My next marathon impending

This Sunday I have the New Forest Marathon.

I‘ve previously done this race a few years ago when I was pacing my friend Mike to get a sub-4 hour marathon (we missed the goal, but had a great race regardless).

I’ve been training for this race for about 12 weeks or so and feel like I’m in good shape. Not PB shape or anywhere close, but hopefully looking for a comfortable race where I can maybe push the pace a bit to see what I can do. Apparently they’ve changed the course from last time and it’s “fast and flat”. Well we will see! It definitely wasn’t fast and flat when I ran it last time.

My training has gone really well. Kyle has also been marathon training as he has a place for the October London Marathon. We’ve gone on lots of long runs together which has been really nice. I do love a solo long run listening to my favourite podcasts but I love running with Kyle as well, even if he’s a little grumpy about it 😉 It has meant though a lot of planning with regards to Isaac.

Normally once a week Isaac goes to either my mum’s or Kyle’s mum overnight over the weekend and we use that time wisely for us getting out the next morning to get our run done. Though sometimes we’ve had to tag team parenting and do our runs separately.

We’ve also had a few trips which have meant juggling around. For example, we went to Cardiff for a weekend a few weeks ago. I wanted to show Kyle around where I went to university (I did psychology there) and we also had a fun Pizza 10k race on the Sunday.

After a lovely Saturday moseying around and eating everything in sight (love that they have a Mrs Potts Chocolate House in Cardiff now!), we decided to run 10 miles Sunday morning before the race so we could get our 16 mile long run done. As the race didn’t start until 10.30am we had stacks of time beforehand.

Our 10 miles was lovely. We got to see more of the city and I could really show Kyle around. Though I did manage to trip over in Cardiff Bay and cut my knee open! It was a bit of a bloody mess but thankfully I was OK to continue running, though it did look a bit of a state.

We got to the Pizza 10k in enough time to get it cleaned up by the first aid team and then we were off.

It was a great race doing two laps around Bute Park – a park I knew so well from my time at university. I felt really strong and managed to push the pace quite a bit. I even managed to nab second female!

For this training cycle I’ve managed to do two 18 milers, a 17 miler and a few 16 milers. I never really go over 18 miles as I generally find that’s enough for me. I’ve been running three 10ks during the week, a parkrun and then the long run Sunday. Some of the runs have been with the running buggy and that’s hugely helped my strength.

My strength training has actually fallen to the wayside a bit as time has just run out. I know it’s not a great thing to miss as it’s how I try and stay uninjured, but life happens. I’ve been managing once a week, which is better than nothing. I do about 5 minutes worth of resistance band training while I wait for my porridge in the microwave which works my glutes. Usually before each run I do this too. In my eyes it’s about consistency and what you can squeeze in. Little and often helps massively.

So finger’s crossed Sunday goes well…

parkrun Smackdown – Kyle vs. Anna

Bit late on the recap, but the weekend before last Kyle and I decided to have a ‘parkrun smackdown’. (I will quickly preface this by saying I know parkrun is not actually a race, this is just a bit of fun between Kyle and me).

This basically meant we were going to race each other at Southsea parkrun. We had often wondered who would win over a 5k between us. I train a bit more in general than Kyle and have been running longer, but Kyle is far better at sprinting and running shorter distances than me. So it would be interesting.

I ran down to Southsea parkrun (almost 3 miles) as I knew I’d need a bit of a warmup beforehand, especially for a 5k. I struggle to go from 0 to 100 that quickly. Kyle drove down with Isaac and I met him, his mum, sister and my dad there. We were all going to go for breakfast afterwards. Something to look forward to after all that pain!

It was fairly windy, annoyingly, and very warm. Southsea parkrun is an out and back and so you run 1.5ish miles out along the prom and then back again. The wind was coming from the West so the first half of the run would be lovely with a tail wind, but then heading back would be dreadful.

There had been some fun banter all week between Kyle and me. Some good old fashioned trash talk. But in reality I had a sneaky suspicion that Kyle would beat me. He would straight away run ahead and I didn’t think I had enough mileage to catch him up. We would see…

As parkrun begun I was ahead for, oh, all of 5 seconds before Kyle zoomed past me. Then it was basically me desperately trying to keep him in my sights. I looked at my watch and saw low 6 minute miles and thought “oh wow this isn’t going to stay like this!”. But I knew I needed to make as much gains as I could while the wind was in a favourable direction. It would all change when we get to the turn around point.

I managed to keep Kyle in my line of vision but I wasn’t gaining on him. I hoped that maybe after the turnaround he would start to lose his energy but it was a longshot. We got to the turnaround and straight away the wind hit us in the face. Now it was going to get tough!

I never did manage to gain any closer to Kyle but I didn’t manage to lose too much distance either. As I hit 2 miles I started to do the maths in my head… with the pace I’d been running so far could I be in chance of a sub-20?

Ooof it would be a hard ask. I was putting everything into it and my legs and lungs were burning. Sadly, as I hit 3 miles I realised this would be impossible. I wasn’t running fast enough. I crossed the line (behind Kyle) at 20:23. Kyle finished in a fantastic 20:11.

The winner!

We were both really pleased with our times. I mean, this is the fastest I’ve run in MONTHS for a 5k.

However there was a little bit of a disappointment lingering for both Kyle and I that we hadn’t managed to get a sub-20. More so for Kyle as he was so close, whereas I guess for me I’d really need to get my skates on! I reckon though Kyle would have smashed the 20 minute mark had the wind not been so strong.

The disappointment didn’t last long tho as we were then off to the Parade Tearooms for some breakfast. I say breakfast but my meal of choice from there will always be their gigantic Jayne Salad. It’s epic and I always order it, regardless of the time.

Calling it a salad is somewhat of a push considering it doesn’t contain that much salad compared to the piles of bacon, potato, chicken and cheese (which is why it’s so divine).

Anyway, a lovely morning! Family, parkrunning and breakfast 🙂

Have you ever raced someone at parkrun?

Would you eat a salad for breakfast?

Romsey Beer Race 2022

The Romsey Beer Race – my favourite race of the year. And due to COVID, a race that hasn’t been held since June 2019. So it’s been a while.

I’ve done this race five times before. I just love it! The course is undulating but is in such a beautiful, picturesque location and the weather is usually pretty good, albeit sometimes a bit too hot. This year however it was very cool and cloudy. The perfect race conditions.

Though I usually hate to actually race as running fast isn’t really my thing. I prefer a long slow run (or a marathon!). But there’s something about this race that gets me going. Every time I’ve done it I’ve given it a good go.

Kyle had floated the idea of running together and pushing each other on earlier in the week but I said I wasn’t sure because I didn’t know if I wanted to race or not. But as Kyle and I drove into the area I started to get the buzz and asked him if he still wanted to. He (semi jokingly) said that maybe we should run our own race as he didn’t want me to “hold him back”. Trash talk, I see. He was joking but in reality we both knew we’d rather run separately than run together. I was happy with that!

The night before my parents had looked after Isaac so we were both feeling pretty good with our solid night’s sleep (something of a rarity these days!). We met my parents and Isaac there, as well as Kyle’s mum and her partner, Tony. Kyle’s brother and his girlfriend also turned up to support too. A lovely support group!

We positioned ourselves fairly near the front. With less than 400 runners this wasn’t too scary but still scary enough. The front runners are VERY fast and I definitely don’t measure up to them but we wanted to give ourselves a good chance to get going quickly.

This worked well as the front runners sped off (as did Kyle) and I didn’t have to wind past anyone and people didn’t have to wind past me. Straight away I felt like I was good to give it my best, whatever that would look like. I had the buzz and my legs were feeling good.

We ran round the cricket pitch, then we ran up the road to where the bulk of the supporters were, including our family. I’ve done this race so many times, as have my parents in supporting it, so they knew exactly where to stand for a great spot.

They cheered us on and up we went to our first grinding hill. It’s a fairly long incline, pretty much the entire first mile. Kyle was ahead – I used him as motivation to keep on grinding and try to get faster.

I knew I’d have the advantage on the downhills as Kyle tends to slow down whereas I have a bit more of an “run with abandon” approach to downhills. Though Kyle is stronger on the uphills.

I caught up with him using that downhill and slowly, slowly overtook him. I jokingly said “well done” as I ran past. The banter between us was very friendly, I want this to be clear. I wasn’t rubbing it in, and he wasn’t annoyed. We both agreed it was good that we were racing each other as it pushed us both on.

I spent the rest of the race knowing Kyle was right on my tail. It was definitely a motivator. I didn’t want him to overtake me! And it pushed him on because he obviously did want to catch up.

Anyway, the race continued with a few more undulations. I was at a huge advantage having run this race five times before to know roughly how long these would last – not as long as the first one, but some steeper. Because I knew the course so well I could judge my speed to know if I could maintain my pace. I felt quite comfortable, as comfortable as you can be trying your hardest. What I mean is, that while I was definitely on the pain train and my legs were burning, I knew I could maintain it.

It also felt incredible short because I’ve only really been running marathons over the last few years! Five miles of pain was a lot different to 26.2 miles of tough sustained exertion (and only painful in the last few minutes). I felt confident.

And then my shoelace came undone. I had a new pair of Brook Adrenalines on and the laces are a bit short and shiny, so don’t tie together that well. Urghh what an utter pain! I stopped on the side and tried to tie it up as quickly as I could. Kyle was just far enough behind that he didn’t get a chance to overtake as I was off again quickly.

It probably took 5-10 seconds and then I was motivated to make up for lost time so realistically it didn’t affect things at all, I don’t think. It merely stopped the memento, which I was able to regain again quickly.

I got to the final stretch, before you head into the field to do the lap around it before finishing.

I still felt like Kyle was just behind me so used that to keep pushing but I was fading. I barely had a sprint finish in me.

If Kyle was on my shoulder he definitely could have out-sprinted me as he has such a good sprint finish.

My finishing time was 33:49 (my PB is still 33:43). Kyle finished 34:48. We were both really happy with our times. We had some banter at the end, as you do, but it was all in good fun. We’ve actually decided to go head-to-head in our next parkrun (tomorrow) to see what will happen.

Kyle is much better at shorter distances. I’m much better at longer, slower distances. Over a 5k will be very interesting. My prediction is that Kyle will speed ahead straight away and be ahead of me for most of the race. Then it’s up to me to try and overtake, which will be such a big ask considering how fast I think Kyle will go. If I’m honest, I don’t think I’ll be able to beat Kyle. He’s been running some solid 5ks and he has that power in his legs which I don’t.

We will see 😉 The trash talk in the house this week has been amusing. But as long as we both put some welly into it, we’re both going to come away with solid times I think (I HOPE!) so in my eyes it’s a win win.

But anyway, back to this race. I fed Isaac after I finished which took quite a while, bless him. I sat there just desperate to get some cake but he was not letting me go anytime soon haha!

I actually came second female which was lovely because I’ve managed to place a few times at this race. I’ve now been second twice, first once and third once. Not too shabby! (I will stress again that this is a small race and previous times another local 10k has happened on the same day which a lot of the speedy club runners were more drawn to).

Finally I was able to grab a cake (a blondie) and a beer (for my dad) and we waited around to get my prize.

The weather was warm enough to not be uncomfortable but not need a coat. The after bit is one of my favourite parts of this race as it’s just so friendly and you can chat to different people while enjoying a lovely cake and drink.

I then collected my “medal” – a beer glass, love it! (Oh by the way, the first place female was INCREDIBLE. I didn’t have a chance in hell of even being remotely her competition, she smashed it!)

And then we headed off to one of our favourite pubs, the Osborne View, for a roast. It was such a lovely day. I’ll definitely be signing up again next year. It’s such a well run, friendly and fun event.

Now on to the smackdown with Kyle… 😉

Our trip to Camden Market – all the food!

Kyle and I had a little mini-adventure this week.

We decided to have a day date just the two of us and go to London for a foodie trip. We had considered bringing Isaac but it was likely to not be that fun a day for him. It would be a lot of time in the pram, being ferried around and his naps would be all over the place. Instead he stayed with his aunty and had a lovely day with her going doing fun things like soft play.

After she came and picked him up, Kyle and I walked to the train station and headed to London. The plan was to go to Camden Market as there are so many food stalls there which looked incredible. After arriving, we walked from Waterloo Station to Camden, which was about 50 minutes. We do love a walk and it whetted our appetite nicely.

We got to the market at 11.30am and the place we were intending on trying first wasn’t actually open until midday so we needed to mooch around a bit beforehand.

Because we were both quite hungry at this point we landed ourselves in front of Funky Chips, which looked divine. They had “nacho chips” which sounded incredible. Basically Peri Peri dusted chips (fries for any Americans) loaded with cheese sauce, jalapenos, sour cream, more grated cheese and two delicious sauces.

Loaded nacho fries from Funky Chips

It was AMAZING. We hoovered these up so quickly it was unreal. I’m not a big spicy food fan but the jalapenos were delicious – enough heat to be warming and flavoursome. A very good start indeed to our foodie outing.

Then we headed to Oli Baba’s for their famous halloumi fries.

Halloumi fries from Oli Baba

These were delicious. Crispy, salty and sweet with the pomegranate seeds scattered on top and a perfectly balanced hint of mint.

Then we followed that with a Bill or Beak honey butter fried chicken burger. It was a sticky, greasy, crispy mess but SO good.

Honey butter fried chicken burger from Bill or Beak

After that we FINLLY headed to our main attraction, the Uh K Dogs n Juicy (basically Korean corn dogs). We were so excited. Corn dogs aren’t really something you see much of in the UK so we were really stoked to be able to try them. I went for a half turkey sausage and half mozzarella sausage, dipped in sugar and coated in mustard and ketchup. Kyle went for a full mozzarella, dipped in Cheetos dusting with cheese sauce.

Corn dogs from Uh K Dogs n Juicy

They were really good. I sort of wish I’d gone for a full mozzarella in the end as the cheese was amazing but to be honest I have no regrets. It was fun to eat and the cheese pulls insane.

Then we squeezed in our last savoury item by enjoying a delicious New York Reuben. This was a bagel with sauerkraut, salt beef, cheese and a sauce. Delicious!

NY Reuben from Bagel & Brisket

You might think we were full by then, this was not the case. We decided to end the day with something sweet.

Doughnut from Churros Donut

Kyle enjoyed four churro doughnuts (which I had a few cheeky bites of – the dough was so soft and melt in the mouth) and I got two scoops of cookie dough (Mini Eggs and Red Velvet flavours) topped with a coop of gelato.

Cookie dough from Naked Dough

Stick a fork in me, I was done! We had spent a fair bit of money, walked A LOT and eaten a ridiculous amount of food… we were ready to head home.

All the stall owners we met were so lovely and friendly, which really made the day even better. Everyone had a story to tell or nice things to say and couldn’t be more helpful or generous. It wasn’t hugely busy either which was nice. I mean it was a random Wednesday but it was nice not

It was such a lovely day. Of course I adore my child and love being his mum, but it’s nice to take a break and spend some quality one-on-one time with Kyle from time to time. We both had such a lovely day. Then it was back home to be parents again!

Have you ever been to Camden Market?

What foodie stall would have taken your fancy?

Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 2021

Sooo it’s been a while since I last blogged!

I wont lie, the desire to blog has been very low. Time is very precious right now and when I have a few moments to spare I don’t really fancy blogging. I do a lot of updates on Instagram but it’s just not the same as having a bit of a ramble on here. And what better time to have a little ramble than post marathon! My favourite blogs to write are race recaps and I love to keep the memories of the race, while they’re fresh, alive on here (even if no one cares or no one reads!).

I came back to running after 12 weeks of giving birth to Isaac and I did it sensibly, but I also did it with the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon in the back of my mind too. From starting running to that race it was about 12 weeks… which could be doable for an “easier” paced marathon. A marathon that I really enjoy for its festive and fun atmosphere, it’s literally on my doorstep, just before Christmas and one that isn’t about PB attempts (at least for me).

My comeback to running went well – nothing felt off, my pelvic floor held out and I slowly built up the miles. I hope one day to write a bit more about this journey but for now the Sparks Notes is that I built the long runs up, did supplementary strength training to keep my body strong and just ran consistently 3-4 times a week.

I’d managed to (gently) coerce my good friend, Mike, to run the marathon too. We’ve run another marathon together before – the New Forest marathon – when I tried to help him get a sub-4 hour.  This time though it wasn’t about me pacing him, just about us running together enjoying the race and each other’s company. I wasn’t aiming for any sort of fast time and Mike just wanted to get round, which sounded perfect as that would roughly be around an “easier” pace for me considering the long runs I’d managed to do beforehand.

I had a Papa Johns pizza and some chicken wings (sage and onion festive flavoured – they were incredible!) the night before. And my usual porridge in the morning. Kyle’s lovely mum had Isaac the night before so we could get a good night’s sleep before the race, which was just so helpful! He’s waking 2-3 times a night still… So Sarah came over in the morning with Isaac and to drive down with us to the start.

It was so so lovely. Kyle’s mum, sister and brother were coming to support Mike and I as well as my parents. It was really lovely of them and it meant so much to us to have those cheers throughout the race. I’m very lucky to be part of a family who are so supportive.

Yes it wasn’t a goal race but it was my first race post baby. The Portsmouth Coastal isn’t a big race in terms of numbers (less than 1,000?) and while the marshalls are incredible there isn’t a huge amount of consistent support round the course. So knowing we’d see my family 4 times around the course was such a boost.

I met Mike down at the start area about ten minutes before the start. I had a quick pre-race pee and then we were off. The weather was fantastic. No noticeable wind. Not too cold. No rain. It was perfect.

For the first seven miles (before we first saw my family) Mike and I had a nice relaxed start, chatting away and catching up on life. The miles flew by! We also saw a few people we knew from Hedge End Running Club as well as some other familiar faces. It’s such a local race that you just see so many people, which is great.

The annoying bit where you run across the shingles wasn’t too bad. There hadn’t even been a bottleneck to get onto it like there had been the two times I’d run it before. So it was just a quick amble across – try not to break your ankles! – and we were done. Whew.

We did go a little too quick perhaps as we bumped into people we knew and without realising we were speeding up. We all laughed and realised this could be problematic and that none of us wanted to go too speedy! So we slowed down again. It’s always dangerous during a marathon to go too quickly at the start because you feel so good. You’re so fresh and the miles haven’t really hit you yet. But it’s a long race and you have to be cautious because you have literally hours to go!

I was feeling really good though. Nice and comfortable and like I said the miles seemed to fly by. Suddenly we were at Farlington Marshes where our support crew were waiting. We got a big cheer which was lovely, Mike picked up his Lucozade which Kyle was holding for him (handy having supporters for this!) and we were on our way again. Isaac was having a nap in the car so I didn’t see him then, but he was in excellent hands of course.

The course had slightly changed from the previous races but it was still mostly familiar to me and I’m sure I bored Mike to tears with “when I ran this a few years ago…” conversations we had. I’m a broken record!

Both Mike and I were feeling good and enjoying ourselves. The miles were ticking off and around 10 miles (I think) we started seeing the front runners of the marathon heading back. Wow!! We cheered them along – it’s amazing how fast they were! I love and out and back race because you get to see the faster runners coming back and it helps pass the time.

We passed the Lambrook pub where my family and I were actually going to go for lunch after the race. It was funny to think in a few hours it’d all be over and I’d be sat eating a big carvery there later.

Mike and I got to around 11 miles where there’s always a festive aid station (shots of port, cups of mulled wine, mine pies and Jaffa cakes) and where the next location our supporters would be. The last time I ran this I was waving so much and paying too much attention to the cheering that I almost ran into a bollard (a hilarious video was of course captured). As I ran past them this time my dad shouted “mind the bollard!”. Haha I definitely saw it this time!

As the route had slightly changed, we wouldn’t be running too much further on. The turnaround would come sooner. This was a nice thing to do because previously it used to be quite a long run out at this point and the route was quite samey with the terrain and scenery not changing too much. It sort of goes a bit off road (not crazy off road, just on compacted trail and away from the traffic etc.). I needed a wee at this point so was on the lookout for a well concealed bush. Thankfully I saw a fork in the road and ran off there to do my business. A few people shouted I was going the wrong way but I said nature calls and they laughed.

I’d told Mike to keep running so now was the job to catch up with him again. I felt a bit uncharitable picking up speed and overtaking people and (they must have wondered what the hell I was doing suddenly sprinting along). It was also tough going to suddenly be trying to run a lot faster than I had been before, but it wasn’t too long before I’d caught Mike back up and could settle back into a more reasonably chilled pace (and catch my breath!).

Eventually we reached the turnaround point and headed back the way we’d come… all 13.1 miles of it. I love this point of the race because now you know exactly what you’re in for. The route does slightly change from what we ran to begin with but it’s basically the same (we avoid the shingles this time because the tide will have come in).

I sent Kyle a quick voice note on my phone to ask him for some Vaseline as I could feel a bit of chafing happening but as we got to the cheer spot we couldn’t see them. Then suddenly across the road I saw Kyle and his brother Zack race over shouting that they didn’t realise the turnaround was quicker this year haha! Thankfully he had the Vaseline and threw it over to me as I waited for them to cross the road and told Mike to go ahead. Then I had to catch him up again.

As we got to about 16 miles Mike started to slow down a little. But we were still going a nice clip and were in good spirits. We had another annoying bit of shingle which wasn’t nearly as fun to cross this time with all those miles in our legs!

At mile 19 we saw my family again and they gave us a lovely cheer. I gave Isaac a quick kiss as he was now awake. It was just so lovely to see him mid-race. Something I would never have dreamed about in a million years!

And then we were off back towards Southsea seafront. Things were getting trickier now. We were starting to slow down more and more now. I wanted to keep Mike’s spirits up so kept talking rubbish to him (which I’m sure he really appreciated…) and hopefully helped him. We stopped at an aid station and I decided to risk it and have a mulled wine. It’s Christmas why not eh! It was delicious.

The changes in terrain as we headed over some grasslands didn’t help Mike’s twinges that he was starting to feel in his quads. I wish I could have helped him but there’s nothing really you can do but keep encouraging. Our pace wasn’t descending too badly and we were still trucking along so this was good.

I needed another wee and knew there was a toilet ahead so I told Mike I’d dash in and catch him up. And now we were on the Southsea prom, just one long stretch to the finish along the waterfront. We had slowed a bit more now and Mike needed to do some run walking to help with his painful quads. I knew he felt frustrated and just wanted to get to the end now.

Mike said he was happy though as this had happened a lot later in the marathon than he thought and we were actually on for a faster time than he’d expected. We literally had only a couple of miles left and despite the long straight dragging out in front of us, we’d be done soon.

We saw my family again right at the end and we got ourselves together and ran to the finish. Ahh it felt so good! My time was 4:13:19.

Despite Mike’s painful legs, he said he was really happy with the race and the time we’d done. I think we’d both expected to be around 4.30 so to be so much faster was a happy surprise. Our intention was never to smash out a fast time or go for a sub-4 but to get so close to his PB (around 4:08) this was such a decent result!

Myself, I was so chuffed. Yes I’ve run faster marathons but I’ve never run a marathon after a baby and to feel so strong all the way through has given me such confidence. To know I can do the distance again and not break has made be very happy indeed. I can’t wait to see what I can do in another marathon now.

I got reunited with my little man which was just lovely. Though he had been fed by my family while I was running, I did need to feed him myself as my boobs were quite full now! So I sat on the grass and fed him while I enjoyed a post-marathon glow 😊

After doing some post race celebrations and chats with Mike, we headed off for our carvery. It was delicious. Nothing like a gigantic plate of roast dinner to refuel after a marathon eh!

So in a nutshell, I’m SO pleased with how this race went. I had a fantastic time running with Mike. He’s a great person to run with and it’s such a festive fun race before Christmas you can’t help but enjojy yourself. I mean obviously it’s still 26.2 miles, but for me during this race they just seem to fly by as it’s so varied and enjoyable. And of course, a huge thank you to my incredible family who just made the race so much more amazing by being there for us. I feel so warm and fuzzy 🙂

Now on to the next race eh! 😉