The last long run

So after being in Bristol and then Cheltenham on Friday night and Saturday I then drove to Birmingham.

The plan for the Sunday morning was to get around 9-10 miles before doing James’ running club’s local Grand Prix 5 miles. This race was one of several of the 5 mile series but I hadn’t done any of the others and this was the last one. It was just a nice way to break up a longer run and make things interesting.

As the Grand Prix didn’t start until 11 this gave us plenty of time to have an easy morning (James, a serial tea drinker, probably had about 19 teas in that time) and then head down to the race HQ to register, pay (a mere £6!) and collect our bibs. As we were leaving our bag there to collect later and wouldn’t be back after our long run I needed to tuck my bib in my Flipbelt along with the pins rather than put the bib on beforehand and look like a numpty running the streets of Birmingham.

We set off at a nice easy pace (very easy for super fast James) and the miles ticked by. Running round Birmingham is becoming more familiar to me now I’ve run there a few times…though I’m still clueless really where we were (I’d say to James “we’ve definitely been here before haven’t we?” and he would be like “er no, Anna”. Right. Well it all looks the same to me…Anyway the route was good, the pace felt easy and before we knew it we were in the park where the race would be starting and where the junior 2k race was already underway. It’s a weird thing being in a completely different area in a different running club’s “territory”. I knew a couple of people from meeting them briefly before in my times in Birmingham (and the lovely Helen and Andy Lane who I know through Marathon Talk) but essentially I felt a bit like a foreigner! I mean I know this is the same at a lot of races in that respect, but when it’s a very small and running club focused race it felt very strange. Not bad strange, just different.The field was very small with 68 people running (a combination of it generally being a small event and other bigger events happening on the same day). James mentioned that there were prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd – actual cash prizes! You’d basically get your money back from the race entry which I thought was a fantastic idea for a smaller race. Anyway I lined up where I thought best and solidly decided the most sensible decision would be to go no faster than 7.50min/miles. This would be sensible considering I had run hard the day before and had the marathon the next week.

As the horn blew we were off and I was running 6.30min/mile pace. What an idiot. I quickly realised there was a very speedy female far ahead of me but only one other female just ahead. Hmmm interesting, interesting. I mean, realistically I should have slowed down and taking it easy but the Stupid Anna side of my brain (quite a large portion of my brain I suppose – and probably a very big factor in my constant injury cycle) decided to see if I could scrape a podium finish. I’d get my £6 back! (And then straight away berated myself that I should have bought that £6 Daim Cadbury’s Easter egg the day before…what a lost opportunity).

So I pushed on. I didn’t maintain the ridiculous 6.30min/mile pace of course but eased back into the more comfortable (though still sustained level of effort) of 7min/mile pace. I managed to catch up to the second female and overtake her. OK that was good. I was solidly on the podium even if she caught me back up later.The route basically ran on nice flat paths around a pretty lake. The marshals were lovely and friendly and gave good encouragement. I was fully on the “focus and keep going” mental repeat in my head. I had no music (no headphones allowed) so I distracted myself with giving myself milestones to get to (the kid’s play area, the bridge, the metal fences…things like that) as it was three laps.Miles two and three were tough going. I felt like an idiot pushing the pace so much and spent the entire time worrying I was ruining Brighton and dicing with injury. But Stupid Anna couldn’t bare to drop the pace so dramatically to 8 min/mile and risk people overtaking me and thinking I’d gone out too fast (er, you had Anna). I’ve been very good recently to not let my ego dictate things like this but it’s hard when you’re in a new place and don’t want to look slow in front of new people (I’m well aware that this is a ridiculous argument. I deserve every niggle I pick up really).
My pace dropped to 7.15s but I felt comfortable and I could see two men ahead and decided to keep them I my sight. It’s always easier to run with people – like an invisible lasso helping to pull you along. Ehh five miles was a long way to go in what was basically my fast parkrun pace not so long ago so I needed every help I could get. I told myself repeatedly I could run all easy runs until the marathon and that helped somewhat.

Somehow though I managed to quicken it up on the last couple of miles. I kept the milestones in my head. Knowing I only have two miles to go helped – and basically one lap left of the lake. I managed to pass the two men ahead of me but then I was left with no one ahead to reel in or hold onto. It was tough going. Somehow I managed to hold on and finished strong in 35:05, a very solid performance for me!A solid but stupid performance is probably more accurate. My legs were pooped. Easy days indeed ahead. James got himself another PB (of course he did…not a week goes by eh ;)) and I’d managed to get second female, so happy days all round.We jogged back to the HQ, which got the total mileage of the day up to 15 miles which I was happy with. The week before a marathon I like my long run to be around 13 miles. I know some people do a lot less but for me it helps with my confidence and feeling good in myself.

We got to the sports hall and I had a nice cup of tea with two apples to tide me over until I could get back to something more substantial. Another nice touch of these races is that you’re entered into the small raffle as well. Lots of Easter eggs, wine and chocolate on offer! James won himself a box of Lindt chocolate balls and I won my prize money of £15! So I made myself a nice £9 for the day hehe.The rest of the day including lots of refueling and chilling out.To top the weekend off we enjoyed fajitas and then a healthy slice of a white chocolate and raspberry cookie pie thing. Delicious!

Do you ever do stupid training when you know it’s probably not the best but you just can’t help yourself?

Does your running club have any races like this?

What’s your ideal longer run distance before a race?

Brueton parkrun and so much food

Surprise surprise I was in Birmingham again this Easter weekend. Just can’t keep me away I guess…

I drove up there on Thursday after work. I had a really good dinner of chili in a tortilla bowl. If you’ve never done this, make it immediately. It’s a very tasty way of eating chili. As someone not hugely fond of rice, using a tortilla as a bowl it’s a nice way to get some carbs in (we had cauliflower rice instead, how fancy).Friday James and I went on a run together. Ooooof it was tough. I wasn’t going to be running Sunday as I was going to support James’ 10k race and so would do my long run the next day to parkrun, so it seemed like a good idea to try a little tempo run. Normally I’d have pushed it at parkrun so this was a good switch-up. James was the one suggested it – like I said, he’s good with this proper training malarkey and I probably wouldn’t have gone out and done this on my own (or at least not as fast anyway).

We headed out for a one mile warm-up and then it was pedal to the metal with three miles of tempo effort. I was really dreading this as running fast is just not my bag. We started on a nice downhill so that helped but then headed to a gentle incline. Afterwards though it was just flat. The miles sloooowly ticked by as I tried to focus on keeping my legs turning over and essentially not dying. It’s hard for me to do these sorts of efforts when I’m not in a race or parkrun, or I don’t have music so it helped James was there to push me along. Eventually I finished and had a nice gentle mile cool down. Ehhhh that was tough. It’s nice to see that my miles got quicker… and a 6:19min/mile! I do think there was a downhill that helped speed me up but still I will take that confidence booster!

Saturday was another new-to-me parkrun, Brueton parkrun. I needed to get my long run in so James planned me a route to run there (as he obviously knows the area and how to get to that parkrun) and then I’d do a few more miles afterwards to make it up to 17 miles in total. I mean I could have run all the miles I needed beforehand but I wanted a bit more sleep.

James put the route on my watch so I didn’t have to memorise anything – this was so new to me, having my watch tell me where to go! Very handy as he wasn’t going to be running with me due to his 10k the next day, but he’d meet me there and then drive me back.

But I think there was still a strong level of concern from both of us about where I’d actually end up… the Anna’isms are strong to overcome. I headed out just after 7am into the cold and wet weather. It was pretty miserable. I got my watch going and was fascinated when the little arrows appeared telling me where to turn. It was relatively straightforward but I did manage to go the wrong way WITHIN TWO MILES. I mean, come on Anna get it together. I just couldn’t see the way I was supposed to go as it looked like a dead-end. So I went back on myself and then found a route that followed the little map line as close as I could so I knew I was at least heading in the right vague direction. My watch told me I was off course but when I eventually found my way back onto the planned route it told me I was back on it, which was handy.After that there were no major issues, aside from my hands being rather cold and having to dodge out of the way of cars flying through large puddles in the road and almost splashing me. I took a quick photo on a pretty bridge crossing a canal but otherwise ploughed on to the park and found James warming up. Woohoo! Disaster averted.My legs however were feeling heavy and tired. parkrun was going to be a grind.I plodded round as best as I could and faded majorly in the middle…my legs just seemed to go “nope” before I eventually managed to claw my speed slightly back up as I could see the end was in sight.
The course was a two lapper and split nicely into a loop round the park bit and then a loop next to the pretty lake. It was a flat course and I’m sure it would have been a nice one to have tried some speed on had I felt any oomph in my legs and not run 11 miles there.My time was 24.32 but definitely felt a lot slower. Honestly it felt like a terrible run.After finishing parkrun we went for another three mile run to get my long run up to 17 miles. If I felt tired during parkrun it was nothing compared to this awful crawling grind. I just felt empty and flat. I felt bad for James as I was properly slogging along and dragging my feet.My hands were SO cold. I’d made the mistake of using my Nike gloves which are basically just material and because it had been wet they were soaked and this made my hands colder. Taking them off actually felt a lot better than leaving them on! I enjoyed a very nice hot bath (somewhat of a luxury for this shower-loving girl) when I got back which helped me warm up as I felt cold and damp to my bones.

That evening we went to the cinema and saw Ready Player One, which was so good. The music, the characters and the cool pop culture references throughout were really good. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and will check the book out now. I even managed to not buy any pick ‘n’ mix in efforts to save a bit of money and try and be a little healthier in the lead-up to all the chocolate that would inevitably happen the next day.Sunday the tables were turned as I was supporting and not running running at James’ 10k race. I wasn’t really sure how it would be on the other side but actually it was really good fun. The race was the Massey Ferguson RC Easter Tractor 10k, which was a flat three lapper. Having three laps made supporting a lot more interesting as I got to see James and the other runners three times. It was also nice not having to run a 10k race, which I personally detest and nice not running because I was injured. I’d done my running for the week so I could chill.James did amazingly, smashing his PB and getting 37:04…I mean whaaaat. Makes me feel ill it’s so fast. I did get a little annoyed at a fellow supporter who was near the finish while I was cheering. I was clapping and yelling generic supportive things, as you do, like “final push” and “keep going”, that kind of thing. He turned round to me and said “don’t say that, he was miles ahead of the person behind so just needs to cruise into the finish and not push anymore”. Erm, huh? What if he was after a certain time or wanted to smash his PB? Also, don’t tell me what I can and can’t cheer, buddy. What a knob.That afternoon saw me almost completely demolish my extra thick Daim Cadbury’s Easter egg (good god it was good). I was in a very happy place. I did have a moment of panic when I hurt my jaw though. I think I bit into the chocolate a bit too hard and something clicked making chewing really painful. I had a painkiller and it pretty much disappeared after about 10 minutes, thank god. Honestly, can you imagine that?? During Easter of all times! (Probably karma for my greediness I suppose).That evening to fully concrete my greedy person status, we went to an amazing restaurant called Hickory’s Smokehouse in Castle Bromwich. It’s a BBQ restaurant serving American-style food which just completely rocks my world.I went for the full rack of Kansas ribs while James had a BBQ platter and we both shared some chicken wings. Ahhh heavenly. I even managed to swap my fries for some frickles.Sadly though for once in my life it just got the better of me. I was UNABLE to finish the ribs. I think I’d overdone the chocolate earlier if I’m honest. My ego was very much dented and I felt like a failure 😉 After a pause of eating we did go for some pudding though as I feel like that’s an entirely different stomach.I went for the s’mores…which was a buttery biscuit base with melted chocolate and toasted marshmallows. Ahh soo good. And luckily not hugely rich or stodgy so could fit quite nicely into my already stuffed tummy. Happy days 😀

Did you eat a lot of chocolate over Easter?

Do you like to saviour your egg or eat it quickly? I wish I could but I’m far too greedy.

Have you ever run a route using your watch?

The Ironbridge Half Marathon

After managing to get a last minute place at the Ironbridge Half Marathon, James and I headed to Telford on Sunday (I was up in Birmingham after a work conference hanging out with James). A huge thanks to the Telford Harriers for allowing us to sneak in last minute and the faff that was involved in getting us bibs!

The plan was to get six miles in before the race and then with the race that would give me 19 miles. Great marathon training. However after parking, having a quick we in the nearby shopping centre and finding the registration area in the Telford Country Park we decided to do a shorter one before and then another after as we were worried about time. We picked our bibs up, dropped our stuff back at the car and then headed off for a very gentle 3.6 mile run. James is really good at keeping me slow and focused. I’m just rubbish when it comes to this sort of stuff and he’s a very patient person to my general Anna’isms and idiotic running tendencies. 
Annoyingly the race was delayed by 15 minutes so we could have done the whole six miles but such is life, can’t be helped! Anyway we lined up and got ready. For once I had some awareness of the course and the elevation profile and knew the first five miles would be downhill. And then it would be a mix of sharp inclines over a general incline. Nice
.

As I started my pace was around 7.45-50min/miles. It didn’t feel that easy if I’m honest and made me wonder if I’d ever be able to run a marathon one day at that speed! One day…one day. I guess my speedy parkrun the day before didn’t help matters. Anyway I did eventually find my rhythm. I think this is why I’m more a long distance runner than a sprinter. Takes me time to get into the zone.The course was really pretty (these northern places eh). We were running along compacted dirt and a nice straight track down to the River Severn. I zoned out a bit and relaxed into it, knowing I should enjoy these miles now before it got harder later.

The fifth mile was so downhill it was amazing. Like literally flying down the road. We ran past the Blist Hill Victorian Village museum which I’ve been to as a child and made me smile as I flew past it. Good memories 🙂We hit the river and ran alongside it for a bit. I was just waiting and waiting for the up hills to begin. I was listening to a podcast but decided to switch to a bit of Taylor Swift – very easy listening and I could dip in and out as I liked. Plus I couldn’t be bothered to faff about on my phone while running to try and find anything better, Swifty would have to do.Sadly the actual Iron Bridge was under construction so we couldn’t actually see it as we crossed over because it was all covered up. But this took nothing away from the beautiful surroundings, the quaint little village of Ironbridge with the lovely shops and cafes. The buildings were really pretty, like old school English village style. And there were so many supporters out in force clapping and cheering. It was fantastic!Funnily enough there were so many bridges in this race. You ran over a couple but mainly ran underneath so many. It was just such a beautiful area to run around. But yes, after running through the main Ironbridge area we hit The Hill. My god that hill. It was horrific. Not only was it ridiculously steep but it went on FOREVER. I remember passing a supporter and the guy next to me asked him if we were nearly at the top and the supporter was like “ermm a tiny bit more” but so clearly trying to be nice because it went on for fricking ages! It wasn’t steep enough for me to consider walking instead of running but it was a thigh burner I assure you.

After that hill there were a few more inclines but really it wasn’t too bad. I felt really in the zone now and was happily clipping along. We hit some off-roady areas and I spent some time sliding around in the mud but I managed to overtake people as I went and had no one overtake me. The dreeeeeam. One older chap cheered me on as I passed him saying “well, yes, you go go go, girl!” which made me smile.Then we hit back into the same path we originally started on. Meaning a long incline back to the start area/finish. 

I felt a second wind and managed to out the gas on a bit. In the distance I saw James jogging towards me (having finished a lot earlier). As he reached me he turned and ran back with me giving me words of encouragement. I couldn’t quite hear him because of my music (and I just had no energy to turn it off) but it was nice to have him there pushing me along, even if I did want to hurl. He left me at the final turn up the hill (ehhhhh) to the end and I finished what felt like a strong sprint (in reality, a very small increase in pace ha). My time was 1:40:19. And the announcer attempted to announce my finish but royally guffed it up as everyone seems to do: “And here’s Anna <pause> erm Smith <pause> Smith Jones? No wait hang on… <pause> ah Anna Smith-James!” The thought was there I guess.The goody bag was awesome. A proper sturdy bag with a zip compartment at the bottom for trainers! And the medal, a water, a Mars Bar and a technical t-shirt. Happy days!
James met me at the finish. He’d smashed his PB by like three minutes – 1:23:56. Yeah. Rapid. He’d already done his extra miles by running to me so I headed off to do mine while he grabbed a Costa. My legs felt a bit like jelly to begin with but loosened up and I basically did a very similar run to the first one.
I listened to a podcast and trucked along, probably too fast (no James to rein me in) and managed 3.3 miles, bringing my total for the day to just over 20 miles! I am beyond pleased. And EVERYTHING FELT OK. So so pleased.

I met back up with James and we headed to a dessert place we’d clocked before the race where we picked up a unicorn cake for me…Yeah I have no idea but it looked cool with all its colours, Ferraro Rocher cake for James and corresponding gelatos (that’s how the cakes came) and with two scoops of our own chosen gelatos because we’re both greedy hectors.I went for white chocolate and red velvet while James just had red velvet. I mean, whaaaat. It was so so good. Except my unicorn gelato was not. Not my thing at all – it tasted like overly sweet bubblegum. Nope nope nope.

So a very solid few days of running and eating. Just the way I like it!

What makes a good course for you in a race?

Do you prefer to add miles on before or after if you’re extending a race?

What is your gelato flavour of choice?

Marathon Talk Run Camp – part 2

On to the Sunday of the Marathon Talk Run Camp at Sandy Balls in the New Forest, we had a 10 mile “eliminator” style run planned.

*Catch up with Part 1 of the Run Camp here!*

So the idea was that we had a 10 miles race, but there were two stipulations (asides from a set course over the New Forest countryside – following a similar route to the Heartbreaker Half): one was that we had to finish at 12. You were given on point for every second you finished before 12 and two seconds for every second after 12. The more points the worse you did. The second stipulation was that you weren’t allowed to wear a watch, or if you did it had to be taped over. Essentially you had to pace yourself on feel only.

This did make me somewhat anxious. Not knowing my pace or the number of miles I’d done… I mean, what! I already knew I was going to run it as an easy long run but this meant I really had to tap into my body as to what easy actually was without having any paces fed back to me. Tough. Especially as I do tend to run quicker than I should for easy runs. I decided to go with starting at 10:40, to give myself an hour and 20 minutes, which would mean 8.30min/miles…not that i would be able to properly tell!

In the morning, the lodge was all up around the same time. John decided not to run to be super sensible about a pesky niggle he was experiencing – very wise of him. But the rest of us would be running and would be leaving at different times because of their different paces they’d be running and time goals. I didn’t have any breakfast as I never do before long runs so could have a little bit of a lie-in (thank god for finding my ear plugs). James, Michelle and I walked down to the start area together as we were roughly going around the same time and wanted to walk. I mean, just to be clear, I wasn’t going anywhere near as fast as those guys  but it was nice to have the warm up walk beforehand together.Unfortunately I left it a little too late and literally arrived at the start with about 20 seconds to go before I needed to start. Happily my fried Ade was there starting at the same time (what a nice coincidence!) and a very lovely lady called Jenny. We all decided to run together which was great. None of us wanted to push the pace so it was a good conversational run. Because the course was a T shape it meant there were a few out and back sections so we could cheer on other runners who had gone out before us and were coming back down a path we were running along, making it a lovely social run.Unfortunately, because we were talking so much we missed the TWO turnaround arrows on the floor. We didn’t realise until we reached a car park – about 0.25 miles on from the turnaround. We quickly headed back in a bit of a panic (no wonder it had suddenly got quiet with no other runners about!). This meant we’d added about half a mile to our route. As if pacing 10 miles wasn’t hard enough with having no watch, we now had to either quicken up to make up the over-distance or find a way to lose 0.5 miles.We were now no longer plodding along happy as Larry… we were brainstorming where to turn early or what time it was or what pace we were doing. Argghh! We decided that we’d turn around early at the next part of the “T”. I was concerned I hadn’t seen Michelle or James… when we finally saw them heading back along the other “T” they looked at us confused as this was far too late to be seeing us now. We decided a few minutes further to turnaround because at this point we’d never catch up with the main group of people – and therefore would not finish before 12.God, honestly it hurt my brain to try working everything out and adjusting ourselves to other people. Of course we assumed everyone else had their pacing strategy perfect which of course invariably they did not, making it even more of a mess.We even panicked further on thinking we might not even make 10 miles if we’d have turned too soon. What would be worse than finishing too late would be finishing the run having not even completed the 10 miles! So we collectively decided to turn around again and do a tiny out and back to make sure we’d hit 10 miles…just to be safe as we were worried we’d turned around too soon. We agreed we’d rather do over 10 miles than under. This did make us look a bit silly as other runners passed us… they must have thought we were trying to cheat which just mortified me. I tried to explain what we were doing but mostly people just looked bemused at us. Dear oh dear.Regardless of this silly mess-up (the curse of running with the idiot that is Anna? Quite possibly), it was a lovely lovely run. The sun was out, the views were beautiful, it wasn’t that windy and we were still enjoying each other’s company. Despite feeling somewhat stressed and generally in a state of confusion (my natural state perhaps), I was thoroughly enjoying the run. As we got closer to the finish we picked up our speed. The end finishes on a horrible horrible steep uphill. James was at the top looking all chilled and fresh having finished about 10 minutes before (he over-shot it) while we scrambled up, everything burning, and me trying not to look like I was dying. Probably failed there ha.
In the end we finished 1 minute and 40ish seconds over 12… so not too bad considering we’d also run 0.6 miles over the 10 miles!! Ahh what idiots we were 😉 But we all agreed we enjoyed the run, chat and the farce of trying to figure out how to rectify the situation. Smiles all round. John was at the finish cheering us all in which was nice.James and I then walked back to the lodge… James had forgotten that he’d been looking after Chris and Kate’s key for their car so while we were walking back, blissfully unaware, another car caught up to us with Kate in it asking for the key back as they couldn’t drive back… oh dear. For once not an Idiot Anna Move – not my fault at all ha.

We got back to the lodge and I got into the shower pronto as I needed to wash and blow-dry my hair (I was so grateful that the guys let me go first, very kind of them – sharing a shower between six people is tough!). And then we headed off to the lunch with the Marathon Talk crew – a delicious Sunday roast dinner with all the trimmings. Delicious!Then it was a case of saying goodbye to everyone. Obviously this also meant getting my standard photo with Martin and Tom…I’ve now done this every year I’ve been and the motage is quite cool.I know this is going to sound like overly sentimental guff (of which I rarely like to do) but Marathon Talk is such a fantastic community of people. I’ve met so many good friends through it and had such brilliant times with the different events (not to mention the actual podcasts themselves being a good listen). I hope to continue being involved in more events they put on! So big thanks to them.

For once I’d decided this year to stay until Monday as James, John and Michelle were too and it was nice not to rush off. So we headed back to the lodge to chill for a bit and then later we decided to head to a local pub down the road for dinner…the roast dinner clearly hadn’t touched the sides.Happily a few others joined us: Mark, Vicky and Stuart from the Austria Run Camp and Mark’s friend Caroline. Such a lovely bunch of people!I went for rump steak with a jacket potato and Stilton sauce….SO good. Followed by a large wedge of bread and butter pudding with ice cream. Perfection. We said goodbye to the others who were leaving and then headed back.The next morning, we got ourselves sorted. Michelle, the crazy girl, went out for a 5k run while James, John and I went for a walk to find the actual Sandy Ball, which I didn’t realise existed! The weather was lovely and it was a perfect way to end such a great weekend.Happy legs, happy tummy, happy heart.

Are you involved in any running or fitness communities?

Have you met friends through running that you stay in touch with?

Have you ever gone wrong in a race?

The Dubai Marathon 2018

The alarm went off at 5am. I was aiming to be in a taxi between 5-5.45am. The journey to the start-line was only ten minutes away and we were advised to get there 90 minutes before the beginning (7am) – but I thought an hour would be more than enough time (very glad I did this!). The race was originally supposed to start at 6.30am but I found at the Expo they’d changed it to 7am which was good in terms of having more sleep but not as good in terms of the temperature.

In the morning I got my kit on, including my dad’s jumper to throwaway at the start as it was cool in the early morning, popped my porridge in the microwave that I’d prepared the night before (we were staying in an apartment with a kitchen), went to the loo and said goodbye to my mum. She was heading down to the finish area around 7am to mosey about and catch me running.I had a mini porridge meltdown, literally! My amazing container I’d gotten from Waitrose (yes Waitrose) the day before had melted a bit! (I had no milk but brought a sachet of chocolate protein powder which helped make it taste a bit less bland).
I had no time and no other breakfast options so I just took it with me and hoped I’d not die from plastic contamination.

I got a taxi (they work 24/7) and asked him to take me to the marathon start and after he looked confused I clarified with the Dubai Police Academy. As we got closer to the start area he said to me the roads were closed and couldn’t go any further. He still looked confused when I explained I knew and it was due to the marathon. The marathon was not really known about to people who weren’t involved. I jumped out and surveyed the start area.It was super foggy and dark. It wasn’t that cold – maybe 12-15 degrees Celsius? Positively balmy for us Brits 😉 I ate my porridge (didn’t taste of plastic. Win!), drank my Beet It! shot and then decided to find the loos. The loos (not portable loos but more like posh proper temporary loos) were literally a 10 minutes walk away from the start.There were no loos near the start. I went to the loo, then walked back to the start. It was 6.15ish… 45 minutes to go. So I turned around and walked back to the loo again. Might as well! Nothing else to do.What I really didn’t like was that as the start is right next to the finish we could see all the boxes of medals and could see the finish-line. In fact we had to walk through it. I was getting very bad joujou! What was odd as well was that there were non-runners in this area supporting their runners. So you’d see people clearly not going to be running the marathon (in jeans and flip flops etc.) just hanging around the start area. I guess that’s not too odd but it felt weird as normally you’re separated at this point.Then they opened up the proper start but where we could see the start funnel thing. As we walked along there were barriers keeping us in and on the other side of the barriers and road I spotted more loos… a couple spotted them too and conspiratorially we all decided to hop the barriers and use them quickly. The security didn’t look very happy and when I tried to re-hop back over the security tried to stop me but I begged them to let me through rather than walk all the way back round. Very cheeky I know. They kindly let me through, telling me to go quickly. Whew! I ran across the road and then did a Tom Cruise barrel roll over the final barrier and felt like a superhero 😉 I got a few chuckles from other runners.There were lots of different nationalities. Lots of Americans and Brits. I saw some Poles, some Swedes… a good mix! And then we were off!I’d been worried about my calf but as I started running it felt fine. Good good. But we’re only on mile one. It was less foggy now as the sun was rising. The first “chunk” of the race was the 10k out and back. This was the route that the 10k race (starting a few hours later) would be doing.I’d broken the race down in my head in the most obviously way: 10k, then the two loops (another out and back that runs up the Jumeriah Beach Road). I assumed the loop was around 10 miles.As I was running I felt mentally in a very bad place. I had a lot of anxiety in my tummy that I’d never felt before. Normally I’m really excited when the marathon actually begins. It’s all “oooh” and “ahh” and fresh and lovely at the beginning. You’re running a marathon! This is cool! Look at me go! But not this time.I was dreading the course. I had no major milestones to get excited about, no major variations in the course to prepare for. Just a lot of long roads. As I’d felt this way leading up to the marathon in the days before (especially after seeing the road I was going to run along) I’d prepared for this by creating a “feel good” playlist. Normally I only listen to music in the last 10k to power me through to the finish.But I decided I’d have some music to power me through the first boring bits – but not “go go go” music. Just music I enjoyed and could zone out to.I made myself wait until the first 10k was over though before starting it. I wanted to make it really worth it after a chunk of silence. I really needed a wee (yes another one) but there weren’t many loos on the course. I saw people dash into nearby bushes and I realised I’d run out of bushes soon as we got onto the main loop as it would be buildings and shops on the sides, whereas the first 10k was going past fancy hotels with big foliage areas and the beach. I was clearly umming and arr’ing about it as he man next to me laughed and said “just go and do it!” So I dashed off and under what I can only describe as a very light coverage had a quick wee. I imagine several people probably saw my bum. Hey ho.As I headed to the first loop I saw my mum ahead. That really boosted my mood up! I was so chuffed she’d gotten there safely and I’d seen her! She’s not quite my dad’s levels of support (physically I mean, my mum supports in other ways too of course).So I finished the first 10k, whacked the playlist on and zoned out. Ahh just what I needed. I felt much better – music and seeing my mum. My calf felt absolutely fine – hurrah! I still didn’t feel well tho. I could feel I wasn’t quite right – but I kept an eye on my heart rate to make sure it didn’t start to spike really high. It seemed OK.There were no mile markers, just kilometres. I tried to work out how the first “out” of the first loop was but my brain couldn’t do it. This frustrated me as I wanted to know how far I’d be running away from the finish. It didn’t help that because it was two laps the km markers were mixed up with the laps.I tried not to think too deeply that I’d be back on that same stretch after a few hours… The Burj Al Arab (above photo) was basically at the point when you’d start the next lap. It’s a fantastic building but ultimately quite dull after you’ve seen it once. And literally the only landmark on the course (there’s probably more and this is very narrow minded of me to say).What I noticed a lot of was runners who had friend(s) cycling next to them keeping them company. There was enough space on the wide roads (nothing like the closeness of some other big marathons like London or Berlin). It seemed bizarre them being there. But I guess nice for people to support in this way. I also saw a guy running while kicking a football which was fun to watch! Turns out he was trying to break the world record. I don’t know if he managed it and I’ve tried Googling but to no avail!A cool sports car thing drove past and I tried to get a selfie next to it as it was driving slowly.Finally I started to see people running down the other side of the road and this gave me some indication that the turning point was coming up. I tried to do the maths again by using the km markers on the other side of the road to work out how far it would be. It made my brain hurt.Finally I reached the turnaround point. It was a relief to be heading back down towards the end of the loop, though I knew I had a way to go yet.The sun was now shining and it was warm. Every water station I grabbed a water (mini bottles), took a gulp then tipped it over my head, arms and legs. This helped keep me cool for a chunk of time. I was glad I’d decided to take my sunglasses with me as there was no shade. Speaking of the water stations, they were quite disorganised at the beginning. Some of them by even set up and the volunteers scrabbling in the plastic to grab the bottles and get them set out in time. There were energy drinks in cans but I didn’t try any, and no gels or fruit. They did have sponges and buckets of water tho. There were Nike cheer groups (I think they were Nike!) and other local running groups tho who were great and waved flags, clapped and cheered and handed out extra water and trays of fruit.As I got to 13 miles I decided to switch to a podcast (to maximise the effect of my music at mile 20). That helped pass the time. The road was so long and the fact I couldn’t see the Burj Al Arab ahead further clarified how I’d be on this same road for a good chunk of time. The buildings on either side were just shops. I made little milestones in my head (Starbucks, KFC, Costa…). I spotted a guy taking a photo of his friend (neither of them running) in front of the course so I’d dived behind and photo bombed it. They laughed and cheered me which was good! Finally I got back to the Burj Al Arab and knew I’d be turning soon (my 3rd turning it of a total of 4 in the entire race FYI).I spotted my mum again which was great. And then as I hit the turnaround bit I saw her again as I started my second loop.It was nice to see a friendly face and I updated her that I felt hot and tired but was OK. Just over nine miles to go.Whew, second loop. Last time I’d run on that road now. But jeeze did it go on and on. I worked out I’d have four miles to run up it. Four miles in a single direction is flipping awful by the way. With every step forward I knew would mean one step further away from the finish that I’d have to run the other way. It was mentally destroying.As I hit 18 miles (that’s me trying to show my watch in the selfie above) I was mentally struggling. The road was killing me. It was just so long and straight. The sun was beating down. There weren’t many people around me to latch on to. It was tough.I tried to grab some energy from the spectators by waving and smiling and clapping – that always helps get them cheering you which boosts you along I find. Plus it’s nice for them rather than you just being another miserable looking runner 😉 I hadn’t taken any gels yet as I hadn’t felt completely right but now my energy had dipped I decided to have one. I threw the other away – I wouldn’t use it and didn’t want to carry it. Any extra baggage was draining right now.I couldn’t wait to get to “just a parkrun to go”. I was using road signs, spectators ahead… anything to break down the distance. I started counting down the kilometres and they seemed to crawl by so slowly. Despite this my pace had picked up. I went past a man and he asked where my energy had come from. I replied I just wanted to finish.I took the above selfie at “one parkrun to go”… that was my thinking with the single finger ha! Around me a lot of people were walking. Though a man overtook me looking strong and peeled ahead so I kept him in my sight and tried to use him to drag me along. We were both overtaking quite a few people. It was so hot. I was still pouring water on myself to keep cool. I got a notification on my watch saying my dad had text saying “just a parkrun to go” from my dad which was JUST what I needed. Yes he was slightly out of sync as I only had just under two miles to go now but it was so nice to know he was tacking and spurring me on.

I saw the bloody Burj Al Arab again and then the sign for “To the Finish”. Yes! Less than a mile to go and I was on the edge. My legs felt like they were going through porridge. Surprisingly my pace was still good… just hold on! It was literally a case of mind over matter. One foot in front of the other. The final straight to the finish was the WORST. The finish funnel seemed miles ahead. There were spectators either side of the road but not vast numbers. I just tried to not stop. My legs were struggling! And then I finished. Whew.

My god. Stopping I felt dizzy and exhausted. I lent on the barrier and just thanked everything holy that I could finally stop running. My time was 3:39:58, just dipping under 3:40. Very pleased indeed!I shuffled along with the other runners, got my medal, some water, a banana, a protein bar, some vitamin water and then tried to find my way out. It was really confusing and I had no idea where to go. I mean, I was post-marathon confused so that didn’t help! I decided to ring my mum as that would be the most sensible thing to do to find her. Bless her she hadn’t realised I’d finished, despite sitting in the stands at the finish-line.Thankfully we found each other fairly quickly. We decided to head to the Souk Madinat Jumeirah which was nearby so we could sit and take a moment. We knew there was a Starbucks in there. It seemed a fitting place to collapse – it’s exactly what we did when I did the Boston Marathon!I also wanted to meet up with the lovely Lily who writes the blog Lily Lipstick who currently lives in Dubai. She was actually the one that first got me thinking about doing the marathon and originally she’d even offered to let me stay at hers. But then my mum fancied joining and it seemed sensible to get a hotel. Lily has helped me so much with all my Dubai related questions (what I could wear, where to go, what plugs I’d need etc.). She was doing the 10k which started at 9am and we were going to meet and have lunch but annoyingly my mum and I had to check-out of our hotel at 2pm (originally we were told 11am, which wouldn’t have been possible at all but thankfully we negotiated 2pm before I booked). 2pm was still this was pushing it as I needed to get back and shower. I messaged Lily telling her we were in Starbucks and she said she’d come and join and have a coffee with us.Lily brought her boyfriend and the four of us sat and chatted with iced coffees. It was lovely. It was so nice to chat and hear about Dubai from them – as they both live and work there. But we were both hot and shattered from the run!

My mum was tired too, bless her. She’d walked a long way as well. It was the hottest day so far. After the coffee we parted ways and my mum and I had a tricky job of trying to find a taxi to get us back to the hotel. The roads were only just opening up after the marathon and the road the marathon took place on is quite a busy one so hailing a cab is very tricky. A car, that didn’t look like the traditional taxi, stopped and said he was a taxi and we jumped in. Reading that sentence… yes I know. Absolute idiots the two of us. I told him the hotel name and area and he said OK, though unlike most of the other taxi drivers he didn’t speak English.

He took us on an unfamiliar route but it made sense at the time as the roads were still closed in different places. At one point we went over a dirt track and I suddenly felt scared. Where were we? He could do anything right now. We were very, very stupid looking back. We did that ridiculous British thing though of not saying anything and waiting it out rather than questioning where we were going. When he eventually stopped we were not in our hotel area at all. I was like “er no this isn’t it”. So he made me type into his phone on Google Maps the hotel name. Thankfully we weren’t far away. When we stopped outside the RIGHT place this time he asked for 50AED. Now from the area we were in to the hotel I knew it should have been around 20AED had we gone straight there. I point blank refused and said “no way, I’ll pay 30”. He argued with me and honestly I would have only give 30 had I not had only two 20s. It was his lucky day. We got out of that taxi very fast.

The rest of the day… I won’t bore you. We had a long day ahead as our flight was at 2:50am. I had a fairly rough time of it as I was getting some seriously bad stomach cramps and starting to feel the effects of running through not being well. Thankfully I was able to eat (when am I not, let’s be honest) and topped up my calories sufficiently through the day. To be honest, the choice of restaurant was just the closest one. I’m not a huge Italian fan (not liking pasta…) but we ended up in an Italian restaurant purely because the host mentioned they do burgers. SOLD!I had a double burger with fries. Bliss. Later on after we meandered around the Jumeriah Beach Resort area and then down the Marina we chilled out in another Starbucks with a coffee and a giant doughnut (for me). Perfection.So in closing, I don’t recommend the Dubai Marathon. It is mentally tough with the boring course and physically hard with the heat (it was a hot heat and not a humid heat thankfully). It didn’t have the glamour of the Majors despite being a bigger marathon and it felt rather lonely at times as the course was so wide and the numbers not big enough. But it’s done and I’m pleased. And the calf survived! It feels fine… though the real test will be when I get running again.

Have you ever been to Dubai?

Have you ever run a boring course? How did you get through?

Have you ever run when ill?