The Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 2017

The Portsmouth Coastal Marathon was the first marathon I ever signed up to. Sadly I never made it to the start line as a runner, but I have supported the race so it wasn’t entirely new to me.

I was initially excited about the marathon when I finally got myself a place (it was sold out when I tried to enter it but managed to find a place from a friend of mine who unfortunately couldn’t run). But as the date got closer and the weather colder, my enthusiasm dwindled away. The night before I chatted to my parents saying I was genuinely nervous and worried about the race. I had no “oomph” to do it and felt a bit meh. Normally I’m nervous, yes, but also excited to get going. I just didn’t feel like I was about to run a marathon the next day.IMG_1916Happily I slept well and woke up with a renewed vigour. I’d gone over the race in my mind and was feeling a bit more ready (I find mentally going through the miles and my plans help calm and motivate me). I woke up at 6.30am, ready to leave with coffee, my Beet It shot and porridge to have en route at 7.15am. The marathon began at 8.30am, which is quite early for UK marathons but handily the start was only about 30 minutes away.IMG_1920My dad was coming to support (bless him) and had heated the car up ready which was divine…for all of about 10 minutes before we both found ourselves sweating. It was a very cold morning but the combination of the heaters, my coffee and porridge just made me overheat. The night before I’d umm’ed and arr’ed about what to wear before settling on a thicker long-sleeved base layer, my ever faithful thick sports bra, arm sleeves, a buff and my running club vest. Still in shorts but with my long compression socks. I was really worried about being too cold but also about being too hot. The arm sleeves and buff would be ideal as I could remove them if necessary (I did indeed remove the buff, but not the sleeves). I considered a hat but with the headphones I wanted to wear it just didn’t work. I wore my winter coat to the start and genuinely never felt cold the entire race – even when I was stood on the start line. It very much helped that up until five minutes from the start I was inside the Pyramid Centre (where the HQ was located). It’s a very relaxed affair so getting to the start minutes before we were off was about as good as it can ever get.IMG_1924The start is right on the Southsea prom, just a few metres from the parkrun start. The sunrise was spectacular! IMG_1945It was a beautiful morning and all my nerves disappeared. All I had to do was run. It was flat, I was warm and I had no time goals other than not to run like an idiot (i.e. not too fast). I was somewhat concerned with how late I’d left eating my breakfast (only an hour ago…) but actually it was fine.

IMG_1951I felt well fuelled running and had two SIS gels packed in my running belt.IMG_1949The first two miles ran up the promenade, past the pier and the cafes. There were lots of people cheering and it felt very relaxed and festive with people wearing fancy dress and familiar faces all round from local clubs and social media.IMG_1932I hadn’t had a chance to go to the loo before starting because the queue was too long (there was also a half marathon and an ultra happening). Plus I knew I’d need to stop anyway at some point because I’d drank that coffee so late. There was a proper loo just before two miles so I was aiming for that. Luckily no one was in it and I managed to dash in and out with no issue. It seems to be a thing for me now to always have a wee in a marathon *sighs*. Now I could relax and get these boring beginning miles past me. My dad drove past and beeped an excessive number of times – but it did make me smile. Off he went to his first supporter point.IMG_1953It’s a relatively small marathon, with around 900 runners. Despite this though, I was never alone. There were always runners near me. A significant part of the course at the beginning snakes along coastal paths so you’re always following someone. As we got to mile three we came to halt as there was a bottleneck to get safely down the steps onto the beach section. I was well aware of this section, having been warned by fellow runners, so I wasn’t surprised by it. And since I wasn’t aiming for a fast time I didn’t mind the  stand-still moment. My only annoyance is that I didn’t make the most of the time by taking a photo! I was wearing nice thick gloves and the effort of taking on off and fishing in my belt for my phone seemed like too much effort at the time.

I felt a little sorry for the marshals who were continually shouting to runners to not try and sneak round and go an unsafe way down to the beach to beat the queue. You could feel the anxious energy around as people hopped from one leg to another, keen to get on. Finally we were onto the beach and off again…across the pebbles and sand. It only lasted a few minutes though and then we were back onto the path once more.IMG_1933You could see where we were heading – the course hugged the coastline – and the runners further ahead. Someone near me commented that it was like one big runner conga. You couldn’t really pass anyone but the speed was perfect for me. Not quite the 9 minutes I had told myself, closer really to 8.20-30. But I felt very comfortable (a good test for me is being able to run and breathe easily through my nose and to be able to easily hold a conversation).IMG_1935The course is entirely flat, but not entirely easy. The mix of terrain (tarmac, sand, pebbles, mud and trail) makes it tricky underfoot, but in my opinion it keeps you entertained. It’s an out and back route, following the Portsmouth Harbour. As the day was so still and so clear the views across the water were fantastic. The sun rising created beautiful picturesque colours and everything was very peaceful. Hands down one of the most beautiful marathons I’ve done. And believe me, I NEVER thought I’d say that about a marathon in Portsmouth…IMG_1984The miles ticked away fairly nicely. My first milestone was 6 miles as this would be my dad’s first spectator point.1-6 milesI could see the point from a distance and it gradually drew closer and closer. I listened in to people’s conversations as they chatted away, but was quite content to not get involved. IMG_1982I just switched off. I reached the 6 mile point and spotted my dad. He waved, I waved, all was good. As I passed him I imagined his journey to get to the next point up the motorway at 10 miles, just next to a the Ship Inn. The course is very handy that there are so many easy spots for supporters to gather.IMG_1978In this pic I saw the photographer laughing and knew the guy behind had done something fun, so I turned to him and said I was looking forward to seeing it later. He laughed 😉

The next few miles were along a cycle path (tarmac) and were parallel to the motorway which was just hidden away behind the bushes. Not that scenic anymore. I was familiar with this part of the route as it was where one of the Wiggle runs had gone down so I knew what to expect.IMG_1939What I really liked about the marathon was that you were never on one type of running route for too long. So you could segment the run into “down the cycle path for a mile” to “back onto trail and through an industrial site”. It kept things interesting – it wasn’t just a never-ending road that was always the same (oh hey Dubai Marathon…). 7-13 milesThere was another bit you run across the pebbles, but for the life of me I can’t remember when… but I’m pretty sure it was before the 10 mile mark. It was quite the grind (though not nearly as bad as it was on the way back!).IMG_1961I seemed to reach 10 miles in no time and spotted my dad again. There were quite a few supporters here all along the pathway which makes it quite narrow but also makes you feel a little like a famous athlete because there’s so much cheering. I had a quick stop to hand my dad my gloves (while also telling him to keep them with him as I might need them back again later). I told him I was feeling good and then headed off.IMG_1976After about another 0.5 mile you come to another good supporter point and lots of people were handing out Jelly Babies and water. IMG_1974I also spotted a guy I work with and it was nice to have him cheer me along. The next part of the marathon is probably my least favourite as you’re simply running to then turn around and come back. My dad would be waiting at the Ship Inn point again but I wouldn’t be back there until about 16 miles so I had a fair chunk to get through. To help me along I put on a podcast. I’d chosen the BBC 5 Live film review show which would have the Star Wars review in it. As I was seeing Star Wars later than day it seemed perfect.IMG_1942The route went down a trail path, so was a bit muddy and puddly, but otherwise easy underfoot. At about 11-12 miles the first marathoners started heading back. Some of them might have been ultra amazing ultra runners as well (as they started earlier) but I wasn’t sure. Eventually we made it to the turnaround point. IMG_1941I had now run all the course so there were no surprises (so I thought). Heading back meant I got to see a lot more runners – and people I knew. It kept me entertained to look out for people. I also took my first gel here (an SIS one with special ‘immune boosting’ vitamins. Can’t say it made me feel any different but the cranberry flavour tasted nice). As there was no bin around I tucked it back into my running belt. On this note, I saw a guy have a gel and then lob it into a bush. This made me REALLY angry. No one is going to be able to find that! Well done for littering the place up, you idiot. If you’re going to use gels make sure you depose of your rubbish responsibly. Rant over.IMG_1983As I got to 14 miles someone ran up next to me and said hello. It was a guy called Graham who I know from Twitter and parkrun. 14-20 milesI was surprised to see him as he’s usually very speedy. I told him he didn’t have to go my pace and good speed ahead if he fancied but he seemed content at the current pace. I turned off my podcast and we settled in to some nice running chatter. This really helped the miles fly by.IMG_1977In the distance I could see my dad. My hands were starting to feel the chill again as it was becoming a little more overcast. I attempted to signal to him that I’d need my gloves back. Luckily he understood and handed them to me as I passed him, while he cheered us along.IMG_1964I remember certain parts of the route and used them as milestones to get to. We were running at a comfortable 8.30 and I was feeling positive. We quickly got to the 20 mile point where my dad was spectating from again (it had been the 6 mile point). How the miles were flying by! My dad drove past (honestly, I couldn’t escape the man. He was everywhere ;-)) and honked – off  he went to the finish.IMG_1966Graham mentioned he ticked over to a marathon and this was when I realised he wasn’t running the marathon but actually the ultra! I just hadn’t been listening to him properly! Now a few of the things he’d said made a lot more sense now. Idiot that I am! No wonder he wasn’t speeding ahead at his usual super speed, he’d run five miles more than me!IMG_1943I suddenly found myself with a second wind and I gradually started to increase my speed. I gently pulled away and headed off on my own. I felt bad for leaving Graham but I wanted to push the pace. When I got a polite enough distance away I took my phone out (snapped a photo) and put some music on. In the process I managed to accidentally call my dad. I eventually cancelled the call and sorted my music out only to have him ring me back. We had a very quick conversation where I explain I hadn’t meant to call him and he said he’d see me at the finish.

Now I was grooving. The music was perfect and I felt strong. This is literally the best part of a marathon for me. When I’m IN THE ZONE and hammering it (relatively speaking of course) to the finish. In the back of my mind I questioned the increase in pace (what happened to a 4 hour marathon, Anna?) but I just went with it. I felt gooooooood. I was smiling, waving to marshals and just generally feeling the buzz. I heard a number of different people say a similar comment of, “she’s still smiling!”. This feeling in a marathon is what I live for, I love it!

I had mentally prepared myself for another jaunt across the beach but I was surprised to find us heading in a different route than we’d come. In fact, we were winding our way down residential streets. I wasn’t sure where we were but we had less than a parkrun to go now (well, so I believed). I eventually got back onto a familiar path and passed the toilet I’d stopped in at the beginning – so long ago now. The final stretch down the Southsea promenade – potentially very windy and unforgiving but luckily nice and still. With less than two miles to go I felt a few drops of rain… and then it started drizzling. Well, we had been very lucky to not have had any earlier and I was quite warm that I didn’t mind. My watch ticked over 26 miles… then 26.2 miles and we weren’t near the finish. As I passed a photographer he said “just half a mile to go”. Riiiiight. I knew we were about that away because I was familiar with this route (parkrun and GSR) so just knuckled down to that extra distance to get it done.

There were a lot of supports at the end which was fantastic. My only quibble (and this is really pathetic and moany so I’m sorry) is that as I was about 50 metres from the finish a man who was just ahead had his entire Von Trap Family of children join him to run with him to the end. This is all very lovely and ahh how cute, but I almost collided with four different children as they randomly went from supporter to runner. I then couldn’t get passed them – they were all running so slowly – and it kind of buzz killed my finish. I GET IT. You’re all so proud and want to share the moment, but there are other runners running the race as well… Meh. Rant over. Anyway, I finished, hurrah!21-27 milesMy time was 3:45:36. second in my age category, 13th female (out of 280) 🙂  I was now fairly soggy. I collected my medal and goodie bag. I spotted my dad and he passed my coat quickly. IMG_1970What a hero! I saw some other freebies being handed out so headed over to have a look. A marshal was handing out free beers so I went to take one. He looked at me and said, “well I shouldn’t really, but I hope you’ll give this to your dad as you’re underage”. I stared at him, asked him if he was joking and when he said no I said, “I could actually hug you. I’m 29!” He laughed. Well, if that’s not the best thing to hear when you’ve finished a marathon I don’t know what is!IMG_1975We then had a bit of a length walk back to the car in the rain… My dad wasn’t able to find a space any closer. But the walk did me good – it helped stretch my legs a bit. And luckily we made it in the car before the rain really began.IMG_1944We drove home, I showered and got myself together and then we headed straight out again for some much needed Nando’s, followed by a ridiculous amount of sweets at the cinema watching the new Star Wars film.IMG_1973It was such a fantastic way to celebrate and relax afterwards. Though my legs didn’t thank me for the 2.5 hours of sitting and doing nothing… When the film finished I got up and my legs were SO stiff and awful. But otherwise, all good! I really enjoyed the film as well. I’m loving these new Star Wars 🙂

I really enjoyed this race and have already signed up to next’s years. It really was a fun and festive event – not necessarily one for a PB but more for enjoyment, which is exactly my kind of race!

What do you like doing after a long race?

Do you like running with other people in races?

Do you enjoy out and back races/runs?

Long run Sunday with the Victory 5 Mile

After my rather calorific Saturday in London, I felt fairly well-fuelled for my long run on Sunday. I didn’t fancy dinner and settled instead for some fruit (because #health) and a hot chocolate.

I was signed up to do the Victory 5 Mile race, which is run by the City of Portsmouth AC and it part of the Hampshire Road Race League. As such it’s quite a popular one for the local running clubs, Hedge End included. When I went to sign up I found it was sold out but luckily (for me) I managed to acquire a place from someone who could no longer run it (not lucky for him though of course). I’ve been finding going out for a long run on my own quite dull so having a race as part of a long run really helps.

In terms of convenience, the race actually takes place on the grounds of where I work so wasn’t too far away. In terms of excitement, this meant it was going to be a fairly dull race as I regularly run around that area. But the company of other runners would be nice and it was flat. I found that I could get 11 miles beforehand if I ran there, totaling up my long run to 16 miles for the day. Ideal. Happily as well the race didn’t start until 11am so this meant I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn.

In fact I had a rather leisurely wake-up time of 8.15am, walked Alfie and then headed out at 9am. The route was thankfully the same route I drive in order to get to work, so I couldn’t get lost. Hurrah! The weather wasn’t as cold as it has been so I was grateful for that too.My run was quite uneventful but it did feel somewhat sluggish. I guess this is to be expected due to poor nutrition the day before and a very fast parkrun. Mentally though it was OK because I knew I just needed to get to the race. Having a destination rather than just a loop made things tick by quite nicely. It was also a strange experience running to work. I had a couple of pain points on the route where I struggled to find the right way to go. Not because I was lost but because where you can drive and where you can run/walk can be different in certain areas. At one point I found myself stuck at a roundabout as I couldn’t get to the turning I needed to due to barriers… I headed off in one direction to find that it wasn’t going to bring me out where I thought and so had to turn around and head back to find another route. Eventually though I found my way through.11 milesI arrived at Lakeside, where the race was located, with enough time to pick up my bib (annoyingly my name was “Anne” not “Anna” for some reason…) and then chat to some fellow Hedgies and do a brief warm-up.I didn’t really need the warm-up but it was good to keep warm and chat to my friends.Then we lined up ready to go. I positioned myself further back than I would have had I been racing and then set off with the klaxon. Ooof my legs felt tired and heavy. Not a great start.
I took things nice and easy and listened to my podcast on my Aftershokz headphones to keep myself amused but it really was a slog. By mile two the thought of stopping was really strong in my mind. This is quite rare for me to want to stop, especially in a race where I’m not racing. It just felt like so much effort.
Victory 5 courseI was glad that the course was two loops because I’m not sure I could have managed three loops… just the thought of going round and round the lake was exhausting to me.

Photo Credit: Mike Gilmore

I found myself running a similar pace to a lady and we were in line as we ran. She told me to run ahead and catch my teammate up who we could see in front. But I politely told her I was OK. I wondered if she found it annoying me running alongside her? I didn’t want to increase my pace but I think she slightly decreased hers and I gradually stretched out in front (though I never caught my teammate).

Victory 5Photo Credit: Solent Sports Photography

I was really counting down the miles by the end and was grateful to see the end in sight. As I run this route so often I knew exactly how far we had to go. I managed to increase my pace somewhat and catch up with another Hedgie. Her partner was cheering her on with her adorable pug and the pug, Blue, was trying desperately to chase after her and barking away. It was very sweet.As we came round the final bend I saw my dad stood on a hill cheering away. As I ran there I needed to be picked up and it was nice that he’d arrived a bit early so he could see me finish. We’d agreed he wouldn’t come and support the entire race as he had a few jobs to do and it was going to be a slow plod for me, so not exactly a crucial one needing his support. That said though, I was grateful for his cheers at the end!
Victory 5 splitsI finish in 40:09, well away from my PB of course but a nice speedy few miles at the end of a long run. I quickly grabbed my medal, the water and we popped into the onsite Starbucks so I could grab a hot coffee before we headed home. I couldn’t hang around as I had a Christmas lunch to get to with my friends and had a very small window to get home and ready!As I headed home I didn’t feel “right”. I felt sluggish and just a bit off. My dad had been suffering from a bad cold and I wondered if I’d suddenly caught it too… That would be fairly typical. No injuries but taken down by an illness instead! I felt exhausted and just not great – and the run hadn’t felt my best either.

But anyway, I got home, showered and dressed and managed to get to the Christmas lunch for 1.30pm where I was in desperate need of a solid refuel. And thankfully I was at the right place 😉

We were at the King’s Head in Wickham which was lovely. I had the ham hock to start, followed by traditional turkey dinner (albeit with a limited portion of vegetables it must be said) and finished with cheesecake.I always find at Christmas meals that the puddings tend to be a bit lame. I’m not a fan of Christmas puddings at all and there’s usually a crème brûlée on the menu, of which I also don’t like. Occasionally you might get a rogue brownie but invariably it’s cheesecake which is alright but not my favourite. Ah well, it was tasty nonetheless.

Then we played some fun games, such as the celebrity on a post-it note stuck to your forehead game (I’m sure there’s a succinct name for it…) and Pictionary. I forgot how competitive I can get though. I get very into it and can be quite, well, let’s say over-enthusiastic about it.

The meal and company was just the ticket for making me feel better. Strangely enough after a solid night’s sleep that evening I felt absolutely fine the next day. I’m wondering if it was just the mileage having an effect on me and the fact that I ate pretty poorly the day before. Who knows! Touch wood, I feel fine right now.

One more long run before the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon… I’m off to Wales on Friday to visit my grandparents. The scenery will be far more exciting there and it’ll be lovely to relax and spend time with my family.

Have you ever run to a race before?

What’s your favourite part of a Christmas dinner?

What would be your pudding of choice, festive or otherwise?

The Gosport Half Marathon 2017

The Gosport Half Marathon… the elusive half marathon that I’ve entered no less than four times but have never run due to being injured. I entered it for the fifth time and hoped for the best.

Sunday arrived and I was, shock horror, fit and ready to go. And not only this but the weather was perfect. Still and dry. Cold, yes, but no wind. And as the half marathon goes up and down the coast of Lee-On-Solent, this was an absolute dream. Despite being sad I’ve never run this race before, there have been years when I’ve looked out the window at the roaring wind and rain and thought, “meh maybe I’m not missing out after all”.

My plan was not to aim for any sort of PB or fast run. I was instead going to add four miles beforehand to make it into 17 miles and run the race with a lovely friend of mine, Martin, who was aiming for a PB. His PB was around 1:44 so that would mean just under 8 minute miles which I felt like was a solid long run speed for me.

Despite the start of the race being up the road from me it was just that bit too far to run straight from home. Instead I was very grateful to get a lift from my lovely dad to drop me one mile from home so I could run exactly four miles to the race. The things fathers do for their daughters eh!

Happily the race didn’t start until 10am which meant I could wake up at the delightful time of 8.15am and leave the house just before 9am. This would give me a comfortable window to get to the race HQ (incidentally my old 6th form college, Bay House), pick up my bib and not have to stand around getting cold. Hurrah! I forwent breakfast as I wanted the extra sleep and do most of my long runs fasted anyway. Plus if you saw my last post and what I ate, you can probably see I was well fuelled.

So my dad dropped me off a mile up the road (bless his heart) and waved me off. He was going to support me but had time to go home and have breakfast before he needed to venture out (the race was, as I said, just up the road). I’d decided against wearing double layers, despite Alexa telling me it was 0 degrees C outside (good old Alexa). Instead I wore my running club vest, arm-warmers and gloves (funnily enough the last time I wore my arm warmers was also at another half marathon where Martin and I ran together. He said he hoped they were lucky as Southampton was where his original PB was from).

For my four miles, I aimed to keep the speed down. I listened to a podcast as I ran but found myself naturally getting faster (probably not helped by the fact that I was cold for two miles of the run and just wanted to get warmer!). I was also feeling anxious about getting to the race on time and worrying that I’d left it too late to pick my bib up. I hadn’t, but it’s always nerve wracking when you run to a race (or parkrun! A few times I’ve been late…).As I got about a mile away from Bay House I saw the road closures being put out, marshals getting ready and then the steady stream of runners heading to the HQ. I arrived just after 9.30am so I had more than enough time. And actually bumped straight into Martin and some fellow Hedgies as I hit 4 miles. Perfect timing.We headed into the Bay House grounds (which always reminds me of Harry Potter – it’s a lovely building) and collected our bibs super fast and easily. It was well organised and the volunteers all lovely and friendly. Hilariously Martin’s dog, Harvey, did the biggest, steamiest poo right in the middle of the playground amongst all the runners. Martin’s wife, Helen, was mortified. I mean, of all the places, right? It was quite amusing though.As Martin headed to the bag-drop (I had nothing with me, the luxury of running to an event) I headed to the loo. The queues though were massive for both of the more obvious loos. Side note: it was SO weird being back at Bay House. The last time I was there was collecting my A-Level results (*cough* 2006? Jeeeesus). Like a walk in the past! Anyway, I overhead two ladies commenting that they were so glad they’d found the loos in the changing room and I made a quick bee-line there to find no queues! Awesome.Then Martin and me reconvened and we headed to the start. Unfortunately there was around 15-20 minute delay. The lovely warmth I’d acquired from running to the start had disappeared and I began to get a bit cold. Apparently it was due to some traffic light issues and road closures… can’t be helped I guess. And then we were off.The Gosport Half Marathon is very flat and all on tarmac. There are a couple of inclines, but really nothing major. The only annoyance of this race is that if it’s windy there really isn’t any shelter. And the fact that it’s a two looper.

Gosport Half courseSource

The route runs along the coastline of Lee-On-Solent (where Lee-On-Solent parkrun happens) and I know it very well as it’s where a lot of my long runs happen. To run up and down twice was going to be mentally tough. I was very happy indeed to be running with Martin because the race doesn’t allow any sort of head/earphones at all. So Martin and me started around 8 min/miles quite comfortably chatting away.My dad was on the course as well and was planning on moving to another location, so would see us four times (because of the loops). Pretty good! Martin’s lovely wife and adorable pooch was also going to be on the course as well, amongst lots of local supporters (and the legend that is Rebecca – the Lee-On-Solent RD, otherwise known as the nicest woman on the planet).The first stretch passed through the Lee café/shop area where there was lots of support and cheering and then headed down to Hill Head where my dad and me often go to walk our dogs. We then turned around and headed back – but this time along the promenade rather than the road.There were nice parts where you could see people coming the other way so you were able to shout over to people and cheer them on. There were lots of local runners and Hedgies doing it so there was always someone to wave to and cheer on. There was a great samba band which was cool as well. There were a number of water stations (I think at least two stations but we obviously went through them each twice due to the loop. They had those squeezy bladder things which took a bit of sorcery to get into (though far more safe underfoot as they just give way straight away).
We saw my dad several times on the course which was lovely. He’d told me at what miles he’d be at and he literally stood on the road markings for those miles. A man of his word. He cheered us on and took some photos. The perfect supporter 😉
At around 7 miles we reached back to where we’d started and we turned around to do the loop again. We were still chatting away and in a good place. Martin seemed to be alright and I was feeling quite good, despite the four miles beforehand. As we got closer to the turnaround bit near Hill Head (around 9-10 miles) I noticed Martin not talking as much. He told me to carry on chatting but not to expect much of a reply. He was struggling a little – nothing major but just needed to “regroup” and focus. I did what I do best: talk about fluff and nonsense and hoped he was OK.As we got back on the prom we started slowing down a bit. We crept near 9 min/miles. I wondered how this was going to go. Martin told me to go on without him and I told him not to be so silly. I wasn’t running the half for a time and wasn’t going to leave him behind. The tricky miles were 11-12 where our speed dropped.The hard part about this half is that you can see where you’ve got to run to, and it looked really far away. Mentally this is tough. Even though we had “less than a parkrun to go”, the distance still loomed out ahead of us, hugging the coastline.As we got to just one mile away Martin got back in the game and our pace bumped back up towards 8 min/miles. I ran ahead of him and kept checking behind to make sure I didn’t run too far away. I wanted him to use me as a target and almost like a pull to keep him going. After we’d seen my dad at mile 11 he shouted that he’d see me at the finish. Then as we got closer to the finish I saw him drive past us and then wait in the queue of traffic waiting to be let through due to the road closures. He beeped and shouted out the window which was fun. I jokingly said to Martin something along the lines of “BMW drivers, eh!” hehe. The crowds and excitement built nicely as we got closer to the finish and this spurred us on. We managed to finish strongly, just two minutes off his PB (my time was 1:46:40). I’m proud of Martin because despite wobbling a little, he came back strong, and considering he hadn’t been training for a half PB he did fantastically!
I really enjoyed this race. It was a fantastic course, well organised and the weather certainly helped. Though the conditions were ideal, I’m glad I didn’t attempt racing it. I’m not really in that frame of mind at the moment and I’m much more preferring a social long run. To be honest, I got a solid 17 miles in around 8 minute miles so I can’t complain at all! And I felt good and didn’t get injured, so happy days!Also, can we talk about just how good the goodie bag was? Not only did we get a very cool and colourful medal but we got a proper material bag, a juice drink, a banana, Mini Cheddars, a Lion Bar, a cereal bar AND a homemade chunk of cake! I was a little dismayed at first not to find water but actually there was a huge water stand right at the finish where you could grab a few cups. It must be said though, I did actually give the contents of the bag to the food bank when I went to Tesco a bit later (obviously not the homemade cake 😉). They’re not really the sort of things I’d snack on but I hate wasting food.

So the demons are GONE. Gosport Half Marathon done and dusted. Another race failure scrubbed out. Long may this good running continue…

What do you like to see in a goodie bag?

Have you ever run to a race?

Bottles, cups or squeezy water things for a race?

**Thank you Michelle, Hammy and Martin Lewis for the great photos (and my dad of course)**

The Great South Run 2017

I hadn’t planned on running the Great South Run (GSR) as I hadn’t entered. It’s another race I had bad feelings about.

I ran it in 2013 and aimed for a really ridiculous target time which set me up for high pressure and ultimately inevitable failure. I also became injured afterwards and subsequently didn’t run the first marathon I’d set my sights on (Portsmouth Coastal, which to do this day I’ve still not done). So, bad joujou.

The GSR is an expensive race (over £40) and it’s always very busy and very windy, being right along the coastal front of Portsmouth. So I didn’t sign up… but the week before I saw how many of my club and people I knew who were and I started to get that classic ‘fear of missing out’ feeling. The thought of running 10 miles on my own on Sunday sounded really unappealing. Since the marathon I’ve been a bit “meh” about long running because I don’t have any set training plan yet. Not an issue in itself but I kind of wanted to keep my long runs around 8-10 miles so I didn’t have to build back up in November (and I have a half mid-November).

So when a place became available by a lady in my running club who’d double-booked herself, I was there like a shot. I fancied a pressure-free, good atmosphere run with thousands of people to get the mojo going again – and nicely hit 10 miles again (and maybe get rid of the bad joujou). The GSR doesn’t allow bib transfers or deferrals (which, for the cost of the race, I think is very cheeky) so I would need to run as “Sarah”. It didn’t bother me as it wasn’t a goal race.

I asked my parents if they fancied supporting but my dad sadly was busy with work but my mum was up for it. My dad likes to pull my mum’s leg by saying he’s the better parent because he supports most of my races whereas she stays behind (her excuse always being to look after the dogs… sure, sure) so she was quite chuffed to have one over my dad on this occasion. I was just chuffed to have an adult supervise me.

As the GSR is over in Portsmouth, which is just up the road from us (but far enough away for us to be safe… ;-)), I didn’t think we needed to leave crazy early and I was rather relaxed about the whole race morning. My mum suggested that our 9am leaving time for my 10.38am start might be somewhat pushing it but I hand-waved her away saying as long as we got to Gunwharf Quays (where we’d be parking) by 9.30am we’d have loads of time to walk the 3 miles to the start. I’m sure long-term readers and anyone who knows me can see the problem already. Logistics and timings left in my incapable hands would only lead to disaster.My alarm was set for 8.20am… kit on (sadly not my usual HERC running vest due to my vest having “Anna” on the front which would look strange next to the bib with “Sarah” printed on), no breakfast, just a coffee and I was good to go. Well it didn’t take long at all to get into Portsmouth. Unfortunately that’s where we stopped… the traffic was horrendous. We crawled along and 9.30am came and went. I tried not to panic, because really there was nothing that could be done. It’s not like I could have jumped out of the car as we were still on the motorway. We saw the park and ride was completely chocka block and continued with our Gunwharf Quays plans. Only to find that road closed. In the end we parked in the Cascades car park – which, despite still being a good 3 miles away, was actually perfect. They opened the shopping mall just as we arrived and I dashed inside to use a PROPER loo. How fabulous.Then it was a quick march to the start. It was cold and windy and my mum, bless her, struggled to keep the pace. We spotted the lovely Rebecca ready to marshal and she gasped when I told her my wave. TRYING NOT TO PANIC. As we got about a mile away my mum said she just couldn’t continue at that pace and I should go on. What my mum really needed was a hot drink (she was, as she describes, “feeling woo”). I 100% didn’t want to de-layer at this point but felt terrible to force her on so reluctantly handed her my coat and bag that she was kindly going to look after. She knew my wave and vague timings. I told her to go and sit in a coffee shop and I’d see her around 12.Actually it was probably a good thing I headed off on my own because I was able to run to the start (I would have been far too cold to have walked). I got there at 10.35am and looked around for my wave. I had a little peep at the elite wave (tried to spot my super speedy blondie-making friend Michelle) and then walked down to my wave. I couldn’t see it but could see the orange wave who looked like they were about to get going. Well I was all warmed up and the thought of standing around and getting cold again sounded awful, plus this would mean I’d finish a bit earlier for my mum.

So within five minutes I was starting! This was somewhat stressful as I tried to get my headphones working, only to realise I hadn’t paired them with my old phone that I was using. So I now had a pair of useless headphones I had to wear for the entire race…wonderful. That said though I actually didn’t need them. The atmosphere of the race was enough and I found whenever I passed by any supporters playing music it boosted me up and really motivated me.The first few miles were crowded with people, as is always the case. The wind was gusty and blustering around us but generally OK. At this point you’re feeling fresh anyway so the wind isn’t an issue. My pace for the first mile was just under 8  minutes as I was weaving in and out of people. The crowds were fantastic, cheering us along, and I felt very relaxed.

As you head into Old Portsmouth you hit mile two and run through the Historic Dockyard. This is always a fun bit (a brief bit of cobbles, but over very quickly) as you get to see the HMS Victory and the Mary Rose museum (so many trips their as a child…). I chuckled at some of the Navy statues that were dressed up for Halloween.My pace increased and I continued to overtake people. There’s an out and back section mile 4-5 and I enjoyed spotted people I knew and shouting to them. As I wasn’t wearing my traditional HERC vest I wasn’t easy to spot so was able to creep up (well, run up) next to fellow Hedgies and say hi.

There were lots of water stations around the course and they had small bottles, which I always prefer as you can take them along with you for a bit, but one blew across the road and I turned my ankle on it which was quite painful and concerning. Luckily though after the initial turn it was fine, whew!! Apparently my ankles aren’t injury prone like the rest of me.

The GSR is very flat – barely any elevation changes – but it does change direction a few times and this can mean you’re suddenly battling the wind, or the wind is nicely pushing you along. There are so many crowds cheering you all along the course which helps buoy you along too. I spent a lot of time looking out for my mum wondering if she found a spot to stand, but I didn’t see her. I spotted a few people from work which was cool though.

I was feeling fantastic, despite my pace seeming ridiculous to me. I’m sure the wind definitely helped at points! I ran past Rebecca at her marshaling point around mile 5 but she didn’t notice me. I ended up hollering to her and her friend nudged her to spot me which made me laugh.

As I got to mile 6 the wind was really on our backs now and it felt fantastic, albeit annoying with my pony tail and flyaway hair bits getting in my face (I was happy to accept this tho with the benefits of the wind pushing us). Amazingly I saw my friend Sarah (not the Sarah I was running as) from my club around the same mile where I saw her the last time I ran. I was having a very bad time then and ran with her the rest of the way. This time I said a quick hello and carried on. She was listening to music and seemed very focused.

By mile 7 I felt my first “dig deep” moment where I would have quite liked to have had some music to keep me motivated. Instead I had a mash-up of Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic and Daft Punk Harder better Faster Stronger spinning round my head randomly. Miles 7-8 are away from the seafront and are a bit of a lull moment. I was also well aware that at mile 8 we’d be turning onto the seafront and heading straight at the wind with no shelter. It would be tough. Someone from the crowd shouted it was almost time for the final sprint and a few people chuckled wryly; two miles is not time to sprint! A lady next to me muttered that it was the worst two miles as well. Yep!

As we turned the corner the wind did indeed push against us, but surprisingly not as bad as I remembered. It was hard, yes, but not horrific. I played the game of chasing bibs ahead of me and slowly reeled people in. I saw my pace was sub seven minute miles and had no idea how I was doing it, or if I could maintain it. But I kept going.

A novelty about a 10 mile race is you are running to the mile, not the 0.2 or the 0.1 like in most other races. There was no great ambiguity of how far you’d have left to run like there sometimes is in the other distances. Just get to that beep on the Garmin! I knew I’d added a bit more mileage due to all my weaving but not a huge amount. I could see the finish ahead and I sprinted to it, giving it my all.I checked my time, 1:13:23! I couldn’t remember exactly what my PB was as I hadn’t checked beforehand (I didn’t think I was aiming for it as I’d had a rough goal of sub 1:18). I was pretty sure it was 1:15 something though so was fairly certain I had it in the bag. Either way I was OVER THE MOON. Such a comfortable race (not easy, but not a lung-busting omg I’m going to be sick feeling – comfortably in control of a good effort feeling), with no music and just a general sense of happiness all the way round. No niggles. No issues. Just a fantastic race. On a quick check of my blog (so handy to have my PBs stored there) I found I had indeed got a PB of 1min 50 seconds. Not too shabby! And FINALLY a decent 10 mile race. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a good one before.
I saw some of my club volunteering and had a quick natter and a hug before heading over to pick up my medal and goodie bag. I was really pleased to see that there was a technical t-shirt in the bag as well – it always used to be a cotton t-shirt! Though it’s still rather large despite being a small.I saw some of my club who’d run and we chatted away – all seeming to have had a good run. A few selfies and I rang my mum to find out where she was. Apparently she’d seen me around mile 5 which was nice.After meeting up we started the long 3 mile walk back to the car. I was glad to put my jacket back on, but with my medal prominently out of course.We stopped in Starbucks on our meanders back, now that my hunger was kicking in (I did’t fancy the giant protein bar in the goodie bag. Almost 300 calories! That’s a meal). A hot coffee though would tide me over. I would be back-loading my calories in a big way, so don’t worry I wasn’t going to go hungry all day!

We made it home substantially quicker than it took to get there and I wolfed down a solid lunch before showering and getting ready for my friend Sarah’s (ANOTHER Sarah would you believe!) baby shower. It took place in the very lovely Tea Room in Lee-On-Solent (of which I’ve been to many, many times).Sarah had no idea so when she walked in with her husband, Ant (who, by the way has recently stepped over from a non-running friend to a running friend), and she was so surprised. We’d hired out the entire place so it was a really lovely afternoon. I’m not really one for baby-related stuff but it was great. Lots of fun games and laughter.

The waitresses then brought round afternoon teas for everyone. I immediately bagged myself a fruit scone and a slice of red velvet (you gotta be in it to win it when it comes to food…). I humoured myself by having a couple of token chicken sandwiches before slathering the delicious scone with jam (first of course) and then clotted cream. OH SO DIVINE.There were boxes provided to take cake home but this was highly unnecessary for me. In for a penny, in for a pound and all that. I was apparently the only person to do the full afternoon hog of sandwiches, scone and full slice of cake. I’m not even sorry. I even had a little bit of the chocolate cake that someone had sliced in half (sliced in half? I don’t understand this). I know, I know. I’m far too greedy for my own good. The sugar coma I fell promptly into was fully deserved. But I tell you what, it was worth it.Can you manage a whole afternoon tea?

Have you ever done one of the Great Run series before?

Do you like a 10 mile race? 

New Running Goals

After a surprisingly successful Bournemouth Marathon, I’ve now got my sights on the what’s next. Usually when I start to do any concrete forward planning (like entering races and building training plans) I get injured so watch this space.

My next marathon (there is always a “next marathon”) will hopefully be the Dubai Marathon at the end of January. It scares me somewhat to know that that’s less than 15 weeks away. But I’m not silly enough to be jumping back into super long runs for a good few weeks. In fact, I plan on taking the rest of October at a fairly languid pace. I’ll run how I fancy and won’t be looking to make anything feel too intense.

In terms of upcoming non-marathon races, I’ve signed up to the Gosport Half Marathon, which is in November. Despite this race literally being up the road from me, I’ve never actually run it. Though I have entered it FOUR times. Each time I was injured before the start. I genuinely feel this race is cursed for me and signing up to it again concerned me greatly…am I condemning myself? I really don’t want to get injured.

If I do somehow manage to get to the start-line, I won’t be racing it. Why not? Ehhh… I just don’t fancy going for it, if I’m honest. It’s a little too soon in my marathon training plan for that and the fact that there are no headphones allowed (not even Aftershokz) mean it’d mentally be a really hard race. It’s a very boring course, up and down the coast, and usually in atrocious weather. Yes, yes “great training” for Dubai but I’m one of those people who likes to do things they enjoy rather than torture themselves for the “good of training”. There will also be lots of fellow Hedgies running it so I’d rather tag along and just “enjoy it”. Again, if I even make it there.

I have another On The Whistle lapped race in November which will be nice. I enjoyed the last event they did but I was injured coming back from Austria so I could only do one running lap and one walking lap. It’ll be an ideal time (end of November) to use as a catered, friendly long run as well.

So the Dubai Marathon. Technically not a Major, but it has the feels of a major due to the number of elites who enter it (due to the rather larger price fund). It’s also in a part of the world that I’ve never been to before, and, if I’m honest, not really thought about ever going. This gives me a great excuse!

Now, I knew the course was dull. But on closer inspection it’s REALLY dull. It’s literally an out and back of one road. One very long and straight road. It’s also super flat, which of course can be a great thing but having a little bit of variation can really break up the marathon monotony.