My travels up North

I mean I guess it’s probably more accurate to say to the midlands, but for me anywhere north of Bristol feels “Up North” as I live so south ūüėČ

But accurate geography aside, Kyle and I drove up to Stoke-On-Trent on Friday to stay with my grandad ahead of the Manchester Marathon on the Sunday.

Before that though we had a nice walk down to Lee-On-Solent to have some filling breakfast to fuel us for the 3.5 hour car journey. I like to have a bit of a walk or some sort of movement before a long journey as otherwise your body just feels so meh. So we walked about 45 minutes to the Penguin Cafe in Lee for some brunch.

We went for the rather greedy Emperor Breakfast, which was pretty much everything I love about a fry-up. GIANT.

I swapped my hasbrowns for more black pudding

Kyle even got extra toast. When we get breakfast we mean business. The Penguin Cafe is a lovely place – though it is very much your cheap and cheerful greasy spoon. Everything tasted delicious – so I’ll let them off for their bean contamination ūüėČ

After a lonnnnng drive to Stoke we got to spend a nice evening with my grandad and enjoy a home cooked meal of steak, vegetables and potatoes. It’s always lovely to see him and hear about his adventures in Scotland in the Cairngorms Reindeer Centre where he volunteers twice a year as their handyman and general all-round fixer-upper (“Handy Paul” as they call him). At nearly 80 I’m very proud of him.

Beautiful spring weather

The next morning Kyle and I ran the 1.5(ish) miles to Hanley park for the Hanley parkrun.

Happily it was a lovely downhill to get our legs moving. Hanley park itself was a beautiful park with a lovely pond.

Now I remember running Hanley parkrun a few years ago when I stayed at my grandad’s with my dad before the Liverpool Marathon. However I DO NOT remember it being that hilly (actually after going back to the old post I have clearly stated it was “challenging”. Obviously I wiped it from my memory…).

I told Kyle I thought it was flat but actually it really wasn’t. It’s number 406 on the elevation line-up of all the UK parkruns. My home parkrun Netley with it’s three inclines is 212!

We lined up, all happy and innocent of what was ahead, and got ready to start. Kyle and I agreed if one of us felt good to run ahead and as we got going I decided I felt like I bit of a push.

As we turned the corner we hit the first hill. OK I sort of remembered this now… but it was only one hill. Then we had a lovely stretch of downhill, where I lost Kyle (he’s a very cautious downhill runner whereas I’m pretty much a free-faller). And then we looped back round to the same hill. Hmmm.

The course, in the end, included this hill another time AND a nastier longer hill twice. So actually it wasn’t flat at all and was actually very undulating. At 1.5 miles I felt that draining feeling of tiredness where I wasn’t sure I could maintain my speed anymore. But the downhills helped me catch my breath and give me back some energy.

I managed to overtake a few females on the final mile and powered to the finish as second female. I finished in 21:42 and Kyle, not too far behind, finished 22:21.

The first female was already done and I overheard her talking to someone and saying she was from Portsmouth. I jumped over to say so was I. Turns out her local is Southsea and she was visiting family. What a small world!

Then we made our way slowly back to my grandad’s. Annoyingly having to climb up the giant hill we sailed breezily down before. Ooof it was a grind!

We got washed up, had breakfast then headed to Liverpool to see my lovely friend Charlotte, her husband and her little boy, Arthur. She used to live in Brighton (a far more accessible visiting distance) but now she’s so far away it seemed silly not to make the most of being nearby and dropping in.

As I knew I wanted a larger dinner I decided to be sensible and have a lighter lunch (yes, this is still Anna… mental I know). I went for a vegan salad but added chicken (I know, I know). It had falafels and chickpeas and was very tasty but…well, very light.

It was lovely seeing Charlotte but then we had to head off to our next destination – Manchester! Kyle and I were staying in an AirBnb about three miles from the race start and about a ten minute drive from the city centre, which was perfect.

We met up with my other friend, John from many MarathonTalk adventures, and found a perfect, albeit hidden away, pizza restaurant to carb load adequately before the race called Dogs ‘n’ Dough. John was going to be running the marathon too (Kyle wasn’t, he’d be supporting).

The pizza place was very cool and quirky, and helpfully very quiet! I went for BBQ chicken pieces to start. And a cheeky Bud Light.

And then followed it up with a giant 12 inch deep pan pulled pork pizza (The Pig Lebowski). Normally I’m more of a crispy thin fan but this was very tasty. And very filling.

I was definitely going to be well fueled for the next day! I was pretty much sent into a carb coma.

Centre of Manchester

It was nice to catch up with John, although we both admitted that it didn’t really feel like we’d be running a marathon the next day. He was going to be taking it a bit easier (he’s a 3:12 marathoner usually but is training for a much longer event). I wasn’t sure of my plans yet (am I ever??). I was pretty much going to see how it felt on the day. But I kind of wanted to give it a bit of a blast as it seemed like the weather was going to be cool and the course was flat. So an ideal opportunity.

The classic flat lay

John headed back to his hotel and Kyle and I headed back to our AirBnb. The couple who lived there (we were in a room, rather than an entire flat) were lovely and friendly. One of them had run the marathon before so I got to ask her a bit about it. It was quite amusing when they were advising me to have a good carbohydrate rich breakfast and get a good night sleep and giving me tips on running a marathon in general… they then asked if it was my first. I told them it was my 19th and they looked stunned. They then said “oh well I guess you know what you’re doing then!” hehe.

Have you ever been to Manchester before?

Do you prefer thick crusted or thin base pizzas?

What’s the hilliest parkrun you’ve done?

A missed opportunity, giant salads and refueling with cake

This weekend was fairly busy, but full of many of my favourite things.

On Saturday Kyle and I headed to Southsea parkrun to meet up with my running friends Michelle, Mark, Billy and Aaron. Unfortunately Michelle wasn’t going to be running as she’s injured (get better soon!) but the other guys were.

Kyle and I arrived a little bit late and as we’d parked a mile away we had to run quite sharpish to get there on time. We arrived with five minutes to spare and then spent too long chatting to the guys for us to realise it had started! Oops!

So this meant we were all pretty much dead last to start, which proved rather tricky. The first 30 seconds or so were us just walking and then trying to infiltrate into the crowd of 600 runners (when did Southsea get so popular??). But this helped ease me gently into the run. I then spent the first mile basically umm’ing and arr’ing whether to push the pace or just plod along.

Mark dashed off ahead and though I attempted to follow for a bit I decided to instead just to run on my own and see how it went. For the first mile I weaved in and out of people and after a quick sprint to get in front of a crowd I realised I didn’t feel so bad and decided to maintain the faster pace.

We got to the turnaround and as I headed back the way we’d come (Southsea is an out-and-back course) and I realised there was no wind. Usually you get one direction being really good and then you turnaround and you’re suddenly hit with the full force of the wind that you didn’t realise was there (such are a problem with the straight out-and-back promenade parkruns).

However, there was no wind. I mentally kicked myself. What a missed opportunity for a flat wind-less 5k! Ahh well.

I managed to get my pace a bit quicker towards the end (God the pain of a hrder 5k…urgh) and finished 22:01. Just shy of a sub 22 minute parkrun. I was pleased anyway to have put a bit of a burst in towards the end.

After finishing, we all lamented at what a shame it was that none of us had gone out with a fast time in mind. I mean, we hadn’t set ourselves up very well by not paying attention at the start of course!

Then we walked over to the Parade Tearooms to have some brunch. Predictably it was quite busy (it’s so popular there) but after a short wait we got a table.In true Anna style when ordering Kyle’s brunch I decided to hear what he wanted and then order something completely different. No idea why! I quickly had to change the order with the lady on the till (who didn’t look too pleased at first but I managed to explain what kind of idiot I was exactly and she seemed to soften a bit and find it funny).

So Kyle did in fact get his pancakes (and not the full English) and I got my beloved Jayne Salad. An epic salad of proportions I’ve seen no where else (bar maybe America where portion sizes are RIDICULOUS).

This was my kind of salad! Chicken, cheese, coleslaw, potatoes, tomatoes, beetroot, carrot, cucumber, fruit (yep) and lettuce. You needed quite the strategy to eat this without it toppling everywhere. A Jenga salad if you will.

The next day I got up a bit later than I would have normally as I really wanted a solid lie-in and having lost an hour from the clocks going forward it meant 10am. I felt really well rested and ready to hit my final long run before Manchester a week later.

I headed out with the intention to run 13 miles, but with some wiggle room if I fancied going further. Generally I’ll run 13-16 miles the Sunday before depending on how I feel. I’d given myself enough time to do up to 16 before I needed to back to shower and get ready for afternoon tea with my mum for Mother’s Day. So no pressures, just relaxed running however I fancied.

It always takes a few miles for me to get into a run (which is why I think I much prefer long distances than to 5ks or 10ks when I’ve basically just warmed up), but as I got into it I realised I felt good. Not just physically but mentally as well. Like it was good to be outside, good to be running. It was fairly warm so I was glad to be wearing a vest and also happy I’d put some sun cream on my face.

As I got to 7.5 miles I stopped at my trusty dodgy tap for a drink before heading on. I was listening to the BBC 5 Live movie review podcast and was chuffed to hear the review be so good for Kyle and my next planned movie, Us. I know it’s going to be scary, but knowing that Simon Mayo is a big horror movie wuss and still enjoyed it has hugely helped calm me a bit. I really enjoyed Get Out so fingers crossed it doesn’t traumatise me like Hereditary did.

When I got to the point of making a decision between 13 or more miles I decided to push on. It was partly me feeling like I was good to run further but also down to the fact that the 13 mile route was a bit rubbish whereas the longer route was nicer. Though it was more into the wind annoyingly.

I finished the run feeling strong and happy. An ideal last long run before a marathon! Then I quickly got myself together ready to go for afternoon tea with mum.

Handily it was just a 20 minute walk to the village to Donny’s where I’d booked a table for us.

We were quite excited as we hadn’t had afternoon tea for a while and it’s something we both love to do (ALL THE CAKE).

We’d both gone for ham and mustard sandwiches and they were crustless tiny little things. I mean they were tasty but very small. Now for a reasonable human being that’s fine – afterall, you’re having a scone and cake afterwards, but for a greedy person like me they were quite dinky and didn’t really touch the sides. I’m not a fan of cutting crusts of bread either – such a waste.

Such a lovely mum x

The scone was delicious. A little pot of strawberry jam and clotted cream – divine.

I mean, again the portions were fairly small and the scone wasn’t warm, but these are MINOR details from an afternoon tea connoisseur like myself ūüėČ

The slice of salted caramel cake was so divine. Very sticky with a rich flavour to it. My mum had lemon drizzle and she loved it too. Handily I got to eat her icing as well as she’s not a fan (I love this about my mum – I’ll always get her icing, especially good for Christmas cake).

Happy Mother’s Day!

Do you like afternoon tea?

What’s the last long run distance you’ll do when you’re tapering?

What’s your favourite kind of salad?

Reading parkrun and the Stubbington 10k

When¬†I¬†did¬†the¬†New¬†York¬†Marathon¬†in¬†November¬†I¬†stayed¬†with¬†a¬†bunch¬†of¬†girls¬†who¬†were¬†just¬†lovely. It was all arranged by Charlie, from The Runner Beans, and we had a fantastic time. Happily we’ve since kept in touch.

One of the girls, Cortney, was coming over from her home in Canada to visit so I headed up to Reading to do a little meet-up with a few of the girls. parkrun, brunch and friends – Saturday goals right there! I drove up straight from work on the Friday evening.

That evening we had a lovely girlie night at Charlie’s. Emma (from Nanny on the Run) made a delicious shepherd’s pie with a sweet potato topping. Daaamn it was good.

And we followed that with the less healthy but equally tasty Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (three different kinds! Be still my beating heart. I was a fan of the B&J’s Salted Caramel topped tub but not so huge a fan of the vegan Brownie one).

We chatted, we chilled, we ate and we watched the ever good When Harry Met Sally. It was lovely to see the girls again and properly catch-up.

The next morning we headed to the Reading parkrun. I had been tempted to run when I thought we were going to a different parkrun that I hadn’t done before (Woodley parkrun)…. but as I’d done Reading before (it was my ‘R’) and my calf was still not brilliant, I thought it best to play it safe and volunteer. Charlie was also volunteering and not running due to an injury as well. So I didn’t feel like I was missing out too much.

I was also quite chuffed because I’d been assigned the role of barcode scanner. I’ve never done that job at parkrun and was keen to tick another role off my list! I was also very chuffed for Cortney because it would be her first ever parkrun. Exciting times!

We arrived and ‘signed in’ to our posts. Cortney and Emma headed off to the start and Charlie and I got into our positions.

I was a little sad to be missing out but the other parkrun volunteers were so friendly and chatty that the time flew by and suddenly I was needed to scan the barcodes. It was MANIC. There were three of us scanning and it almost felt never-ending. Lots of people were super friendly and thanked me for my time or chatted to me but some people silently handed me the barcodes or, in a couple of instances, just pointed to their shoe making zero effort. I thought that was a little rude if I’m honest.

Some people asked how they’d done… I’ve no idea! I politely told them they’d find out later in the email. And some people, despite standing in the barcode scanning queue for a lengthy period of time still arrived at me expectantly but without anything prepared. It was quite an interesting experience it must be said. Eventually the buzz died down and I was able to relax a bit. Whew!

A lovely blog reader came and introduced herself to me. It honestly made my morning to hear about her running achievements and goals and that I’d had a little influence on it. I felt very touched. Sometimes it can feel like you’re writing into a void and no one is really listening but to hear from someone I don’t know who does read my random ramblings is just the loveliest thing.

Cortney and Emma did really well and it sounded like they both enjoyed it. Then we headed off for the essential refuel. Volunteering is hard work too! We went to Cafe Yolk, which is a small but very cute little cafe in Reading.

Unsurprisingly I ordered the full English, while the other three girls ordered avocado and eggs on toast. Probably the far healthier option but I’m fairly stuck in my ways and adore a fry-up. It was a rather posh looking fry-up so at least there’s that…

Then we headed for breakfast pudding of course. We originally went to one spot but their cake selection was not up to our high standards and so we headed next door to The Flowering Teapot instead. Now let me tell you, they were fantastic!

All homemade cakes, homemade bread… the whole shabang. The guy behind the counter was so helpful and friendly. Emma asked if there were any vegan cakes and he said there was a carrot cake being finished in the back so we waited for that (the owner who was finishing it said she’d be super quick for us which was lovely). While we waited the guy cut us a bit of the millionaire shortbread to nibble on. I mean, how good is that?

I went for the millionaire shortbread in the end because it was so good. We took our cakes and had a cup of tea at Charlie’s with them. A lovely way to end a lovely meet up!

The next day was the Stubbington 10k. This race literally runs past my house. It starts about a 5 minute walk up the road, and finishes about 15 minutes walk away so it’s super local and convenient. Sadly though I continued to be sensible and decided not to run. However, Kyle was.

He’s never run an official 10k race so I was quite excited for him. I detest 10ks so realistically I wasn’t too sad to miss the race but I was sad not to be running with Kyle and experiencing it with him. Instead, I would be walking to the 9k marker with my dad and Alfie in order to help cheer him. It would also be a nice walk for the three of us.

For whatever reason (probably entirely down to me being me) we thought the race started at 9.30am. I told Kyle he could easily leave the house at 9.15am and get to the start in enough time. My dad and I would need to leave just before 9am to walk the 2+ miles to the 9k marker, meaning we’d be there in time (9.35ish for Kyle to run past). Perfectly under control, nicely planned, we are amazing.

Except as my dad and me were 20 minutes up the road my mum rung to say the race actually started at 10am so Kyle and her were going to sit in a coffee shop for a bit to waste some time. Ah. Classic Anna.

This meant my dad and I were quite early and decided to go find our own coffee shop for a quick drink before heading to the spot. Not too bad considering – I mean, it’s not like we were late! That would have been a lot worse.

Around 10.20am the first runners started passing through and we cheered them on. I saw lots of friends, people I knew and people from my running club so it was good fun. However I do have silly panic moments where despite fully knowing these people I never seem to remember names!! Something about seeing people running just makes my mind go blank. Bit embarrassing but there we go.

Then Kyle ran past (I managed to remember his name ;-)). Then my dad and me quick marched to the finish to catch him afterwards. He’d done a fantastic time of 42:59 – just scraping under the 43 minute mark! Very jammy. And so fast! I remember for my first 10k I did 43:34. Clearly Kyle is going to be super fast in the future considering he hasn’t been running for long! He definitely has a lot more to give.

He mentioned he much prefers the shorter distances to the marathons. I can understand that (though I personally don’t have that preference, obviously). I think Kyle will do well in all distances but I think he’ll probably focus more on the shorter stuff.

Though I’m sad he doesn’t share the same marathon love I do, it does make it a little more interesting for us! I can happily support those shorter distances (I think I get the easier deal here hehe).

What distance do you prefer to race?

What parkrun volunteering role haven’t you done yet but would like to?

Do like to volunteer when you’re injured/not running?

Not quite to plan and the BBC Good Food Show

This weekend wasn’t quite the weekend that was planned. Kyle and I had taken Friday off of work and were looking forward to doing a long run that morning and then heading to London in the afternoon for a fancy blogger awards thing in the evening.

Unfortunately what actually happened was Kyle became unwell Thursday, I long run’ed on my own and we missed going to London. But these things happen. It’s a shame we missed going to London but at the end of the day, we can always go there another time. I can save the dress I was planning on wearing for our Wiggle Christmas party and we had a very chilled and relaxed Thursday night in (I had a take-away kebab so I was very much winning in my book).

So Friday morning, Kyle sensibly decided he wasn’t going to run and I headed off solo to run from his house to Fareham. The plan had originally been to run 18 miles, but now I was running on my own that sounded really daunting and I was less motivated to do it alone. I knew that to run to Fareham was pretty much 13-14 miles so if I fancied adding any more miles on I could, which made the run mentally a bit easier.

Luckily the route from Kyle’s was a very simple one – literally down one road. It was fairly undulating though but generally going downhill overall. I listened to a podcast and as I started running noticed my legs felt quite good. Though my brain felt a bit “meh” about running. I’d have liked to have had the company but I knew I just needed to get this done.

It was also broken up nicely because the first eight miles were completely unknown. At eight miles though I arrived at work (funnily enough the half-way between Kyle and my house is actually work) and from there I knew the way to Fareham. From 10 miles on though I was struggling mentally so switched to some music so I could switch my brain off. It was nice and flat now, but there was a nasty headwind.

Eventually at about 13 miles I arrived at Fareham. I decided to get to the train station – basically running through the centre – and that got me to 14. At this point I was feeling better and decided to do a loop off and that would get me 17 miles.Kyle and his mum were meeting me to pick me up. We had originally planned on having some brunch together but I thought it best just to head back and have some porridge back at Kyle’s as he was still unwell. After grabbing a drink from Subway (then leaving my phone there and having to race back to fetch it – whew!) we headed back.

We decided to miss going to London and just have a day chilling with Friends and another takeaway for me (well if I must… ;-)) I’m sad we didn’t get to go but equally I was happy to have a nice relaxing day. Kyle, bless him, would have gone had I really wanted to but he really wasn’t well and I really wasn’t that fussed with missing it.

Saturday I did a gentle (albeit) hilly 5k around Kyle’s – there are no flat areas in Clanfield it seems! And then headed home for back to reality chores and life. I also had a very exciting trip planned for the Sunday… going to the Birmingham Good Food Show!

Kyle was meant to join my dad and I but sadly he was still ill and eating basically nothing so realistically a two hour plus drive and then wandering around food stalls probably wasn’t what the doctor ordered. So my dad and I went alone.It was held in the NEC in Birmingham and the number of stalls was CRAZY.¬†My dad and I are very similar in that we both love food, love cooking and also get overly excited about things like this. So in our haste to get into the actual show we forgot to make a mental note of where the car was… that’s Future Anna and Dad problems, pfffft!And when we got into the hall we were surrounded¬†by so many different things being sold from kitchen-wear (knives, pots and pans etc.) to cheese, chutneys, cakes, meat, crisps, fruit… I mean seriously, so much!
And the best bit? All the tasters! I tried so many different things. It was so much fun. It was really busy which was the only downside – meaning it was tough to navigate round the stalls at times. And it seemed every other person had a little crate with wheels (reminding us a bit of the apprentice when people are going off to buy the different bits and bobs they needed) so your toes were never safe from being rolled over.

I bought a white chocolate praline filled cake pop from one stand and amazingly managed to wait until I got home before I ate it. Omg SO good. SO so good.I also bought myself one of those German marshmallow teacake things (I say German only because the last time I saw one was in Germany – they seem to be quite popular in the Christmas markets there).I went for a white chocolate covered one and it was very tasty! That I ate that immediately.Eventually just before midday (we’d arrive just after 10am) we decided to actually have a proper lunch. We chose a Greek chicken salad from the Street Kitchen company and managed to sit down and enjoy a very tasty meal. The flat bread was divine! As was the feta sauce.We were wise to eat early as later on this same area was rammed with big queues. Whew! Then I became far more selective on the tasters I went for as I was now ice and full and my initial excitement had died down to a more manageable level.What was very bizarre was the large number of people choosing to eat at the cafe that was ALWAYS at the venue. Why would you have a canteen-style lunch somewhere that was available year round when you have hundreds of stalls available to you to try interesting and local cuisines?? Very odd.

I was amazed to see a stand purely for apples (Kanzi apples) and they were handing out slices. My kinda stand!They were selling two packs of four apples for £1 Рwhat a bargain. After telling the man how much I loved apples he gave me a third for free! Woohoo! And they are VERY tasty apples.

Then we headed to watch James Martin do a live cooking show (we had tickets for this alongside our regular entry ticket – we also had fantastic seats!). I didn’t know too much about him but my dad was a fan and I was ready to sit down. Let me tell you, he was fantastic. The cooking alone was brilliant but his personality and humour was hilarious. He cooked a creamy tomato soup with bacon waffles to start, tomahawk steak with lobster mac and cheese and followed it with banana pecan French toast.Of course we could only smell how good it was but it looked AMAZING. He made several jokes about how he wasn’t into the healthy cooking and that while Joe Wicks’ style might be “Lean in 15” his style of cooking was more “Fat in 5”. He had no airs and graces, he was very down to earth and cheeky. I’m now a big fan.

My dad and I then merrily headed to the car park where we then spent a solid 20 minutes looking for the car. Geniuses.

Have you ever been to a food show?

Do you have any favourite chefs?

Do you get ill often?

Gosport Half Marathon 2018

I was all of a quandary for the Gosport Half Marathon this year.

Last year I ran it with my friend Martin, trying to help him PB and had really good fun. I mean, I guess he wasn’t having quite as much fun as I was as he was going for a PB time whereas I was using it as a long run but I hope it was a good day regardless for him. I did try and get Kyle a place last minute but that failed so he gamely said he’d support instead.

This year I was coming off the back of some solid marathon training and some speedy 10k training runs‚Ķ so I could be in with a shot for a good time. A PB? Hmmm unlikely. I’m realistic enough to know I’m not in that sort of shape (1:31:06! I still don’t believe it). That said, a good solid full-on effort could possibly¬†get me 1:33-34 if I was really pushing it and the weather was kind to me.

But I was in a quandary. Firstly, the weather really does make a huge amount of difference for this race. The course runs twice up and down the coast – literally next to the sea. It’s a route I regularly run for my long runs so I’m well aware of how the coastal wind can really punish or help you. As you run up AND down, it can be a game-changer. If the weather played ball, it could be a great opportunity to give it some welly as the course is very flat, but my problem was that I wouldn’t really know for certain until the day.

Secondly, I was feeling myself wussing out (as I always do) and decided to potentially shoot myself in the foot and make it into a long run regardless by running four(ish) miles to the race start in the morning. In my head this was a solid warm-up, (though realistically too long a warm-up necessary for a half marathon). Basically I was covering my bases if the run went badly then at least I’d gotten in a 17 mile run – miles in the bank, as it were.

The morning of (still undecided on how I would run) I woke up feeling very sick. This is the second time in a few weeks this has happened to me. I’m generally quite a healthy person and rarely get ill. I pride myself on my stomach of steel. I couldn’t think of a single thing I’d eaten that would have caused me an issue. The only thing that I could connect the two mornings where I felt sick was the fact that the day before I drank a can of Monster energy drink. I don’t normally drink energy drinks but I’ve found myself quite enjoying the taste (and after doing a bit of research found they wasn’t actually that much more caffeine than my regular Starbucks coffee). However, I don’t think they agree with me because the only two times I’ve drunk them has made me feel incredibly sick the next day. That’s the only thing I can think of. It might not be, but who knows? (No, I’m not pregnant – big lols to that).

Anyway, whatever the reason, I felt sick and it woke me up an hour before my alarm. When my alarm eventually did go off (I lay dozing in bed fretting and not particularly having a good time with my tummy) the major nausea had passed and I thought I might as well attempt the four mile run there and if it went badly I’d can the race.So off I went. I hadn’t had breakfast or coffee, just a bit of water. Normally if I was aiming for a PB I would have had both (can you tell I’m getting in the excuses early? ;-)) The 4.6 miles (whoops longer than I thought) actually went surprisingly well. My stomach felt fine and by the time I reached the final bit I found myself running 7.30 min/miles and not feeling it too much of a strain.¬†The wind was a leeeetle breezy along the coast but nothing catastrophic.

I knew I wouldn’t have a stellar speedy race – the lead-up and sickness just hadn’t set me up for it and my mindset was of “ehhh I’m just not feeling it”. But I also didn’t want to waste an opportunity of decent weather and a good course. I decided to compromise with myself and aim for 7.30min/miles and no slower. That would be a solid tempo run – and with the 4.6 miles at the start, a good long run. The temptation to run with my friend Mike (who was aiming for 8 min/miles) was strong but I knew I needed to woman-up. I was in good shape, it would be a solid training run.

So I collected my bib and headed to the start with some of the other Hedgies. It wasn’t that cold (well I wasn’t anyway considering I’d done the run before) and it was lovely and sunny. As we started, I made sure to head off quickly to avoid the temptation of ditching my plan and running slower.Because I’d started a fair way back it was really tricky at the start to weave in and out of people. And then when we got onto the road it was just packed. Only one side of the road was cordoned off and this made it tricky to get properly going.

The race has a strict no headphones policy (even stating no bone conducting headphones) as it is only partial road closures. That’s fair enough. I obviously didn’t wear any so let my mind wander and listen in to other people’s conversations.I stuck to my aim of keeping around 7.30min/miles or under. To be honest it was a little dull…I’ve run up and down this exact road so many times as it’s literally where I do all my long runs, but in that respect it did make the miles disappear quickly.

At Lee-On-Solent, near where the parkrun is held, I saw my top support crew: my parents, Kyle, my sister (!!), her partner Mike and my two nieces Megan and Ellie. They whooped and cheered and I was boosted along. This is actually the first race my sister has ever come to support me at so it really was a lovely moment (she works a lot of weekends and has two kids to look after so I’ll let her off). I also saw the lovely Rebecca who cheered me on – always so cheerful!

I ran past the water station. They were using plastic pouches which I think is great in terms of dropping on the floor you won’t trip over them like bottles. However, the use of so much plastic is still bad. So much waste. However, to be fair to the organisers they did mention this on their website that they were conscious that the use of plastic wasn’t ideal but because of the wind they’re unable to use paper cups as they just fly all over the place. Tricky.At around 4 miles you get to Hill Head and turn around. There were lots of marshals and supporters cheering which was nice. I saw lots of familiar, friendly faces. (Thanks to James for the above photo. And Martin Lewis for the below photo).Then it was back up the coast to head back to where we came from. The only difference was now we were on the promenade bit rather than the above pavement next to the road. I saw my support crew again who really pushed me along. I was managing to maintain my sub 7.30min/mile pace but it wasn’t easy. It was a sustained effort. And urrrgh to do this all again, it felt very taxing on my brain.The nice part is as you run back to the start you have the faster runners coming back and you can watch them and cheer them on – and sometimes get cheers back from people who know you which is nice. I got back to the start and did the turn around. Right, just one more time!The wind was pushing us on in this direction (I wouldn’t have said it was that windy but you could feel it – and certainly feel it against you on the way back). I tried to smile when I saw people I knew but it was an effort. I definitely did not feel that amazing joy I felt during New York, and it just further reminded me of how much I love marathons and how much I dislike all other distances ūüėČ The pressure to go faster makes it tough (yes, the pressure that I put on myself!)Kyle mentioned later that when he saw me I looked like I was having a tough time. I was. It felt hard. Though looking at my paces this would make sense.And though I felt like I was getting slower and slower I actually wasn’t doing too badly. It felt like everyone was overtaking me but realistically I wasn’t dropping behind. I guess everyone around me was just doing a lot better! Though mile 12 was definitely a GRIND.I managed to pick it up towards the end and the final long sprint was tortuous but speedy (for me). What a relief to finish! I stumbled along and was handed a goodie bag, a chunk of cake (wheeeee!), my medal and a cold drink of water. Much better.What a difference of a race from last year! Happy smiling and loving life last year (though not racing) with a time of¬†1:46:40 compared to this year attempting to race in a sustained effort sort of way and getting 1:36:10 – 10 minutes quicker but probably 10 times less fun ūüėČWhat¬†was nice was having my mum, dad, sister, her partner, my nieces and Kyle there to support me. It really was lovely. It’s such a local race to me and running a race round the roads I normally do my long runs is quite bizarre. It’s a little dull, yes, but it’s a good course with good support. Lots of my running club do it as well which makes for a friendly and fun run too. And of course there is good cake ūüėČ

I’m glad I didn’t wuss out completely but I’m also glad I did the miles beforehand. I feel like I got a really good (but tough) long run in. I don’t often use a long run as a proper training run (to be fair, I don’t often do training runs…). Happy days.

Do you like to run to races?

Would you do a race round where you normally run?