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?

parkrun, a date and THOSE pancakes

Why is it weekends fly by so quickly? I was quite busy so this is probably why I guess!

Saturday morning saw me back at parkrun at Netley Abbey after a couple of weeks off of running. I hadn’t seen Mike, or any of the Netley parkrun crew, in ages so it was nice to catch up with everyone. I basically chatted the entire way round parkrun! I wasn’t interested in a fast time and just wanted to have a nice enjoyable run. I also got to showcase my Chester Marathon long-sleeved technical tee and my parkrun cow cowl.img_5974This photo made me laugh so much as I literally had no idea that Jim, the photo bomber, was behind me doing that. It was only when I looked at the photo I saw. Hehe.

I bought my cow cowl after I had successful done 20 different parkrun courses and am now on the Most Events table. It’s not a freebie thing like the milestone t-shirts or directly associated with parkrun, you do have to buy it yourself (but it’s like £7 so very cheap), but it’s a great way of identifying with other Most Event parkrunners.cow-cowlThe cowl (or buff) was actually really nice to wear as it was quite nippy at parkrun. Winter is definitely on it’s way 🙁 I’m really not looking forward to the cold morning’s of parkrun set-up and then running in the nasty weather. Hey ho.

My pacing at parkrun was all over the place as I was too busy chatting… parkrun-paceNot particularly consistent really and fairly slow in comparison to previous runs (25:39). But my legs felt alright post marathon (well, they would do I guess after almost two weeks off!) andI’m still trying to take things nice and slow. I want to be really motivated when I get back into proper training so I don’t want to ramp things up too quickly now. I probably won’t run a huge amount in the next few weeks if I’m honest as I also have my eye laser surgery coming up this month. (I will blog about that experience.)

Later on I had a date… we’d “met” through internet dating (Plenty of Fish – just that one tiny step above Tinder I think as I’m not ready to pay actual money yet) and after he cancelled on me the other week we finally rearranged another date. He lives 45 minutes away which, if I’m honest, annoyed me more than it should. After lots of nice reassurance from the Twittersphere that that wasn’t that bad I decided to go more positive than I was initially.

img_5975From my Instagram Story

We met at a pub for lunch. It went OK, he seemed nice and we chatted a lot but then it all fell apart when he said he was too full for pudding. Game over.

No, I’m joking (well, there was no pudding which was somewhat devastating after seeing the table next to me get chocolate fudge cake and millionaire shortbread cheesecake). In truth, as nice as he was I didn’t feel a huge connection and there were things that were fundamental no-no’s (who doesn’t like Harry Potter?? <– OK that is sort of a joke but it was one of a few things I found that didn’t work for me).

*Sighs* so much effort wasted. I don’t think I’m going to continue with the Internet dating at the moment as, in my opinion, the effort involved finding, messaging, working out if they’re not a psycho, meeting up, etc. is just not worth it. I’d rather pootle along as I am right now.

That evening I met up with friends for a house warming party and we had a lovely chilled evening of chilling and chatting. The host provided an amazing spread of Slimming World approved snacks (as she’s trying to lose a bit of weight). There were sweet chilli chicken bites, bacon wrapped asparagus, fruit, crudites and dips. It was fantastic!

I’m definitely starting to warm more to Slimming World – not that I’m going to start obviously but what I mean is that it’s not quite the product-pushing fad diet system I thought it was. It’s working so well for my parents (they’ve both lost over a stone each!!) and it seems to have some sound and sensible guidelines and support system.

Then the next day I headed to London to meet with my uni friends for lunch and catch-up. (Side note: I watched Money Monster on the train and it was really good – very tense. I thoroughly enjoyed it! The train journey flew by).

My friend, Charlotte, took us to an AMAZING spot for lunch called My Old Dutch and WOW. Basically the menu was just pancakes – both sweet and savoury. As I had to catch the train fairly early that morning (damn Sunday trains) I’d forgone a proper breakfast as I wanted a bit longer to sleep in the morning and I knew we were going to this pancake place so wanted to be adequately hungry. I had a banana and a couple of apples but by the time we got there I was starving.

Originally I thought I was going to go for sweet pancakes as I’d already checked them out on Instagram and the pancakes looked i.n.c.r.e.d.i.b.l.e. But because I was just so hungry I thought it would make me feel a bit ill. Bit of a mistake I think but I REALLY enjoyed the savoury pancake I had.img_5983It was full of halloumi, feta, olives and aubergine.img_5978Perfection. I did get enormous food envy though as one of my friends ordered the Willy Wonka Kinda special.img_5982I mean WOW. It looked amazing. She found it got very sickly (as you can imagine) so I was able to help her out at the end 😉 But yes, it was ridiculously sweet. She was in a sugar coma afterwards which was quite amusing (seen as how it’s usually me who ends up that way!).

Apart from a downpour we got caught in, the meet-up was lovely. Though it sucked it was a Sunday and not a Saturday like we normally do as it meant getting home at 6pm and still having chores and food prep to do… worth it though!

What would you choose: savoury pancakes or sweet?

What would be deal-breakers for you for relationships?

Do you judge people on what they order at restaurants? 😉

London fun and Gladstone parkrun

Friday night I headed to the Big Smoke (aka London) once again. This time for pleasure not business and to see two good friends of mine from university.

The train and tube journey were easy peasy (i.e. I didn’t get lost – who even am I??). My friend, Laura, lives in the very cool St. John’s Wood location which was home to that famous zebra crossing on Abbey Road near the Abbey Road Studios (where the Beatles, amongst others, recorded a lot of their albums). To be honest, I would never have known had my friend, Charlotte, not pointed this out to me. I obviously had to get a photo, though sadly I was walking the wrong way to recreate the iconic Beatles crossing! But with cars waiting, I did the best I could!

IMG_5003

That evening we went to a fantastic Lebanese restaurant, called Yalla Yalla (self-described as a “hip West End restaurant”). It felt very hip. In fact, the entire time I was in London (and this is always the case) I feel so uncool. Londoners seem to exude this effortless coolness that I can only admire from a distance.

IMG_5008

It was a great pick of a restaurant because Charlotte is veggie and they had such a range of vegetarian and meat-based dishes that everyone was happy. The two others went for three small plates each which looked delicious.

IMG_5010

Halloumi, falafels, salad and chicken and feta in filo pastries. Whereas I went for pomegranate and honey roasted chicken wings followed by a mixed grill.

Yalla Yalla

It was all divine. And I even got to help out Charlotte and Laura when their normal-sized stomachs became too full. I’m literally the dustbin of my group of friends.

From there we meandered around Soho, China Town and other very cool parts of London.

IMG_5014

It was incredible busy (as you can imagine, it being Friday night) and every pub was spilling out people.

IMG_5013I wish!

We were hunting for a bar where we could have a nice drink and chat. After walking a fair way I got the rumbles for something sweet… and lo! and behold a crêpe cafe appeared. I mean, what a find! It’s called Scoop and honestly I was in heaven.

IMG_5019

My only predicament was whether to have just scoops of gelato in a funky cone, a brownie and gelato, a slice of red velvet or a crêpe (pancakes and waffles were also available but not really my cup of tea).

IMG_5026

Not normally a crêpe person I quickly changed my mind having seen someone order one. I went for a white chocolate filled crêpe with a scoop of salted caramel gelato. I could have gone with multiple toppings and more than one scoop, but I decided to reign in the beast within and be sensible seen as how it was 10pm and I did have parkrun in the morning.

IMG_5028

Dear God, what have I been missing all these years of believing crêpes weren’t my thing? (I’m not a Nutella fan so this is probably why as you can’t move for Nutella crêpes). The gooey, oozy, sweet and moist (yes, moist) deliciousness sent me to heaven and back. And I cleaned up that bad boy easily.

We then headed to a bar across the road for more normal adult endeavours (me now floating along on a sugar high). It was a lovely evening and made me realise a) how very uncool I am by London standards (who am I kidding, by any standards!) and b) how much more ‘happening’ London is than Southampton. OK I knew this already but it just blew my mind how easy it was and just how much stuff there was to see (and eat). But, still, I would never like to live near or in London…as good as that all is, I’m a hermit by nature and think I’d be overwhelmed (and broke) if it was long-term. Plus I love the friendliness and greenness of the more country-based suburbs.

parkrun the next morning was going to be at Hampstead Heath but after (luckily) checking Twitter on Friday I realised they’d cancelled for some reason. The next best location was Gladstone parkrun which was really easy to get to via the tube.

From the tube station (Dollis Hill) it’s literally about 0.5 miles down one road (Anna-proof!) to get to the park. The park is actually quite big though (and hilly) so I did have to hike around for a fair while to find the start (mainly because I hadn’t actually researched further than “it’s in Gladstone Park”).

IMG_5035

Having arrived fairly early (8.20am) and the fact that it was cold and overcast meant me walking around a park for a fair while was actually quite good!

IMG_5036

The views were lovely and the park was very peaceful. There was a small pond with ducks and lots of interesting carvings of animals in tree logs about the place. It really was a very good location for a parkrun – besides the hills Winking smile

When I got to the start area I happily chatted away to the few runners there. It amazes me how in this sort of situation I can easily walk up to people I don’t know and just start talking and be at ease. But in any other scenario? That would terrify me and I’d stand to one side awkwardly. I met some lovely people. I also heard from some people who usually do the Hampstead Heath parkrun that Hampstead Heath is very hilly so I was quite glad not to have gone (that’s where Parliament Hill is sooo…bullet dodged!)

IMG_5038

The course was a two lapped course (which, by the way, is now my favourite type of course. Not quite as repetitive as a three lap course and seems to go a lot quicker!). There were some nasty short inclines and some long gradual inclines but also some declines. It was actually a very enjoyable course as it was so varied.

Gladstone

 

 

 

How’s that for a negative split?? I got a new lease of life half-way through and felt far more at ease. The temperature was perfect (very chilly to start!) and I really got into it by the end. I really should do more of a warm-up…starting straight from nothing is not a great idea *sighs*. One day.

IMG_5041

I asked the event director to take a photo of me and he was more than happy to. He then turned it to selfie mode and said “but of course you also need one with the event director in it!”

IMG_5042

He was so friendly and funny – really made me feel welcome and he demanded I come back at some point: “you don’t get a PB unless you come back!”.

I got back to Laura’s flat, showered and we headed off for brunch (Charlotte had gone home last night). It actually worked out really well me going to parkrun as Laura likes a lie-in whereas I’m not great with sleeping in too late! She took me to the Maida Vale area which was also very cool (and where they did all the BBC music stuff!). We went to The Elgin which was the epitome of hipster.

The Elgin

Anywhere that uses a teapot to hold cutlery is far too cool Winking smile I had Bavette steak and eggs for my brunch and it was DELICIOUS.

IMG_5046

And then it was time for home! I had a fantastic time in London (guided carefully around by friends to make sure I didn’t wander off and get lost). And ticked off number 19 on my parkrun tourism list!

How many laps do you prefer for parkrun?

What would you choose: Crêpes, waffles, pancakes, cake or just gelato?

Do you like visiting London much?

Olympic Park 5k

While I was in London a Twitter friend and blog reader told me about a cool race series that was scheduled for Thursday evening while I was in London last week. After my disastrous run on Tuesday night I was reluctant to venture out on my own again and the race was 5k which was actually perfect for my training plan.

The race was run by The Race Organiser, who organise a lot of races in and around London. They also provide services to other races to with things such as race management, race timing and photography. A 5k race around the Olympic Park was scheduled for the Thursday at 6.30pm which was perfect timing for me. I finished my course at 5pm, went back to the hotel, got changed and walked to the nearby tube. The tube journey didn’t take long and I was rather chuffed with myself for having figured it out on my own without going wrong(!). However, when I got to Stratford I realised I didn’t know exactly where the Park was.

IMG_4816

I ended up walking around in circles for a bit and my lovely accrued buffer time slowly ticked away and I started to panic. Finally though I found the way (I was the wrong side of station I think) and then desperately looked around for fellow runners.

IMG_4817

When I go to different parkruns, for example, it’s always handy when you get close when you can see runners heading in the general direction and so I just follow them. There weren’t any runners I could see though and the Olympic Park grounds are actually quite big. Eventually though I asked a security guard and he pointed me in the right direction.

IMG_4823

A little race HQ area was set up with a table and marshals handing out the race packs. There were real toilets nearby (opposed to portable loos!) and the race bibs were chipped. I realised it wasn’t a huge event as 16 people shuffled up to the race briefing. I suddenly felt a little nervous as I was expecting a few more people. With so few people I felt a bit exposed…I wasn’t up for a fast run and the guys around me looked rather speedy.

IMG_4821

But hey ho, no backing out now! The event director explained the route (three laps outside the Olympic Park, though the first lap included a little out and back to make sure the distance added up as there was a slight diversion on the course due to construction). He mentioned it was clearly sign posted and there were several marshals pointing the way.

IMG_4824

I still felt a bit nervous. I mean, I’m not the best at directions (as has been made very clear lately) and if there are only 16 of us I might not have a person straight in front of me to follow if they’ve all dashed off.

But anyway we started and I went way too fast for the first 500m as I desperately didn’t want to get left behind. I think everyone felt similarly and as we got into the first mile we found our more natural paces. Luckily there were a couple of people (including my friend, Dasen) ahead of me who I could follow. I didn’t feel particularly comfortable in my running in terms of my pace and wondered if I could hold onto it for long, seeing a crash in the near future. I reminded myself it was just three miles and to hold on.

I managed to overtake the couple of guys ahead and felt myself getting strong as the race continued and this gave me confidence. The marshals were lovely, smiling and cheering us on and the temperature was a little warm but not too bad. The course was relatively flat with a few gentle inclines and declines and the wind wasn’t strong. So all in all, perfect conditions really and this spurred me on to run faster than I would have done had I been running solo.

I increased my speed at the end, feeling a lot stronger and knowing I didn’t have long to go. I finished in seventh place overall and second female (the joys of a very small race!). My time was 23:22. For not wanting to run fast (for me!) that evening, I was quite pleased at how I got my body moving in the end.

image

 

 

 

 

I haven’t done any speed work in months (something I really must improve on) so I can’t expect super fast times but the effort level was there so I’m happy with a good solid workout.

I received a second place prize of some interesting detox drink powder things… (I’m slightly annoyed as I did take a photo of the goodie bag contents but I think I deleted it). The goodie bag was great: Haribo sweets, a health drink, a tester pouch of the detox stuff I won, a cereal bar, a water and a medal.

IMG_4832

I spoke to the event director and they were super friendly. I said how much I enjoyed it (well, enjoyed finishing anyway!) and how organised it was for such a small event. I even got a photo of them (which they found hilarious).

IMG_4825

It’s not the cheapest race in the world (I think for an affiliated runner it was around £17-18) but I definitely felt like I got my money’s worth as the organisation and location were superb. We were emailed out times later.

I chatted to Dasen afterwards and we got a selfie together, of course 😉 He lives just a tube stop away so it’s very handy for him!

IMG_4827

A great race, all in all for a random Thursday night in London! Then it was a quick hop on the tube back to the hotel. No getting lost thankfully!

Do you run many 5ks (excluding parkruns)? I tend to avoid them like the plague ordinarily!

Have you ever done a super small race before?

Have you done many races in London before? This was my second one. My first was another race (a 5 miler) around the Olympic Park as well.