My gawwwwwwd it was So good.I mean, I was covered in stickiness trying to eat this but it was phenomenal. And yes, I finished it! A perfect end to what was a really lovely, lovely birthday celebration. Even without all the amazing food, it was just so nice to have a beautifully sunny weekend chilling (and dancing!) with my friends. I went home very happy (and possibly in a deep sugar coma).

Have you ever had a freakshake?

If you had good weather, how did you enjoy it?

Have you ever seen a film premier?

London Marathon 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever done the London Marathon?

Did you watch it on the TV?

Have you ever felt hungry during a race?

A food-filled trip to London and Oxford

Last Friday, after work, I headed into London on the train to meet with my two uni friends, Laura and Charlotte, for a good catch up. I’ve said this before, but I do like going to London with people who know London. Both Charlotte and Laura are very travel-savvy as well so I  know I’m in good hands and can relax (and not make any Anna Errors).

We met up at Waterloo and then headed straight to Covent Garden to get some food. We had no real place in mind so walked around enjoying the beautiful Christmas lights and decorations – and smelling the delicious food stalls that were selling hot mulled wine and tasty cakes.london-covent-gardenAnd seeing an “Apple Market” just made my evening 😉img_6595We eventually decided on Southern Joe’s for dinner. It was fairly dark inside but looked pretty cool and the menu seemed to specialise in chicken (and you know I love me some chicken).img_6597It was very much Southern American food with lots of fried chicken, burgers and gumbo. I ordered half balsamic honey roasted chicken (after a brief discussion with the waiter who seemed to think that half would be too much for me, but I reassured him otherwise).img_6596Laura ordered a burger and Charlotte ordered the vegetarian gumbo which came with cornbread. She let me try her cornbread and I’m not joking when I say it tasted of sticky toffee pudding. It was literally like a pudding. How bizarre! My chicken was delicious – probably insanely unhealthy with all the honey glazed-deliciousness (and serving size) but satisfaction was left high (as was my blood sugar I imagine).

As we were in Covent Garden and because no meal is complete without a pudding, we headed over to Snog for a frozen yogurt.snog-frozen-yogurtI went for a regular sized original flavour(which was actually quite big – says the girl who at a previous time had ordered the large) with raspberries and brownie chunks. It was delicious.img_6600

We then headed to Soho to go to The Piano Bar, where we’d booked a table for drinks. However when we got there we were told that it was full. We were a bit confused because what exactly does booking mean then? The bouncer on the door had no idea and just said we couldn’t be let in because it was full. Well, that’s helpful! So we headed off somewhere else instead – and I’m quite glad we did as where we ended up was lovely and the cocktails were DIVINE (I can’t remember the bar name sorry!).img_6606I had a gin sour which contained sloe gin amongst other ingredients (including an egg white!!). It tasted delicious. After lots of giggles and cocktails, we headed back to Laura’s.

The next morning, a little bit tired, we got up and headed to Oxford to meet our two other university friends.oxfordThe train was ridiculously busy from London to Oxford but luckily the three of us got seats. It was nice to travel on a train with friends rather than on my own.

We met up in Starbucks (“but first coffee” springs to mind) and one of our friends dropped the bombshell that she’s pregnant. We were all squealing and cheering – much to the annoyance of the studious people in there trying to get work done. It’s quite shocking really; having babies is proper adult. She’s the first in our group to be pregnant so it’s all very exciting. I’m very pleased for her and her husband, they’ll make fantastic parents!

We walked round Oxford for a bit and got a bit of déjà vu walking through the Covered Market and seeing the cakes being make and decorated, as we’d previously done this pretty much at the same time (bar one day) four years ago (you can check that post out HERE).cakes-in-the-covered-market-oxfordLunch was next on the agenda and I quickly Googled Oxford restaurants and found a good one through Trip Advisor called Kazbar, a Spanish tapas restaurant.
the-kazbarThe decor was fantastic; lots of low seated tables, big cushions and cool art everywhere (I won’t pretend to have any further knowledge of this sort of thing). Normally tapas isn’t really my thing. I enjoy the food, don’t get me wrong, but the idea of sharing dishes with people is my nightmare (for the Brits reading this, imagine Smithy from Gavin and Stacey). But as I was among good friends they know what I’m like and reassured me I wouldn’t have to share 😉

We ordered some bread and hummus for the table (acceptable sharing) and everyone ordered three dishes while I ordered four (standard).img_6620Tapas is great because you can really have a lot of variety and mix and match flavours. I had slow cooked lamb, a goat’s cheese salad, pork ribs and chicken chorizo. Very tasty (the ribs were my favourite, of course).img_6626After lunch we wandered around the shops. Thankfully the weather was just cold and not wet. We then went into search of something sweet to just top the day off nicely. We found a nice little cafe and had a hot drink. My friend Kate and I had a cream tea. It came with two scones. I suppose normal people would share but Kate and I are quite good at eating (she’s my Florida buddy).img_6629I mean it was a bit of a push but we persevered. I was fully ready for a nap after that! After more walking, we parted ways and I headed back to Southampton. A lovely jam-packed (literally with the scone…sorry, couldn’t resist!) weekend.

What’s your favourite place to visit in the UK? I do enjoy London but only for a brief visit as I find it very overbearing, crowded and stressful.

Do you share food at a restaurant?

What’s your favourite cocktail/mocktail?