My goals for the London Marathon

Well, I tell you what if it wasn’t for social media I think I would have just completely forgotten that it’s the London Marathon in a few days. Ha! On a serious note though, it’s so nice to see so many people doing it. So many from my club, so many people I’m friends with on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook… just lots of friendly faces. Well, let’s be honest, most people running it are likely to be super friendly because they’re runners ūüėČI guess this should be the post where I say what my goals are for running the London Marathon. Hmmm. Survive uninjured. No change from usual I guess! I hope to get around 3:45 but under that would be nice. It really depends on the weather, the crowds and how I feel. The Tokyo Marathon gave me the confidence to know I can run around 8 minute/miles without a huge amount of solid training… but then I was fresher and hadn’t run a marathon a couple of months previously.

It’s all a guessing game with a marathon. Nothing is set in stone. There are SO many external factors along with the internal factors. It’s such a long, long way… you only have to look at a whole host of marathon mile splits on Strava to see people doing absolutely fine, running nice and consistently, to then suddenly gain an extra minute + per mile after half-way or 16 miles or whatever. ANYTHING can happen. Nutrition issues, an¬†injury, a niggle, a mental burp, exhaustion due to bad race strategy, pacing or just plain old fitness.Basically, my first and foremost marathon mantra for anyone and everyone is: RESPECT THE MARATHON. Otherwise it will eat you up and spit you out. You could argue that my not-so-great training and clustering of marathons isn’t quite respecting the marathon…but I’m aware of this and aware of my capabilities. I’m not going to take off at the start like a loony. I mean, I imagine I won’t be able to anyway as it’ll be so busy but in an ideal world I have a list of paces I want to target (i.e. not go faster than) for the first 10 miles, the second 10 miles and then the final 10k will be “see how you feel” as to whether I step it up (unless I’m crawling at that point…).

So, even though I’m not entirely “marathon ready”, I do have a sensible plan and some realistic goals:

  • Remain uninjured
  • Have fun (“fun” is questionable here of course, but fun relative to, say, getting impaled on a big stick and/or getting fired and becoming destitute)
  • See someone famous (ideally I’d love to see Adele from the Early Morning Breakfast show on BBC Radio1, she literally makes my 5.30am gym visits bearable and she’s running London as her first marathon)
  • Time of 3:45(ish)
  • If that fails, sub-4.

So there we go. I won’t lie. I mostly want to meet someone famous ūüėČ I’ll be THAT annoying person wanting a selfie…I just can’t work out if I’d have the guts to do it while running. Maybe sneakily…

Tomorrow I’m off to London with my mum. I managed to convince her to join me going to the London Marathon Expo to collect my bib by postponing¬†Mother’s Day celebrations until then. After a morning Expo visit I’m treating her to lunch at Jamie’s 15.

Then it gets a bit mad as my mum goes back home on the train while I meet a friend to go with her on the train to Brighton. I’ll spend the¬†day in Brighton with her on the Saturday, to then get the train¬†back to my parent’s house that afternoon. Then I’ll be coaching it up to London stupidly early with my dad on Sunday morning with some other local runners. Wahay I must be mad!!

Huge good luck to everyone running London, or Southampton (10k/half/marathon) and everything else going on!

Easter and the last long run before the London Marathon

To think this time last year I was in Boston running the marathon the year has ZOOMED by. It’s mental. This weekend for me, instead, was all about Easter.

Like a lot of people, I had Friday to Monday off which was just perfection. Having not had a lie-in last weekend due to going to Salisbury and Brighton, it was nice to sleep in on Friday. For me a lie-in is anything from 7am really, so sleeping in to 8am was heavenly. I was staying at my parent’s house as in the morning we were off to Salisbury (again). It was so nice last weekend and we didn’t get much of a chance to do much moseying about so we¬†thought it would be an ideal spot for a little bit of shopping and some lunch, this time with my mum as well.We walked to Salisbury¬†Cathedral and enjoyed looking at the lovely old buildings around it. I do love Britain and the fact we have so much history. It’s incredible how old some of these buildings are (some having being built in 13th century!).

I also enjoyed looking round a few different sweet and fudge shops. I got myself some chocolate covered foamy bananas which are such a weakness for me. I love them!I also saw a HUGE Lindt bunny. It was enormous!

Then we headed to The Giggling Squid, a Thai tapas restaurant. There’s one in Brighton that my friend had recommended so I thought it a good shout to try the Salisbury one. That and the fact that I’d been craving Thai food since trying my hand at cooking it.As it was quite a chilly day I had some peppermint tea which was delicious. Fresh mint leaves in the tea pot! I had chicken satay skewers to start and, rather than tapas, I had a main dish. It was a standing sea bass! It was on a bed of salad and very tasty indeed. It had been lightly deep fried in order to make it..er, erect. My dad and me shared some boiled rice and it was a very lovely, and, I must say, light lunch for me! The meal and the service were fantastic.

Saturday morning saw me heading to Netley Abbey parkrun after not being there in ages. It was nice to be back in the fold and to see my parkrun friends again. We were on the summer course which meant no more six hills, just the usual incline three times. I ran with my friends Mike and Mark. Mark ran with a buggy and was recovering from the very hot Brighton Marathon a couple of weeks ago. This photo made me laugh a lot:

Photo credit: Chris Stapleford

The runaway buggy! A momentary lapse of control I believe. No one was hurt ūüėČ

I felt quite strong on the run and put some effort in, though trying to talk to Mark and Mike at the same time probably wasn’t entirely wise!On the final stretch I was overtaken by a running club team mate who I thought was pacing someone. I looked a bit outraged as I thought it a bit mean to overtake so near to the finish when he’d been pacing someone. Though it looks like I’m genuinely annoyed, I was actually joking!In the end I got the¬†exact same time as last week’s Salisbury parkrun which was quite amusing (22:36).I seemed to have stepped it up from lap one!
What made the parkrun especially good was the fact that Mike, who had celebrated his 100th parkrun the week before, had brought with him some saved pieces of shortbread that he’d made. I’d been sad I’d missed celebrating his 100th the week before and I was¬†uber grateful he’d put a few pieces to one side for me.I took them to the cafe with me after clearing down parkrun and made it very clear: Anna does not share food ;-P To be honest, I ate them so quickly it’s unlikely anyone saw I had them anyway. They went very nicely with a mug of peppermint tea.

Sunday saw me waking up early(ish) again at 7am to meet some guys from the running club to do a long run. There were quite a few of us and despite not being a huge fan of waking up early when I could be sleeping in a little longer, it was so much nicer to go for a long run with a crowd than muscling it out on my own. Especially as at the moment I’m feeling so tired and a little fed up of marathon training.

The plan was 12 miles but I wanted to get a few more in, purely because I haven’t done that much long running for the marathon. So I ran to and from the meeting point to add on some extra. The longest run I’ve done since Tokyo has been 16 miles. Lord knows what this means for how the marathon is going to go!To begin with it felt quite tough going. Though there were a good number of us we seemed to be clipping along a bit faster than I’d intended. I was looking for 8.30min/miles. I enjoyed listening to people chatter but kind of closed in on myself a bit as I wondered about the marathon ahead. Quite a few in the group were either doing London or the Southampton marathon, which is on the same day. Everyone around me seemed so much more trained.

It just emphasised to me that I need a break from marathon training so that when I target the next one I can be fresh and put in some proper training, rather than struggle along. It would be nice to go in to one feeling confident and wondering if I could get close to my PB again. But it is what it is!

I felt stronger as the run went on and we finished on quite a clip, though it was tough. I ran the last mile back to my house with one of the ladies and was happy to get 14 miles in in total. I’d have liked 16 but it was hot and I felt tired. Best not to push it the week before!

Are you training for a marathon?

Do you like running long runs in a group or on your own? Usually I prefer to run them on my own, but when my motivation is low it’s nice to have some friendly company.

What’s your opinion on people overtaking you right at the end of parkrun?

Currently – March

Thursday, hurrah!¬†Or as I like to call it…Friday Eve ūüėČ Here’s a little update of how things are currently going for me.

Running: TOUCH WOOD, TOUCH WOOD IMMEDIATELY. Things are actually going OK. I am tired and feeling the effects of continued marathon training but my marathon training in comparison to others is kind of weak. No 50+ miles a week going on over here. But that said, I am running consistently and attempting the longer runs at the weekend.

What I’m really pleased about is the run I did last week¬†after work. I picked a reasonably flat route (which is tricky given I work in Basingstoke Amazingstoke). I didn’t intentionally set off to run fast but I did want to do some fartleks so I popped on some motivating music (“banging tunes” some might say, I would never say that…out-loud/in public). As I started running my legs suddenly felt pretty good so I went with it. And consequently ran my fastest 5k in almost two years. TWO YEARS (to be precise, since July¬†2015 20:43, at Little Stoke parkrun).I was so in the zone that an elderly man cycled past me and said “you go girl!”. I stopped my watch exactly at 3.1 miles and couldn’t believe the time! OK not my fastest and still over a minute off my PB but for not having done any real speedwork lately, I WILL TAKE THAT.And happily, a royal flush negative split. Pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. And this has encouraged me to do one speed session a week. So last night I headed out to do a speed session (my intention was some 1km repeats with a couple of minutes rest between) but my legs went “nope” so I decided to do hills instead. Four hills (0.3 miles long, 11% gradient)…ooof. I do prefer hills though because even when you’re not feeling it, it’s still a good workout for your legs despite not actually going that fast. So mentally I can deal with it.

Books: I’m a keen reader so I’m always reading a book. When I finish one I move on to another. I usually read before I go to sleep to chill me out and with my breakfast in the morning (#nerd) so I can get through them fairly quickly. I signed up to BookBub.com¬†(NOT an affiliated link, just a random recommendation) and you get emailed about discounted e-books around the web so I often take advantage of that. I rarely ever buy a book over ¬£4. Anyway, I’ve just finished The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult.

It was fantastic. I love Jodi Picoult. She has such a great way of writing. This was really thought-provoking and I didn’t know how it’d end.

Before that I read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.Whenever a film comes out that is based on a book I’m always prompted to go and read the book if it takes my fancy. This book was quite short but sad. I was literally crying into my porridge one morning reading it. But a good story.

Gym nutrition:¬†I’ve been trying a new BCAA drink¬†from¬†Sci-Vation. I fancied a change from my usual BSN Amino X Intra-Workout.

I chose this because it contains no proprietary blend (which is a supplementary company’s way of cost cutting because they don’t have to state the dosage of the ingredients within the blend and you’ll likely be fobbed off with an ineffective dose to have any real effect) and¬†7 grams of BCAAs (a 2:1:1 ratio of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine; plus an additional 2.5g of glutamine per scoop¬†and 1g of Citrulline Malate) and 1.1 gram of electrolytes. Basically, a good BCAA drink! It’s more expensive, but more effective. And it tastes DELICIOUS. I use it during my fasted gym visits.

Slow cooker fun: I’ve been back on the old slow cooker wagon again.My meals are verrrrry basic but it’s so nice to come in to a home smelling of food and having dinner ready. LAtely I’ve been throwing in chicken drumsticks and thighs with butter squash chunks and other veg and just adding some basic seasonings and spices, like paprika, garlic, fish sauce (trust me, it works), Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce.

Quickly back to running quickly, this week has been feeling tough (probably because I’ve suddenly started doing speedwork again and did a fairly tough 16 miler on Sunday…oh and I ran a marathon last month!). I don’t feel injured but I do feel worn out. I am “meant” to run a long run on Friday morning (as I’m away this weekend) but I’m just thinking it’s not going to happen. I’d rather turn up to London undertrained and than overtrained (or injured) so I’m probably going to skip it. Listening to my body and all that ūüėČ I might be able to get out Sunday afternoon when I’m back but I won’t cry about it if I don’t. And it depends how I feel!

Do you use a slow cooker?

What book have you read recently?

What signs tell you when to take some rest from working out?

London here I come

So the London Marathon. It’s funny because whenever I tell people I’ve never run London¬†they’re always quite surprised.

I mean I guess it is a bit odd. I’ve run eight marathons.I’ve run Paris, Berlin, Boston, Tokyo… I’ve run Bournemouth, Chester, Liverpool and Cheddar Gorge. But not London. And it’s not just non-runners (“yes there are other marathons out there than London”) but runners who know me. Apparently it seems like I’ve run London. But I assure you, I have not.

I¬†have had a place for the last few years though. I’m lucky that I’ve got Good For Age so can avoid the ballot. Yes, the male and female times¬†are unfair when you compare them. My sub 3:45 time goal is nothing in comparison to a sub 3:05. It just doesn’t seem right. But those are the rules and I’ve been able to get a place.

It’s a very cheap marathon, all things considered. There are UK-based non-marathon races that are more expensive! It’s around ¬£35? Which I guess is why I’ve deferred a couple of times and ultimately never done it. The GFA is fairly achievable for me (without meaning to sound arrogant, it’s the truth) and the cost of it means I can be a bit blase about it (for now anyway). Tokyo cost an arm and a leg with minimal money recuperation if I was to bail on it, so come hell or high water I was doing it. When you add in a holiday to the scenario, the pressure somewhat mounts exponentially I can tell you.

London has always been a marathon I want to do. It’s one of the Marathon Majors, which I’m trying to tick off. But even before I knew about the Majors it’s one I wanted to do. I think every British runner who runs marathons wants to do London (or at least has considered it) at some point. It’s iconic. It’s our capital. It attracts huge crowds – crowds of people who may never have run, have no idea how far a marathon is and are just out to have a fun day cheering. It’s a tradition on the television… Brendan Foster, Paula Radcliffe and all the fancy dressed fundraising heroes. It’s part of our culture.

I applied last year and got my place (there is no ballot for GFA) and quietly wondered if I would do it 2017 or 2018. As my training for Tokyo didn’t go as well as I wanted I put to bed the idea of doing another marathon in 2017. Long runs were a drag. I was dreading the actual marathon and not looking forward to the trip (yay let’s go eat noodles on my own!).But then I went to Tokyo, thoroughly enjoyed myself and had a whale of a time at the marathon, exceeding my expectations in so many ways. And the marathon bug was ignited again. Before Tokyo I told people I wasn’t going to do any more marathons for the year and they laughed and said “yeah right”. Well I’m a joke of myself I guess.

Like always, I¬†say I’m going to do London but it’s never a guarantee because I’m such a pathetically frail runner. An injury or niggle could creep out of the woodwork and knock me down. But providing things go smoothly and I try to be just a little bit sensible, then hopefully I can turn up to London on April 23rd uninjured. OK not in the best shape of my life, but ready to see what all the fuss is about and finish with a smile on my face.

That’s the plan anyway.

Have you ever run the London Marathon before?

What races are on your bucket list? 

Do you agree with the GFA timings?

Running Lately and the Orlando parkrun

Soo I’m off to Tokyo tomorrow. TOMORROW. I can barely believe it.

I’m going on my own, though with a marathon tour group so technically not alone alone. Though I know no one. I know of people who’ll be there from social media but otherwise it’s just me, myself and I. What could¬†possibly go wrong, eh?

Let’s just talk about my running of late as it seems pertinent to do so considering I’m running the Tokyo Marathon on Sunday.

I mentioned in my Orlando recap that I ran while I was out there. On the first day, as the jet lag worked in my favour gifting me five hours, I woke up ridiculously early Orlando time but actually normal time UK. This gave me lots of hours to play with in terms of getting in a long run right at the start of the holiday so I could chill for the rest of it without having a long run looming over me.

Dark and a little chilly at 6am

It was funny because I had two different people comment that I must be freezing with my vest and shorts on as I headed out to run. I told them I was from the UK and the current temperature was positively balmy! It was probably 16 degrees C. The Hard Rock Hotel concierge said there was a 4ish mile route around the hotel and I was a little disappointed to find that was actually just a road. And a very boring road following along some busy large roads (though I did get to pass near City Walk, see the Hulk in the distance, the new Toothsome restaurant and see Harry Potter on the horizon, so actually pretty good!).

Thankfully as I was leaving another lady was leaving to start her run and she invited me to join her as I wasn’t entirely sure where to go. She only wanted to do one ‘lap’ of the route and I was intending on doing 13 miles or maybe more depending how I¬†felt.That first lap was great as she set a nice pace and we chatted about races¬†and politics (she had a long moan about Trump – she’s from San Francisco so it was interesting to hear an American’s perspective up close). Then before I knew it we were parting ways and I was heading off for lap number two. I listened to a podcast and plodded on. I quite like laps because there’s a level of monotony that means you can switch off, and a great way to segment the long run into smaller easier chunks.

I felt so accomplished by the end of the run and so thankful that I’d gotten 16 miles under my belt before the holiday had really begun. I wanted to do one more long run later but as long as I hit 10 miles I’d be happy so nothing too daunting.I ran 4 miles a few days later and then 13.1 miles on the Thursday. Both runs went well. Though I have to say the food I was eating was not entirely conducive to feeling good on the runs! And it did feel like I slog sometimes. But it had to be done (both the eating and running…).

My favourite run was of course the Clermont Waterfront parkrun, which is about 30 minutes outside of the main Orlando tourist area. Originally Kate and Jamie were going to run it as well but Kate had come down a cold and wasn’t feeling it and Jay was only going to run if Kate did. Thankfully though they were still up for taking me there (I was dependent on them for driving). Even with a 6.15am leaving time!Of course I got the time wrong though. I thought it started at 7am but it was actually 7.30am. This was quite handy as we got there about 6.50am and still had to park. In the end Kate and Jay dropped me off and I raced tot the start…to find them still setting up. I was a bit bewildered until they explain it was a 7.30am start. Ah.

The course had slightly changed to the previous time I’ve run but essentially it was still the flat course that wrapped along the waterfront. You run one mile out, one mile back, then past the finish 0.5 miles out the other direction and back again.

Photo Credit: Clermont Flickr group

I felt quite good setting off and tried to maintain a speedy (for me) pace. I was overtaken by a number of females and was somewhat disheartened but decided to run my own race and just see what I could do.The sun was rising as we were running so I couldn’t help but fish my phone out of my running belt and snap a few photos. Some things have to be done!On the second mile, I starting catching up with the females who overtook me and this spurred me on to keep going and catch them. As I ran past the start I saw Kate and Jay had parked and were standing cheering me on which was nice. Apparently they were the only ones cheering, despite lots of people watching. They said it was ironic that in the UK you can’t clap enough at parkrun (at the start, before, after) whereas in the US it didn’t seem to be a thing…despite Americans being a lot more vocal and “good job”tastic compared to us reserved Brits ūüėČ

Photo Credit: Clermont Flickr group

I managed to squeeze in to second female and had a cool sprint battle with a guy right at the end which definitely made me feel somewhat sick!

Photo Credit: Clermont Flickr group

I got 22:03 which annoyed me sooo much as I so desperately wanted to see 21:xx. But it wasn’t to be.I gave what I could. Thirty seconds(ish) faster than the last time I was there and a negative split so I’m happy with that!So back in the UK my running has continued to go well. I did my last long run on Sunday. Ideally a week before a marathon I’d do 8-13 miles… but as my training hasn’t been entirely stellar in terms of hitting long runs due to my pesky niggle, I decided to go out with the intention to do at least 13 but hopefully hit 16. I had a good route that would, at the last minute, decide how far I wanted to go so I could play it by ear.

Really I knew I was going for 16 miles but I tricked my brain a bit so the night before I didn’t worry too much. I’d had quite a late night and had made some poor food choices on the Saturday (a donut for lunch, then an early dinner…) which meant I felt tired and sluggish from the get-go. Mentally and physically otherwise I felt great though and just stuck with it.

As I reached my 13 or 16 point on the route I knew I’d push on to do 16… part of me hoped to do 18 miles as my legs felt so good – no niggle whatsoever! And in general I felt strong, but it was that awful lack of fuel and energy that ultimately made me take the sensible route of doing 16. I don’t normally feel like this on a run and I guess I’ve been very lucky with never hitting a wall before but it felt pretty rubbish. Especially as everything else felt amazing. I was also very thirsty so made the snap decision to stop at a petrol station and grab a water. Luckily they accepted Apple Pay as I only had my phone and keys with me.(Paces are everywhere as it was mildly¬†undulating). I felt really tired after this run. Definitely down to fuelling. Normally I do all my long runs fasted and have no issues – and this is because the night before I eat dinner at a normal time and have something fairly substantially.

I ate dinner about 5pm, which is a lot earlier, and it was quite light as I was heading out that evening for drinks. Then getting back late… recipe for disaster. I felt a WHOLE lot better eating breakfast. It was literally like I was a Sim and my little energy bar was topped right up after eating (OK that analogy doesn’t work as that would be the hunger bar not the energy bar but you know what I mean!).

Like so many of the marathons I’ve done, I won’t be aiming for any specific time. Around 3:45-4 hours would be good. I imagine anything over 4 hours would mean something has gone wrong (dodgy sushi ;-)) as I’m pretty sure I can at least master 9 minute miles, and I believe the course is relatively flat. I’ll give it my best shot! I want to take some photos and take it all in rather than watching my watch. God I’m so exciting but so nervous. Twelve¬†hour flight? Nine¬†hour time difference? Only five days out there? Yep, not one of my greatest ideas! Wish me luck!

Are you training for any races right now?

Have you ever done a race abroad?

Do you eat before you run?