Upton House parkrun and so much food

This weekend I managed to tick yet another parkrun letter off my parkrun Alphabet Challenge. I went to Upton House parkrun to get my U. It’s down in Poole, which is just over hour away from me. I few of us from my club decided to make a pilgrimage down there for some parkrun tourism and a spot of brunch.

On Saturday morning I got up at 6.20am to walk Alfie (a good test of seeing what the weather is like and how my leg felt). It was beautiful outside. Cold, but clear and still. Perfect running conditions. It was getting light as well which just makes me so happy. Spring is definitely on its way! Then I got myself together and drove to my friend’s Mike house so he could then drive the rest of the way.More chance of us actually arriving at the correct place that way, let’s be honest.
We did actually arrive a little too early at 8.15am. The others who we were meeting had arrived too so we sat, car side by side, in the car park (which is huge FYI and only a £1) keeping warm.Upton House parkrun is located in the Upton Country Park, a National Trust spot.It was such a lovely location and the sun was shining which made things very pleasant. There were toilets there as well so that was handy for a pre-parkrun wee.After the briefing, we headed to the start which was really narrow. Mike, Jim and I decided to move a bit closer to the front as it was so packed (not with the numbers of runners really, as there were only just under 300 people) but because the path was fairly narrow.We still had to wend our way around people when we started but after a few hundred metres it spaced out and we had enough room to pick up the pace a bit. Happily my leg felt fine and I just felt so happy to be running again.The course is one big loop, one smaller loop and then the first big loop again. I love this style of parkrun because it means you don’t get bored and having the break between the same two loops means it’s not as repetitive. It’s run on trails – a compacted stony trail which is great to run on.The route is very pretty and scenic. It starts within a woodland area then stretches out onto some grassland area where you run past some cows (within an enclosure) and then past a beautiful lake.It was lovely, really lovely. It’s mostly flat but there were a couple of undulations but really nothing crazy. In fact the start is very much downhill so you can gain some good speed.

Photo Credit: Isabelle Somers

Mike, Jim and I kept together as we ran and kept up the odd bit of conversation but I could feel that I’ve lost a lot of fitness. But to be honest, I don’t care because running without issue is my main goal right now. I could feel my hamstring crop up a little but I didn’t mind that as I’d rather it be my hamstring than calf as I know how to help my hamstring, whereas my calf has been a bit of a puzzle.

Photo Credit: Isabelle Somers

I slightly pulled ahead of the two fellas and stretched my legs a bit, everything still feeling reasonable. But as we hit the final hill to then head to the finish Jim stormed past me. Apparently he’d realised I wasn’t as strong on the hills and decided to use it to his advantage at the end. Crafty but fair play! I couldn’t have caught him if I’d have wanted to.

Photo Credit: Isabelle Somers

In the end I finished with 23:13 feeling very happy. All my bits and pieces felt fine and I’d gotten my U! The others all said the same thing: Upton House parkrun is a beautiful and friendly course. I really wish it was closer as honestly I’d do this one all the time if I could. I loved it. OK perhaps the good weather helped but it just seemed like such a great set-up with how the loops worked. I signed the guest book (another nice touch at a parkrun) and chatted to some of the local runners. I mentioned about the parkrun Alphabet Challenge and they were quite bemused. Clearly not a very well known thing perhaps!Then we headed to the tearoom literally a stone throw’s away and had a nice cup of coffee and a natter.Sadly the tea room didn’t do anything more elaborate than toast or cake for breakfast so Mike and me decided to hunt out something more substantial on the way back home. Brunch was definitely in order!

 

We found a Haskins Garden Centre not too far down the road with a fantastic restaurant serving a good selection of hot and cold breakfast material. We went for the “8 piece” breakfast (you could pick the items you wanted).I loved that they had black pudding (a weakness of mine) but the scrambled egg was rather rubbery and tasteless. But otherwise it was a very yummy and sustaining breakfast.A very lovely morning indeed. I spent the rest of the day doing some deep cleaning in the house. I was just in one of those moods where I needed to busy myself and expel a load of energy. I do quite enjoy cleaning so it was nice to just put some music on and do some cleaning that doesn’t get done that often (like cupboards and hard to reach places…with dogs it’s hard to keep everything pristine!)

That evening my parents and I went to the Chilworth Arms for dinner to celebrate my dad’s birthday which had been on the Wednesday. I always feel sorry for my dad because sharing his birthday with Valentine’s Day always makes going out for a nice meal a bit tricky as everyone else seems to be doing that too and you usually get some generic set menus themed around it, which I always find a bit lame. And plus, because my parents are so disgustingly in love, my dad likes to treat my mum so really he doesn’t get the sole attention he deserves.
I hadn’t eaten since the earlier brunch (though it had been a large brunch of course) I was now really ready for food. Though my parents are still on the Slimming World wagon they decided to just enjoy a nice meal out without worrying too much about Syns and things like that. So we ordered a baked Camembert and a “grazing” sharing platter, which had lots of different meaty bits and pieces like chicken, lamb koftas, chorizo and pulled pork croquettes.

It was all so tasty. And happily the grazing platter had more than two of most things (food anxiety of sharing swerved…ha). I probably ate about 3/4 of the Camembert though. My stomach knows no bounds clearly as I was then very much ready for the main. Although I was initially tempted by the spit-roasted chicken I decided to step out of my standard food choice box and order something different. I went for the pan-friend venison and it was delicious. The gravy (jus? sauce?) was SO good.

A nice change! I should do this more often… Though saying that, I chose a different pudding than I’d have normally gone for too. Instead of being tempted by the brownie (always a safe tho delicious choice for me) I decided on having the apple and berry crumble (with ice cream not custard tho). It was fantastic!

My dad went for something a bit more extravagant with the chocolate orange bomb. Even though this sounded delicious, I really can’t stand chocolate orange together. It came out and the waitress poured molten chocolate sauce over the chocolate sphere thing. It eventually collapsed and melted. It was rather impressive. It left a few big chocolate chunks in a bowl of what looked like chocolate soup. My dad loved it for all of about three spoonful until it started to get sickly and too much. I was so impressed with him. In another life it seems this was the man who was able to eat entire packets of chocolate biscuits. He said he didn’t want to carry on eating it in fear that it would put him off chocolate forever ha.

The next morning I was supposed to run a few miles with Mike. We had both said we’d confirm for definite before 9am if we both fancied it as he had a slightly niggling hamstring and I wasn’t sure how everything for me would feel post-parkrun. Sadly Mike bailed as his hamstring wasn’t good. I’d slept badly that night – you know when you wake up mid-sleep and stare at the ceiling for an hour? Yeah that’s fun. So I was quite glad to roll back over and have a more lazy morning, rather than being on a timescale to get somewhere to meet someone.

In the end I headed out around 9.30am. I didn’t know how far I’d go as I didn’t want to stress my leg out. In the end I decided around 4 miles was good. My hamstring didn’t feel amazing, but it didn’t get worse. My calf felt fine. I’m happy with that outcome because I know how to help my hamstring whereas for my calf I’m literally in the dark. The hamstring is something I’ve had to deal with for a while and know what stretches and exercises to do and trigger points to work on. I just need to not aggravate it too much to mean I need to take a lot of time off to let it calm down, if that makes sense. Trying to keep it manageable for the moment.I went to the gym afterwards to do a bit of what I call “topping up” cardio as I want to maintain a level of fitness for any long runs. It also helps my sanity a bit – it’s standard ‘Anna Behaviour’ to over-worry about things like upcoming marathons, so doing this sort of thing calms those inner demons. Especially when I compare myself to other people doing the same marathon or marathons around the same time. Plus as I only let myself watch Peaky Blinders on the cross-trainer at the gym (to keep me from despising that machine and have positive connotations towards it) it was a fun 50 minutes.

So other than some more cleaning/sorting and usual jobs I needed to do, my Sunday was pretty chilled and relaxing.

Do you have any standard food orders you make at a restaurant?

Have you ever done a parkrun that you wish was closer to where you live?

Do you watch anything when you use a cardio machine at the gym?

My trip to Dubai

I’ve never been to Dubai or in fact anywhere in the Middle East before so I was quite excited about this trip. I was going to go on my own but my mum said she’d like to come and join me as she’d never been before either. I get on really well with her so this was fine. My dad couldn’t take the time off so it was a girls only trip. A flying visit but a lovely little holiday in the sun.We flew with Emirates, which let me tell you was amazing. So much leg room, so many movies, a very cool camera to see outside of the plan and great service. The flights weren’t ridiculously expensive either. I watched A Ghost Story (very melancholic), Wonder Woman and most of Home Again and the time flew by.

We arrived in Dubai in the evening Dubai time (they’re four hours ahead of the UK). We got a taxi to our hotel, freshened up and did a bit of exploring in the nearby area: the Dubai Marina and the Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR), where there are lots of restaurants, cafes and a few shops right on the beach front. We were quite tired so decided to head to bed. It was past midnight now Dubai time as well, but still everything was open and people were out and about like it was early evening!The first day it was tough waking up at 9am because it felt like 5am but we cracked on. I’d decided to get a short run in because that’s one of my favourite things to do in a foreign country. I kept it to 5k and just ran down random roads near the hotel. It was lovely and warm and I got to wear a new top I’d bought a while ago but hadn’t been able to wear because…winter. We got a taxi to the Marina again (only ten minutes away and very cheap) and meandered down the beautiful path marveling at the giant skyscrapers and yachts while deciding where to get brunch.It was so lovely and warm. coming from a very wintry Britain into such sunshine was just incredible.We decided on a Greek restaurant and had a delicious medley of halloumi, lebnah (soft cream cheese), eggs, olives, pita bread and this amazing chickpea lebneh mix with gyro meat at the bottom.We were absolutely stuffed afterwards! From there we headed into the Marina Mall where we were amazed to find very British shops like Boots mixed amongst American and European shops, like H&M and adidas. It was quite amusing to find a Waitrose as well, so I made sure to stock up on some apples 😉From there we headed to the Dubai Marathon Expo. I say “expo” lightly here. It was literally just a conference room to pick up my bib and my t-shirt.There were no more than three small vendors alongside but really it was just a big empty room. This was quite disheartening as this was neither a cheap nor small marathon. You’d expect a bit more. I mean it doesn’t have to be London-style, but it could at least have done a bit more. I picked up my bib and was informed that the marathon was to begin half an hour later (7am not 6.30am).The woman cheerfully told me that would mean it’d be more in the light. Well yes, but also sunshine and heat… The expo helped alight the fear in me though of what was to come: that boring course. Considering we’d also been stuck in traffic on that road a few minutes ago and seeing how dull it looked in reality as well as on paper did nothing to make me feel excited about the upcoming race.From there we headed to the nearby beach to walk along the sands, take some cool photos of the Burj Al Arab (oh how I would come to hate that building in a few days time…) and then dip out feet into the water (quite cold despite the general heat of the day). And get my Marathon Talk Photo From Around the World done as I had my MT t-shirt in my bag ready (now my fifth photo I think).After a day of exploring and moseying about, we had an evening booked in to go up the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. This was about 20-30 minutes drive from our hotel and being Standard Anna I only gave us 40 minutes to get there. I thought I was being clever giving us contingency time but no I forgot there might be traffic because apparently everyone’s not on holiday like us. Now you might think here that my lovely mother might have stepped in with the organising but no. Where do you think I get it from? She happily let’s me direct the day.So there ensued a very stressful time in the taxi in stop start traffic. The time ticked closer to 6pm, our allocated slot, and meant we had to do some serious power walking (my mum doesn’t run) through the Dubai Mall to get to the entrance. I was STRESSED (my mum wasn’t. She very chilled about life). Thankfully nobody seemed to care we were ten minutes late and we got on the lift for the 124th (in 60 seconds no less).The views were, as you can imagine, phenomenal. I mean it was just incredible and felt unbelievably scary looking down. We had a great time taking photos, peering through the windows at the different views and seeing the beautiful lights of the buildings around us. My one complain however is that it takes SO long to actually get back down. You can’t just take the lift, you have to queue for the lift – not a quick process!

After finishing our viewing and getting down to the Dubai Mall again we were starving. We hadn’t had anything since brunch. We did that very touristy and stupid thing of literally ending up in one of the first places we saw within the mall as we were so hungry. We hadn’t expected it to take as long as it did to get down the Burj Khalifa and it was now close to 7.30pm.

However despite falling into the first place we saw, it was actually fantastic! I can’t remember the name but it was Labanese and delicious (and actually didn’t feel like a “mall restaurant”). And the great thing eating out with my mum is that she often doesn’t finish what she eats so I get her leftovers (which is both a gift and a curse…).Wednesday morning saw my mum and I heading over to an area in front of the skyline and water to do two hours worth of yoga. We’d signed up to this before going on the trip (through AirBnb) and it sounded great. My mum has regularly being doing Pilates so she was very keen to give yoga a bash.Iskander, the yoga teacher, appeared and it turned out we were the only ones in the class that day – a kind of private tuition! He was super friendly and a fantastic teacher. He gave my mum easier poses when she struggled and was very relaxing to listen to. My mum even fell asleep in the Savasana at the end. If you’re ever in Dubai and fancy yoga, check out IskanderThen Iskander guided us back to the JBR and gave us some great Dubai insider’s tips. For brunch we went to Eggpectations which is a Canadian restaurant and, wouldn’t you know it, had a lot of egg-themed dishes. Perfect!We also visited the Gold Souk in Deira later on to explore a bit of Old Dubai. A “souk” is kind of like a market. This area was basically full of shops selling gold. There were so many jewelers it was quite astonishing. There was also a Spice Souk nearby which was cool. But yeah the gold… so many necklaces and chunky pieces. And lots of men trying to sell you fake handbags and watches!If I’m honest it wasn’t really our scene. Neither of us were wanting to buy anything and we more just wanted to wander around. It became quite exhausting though having people constantly come up to you though and (probably because we’re British) we didn’t want to be rude so it was just constantly us verbally batting them away as politely as we could.After that we decided to head back to the Dubai Mall where we could wander round the shops in peace. Don’t get me wrong, it was fascinating and interesting to see that area of Dubai but in reality it wasn’t really somewhere we were going to stay for too long.

In the Dubai Mall we decided to stop for a pick-me-up in The Chocolate Bar. I went for a cake ice cream medley. It was delicious but ultimately somewhat disappointing.It had a few chunks of sponge, marshmallows and two blobs of ice cream covered in chocolate sauce. I guess for a normal human it would be a perfectly acceptable pudding but for me it was just a bit unsatisfying. I wanted to be smacked in the face with the full force of a sugar overload and need to take a small nap on a nearby bench to recover. Instead I was left wanting. So in order to rectify this, as any other greedy individual would do, I went and bought myself some “Camel Cookies”. These were a very curious treat. I thought I could just buy one (there were lots of different flavours) but actually you had to buy the selection box with ALL the flavours. Oh go on then, you’ve twisted my arm.
They were quite small though thankfully and didn’t look like cookies in the traditional sense. They were like little closed cookie cups encasing different fillings, like white chocolate chunks or Nutella. I had a bit of each one and called it a day. The beast was now satiated.
For dinner we popped back to the Marina and had a fantastic Persian dinner. I was feeling really cold and tired – thinking the days of lots of walking and lack of sleep were catching up with me. The dinner was delicious though. I loved that we got salad, dips, pitta bread and Turkish tea afterwards as part and parcel of the meal. With the beautiful view of the Marina next to us, it was a lovely evening.
Sadly though I woke up the next morning having had a bad night’s sleep and a cold. Uh oh! This wasn’t in the marathon plan. I actually don’t normally get colds so this was somewhat annoying. Having my mum (who’s also a nurse) was helpful as she suggested we grab some paracetamol, ibuprofen and Vitamin C.Handily Dubai has Boots so this was very easy.
After a morning of brunch and meandering around the Marina and JBR, in the afternoon we were picked up and taken to the desert for a fun afternoon out there. We were driven in a 4×4 with some lovely Danish girls and an American guy where we had an exhilarating time bouncing over sand dunes in the desert clinging on to dear life. It was all safe but it did feel rather scary (but in a fun way).

We then stopped at a camel farm and were lucky enough (though I say this lightly as actually it wasn’t my thing to see…) a camel giving birth. Then we headed off to through the desert again to a campsite where we had time to have a camel ride and a go on a 4×4.The camel ride was hilarious as the camel standing up is just terrifying as you’re literally thrown about. I did have some worries though about how fair this was for the camel to be continually giving people rides.
After that we tried some Turkish coffee with a fried doughnut thing covered in syrup (soooo good and so fresh). And then I had a go at quad biking through the desert which was mad. Just mad.I got a henna tattoo, saw some crazy dancing and belly dancing and ate copious amounts of food. Heyyyy not like I have a marathon the next day or anything. Yeah sure let’s just eat lots of different random foods. It’ll be fiiiiine. Weird combinations of spices? Yeah load me up.It was a fun trip – and nice to see a different part of Dubai and the culture. It is quite a touristy thing to do to be honest. There are lots of tour companies that do this and it did feel a little bit of a “tick box” activity… ride a camel, get a henna tattoo, see a belly dancer (we used Sand Trax Tours). That said, it was a really fun experience and my mum thoroughly enjoyed herself. Though towards the end of the evening I started to get nervous about the next day’s marathon. I really needed my dad there to  help calm my nerves as he’s very good at knowing what to say – especially regarding my running. My mum…ehhhhh, she means well but her advice was “well, just think of it like the parkruns you do. You do them all the time and it’s fine”. OK. But having my mum there still calmed me regardless of her perhaps not great advice.Well, the marathon went OK (read my post here) – albeit dull, hot and I felt very ill afterwards! But Dubai itself was a great trip. It was a very accessible city with most people speaking English and taxis being so cheap and it had a lot to offer. However, I don’t think I’ll be hurrying back soon unless it was just a stop-over between somewhere else. A very fun holiday nonetheless.

Have you ever been to Dubai?

Have you ever ridden a camel?

Do you go on holidays with your family?

Kingsbury parkrun and The National Running Show

So when you’re reading this I’ll be on my jolly way to Dubai. Exciting stuff! I didn’t think I’d write another post before I left but after such a fun and eventful weekend I couldn’t help myself.

I had Friday off of work as I was catching the train to Birmingham to see friends and go to the National Running Show (which I only found out was actually the first one they’ve done!). I did a quick gym session in the morning and some pre holiday jobs before my train left just before 1pm. Happily my dad was working from home and said he could drive me to Fareham station. My train was 12:47 and at 12:10 my dad said he was just going to take the dogs for a quick walk and we’d leave after that. Sounded good to me. I mean I the queen of last minute so I didn’t think anything of it.

By 12:30 he still wasn’t home and I was now very worried. I rang him a bit panicked asking where he was – it would take just about 10 minutes to get to the station and I needed to pick my ticket from the machine. It was very very close! He replied saying he thought my train was 1pm… Erm nope! He rushed home but by that time it was 12:40 and we’d never make it. In the end we had to zoom to another station down the line (Southampton Airport). To say I was stressed was an understatement, especially as I could only get that train and it cost me £72!!! Sweaty bum indeed.

Thankfully we arrived in time. And funnily enough it worked better for my dad as it was on the way to his work where he needed to drop in for the afternoon. We both wondered why we hadn’t done this in the first place… Yeah I don’t know either. I got to Birmingham without any more issues and met with my lovely running friend, James (@runeckers on Instagram). We had a nice time catching up – actually only the third time we’ve met in “real life” but we just get on so well.

We went out for a few drinks in Birmingham. We went to a bar called Bacchus and then the Postal Vaults. Very cool places indeed. I kept trying to perfect my Brummy accent but apparently I’m not there yet. More Peaky Blinders required! After that we headed to The Rub Smokehouse and met with our friend, John, who we both knew from Marathon Talk. James knew John from one of the Sandy Ball run camps and I knew John through the Austria run camp… Weird how connected it all is.

We had a couple of cocktails to start. James had a “Walking Dead” and I had an “Afternoon Tea” (which I originally poo-pooed for sounding weird…). It came out in a teapot (but wasn’t warm thankfully!) with a tiny glass of prosecco to add (like the milk I guess?). It was very tasty. I love how funky the cocktails were. Nice to have a bit of fun with that sort of thing.For my main I went for a full rack of ribs, half a chicken and pulled pork cheesy chips. I realise how disgustingly greedy this is. But it tasted amazing, and I don’t waste food. The food was epic… I mean there was a “pizza taco” on the menu – basically a 16 inch pizza folded up full of pulled pork chicken and battered prawns.John had a far more restrained steak and James had a monster burger with a corn dog on top. It was that kind of place… epic.My ribs were very tasty and the chicken was SO GOOD (as someone who regularly eats a lot of Nandos I can say this was top notch).For pudding I went for a white chocolate brownie with ice cream. Their sister company Brownie Heaven makes the brownies and I’ve heard they’re amazing.Don’t get me wrong, it was incredible, but TINY. I looked enviously at James’ pudding choice… Two doughnuts stacked on top of each other with Nutella, peanut butter and ice cream. Fortunately (for me) he struggled with the second doughnut so I got to help him out. But it left me very full indeed!It was such a lovely evening. The three of us get on so well and could probably talk about life, the universe and on for hours. It was a great evening. John headed back to his hotel (he’d been there for work) and James and I went back to his flat, where I was staying on his sofa. My night’s sleep though was terrible. Nothing to do with the comfort of the sofa (it was lovely) but I kept waking up and my heart was racing (usually I’m around 49-52 bpm at night but it was close to 75!) and I had a lot of hot flushes (meat sweats I guess…). My own fault I’m fully aware!

The next morning John, James and I headed to Kingsbury Water parkrun. This was handy for me as I needed a K for my parkrun Alphabet Challenge. It was quite the miserable morning, drizzling with rain and very cold. All three of us were happy to run round together at no great speed (relatively speaking). I was keen to not stress my calf out which was feeling good, John’s on his way back into running after some time off and James is semi-injured. Normally James and John would be roaring ahead of me!The parkrun was lovely and scenic. It goes round a lake and is a two lapper (my favourite). It’s a very picturesque and of course friendly parkrun. Though it was flat it was also very muddy underfoot. I doubt I could have blasted a super fast time if I’d have been fit enough to do so anyway. It was quite slippy. We chatted as we ran and enjoyed the views. A lovely social run.We got just over 24 minutes and significantly muddy! I felt very bad getting back into James’ car as we didn’t have any towels.When we got back to the flat (John joining us this time) we took turns showering and got some breakfast before heading to the NEC for the Running Show.The Running Show was good. It was basically like a race expo with lots of stands with brands representing their gadgets, clothes, races, nutritional products, foam rollers and more.It was nice to wander round and see different things, try out a foam roller and try some “vitamin coffee”.It was ridiculously busy and very hot though.It was a great event with a lot of potential to grow. The bigger brands like adidas, Nike and Brooks weren’t there surprisingly but I imagine after the popularity this year they’ll be there next year. I will say though that had I travelled 2.5 hours on a train by myself just for the event I might have been a bit disappointed because it did feel very much like an expo. Though to be fair I didn’t sit and watch any of the talks… So I guess I can’t judge entirely fairly. We just didn’t fancy sitting watching anyone as nothing took our interest.I saw lots of friendly and family faces, like Mary from A Healthier Moo blog (bless her, I don’t know how she does it with her crazy long distance running, night shifts and looking after her adorable son, Oscar). I also saw numerous Instagram legends, like Carl from @BigCarlRunning as a guest expert inspiring everyone around him. And of course Marathon Talk friends and friendly faces from my club. And of course the lovely Anji from @Enigmagirl81 who I’ve never met in real life but chat through social media regularly.It was a very friendly place. We gained Michelle in our group (a super fast and lovely girl originally from my running club but now living in Bister – she came to Austria too so knew John as well. All four of us will be going to Sandy Balls run camp in February).After a few hours we headed to the outlet shopping centre, Resort World, where we checked out the Nike shop (I got myself a £14 top!). Then a late lunch/early dinner in Nandos. I can only get one thing from Nandos really. I do feel bad for the sheer amount of meat consumed over the weekend but it was an out of the ordinary thing…And then it was time to part ways and head home. Always a sad thing when you’ve had such a good time together. I wish we lived closer!

Have you ever been to Birmingham?

Did you go to the National Running Show?

What would you like to see at a running show?

Long run Sunday with the Victory 5 Mile

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Mike Gilmore

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

Victory 5Photo Credit: Solent Sports Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever run to a race before?

What’s your favourite part of a Christmas dinner?

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

My Brighton adventures: food and running, of course

There are a few cities in Britain that I have such a love for. One of those is Bristol, one is Cardiff (I went to university there and just love that city) and another is Brighton.

I mean there are so many lovely and interesting places in the UK, of course, but these places I hold dear because of the memories I’ve made there and the fun I continue to have. Through my new job I was lucky to acquire myself a ticket for the Brighton Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) conference. It’s funny because when I was in Brighton earlier this year for the 10k I remember walking past the big conference building and seeing the Brighton SEO sign and saying to my dad, “ahh I’d love to go to that”. And lo! and behold!

I had a somewhat stressful morning on the Friday I was going as I a) forgot to pack a bra (I was wearing my running clothes when I went to my parents as I ran the night before) and b) I didn’t leave myself enough time. I mean, this is standard Anna behaviour obviously. Luckily I had a fresh clean sports bra with me as I’d planned on running the next day in Brighton, priorities eh! And luckily it was a nice purple one which matched perfectly under my pink top – thank god I didn’t pack a bright yellow one!

Anyway, as I was late I literally had to jump out of my dad’s car at the train station (very grateful he gave me a lift) and run for the ticket machine. I mean, it was almost like fate that I was wearing a sports bra after all! Thankfully I made it with a few minutes to spare, albeit a little flustered, but boobs non-jiggled.I met my two colleagues on the train and on arrival at Brighton we walked from the station and to the conference. We grabbed a coffee en route because caffeine and headed inside for one of many interesting talks regarding search optimisation (all to do with digital marketing… topics such as what makes good content, micro influencers, virtual reality and voice technology with search and things like that).I felt overwhelming uncool amongst the very young and hip crowd that seemed to dominate the conference, but I held my head high and convinced myself I deserved to be there. But seriously, everyone looked very trendy and hipster. Beards ahoy!

There were lots of freebies, like cocktail ice lollies, sweets, beer and smoothies. In fact, it kind of reminded me of an Expo or that first day at university when everyone wants you to join their club.It was just all so interesting and exciting. I’m sure the novelty of this career area will wear off eventually but I’m just loving what I do right now. I find it fascinating.

For lunch we headed out into more central Brighton to avoid the crush of people exiting the conference with similar plans for food. We found a Wahaca and decided on there. I love Mexican food (well, the more mainstream version of it anyway). We got some tortilla chips and guacamole to share for starters and I ordered a chicken salad in a tortilla bowl with a side of sweet potatoes. It was all very tasty and felt like such a treat on a Friday afternoon. We then walked back to the conference to continue on with more talks. I parted ways with my colleagues as they’re from a different department and our talk choices weren’t the same. I noticed how suddenly there was a lot more free beer and Prosecco going on now it was post-lunch!I made the unwise decision to have a cheeky Prosecco and it took a lot more work for me to concentrate during a particularly dull talk (ironically on content optimisation…). After struggling it out for a few more talks I decided to leave. The weather was lovely and I walked down the Brighton prom to meet my friend, Charlotte. I’d already pre-arranged to stay over her and her husband’s flat that evening. It was so nice to be able to see her so randomly in the week. Normally I’d need to wait until our usual uni meet-ups but since I was in Brighton already it made sense.We headed back to her house where Charlotte and her husband (Paddy) ordered pizzas and I ordered a Deliveroo from a really tasty Arabian restaurant. ALL THE MEAT.It was so tasty. Lots of skewers, koftas and chicken wings on a bed of rice with the tiniest side salad. The meat to salad ratio was quite a way off! Even after all that food I was still good to go for a nice walk and an ice cream down the seafront. I went for a scoop of salted caramel and a scoop of raspberry cheesecake. Delicious!
It was such a lovely evening of good food, catching up and easy TV watching. Perfect.

The next morning we got up relatively early to walk down to the Brighton and Hove parkrun. Charlotte lives in the luxurious position of being a relatively short walk from the Hove Prom parkrun and the Brighton and Hove parkrun. And you know what? She doesn’t even do parkrun! She also informed me of a fantastic life hack…the local Furniture Village next to the park has free FRESHLY BAKED cookies when it opens. OK so they are meant to be for browsing customers but still 😉 Sadly I didn’t quite have the time to “browse” that morning, what a shame!

 

Brighton and Hove parkrun is run in the lovely Hove Park. It’s all run on tarmac and is fairly undulating. It’s 2.5 laps of the park and is a nice one for spectators as they can easily see the runners several times. Unfortunately I missed Charlotte and Paddy cheering me on TWICE. I don’t know how I didn’t spot them! Apparently I looked like I was “in the zone” so maybe I was just too focused.I did a short warm-up (it was quite chilly once we’d stopped walking) and then headed to the start. I heard the lady in front of me saying she wasn’t going to make Spin after parkrun… Wow that’d be keen! Anyway I had told myself just to run how I felt and at the start I got caught up in the excitement and realised I was running fairly quickly.
That was soon put to an end as we reached the first incline. The inclines were gradual and fairly long… but it was a beautiful course and the downhills were nice.I felt strong and attempted to pick people off in front of me. A man with a buggy zoomed past me and I tried to keep him in my sights, though never managed to catch up with him. There were a few supporters cheering us round which was nice and strangely a man on the sidelines counting us as we ran past (I remember a man doing this at the New Forest Marathon as well actually – is this a new thing??).

I managed a nice negative split, though my lungs were burning. My time was 21:51 which I was so pleased with! I haven’t had such a fast time in ages. It was also really nice to have my friends there at the finish line as well, though I was dying at this point.Then we said goodbye and I had to quick march to the train station (with a Starbucks stop en route of course). I just made my train… well, might as well finish how I started this trip eh!Sunday saw me waking up at the lovely time of 8.15am to meet my running friends for a long run. A few of us were meeting a fellow Bournemouth marathon trainee half-way through his run in order to help him through his 20 miler.I only really wanted 8-12 miles. I ran to the meeting spot, which was only 1.5 miles away and then met up with the running crewWe ran a lovely, albeit undulating, route through to Southampton and back round again. This did mean, of course, running across the dreaded Itchen Bridge (if you’ve ever done the Southampton 10k/half/marathon you’ll know about this). It wasn’t too bad. The run was really nice and relaxed and I managed to chip out 12 miles exactly in the end.Then the rest of the day was spent walking Alfie and packing to move out. Not particularly relaxing I must say… but needs must!

Do you go to work conferences?

Do you get Deliveroo in your area? I don’t, so it’s always a treat when I’m staying somewhere that does (probably for the best I don’t get it in my area though!)

Do you have any cheeky life hacks?