SimplyHealth Great Newham London Run

After a fairly late Saturday night, Sunday morning saw another 6am alarm and catching a train to London at 7am with my dad. We’d postponed my birthday celebrations and his Father’s Day celebration for this day because it meant we could combine going to a race (and my dad spectating, which he always enjoys) and then going out for a nice meal. A meal my mum probably wouldn’t enjoy! She happily stayed at home, bless her, looking after the dogs.

The 10k race was the SimplyHealth Great Newham London Run. This is organised by the Great Run people, who also organise the Great South Run (a nearby to me 10 mile race in Portsmouth) and the Great North Run (er, not so nearby), amongst others. Though these races can be somewhat pricey, they are always quite a big event with lots of supporters, sponsors and runners. They always feel like a big event, which can be a nice change from the smaller local events I often do. Each have their own pluses and minuses I think!

I was graciously given a place by the Simply Health guys, who are the main sponsors of the Great Newham 10k. They provided me with a very cool technical t-shirt to wear as well. I felt part of the team and ready to go!I had a couple of apples on the train as my breakfast (having a proper breakfast required me getting up even earlier and I preferred to sleep).Plus I knew I’d be eating more than enough later to make up for it! We then got the tube to Stratford, easy peasy. As we got closer to the area more and more runners started appearing. This always gets me buzzed as the anticipation starts to build. It doesn’t matter what race I’m doing, or whether I’m going to go for a PB or whatever, I still get nervous and excited for every race.We had more than enough time, which was nice and meant no panicked rushing around (I often think this is my default in life…). We walked through Westfields shopping area and headed to the Olympic Park.We had a little mosey about, took some photos of course and then I used the facilities. I’m pretty sure I’ve made this point before but it’s always nice to have a proper toilet to use before a race! There were lots of people everywhere but it was all very well organised, with big signs pointing people in the right direction, and water available for people to drink before the race. It was already very very warm. Someone on a speaker kept telling people to drink water if they were thirsty and that “today was not the day for PBs”. I quite liked that approach 😉

I spotted the SimplyHealth area and found they were sorting out a GIF booth. As it was literally just set up it meant I was the first to give it a try. You had to strike four poses in this little booth (with or without props… I went without as I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to increase how much of an idiot I’d already look). You can check out my ridiculous GIF here… I panicked and did a Usain Bolt/dab so it failed somewhat. I got a print out as well as a digital copy of my GIF so that was pretty cool. There was quite the line after I finished so I was glad to have gotten there so early!

Then my dad headed off to where he was going to stand and I headed off to the start. There were pacers, which was handy for anyone aiming for a certain time, and a rather elaborate warm-up (all about dynamic movements and warming the muscles up, which I much prefer to just static stretching). As I was tired from the night before and my 16 miles, I figured sub-50 minutes would be a good aim.Just as we started someone said hello to me and I turned to see my Twitter/Instagram friend, Matt. I knew he, as well as a few others, were doing the race but doubted I’d find anyone I knew as it was so crowded. So I was pleasantly surprised to bump into him!

We started running together and I realised I needed to check if he was aiming for a particular time or how fast he was going to go. He was aiming for 42-43 minutes, which was somewhat faster than I was hoping for! But we were chatting away and the pace didn’t feel too tough. It was nice to have the company too.

The course was a lot more undulating than I was expecting and the sun was beating down quite intensely. I saw my dad at 4k and did my usual wave madly to him. As the miles ticked along I was finding it harder to maintain Matt’s pace. I pushed him to go on without me and he gliding off. As much as I enjoyed his company, it had put a bit of pressure on me to maintain that speed. I didn’t get slower but I didn’t catch up with Matt!The course wasn’t hugely supported but it was clearly marked out and there were two water stops and a shower mist thing to run through if you wanted. We looped around the Olympic Stadium, past the different Olympic bits and pieces. It was a lovely scenic course in that respect. The waters were small little bottles, which are better than huge ones you normally get (so much waste) and you could carry with you as you carried on.

As I got past 5k (at just over 22 minutes, which I was pleased with!) I started to feel like this was too much like hard work… I remembered my intense hate of 10ks. The views were very cool and I really wanted to take my phone out to snap a few photos but the effort of doing that seemed beyond me. You know it’s a tough race when I don’t take any photos!

I kept Matt in my eye ahead but there was no chance for me to catch up. As we got onto the last mile (and nubbin) I could see we were heading back to the Olympic Stadium. The finish was on the track inside the stadium so I felt like the end was in sight. We got onto the outdoors track (where the athletes warm up) and I tried to keep myself motivated to get to the end.As we entered inside the stadium (the bit underneath the seats) the music started pumping out. It was very warm as the air was so still and stale inside the tunnel. And it seemed to go on f.o.r.e.v.e.r. I had visions of us spiralling and spiralling through the tunnel for hours… until finally daylight could be seen and we came out onto the track. Ahh such a good finish. 100m of Olympic track, trying not to look like I was dying for the cameras and hearing the speakers calling out people’s names. I smiled like a loon as I crossed the line. Whew!My time was 44:11 (7th in my age/gender category and 16th female and 340th overall – happy with that!).Considering the 16 miles the day before, how hot it was, the undulating course and my lack of sleep (ALL the excuses of course!!), I am OVER THE MOON. I saw my dad in the stands and he waved at me with a Diet Coke (from a soda fountain – my favourite!) and I headed outside. I saw Matt and congratulated him on his speedy work – I think he was happy with his time. I’m sure he will smash the Berlin Marathon that he’s training for.I headed outside to find my dad. He handed me the cold Diet Coke, which was just heavenly.I’m really pleased with the time I did. I did have ambitions after D-Day 10k to beat that time (43:13) but it wasn’t to be. Though saying that, I’m pleased to have put some effort it rather than slacking off and doing another race where I “just enjoy it” and don’t race. Don’t get me wrong though, I love doing races like that! But it’s nice to get a solid speed workout in, especially when I so rarely do them on my own. It’s always easier in a race because you’re far more motivated.Anyway, after the race we headed to Reds True BBQ restaurant for lunch. By this point I was VERY hungry.

We chose this restaurant because we both enjoy BBQ food and I’d heard good things.The restaurant has a strange religious (or anti-religious?) theme to it… all “unholy sauces” and crazy artwork. I loved it! Very original and unique.We ordered some XXL chicken wings in a Buffalo sauce to share as a starter. I adore chicken wings (you might have realised this by now) and these were some very delicious ones. They were huge! The sauce was delicious as well, not too spicy but a nice after kick. They came with a very small portion of blue cheese sauce but to be honest it wasn’t the best I’ve had and there wasn’t enough for all the wings. The Buffalo sauce was good enough on it’s own though.

For main, my dad had a steak with garlic butter and chips (which he ate a very small amount of!) and I got half a rack of St. Louis ribs with BBQ sauce. They were very tender and tasty. Not the best I’ve ever had (as I’ve had a fair number!) but definitely up there as a good set of ribs. I also added on some rib tips. My first mouthful though didn’t bode well as they were SO chewy. However, after having another try I found some really tender bits too. So hit and miss there.

We left happy and full! But also, very tired. My dad had only 2,000 or so less steps than me which was crazy! He had done a lot of walking while I was running. I had a lovely nap on the train back 🙂

I fully recommend the Great Newham 10k. It was a lovely scenic 10k. Well organised and good fun.

Have you done any of the Great Run series?

Have you been to the Olympic Park before?

**Full disclaimer: I was given a free entry to this race in exchange for an honest blog post review. All opinions are my own.**

Rough Runner 10k

Rough Runner 10k was my fourth obstacle race. I guess you can say I’m a fan!

I probably would never do an obstacle race on my own. It’s not really a solo event in my opinion. It’s a relaxed and fun event and it’s about helping your team mates and giving out a deal of banter as you go. You wait for each other, you don’t run off and you encourage where you can but are equally willing to laugh at your team mates and yourself, of course. It’s not that serious.

But there’s a genuine level of fear I have of these races that’s incomparable to normal running events. I’m not a huge fan of getting wet (and with that, getting cold). So any obstacle that involves avoiding the water by its successful completion makes me really keen to not fail. That said, it’s not the end of the world to get wet. I say I’m scared but in reality, when it happens (which it always does), it’s always fairly fun, albeit a shock to the system.So Rough Runner races are done all over the UK and this was the first one in Bristol. And happily just a 10 minute drive down the road from my friend’s house. We were able to have a lovely lie-in and a relaxed breakfast before leaving. We arrived an hour before our wave and were able to check out the race village.We signed our life away (aka the waiver) and then picked up our bibs. By the way, the bibs were such a great idea. Instead of using pins, it just stuck straight onto your shirt. This is handy for an obstacle race because you’re sometimes dragging yourself through things or lying on the ground so pins can hurt or tear the bib and/or your t-shirt. My bib stayed on the entire time. Other events could learn from this!

The bag drop was easy peasy as well. It was all very smoothly run. No issues (FYI car parking was £5 – not too expensive but something to be aware of). The portable toilets had no queues either. The race gods were shining down on us. It’s also a very easy course to spectate. We saw many spectators walking around, following the route and taking photos of loved ones. At the race village there was an inflatable thing for kids to play on as well.The travelator (a main highlight of the Rough Runner event) was also front and centre in the race village and spectators could sit on chairs and watch the poor souls trying to do it – right at the end, the final obstacle.There were different speeds of how fast they were going (one on the far left actually went forward so you could stand on it and it would take you up…). Think gladiators!Our wave was the first one so we headed over to the warm-up area ready to go and, with the others in our wave, were led into the huge inflatable dome. We’d been wondering what on Earth was inside it and whether it was our first obstacle but actually it was far less exciting. It was the health and safety video…

The video was actually really well done. It was all cartoon and very funny. It was still informative and all that jazz but it was done in an engaging way that made people actually watch it. Very clever of them! Then we were released out of the dome (the smell of which reminded me so much of kid’s parties and the bouncy castles) and did a random warm-up (lots of running about and burpees…).

Then we were off. Kate, Jay and I were really lucky to be right at the front. This was just luck of the draw where we were stood by the end of the warm-up but this put us in a fantastic position for the entire race. We were ahead of all the big teams and this meant that for each obstacle we barely had to wait for anyone (which is such an issue with these races).

Most of the running was around farm fields and almost entirely flat, which was a nice change. But it did mean running on slightly uneven grass and through hay fields which just ruined me with my hay fever. It was also quite overcast but still very warm. Sadly this meant I wasn’t intelligent enough to consider still applying sun tan lotion…

Anyway pretty much every single obstacle we reached we could take our time assessing it and then doing it unhurriedly with no queue behind us. It was almost like we were the only ones doing it. We could chat to the marshals and ask their advice how best to do it or more information on it. It was amazing!

I don’t necessarily mind waiting for an obstacle in these kind of races but it does make it easier, and less rushed, if there isn’t a queue. Tough Mudder felt quite frantic and crowded at times with the sheer number of people. This was positively relaxed!

There were many obstacles, such as the Swept Off Your Feet one, where you had to get across an inflatable thing and avoid falling in the water to get to the other side.I love these photos because you can see Jamie laughing at me behind. This was one I didn’t last long on. I got knocked off the toad-stall thing by the big inflatable arm that was swinging around. It wasn’t too bad getting wet as it was such a warm day. Jay properly bossed this though and got a huge cheer from the nearby watching crowd (it was very close to the race village).He was far more tactical using speed rather than my timid stop and start approach. Though he did overcook it and end up flying off the end. He always manages to do something crazy in these races 😉

There was another obstacle where you had to run through a load of marshals dressed up as pigeons holding inflatable barriers to hit you and try and stop you from getting passed (they were pigeons because it was called “Nelson’s Column”. As we ran towards this obstacle we were the only ones around and the marshal dressed as Nelson (high on top of a column) started shouting to the pigeons with his megaphone to “get ready for war” as we approached. It was hilarious. but also very tough! They grabbed your feet and walloped you with these inflatable things, which though didn’t hurt did make getting passed tough.

I managed to do quite well on most of the obstacles and only got wet on the first one above. The fear of falling into the water was real. Though it wasn’t cold I do hate getting wet.Not every obstacle involved water though. There was a huge pen full of huge inflatable balls you had to get through (harder than you think) and things to climb up and over. Basically it was bloody good fun.

The travelator at the end though was amazing. Again we didn’t have to wait which was such a bonus. I decided to try the fastest one and see how it went (you could try each one, but only once).I almost didn’t make it (it’s like a treadmill but so much harder). I really had to dig deep at the end and I wasn’t too proud to accept the helping hand of a marshal to pull me up the last step. Jamie managed the first time as well, though Kate needed another try. Kate is hilarious. She will give everything a go but invariably does end up falling into the water…much to Jay’s and my amusement. 100% effort though – you gotta give these things a go. There was definitely one obstacle I almost didn’t do (involved being upside down holding a horizontal ladder with your arms and legs and shimmying across some water) but Jay and Kate encouraged me along and surprisingly I managed to do it. Doing these things with friends is the number one requirement.We finished feeling jubilant and on top of the world. Such a good race. Definitely our favourite so far. I did actually prefer it to Tough Mudder as it was far less busy and more fun. It had a game show feel whereas Tough Mudder has a “survive or die” feel. Don’t get me wrong, Tough Mudder is amazing and epic, but this was a lot more fun in terms of having a laugh with your friends.I was a bit sad we didn’t get a t-shirt but the photos were free. Obstacle races are more expensive than other races but I do think the price is justified. It involves setting up huge obstacles and having more marshals and health and safety, so you can kind of understand. I thoroughly enjoyed this race and would recommend it to anyone.

Have you ever done a Rough Runner?

Did you ever watch gladiators? I have a new found respect for them. They make it look SO easy.

Do you ever run races with friends as a group?

D Day 10k 2017

I went to bed the Saturday night before the D Day 10k at 9pm. This is despite getting up at the more leisurely time of 7am and having had an hour long nap at 6pm in the day. My body felt knackered. Last week had been a total grind.

All week I didn’t felt myself. I felt unwell, though not in like a dodgy tummy or sickness way but in a lethargic, foggy and overwhelming tiredness way. It felt like a virus as I didn’t feel right in myself, but other people have suggested low iron levels or over-training. But I don’t think it was. My heart rate, in general, had been normal when I woke up and during the day. But who knows.

ANYWAY. So I didn’t have particularly high hopes for D Day. Despite my early night and 8am alarm (so a very cushty 11 hours sleep) I woke up still not feeling like my normal sprightly self. But I wanted to do the race more to just be social and have a run with other people. I’d only mope about on my own and then do a feeble run later in the day anyway.

My friend Mike picked me up with his daughter and we headed to Portsmouth. Neither of us were “feeling” the race and we moaned about how rubbish we felt. We spoke to a few others and in general people were feeling a bit pants about it. But the sun was shining, it’s a flat course (albeit a lot of around a car park) and there’s a Starbucks just next to the finish.I said to Mike and my friend Geoff that I hoped to do sub-50. From parkrun the day before I just didn’t think my legs were going to perform well. Running was hard work recently. Mike was aiming to beat his PB but wasn’t sure how he’d fare. I was pleased to find that I could wear my Aftershokz headphones as they’re “bone conducting” so complied with regulations. I definitely needed something to keep me going!I hadn’t had breakfast that morning as I didn’t want to get up any earlier than 8am but had a glass of water with electrolytes and then an SIS caffeine shot 30 minutes before the race start. I hoped it would rev me up a bit.I did half a mile gentle jogging (something I rarely do but I had time on my hands) and then we headed to the start.We held a minute’s silence in respect for the victims of the London attack the night before just before the start, which was a sombre but respectful thing to do. Then we started. I had my music on and got going. As I weaved around people in front of me and got into my stride I found that I felt quite good. Nothing like the heavy leg and fogginess I’ve felt on my other runs that week. I checked my watch and was surprised to see 7:15min/mile pace. I genuinely wondered if my Garmin was playing up but decided to just go with it.

I kept with a guy from the club, Bernie, for a while and then felt myself getting stronger and overtook him. I actually couldn’t believe how strong I felt and yet how quick (for me) I appeared to be going. I decided to see what I could do. If I crashed and burned then so be it, but right then I felt comfortable.

The course itself at D Day is a bit dull. I’ve done it before a good few years ago but it’s changed hugely. It’s unrecognisable to what I ran previously. I knew there were three laps but I couldn’t work out where that would happen. I just kept focused on the runners ahead of me and gradually picked them off.

As I got into mile two, now down to 7min/miles, I was still wondering where this speed and ease of running had come from. The course was super flat and the wind, fairly gentle, seemed to be mostly going sideways at us or as a tailwind. Occasionally we’d run against it but it was only brief moments. Everything seemed to be on our side.I passed a guy who normally is miles ahead of me and wondered if he was just plodding it or having a bad day (I later found he was using it as a training sessions: first 5k easy, and then 1k sprints – wow!). I gentle passed runners and had no one pass me, which felt really nice! Though to be fair, it wasn’t a particularly big field.

There’s a section of the course that runs down a gravel path and alongside a lake and lots of greenery which was fairly pleasant. It was annoying to run on gravel at 10k speed but it was a nice change from the boring and hot car park that made up a chunk of the race. We were under some shade which was nice, but the path seemed to go on forever.

Halfway there was a water station and I grabbed a drink. I wasn’t terribly thirsty but it was hot so I swigged a good few mouthfuls before tossing it to the side (always a delicate operations to a) not hit other runners, b) not hit any spectators, c) not throw it somewhere really obscure that it can’t be cleared away later).

I hit four miles and now the effort level was high. I was in the zone of “stay with it, keep pushing” while all the time wondering when I was going to blow or have a wobbly. I felt the energy slowly being sapped out of my legs and tried to remember all the amazing food I’d eaten the day before that I was sure would still be helping me. I cursed myself for not having breakfast but wondered if that would have helped. Who knows.

The last mile down that gravel path was tough. I found myself alone now. The runners ahead too far away to catch and no one behind me giving chase. Mentally it was tough. Physically it was tougher. I was then off the gravel and onto the final stretch of pavement to the finish.My watch beeped 6 miles and I told myself to just hold on for a few moments more. A “400m to go” sign appeared and I could see the finish ahead. Ah, smile for the camera (I’m sure that was a grimace…), “200m to go”, keep going, keep going. Annnnnd finish!No wobble but the sheer sense of effort and “God I feel sick” feelings hit me. I bloody hate 10ks. My watch said 43:13. I was over the moon. I couldn’t remember my PB but I knew it was 42-something. I checked my blog as that’s where I keep a list of PBs (so handy) and found I was only 23 seconds off!

There was a small Hedge End Running Club turn-out due to other events happening (*sobs* the Romsey Beer and Cake race being one) but it was a nice gathering. For the most part, I think people did fairly well and were happy. Mike achieved his PB as well so he was happy (once he’d finished dying on the grass).And finally a few of us headed to the very nearby Starbucks and we celebrated with some tasty coffee (I went for decaf as I’d already had that SIS caffeine shot – which, by the way, I think really helped my race!)So from initially not even wanting to show up to D Day, to being close to my PB…well, a definite turnaround! I’m really pleased that since January my 10k time has come down from 46:26 from the Stubbington 10k, to 45:27 from the Brighton 10k in April, now to 43:13. Annoyingly my official chip time is 43:22. Initially the race organisers had issues with some of the chips so I only had a gun time of 43:27 and then they added the chip time later (43:22). Though I’m not sure that’s accurate either as I spoke to a few others in the same boat and their watch times and new chip time don’t match at all either. Hey ho, 43:22 is still a big mark of progress though!

I’m not aiming to improve on this 10k time as marathon training is about to begin, but it’s always nice to naturally get quicker. I have another 10k in July so we’ll see how much of an improvement I can make, but I won’t be losing sleep over it! I do so hate 10ks…

What’s your favourite race distance?

What’s your favourite post race drink?

Have you ever surprised yourself with a race result when you weren’t feeling it?

**Full Disclaimer: I’ve been sent SIS products to test for free in exchange of reviewing them on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Tough Mudder 2017

So I only found out I was doing Tough Mudder on Thursday last week. I was fortunately gifted a place to be part of the Trek Team, the official Tough Mudder sponsors, and was able to invite a friend along with me.

I knew it was probably a slim chance any of my non-running friends would be interested and a lot of my running friends were running a race on Sunday. It would also be a bit mad to be up for running a 10-12 mile serious obstacle race at such short notice. It was also in Henley On Thames which isn’t that close. However one of my work friends, George, had done Tough Mudder before, is quite into fitness and is a bit mental 😉 I offered him the place and after a few minutes of deciding he was up for it. Apparently he “had no plans so why not!”. He also lives in Reading so was literally en route to it. Very handy indeed!

The Trek Team was in the 11am wave so we needed to get there for 10am to pick up our t-shirts and meet our team etc. So I had a rather leisurely morning of waking up just before 8am, eating breakfast and leaving at 8.30am (no Alfie to walk as he’s at my parent’s house ready for me house sitting this week while their on holiday).It was very easy to find Culden Faw, where the event was taking place, and parking was easy peasy. The morning was lovely and sunny, though it was quite nippy in the wind. We arrived, had a quick toilet stop (no queue! Crazy!) and then headed to the Trek stand. They had two stands giving out taster samples to people and selling the different bars, so we had a little try of the different flavours. I’m a big fan of the oat banana bar and have used that before as a pre-race breakfast when pushed for time/amenities. But I hadn’t tried the others so it was like a bit like a buffet.There were some very tasty cocoa coconut bars which were basically like chocolate covered coconut-tasting flapjacks. Very nice.

After a sampling frenzy, we then popped on our super cool Trek t-shirts and met our fellow teammates and another couple of teams who were doing the half Tough Mudder. Everyone was so friendly and lovely. Though I was nervous, I felt far more at ease.

George on my left and two of the girls from the half team

I was especially nervous about the water obstacles. I hate being cold and my past experience with obstacle races has been fairly cold and unpleasant. It was a lot warmer today but the wind was still chilly. I decided to keep my long-sleeved base layer on under the top.

From the Trek team Instagram stories

We got some very VIP treatment by going to the front of the queue to get into the start entrance and being right at the front of the stage where a guy with a mike was getting everyone hyped for the warm-up. The idea was so we could be filmed and photo’ed for the event.

We did a fun little competition which involved the Trek Team choosing the most crazy-looking runner (it was a toss up between a guy in a full bright yellow suit and a guy wearing a psychedelic full body flare outfit), followed by a good dynamic warm-up to get us all going.

The vibe was so different to a regular race. It was all about camaraderie and having fun. We had to say out-loud a set of rules that said we wouldn’t leave anyone behind and we’d help where we could. The guy with the microphone really got everyone going, it was a fantastic atmosphere. Moments before we headed off I decided to not wear my long sleeved top and had a mad 30 seconds before the race started whipping it off and putting my t-shirt back on. Luckily one of the Trek guys was there to look after my unwanted top (so handy).

And then we were off. It was all very relaxed and jovial. Lots of whooping and laughter. It started off with some quite steep uphill running on some trails. We tried to keep together as a group and motivate each other on, though at times George and I kept our momentum going up the hills and the waited at the top to cheer the others up.

Photo credit: Emma Timmis

There were regular obstacles that I’m familiar with, such as climbing over walls and pulling yourself over things which warmed us up nicely. And then there was the one I was most dreading. The Arctic Enema… you basically climbed up to a tube which you slid down straight into a huge skip-like container full of water and ice cubs. Oh my god it was cold. The shock when you hit the water really did take your breath away. You then had to swim under a wooden beam to get to the other side. There were marshals on the outside who kept you moving and checked you were OK, which was good because there was obviously a real danger of panicking or staying in for too long. Getting out of the water I was just numb. George shouted at me “breathe Anna!” as I tried to get my breath back.

Saying all that, it was actually good fun. It was definitely a tough experience but I felt like a superhero afterwards. I was also glad it was one of the first obstacles as it stopped me worrying about it and gave me time to get warm again. I was more than happy to run up the steep hill in effort to get warm again. It didn’t take long thankfully!

Another wet obstacle, called the Block Ness Monster, involved jumping into muddy water and pushing and pulling these huge rotating barriers.

From the Tough Mudder Facebook page

Like most of the obstacles in the race, it involved team work. And not just from your own team but from everyone around. In order to get over the barrier a number of people had to push or pull in order to rotate it. It was good fun but the water was cold and muddy (well, to be expected!).

Some of my favourite obstacles were the ones that didn’t involve water but still involved needing to have help from others to do it. You could not have done it on your own. The Human Pyramid is an example of this, where you literally had to climb on someone’s shoulders and then reach for someone’s hands above you in order to get up.

From the Tough Mudder Facebook page

Made all the more tricky by being wet and slippy with mud! Because of course there was mud on route – churned up especially for us it seemed.

Along the route were hydration stations with Lucozade and water, as well as fuel stations full of chunks of Trek bars for us to scoff. It did make me slightly chuckle seeing these huge containers and people grabbing handfuls with their muddy hands… It reminded me of what Maria had said about the worry of people not washing their hands before sampling tasters when it was in a communal box. Though at some aid stations they had marshals handing them out with gloved hands. Though to be honest, I’m not actually that bothered, all part of strengthening the immune system 😉

I could talk about all the different obstacles but I won’t keep droning on. Each one was tough in it’s own way, whether the shock of cold submerging water, pulling yourself up and over something, crawling through mud and dark narrow pipes, running up steep hills, carrying logs, carrying each other

The one final mention will be the truly AWFUL electric shock obstacle, which you had to run through. We got to it and I was like “I’m just going to go for it, get it over and done with.” I mean, how bad would it be? I was expecting little zaps as the hanging cables hit me (like a perverse jungle of live wires). But OHHH NO. These were full on, straight to the bone jolts of pain. No pun intended here, but it genuinely shocked me the amount of pain it inflicted. To the point that I fell fully over onto the churned up mud.In the end, the course was around 11 miles and took us around 2:45-3 hours (I forgot to stop my Garmin as we crossed the finish line – it was that unimportant). As you can see the miles took a long time to get through.This was mainly due to having to wait for obstacles, doing the obstacles and then the sheer elevation. And not running the whole thing – it’s really not about the running as you can probably tell.

But we finished and survived! Never had a cider tasted so good as that first sip when we were handed it, after picking up our finisher’s t-shirt, headband and Trek goodies of course.
Most of our team weren’t quite as muddy as me due to my last minute mud faceplant, but I wore my mud with pride!George did amazingly. He was like a Duracell bunny the entire race, boosting people along with fun banter and encouragement, even if they weren’t on our team. On some obstacles we practically had to pull him away from constantly helping people as we could have been there forever otherwise. I was glad he came along.
He’s also very similar to me in his love for food so after we showered off (an ordeal in itself: peeling off my layers in the middle of a communal “shower” area and then hosing yourself down using freezing water to get as much mud off as possible) and got changed we headed sharpish to the food area. By this point (3.30pm?) I was getting seriously hangry…The food truck selection was top notch, though I was devastated to see they’d run out of sweet potato fries with pulled pork on top. Instead I went for a falafel wrap (VERY tasty and jam packed full), followed by a pot of pulled pork, stuffing and crackling.So so good and definitely what I needed! I was somewhat jealous of George’s manwich, though he graciously gave me a black pudding sausage (the sandwich contained sausages, pulled pork, crackling and apple sauce).The Trek guys were fantastic. Both our team and the actual Trek people were so nice, supportive and fun. We got lots of freebies to take home with us as well which was the icing on the cake!Tough Mudder was hard, but it wasn’t impossible. I’d fully recommend it to anyone who can run at least 10k, purely because I think you have to have some level of endurance to be able to do it. Though there’s no pressure to run the entire thing or do all the obstacles (you can skip any of them), it’s just a great experience and a way to have fun with friends.

Have you done a race like this before?

Would you ever do Tough Mudder?

What obstacle would most scare you?

**Full Disclaimer: I was given a free entry (with a friend) to the Tough Mudder event as well as free Trek goodies in exchange for posting on social media and writing a recap. All opinions and posts are my own honest ones.**

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?