New year, same me

I just re-read my last year’s New Year’s resolution post. I say “resolutions” but I don’t really make them… basically it was what I had planned for the year basically.

It was really interesting. My plan for the Dubai Marathon, that I ran in January, was to “go for it” and my plan for the Brighton Marathon was to just bimble round. How different that turned out! Dubai was my slowest marathon time of the year (3:39:58) whereas Brighton is now my PB (3:16:28). It’s funny how things are never as you plan (well for me certainly).

2018 was a really good year for me in terms of running. I ran five marathons! I put the exclamation mark because this still shocks me. My body is so much stronger. SO much stronger. Regularly going to the gym and working on my strength has hugely helped. I know where my weaknesses are and what to work on. I’ve had minimal niggles, and anything that did crop up disappeared relatively quickly.


I ran 1,633.9 miles. I PB’ed at my 5k (19:40), was five seconds off a 5 miles PB (33:48), unofficiallybeat my 10k three times during training runs (41:49), beat my half marathon PB (1:31:106) and got a new marathon PB (3:16:28). So in purely performance-related achievements, I think I’ve done well!

Hitting my target of running a sub-20 minute parkrun, a goal I had at the start of the year, made me very happy. I mean it was horrifically hard and I felt every single second, but I got there (twice actually, I squeezed a 19:59 at Victoria Docks parkrun). I’m very happy with that time and feel no desire to attempt to go faster. Sure sub-19 minute sounds amazing but so does winning the lottery, some things in life aren’t meant to happen to me 😉

One of my most proud achievements was getting my parkrun Alphabet Challenge completed. It genuinely took me a lot of organising , but I had so much fun along the way. It gave me good excuses to visit friends, go to different places and have adventures. Something I see goes firmly hand in hand with my running.

So 2019. Well, I’d love to do 4-5 marathons again. In the plan currently is a Barcelona in March, Manchester in April (I know, scarily close to each other), Chicago in October (my LAST Marathon Major!!!) and probably Portsmouth Coastal in December again. I see a gap between April and October so I’m sure if all is well I’ll squeeze something in between. But I don’t want to become complacent with my new found “lack of injury” status I have so I won’t make any assumptions lightly!

It might be nice to get close to my marathon PB again. Manchester or Chicago might be viable options as they’re both flat. The New York Marathon showed me I could put a good time in and still enjoy myself so that makes me more inclined to try. But getting under 3:16 will require consistent, solid running and almost certainly with some speedwork put in. This is something I probably should have as a goal… but actual track? No I think I’m done with that. Let’s be honest, going from zero speedwork to intense PROPER speedwork on the track was never going to be a great fit for me.

So perhaps some less formal sessions with Hedge End Running Club (who are a bit more chilled about these things) and some sessions on my own… once in a while anyway. I won’t commit to anything as ludicrous as “once a week” as that’s a lofty target that I’ll never hit. Baby steps.

In terms of my life outside of running… well, if you couldn’t tell I’m very happy. I wouldn’t have thought I’d be this happy last year but I am.

It’s funny because I actually didn’t think I was missing anything. I was quite content bumbling along with my life and didn’t really think I needed anyone to “make” me happy. But there you go. Kyle and I have a lot of adventures planned for this year. I just hope I don’t mess anything up! I mean there’s bound to be many more Anna’isms through the year but I guess that’s to be expected…

Do you make New Year’s resolutions?

What are your goals for the year?

Did you achieve what you wanted in 2018?

Christmas parkrun and all the trimmings

I think Christmas is probably my favourite time of year. I don’t care that it’s usually cold, dark and miserable.

I just love the festive cheer, the music, the happiness and of course the food. As if I need anymore of an excuse to eat silly amounts of chocolate, cake and roast dinners. It’s all part and parcel of the good times.

I also love doing parkrun on Christmas day. It’s kind of a non-negotiable thing for me (unless I’m injured and feeling thoroughly bitter and sad about not being able to run). To me there is nothing better than starting the festive fun with going to parkrun, seeing my friends and having a 5k bimble. Who cares about paces or PB’s, it’s all about the fun and the people (arguably, this is all parkrun should ever be about really).

I got there early to help set the course up. I’ve recently been slacking in this department. I would say “unfortunately” but realistically life has gotten in the way – and in a very good way. Sometimes parkrun has to take a backseat! I love to wear a bit of a fancy dress for the Christmas parkrun and having used my elf outfit last year and my “sort of Santa” outfit a couple of years, I needed to spruce things up.Anyone who knows me knows I’m very bad at arts and crafts and I’m not that creative, so when I came up with my tinsel outfit and actually made it myself I was SO proud. I got so many compliments as well! It cost me NOTHING as well as we had the tinsel and safety pins already (I knew there was a reason I was saving all those pins from races!).As I’d only run the marathon a couple of days before, and my legs were really tired and achy (all that slipping and sliding and a faster pace than anticipated) I wasn’t expecting anything more than a proper slog.Happily my friend Mike offered to run with me which was nice. We could just plod around and chat. I also saw my super fast and amazing doctor friend, Jo, beforehand which was lovely. We seem to only catch each other very occasionally (she’s a doctor up North while her parents are down South) so it’s always lovely to see her, though we keep in touch through the wonders of social media.My legs felt like bricks. And actually I felt very unfit in general. My breathing was struggling and it was just felt very hardwork. I was grateful for Mike taking pity on me and staying with me. It’s amazing how one day you can be flying and the next you can feel like you can barely run.

It was very muddy and the finishing straight was somewhat precarious – no sprint finishing unless you wanted to go head over heels! My time was 24:39, which considering how I felt and the state of my legs I will happily take!Then it was a case of quickly clearing up the course and getting home to start the Christmas celebration with my family.

Christmas with my family is usually quite chaotic and, well, manic. I have a small family but it still manages to be very busy, loud and crazy. We’re not particularly organised so when Christmas dinner cooking happens it can be quite stressful. I usually help my dad and my mum sorts out table settings and things like that (it’s best for everyone she doesn’t get involved in the cooking ;-)).

Anyway, due to some good forward thinking the day before and writing a list of all the different things we needed to cook with their timings, we were fully on the ball. We’d vaguely said 1pm sounded like a good time to eat and I kid you not, two minutes to 1pm saw us all sitting down to eat! WHAT.For the starter, my dad made these delicious roasted cabbage, goat’s cheese and bacon things… so good!Then for main we had the turkey and full trimmings. One of my favourite meals of the year!Yes I realise broad beans are a weird addition but it’s a fun family tradition to include them (hilarious I know… *cough*). I’m not a potato fan, but there were roast potatoes on offer I assure you 😉 I’m very much a stuffing, parsnip and pigs in blankets fan though!

The rest of Christmas was spent playing games with my family, walking (I love a Christmas Day walk!) and then heading to Kyle’s to do much the same. I’m very pleased that I have the stomach capacity to do round two of ALL THE FOOD 😉Kyle’s mum did an AMAZING buffet spread (bless her, she’d done buffalo chicken wings especially for me). The above plate was plate one of many! I also had some cake pops made by Kyle’s lovely sister Lucy followed by silly amounts of chocolate lebkuchen.I got so many lovely presents from Kyle’s family, and of course Kyle. I was OVER THE MOON to have received a Nintendo Switch from Kyle, which I’m now fully addicted to (Crash Bandicoot, how I’ve missed you). We also played a Friends Trivia game which was ridiculously difficult – I mean, we thought we knew Friends but clearly not well enough (who even remembers what WENUS stands for??).

On Boxing Day we headed to Kyle’s dad for even more food.Gammon, beef, pork, turkey… I was in heaven.

Christmas is definitely my favourite time of year. Spending quality time with your family, playing games, watching films and eating silly amounts of food. It’s just the best time of year. Spending it with Kyle as well was really lovely. I’m very glad that we both get on so well with each other’s families – something that is very important to the both of us.

Here’s to many more fun Christmases ahead!

How did you spend Christmas?

What#s your favourite Christmas food?

Did you do a Christmas parkrun?

Legging loving – SKINS DNAmic Ultimate Compression review

Leggings… oh leggings, how I do love you.

I’d say 80% of the time at the gym I’m wearing leggings. I feel less “exposed”. The harsh bright lights of the gym and the fact that you’re not really flying past people, but rather hanging out with them in the same space. And doing squats in shorts isn’t my favourite thing it must be said. So leggings at the gym = BIG tick.

But for running I do prefer to be a bit more “free”. In general my legs don’t get that cold. It’s more my upper body that feels the chills. However, I was recently sent some SKINS leggings to test out from their new DNAmic Ultimate Compression range. Though I was keen to just keep them for the gym, the Biblical rain and wind the other night pushed me to be a bit of a wuss and pop the leggings on.It was dark, miserable, cold and wet and I frankly didn’t want to go outside. But the idea of being a bit more covered up made the experience feel a bit more appealing. So on they went. Yes I realise actual skin is waterproof but these aren’t just regular leggings, they’re compression leggings. As a big fan of compression socks I was quite keen to give them a try.Compression gear enhances your natural blood flow, which can increase the oxygen supply to your muscles and remove lactic acid quicker. The compression is design in a way that it’s strategically placed on the areas where you’d need it the most, helping to keep you going and reduce injuries. For every single marathon I’ve run (and all my long runs) I always wear compression socks. I find they give my calves a bit of extra support and keep cramp at bay.The material of the leggings, as you can imagine, is quite tight but not overly so. I mean, let’s be honest, over the Christmas period I don’t think anyone is feeling their leanest but once you’ve got them on you don’t feel overly restricted (a big concern I had, even after all the Christmas chocolate I’ve been scoffing ;-)).

The design is high-waisted (apparently helping with core-support) – which I love. Anything high-waisted I’m totally on board with. And there’s a back pocket (always handy) and reflective details to keep you seen during those dark runs.

I personally really like these leggings. Though I’ll probably use them more for the gym and super cold runs, they do stick to you like a second skin but they’re not restrictive. I felt very much “at one” with the leggings, not fighting them – even though they had a compression feel to them. And happily they’re squat proof! No nasty see-through issues.They’re launching officially in February 2019, but have pre-launched just last week (18th December), replacing their existing A400 range.

Do you wear leggings or shorts for running?

Is that the same for going to the gym?

Do you wear compression gear?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the leggings for free in return for a review on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 2018

I’d signed up to this race almost immediately after finishing it last year because I enjoyed it so much.

It was just such a good event. The course was interesting, the atmosphere was very festive and relaxed and it was a great way to end the year. Kyle had signed up earlier in the year as he was just getting into running and wanted a challenge. And I guess running with me quite a lot meant that the marathon seemed like the logical step considering I would always sing their praises!After a rather stressful day before (more on that another time), my alarm went off at 7am. The plan was to leave my house at 7.40am to get there for 8ish. I had my bib already and really had nothing else to do there. I’d already planned to have a wee a mile or so where I knew they’d be toilets on the course so I wasn’t worried. Kyle was going from his house so I’d meet him there.I ate my porridge and drank a black coffee and was ready to go. Marathon morning is always a little bit tense and as my dad, mum and I all piled into the car later than we’d intended a bit of an argument erupted. It was about nothing major really but enough to create a very stressful morning. My dad and I very similar personalities and are ridiculously stubborn so neither of us were backing down and in the end we sat in silence on the way to the start.Realising this was not going to go away and not wanting to spend the next 4 or so hours in a grump with my dad as I ran, I decided to make the move to reconciling and happily all was well again. We agreed we’d been very silly.
I jumped out of the car and met Kyle and his family: his two sisters, his two brothers, his mum (his dad, his dad’s partner and son would be at the end) -so quite the crowd! My dad was parking the car and as we were pushing for time, Kyle and I hurried off to the start. I noticed the start was further up the prom which was good news considering last year’s race was 27 miles so clearly they’d rectified this, whew!Kyle barely had time to say much to each other but I wished him lots of luck and then we suddenly realised the race had started! I hoped that it wasn’t too stressful a start for Kyle (but equally far better than waiting around for hours getting cold). Luckily it was chip timed so starting late didn’t really matter. We ran a few paces together before I headed off.

I was very tempted to run with Kyle. It would have been nice to have chatted and been with him, but I knew that the later stages of the race wouldn’t be as fun for him and he might appreciate not having me there wittering away trying to encourage him. It can be quite stressful to have someone run with you and I didn’t want to put any pressures on him with paces. Plus, as selfish as this sounds, I felt like my legs might be feeling good – could I beat last year’s time? (3:47ish).

As we’d started a little late, we were right at the back and the first mile was spent weaving around people and saying hello to people I knew. It was a great way to ease into the race and relax, as I was unable to shoot off too fast. My friend Mark sidled up next to me and we had a nice chat. I then dashed into the toilets when I spotted them and found all six cubicles engaged. Ah well! I didn’t have to wait too long and then I was out back in the race.

I eventually caught back up to Mark. He was running a controlled race (easy at the start, then from halfway picking it up). His pace was probably faster than I’d intended to go but I felt comfortable and it was nice to have a catch-up as I hadn’t properly seem him in a while.

Mark is a very fast and methodological runner. Like me he likes to have his paces fed back to him and the miles planned. We both knew neither of us would do anything too silly and equally if one of us needed space we could tell the other to, politely, go away and no feelings would be hurt.Despite the forecast giving me some anxieties the days before, the rain held off and there was just a moderate breeze. I had my arm-warmers on and short-sleeves. I knew I’d need to remove the sleeves at some point as I was starting to feel just slightly too warm. We were VERY lucky with the weather, but the previous rain that night had caused the terrain to be muddy, slippery and riddled with puddles.The first six miles seemed to fly by. We’d gone over the shingle (no major bottleneck like the year before) and then had the long stretch along the coast to the first point where I’d see Kyle’s and my family. Their cheering was so loud and enthusiastic, it was lovely. I felt very much boosted along.Now it was just four miles until I’d see them again. The great thing about this race is how segmented it is. You don’t get bored because the course is always different… down a pavement, through a forest, on a trail path, back onto pavement. It really helped mix things up and keep you interested.Mark and I chatted away about different training styles, races, life lately, the price of petrol, doughnuts…my mind could focus on other stuff rather than running. I imagine had I been on my own I wouldn’t have been running as fast as we were going, but equally I didn’t feel uncomfortable and could talk so I wasn’t too concerned.I took my sleeves off (annoyingly having to take my watch off to do this) and got them ready to hand over to my dad at the 10(ish) mile point. Again, the whole crew was there and I was so busy smiling, waving and enjoying the cheers that I failed to see a bollard and almost collided with it. To be fair there were two runners ahead of me blocking it and by the time I saw it it was almost too late. Thankfully I managed to quickly avoid a major collision, though it did arouse some laughter from the crowds. But whew, could have been nasty.

And on we went for the three-ish miles to the turnaround point. Now we were facing directly against the wind and amusingly one of the mile signs said “Bloody wind” underneath which made us smile wryly. All the mile markers had different things written on them like Muhammad Ali, Ronnie Corbett and Bowie – I’m guessing legends!

The three miles is a bit of a slog and for me is the most boring part of the route as it doesn’t change much. There were also lots of puddles and it was at that point where you just couldn’t be bothered to avoid them anymore. The nice part of this route is that you get to see other runners (the faster ones and the second leg of the relays) coming the other way.We eventually made it to the turnaround and I suddenly felt a new lease of life – we were heading back! Mark commented that our pace had increased in line with what he’d planned and this concerned me a bit. I shouldn’t be going for it just yet with 13 miles still to go! I slowed down a bit, but the wind was now behind us so helped make it feel less of an effort. I got to spot lots more people coming the other way now, including Kyle! He looked a bit tired but still strong. We waved and smiled and then he was gone. I hoped he’d continue to be as strong as the race continued.We got back round to the infamous bollard spot, now 16 miles, and I saw only my dad. I assumed it was because I was running a bit faster than expected and everyone else was in the pub across the road keeping warm (good choice!). Mark then said he was going to push his pace, so I waved him off and we wished each other good luck and he disappeared into the distance (FYI he finished very strong with 3:22:11).

I popped my music on as I felt I needed to zone out and enjoy some time on my own. The trail was now even more muddy and slippery as more people had gone over it. There’s a precarious bit right next to the water and I genuinely had fears of sliding over into it. Imagine!It started to feel quite tough now. I felt my energy disappearing, mentally and physically. It was now a concerted effort to keep going. I had a bit of my Salted Caramel Cliff Shot and hoped it would boost me up a bit. As I came up to the 20ish mile point I hoped to see my parents again. From a distance I saw a BMW pull up into the car park and I saw my mum get out of the car. My dad remained in the car. I was coming towards them quickly now and I started to wave. My mum saw me and clearly said something to my dad and he quickly jumped out of the car. 

They cheered and waved as I passed and I was so pleased to have caught them in time. It must have been a logistical nightmare to get from the different supporting points (as well as having two of us at different times running).Now I was on my own completely until the end. Just under 6 miles to go and then I’d be finishing. This spurred me on and I started saying mantras in my head that seem so ridiculous in any other setting but during a marathon can really make a difference to me. Basically I’ll think things like “I’m a strong runner” or “I can do this” and “I’ve got this”. I’ve even found myself saying it out-loud during the race if no one is around me. It helps drown out any negative thoughts about how tired I am.

We did the detour bit round the residential areas (due to the tide coming in) and I found myself overtaking a few people here and there. But I just wanted to get onto the front because then I knew how far I had left to go in real terms. This windy route through roads and back alleys was killing me.

Finally we turned the corner to the sea and I saw a girl just ahead. As we turned the wind went fully against us (exactly like what usually happens at the Great South Run). Ooof this was horrible! And in my mind I’d decided to try and overtake the girl. This now meant I needed to run faster than I was before to get past her but with even more effort due to the wind. It was a slow overtake that then caused me a lot of grief because she seemed to speed up a bit. I could hear her feet just behind me and all I wanted to do was get away from her. Eventually though I managed to pull ahead, but the effort level was so hard.

I then wondered where we’d be finishing – would it be where we started or further along near the Pyramids like last time? It was agonising because I just wanted to finish sooner but as we got to the start area I miserably realised no one was there… ehhh, further to go now! I passed a guy who told me I was running strong and doing well, but all I could reply was “gahh can’t talk sorry!”.

People who were casually walking up the prom clapping and shouted encouragement and I tried to keep a smile on my face. Ahead I saw our two families cheering me in and this pushed me to go as fast as I could to the finish. WHEW.My time was 3:25:35, first in my age category and fourth female overall. Damn it was good to stop running! I was so pleased though – I couldn’t believe how fast I’d gone!I collected my medal and goodies and quickly found the guys and asked them how Kyle was doing. Apparently he was three-ish miles away (his brother, Zack, was tracking him using the “Find My Friends” app on the iPhone – so he wasn’t far away at all. We all started wondering what time he’d be able to do – could he get under four hours?Zack and his other brother, Adam, walked up the prom to cheer him in further up and tell him to, well, get a move on basically if he wanted the sub-4! He was literally now only minutes away. We kept looking at the time on the race clock… but I knew we had a few minutes grace  because we started a bit late. It was going to be tight though!

Eventually we saw him coming in, Zack running besides him pushing him on. He squeaked in at 3:59:35. Sub-4!We spent a good amount of time taking photos, chatting and comparing notes of everyone’s day (I love to hear what the supporters get up to while we’re running – invariably my dad always seems to find a good breakfast spot) and I could have burst with pride for Kyle. He was a little battered and tired but he was happy.Ahh what a good day. And of course a huge thank you to our amazing support crew (who even made signs!). It massively helped keep us going and just made the day for us 🙂A fantastic way to the end the year and a fantastic result for Kyle’s first marathon!

Do you enjoy running a race with other people?

What do your supporters do during a race?

Merry Christmas!

Running Lately

So running lately has been going surprisingly well. I have no niggles or injuries and I’m running consistently around 35-40 miles a week, five times a week.

I’m really proud of how things are going. I seem to be in a very happy place with it and my body doesn’t seem to be breaking. Granted I’m not doing much (if any) speed work and I do wonder how much this helps me avoid injury. I also get a lot more enjoyment out of running by not putting myself through track workouts and intervals each week. However I realise I do probably need to incorporate some of that into my week (or every two weeks) to keep my running from going stale and plateauing on progress.

That said, I’m sure you know my views on these things. I’d rather run consistently slow than super fast with numerous breaks for injury recovery. I’m just a happy plodder. If I never get another marathon PB again I’ll be OK with that. It’s just the experience I enjoy, the thrill of the race (even when not racing), the challenge of all those miles and seeing different places. Boring as that well may be, it’s what I enjoy.

I’ve had a few people say to me I could dip under the 3:15 to get a championship place at London and as amazing as that would be I’m not sure it’s something I want to target. If it happens naturally then of course I’d be up for it, but I very much doubt it would. When I got my 3:16 PB at Brighton I was doing more speed workouts than I am now and was in better shape. The thought of putting more effort in right now for a lofty target isn’t quite where my head’s at.

Maybe next year I’ll have another go, put more effort into structured training… who knows. I do have some good marathons planned where this might be possible. The Barcelona Marathon in March, Manchester Marathon in April and Chicago in October. All are relatively flat and fast courses. So there is that temptation (of course I won’t be targeting all of them… I’m no machine, as we very much know!).

In the near horizon, as in this Sunday, I have the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon. It’s not a PB course despite being quite flat. It’s right next to the coast and if you get bad weather it will really affect the day and the course is semi-off road. But it might be as still and cold as last year and in that case I might go slightly faster than the “plod and be merry” pace I had intended. So I’ll decide the night before or on the day how I feel.

If I did “go for it” I would be super happy with 3:25-3:30, with the course and the fact that it’s not exactly 26.2 miles (last year it was 27 miles) due to the tide causing issues. I do feel like that would be quite a bit of effort though and already I’m mentally backing out. I don’t want to put pressure on myself or be disappointed.

My main focus on the day will be hoping that Kyle does well for his first marathon. After a bit of a bumpy training lead-up due to not being able to start training until a bit later than ideal due to injury and then missing a week due to illness, it’s not been as good as planned.He managed a successful 18 miles which, though he didn’t think it at the time, went pretty well! He struggled through – but then realistically, for your first 18 miler, do you do anything other than struggle through?I just hope he doesn’t have a a bad time of the marathon. He’s a very strong runner though with a solid game plan, so fingers crossed for him. Just really hope the weather is kind to us! We’ll have the full cheer squad out in force as well, so that’ll certainly help.

So hopefully 2018 will finish nice and happy and in a strong place for running. It’s funny to think I started the year with the Dubai Marathon, in the hot sun, and now I’m ending it in, very likely, traditional wet and cold British weather in Portsmouth…

Do you have any big goals for next year?

Do you have any races coming up?