Southampton Marathon 2022

The lead-up to the Southampton Marathon was far from ideal.

We’d had a week of poor sleep as poor Isaac had gotten a cold from nursery and I therefore now had a cold too.

I can’t believe how quickly Isaac became ill after literally his first couple of days in nursery! I had been warned that illnesses would crop up quickly after he’d start but I didn’t realise it would literally be the day after. Poor little man was so snotty and had such a cough. We tested negative for COVID so that was good!

We’ve also recently stopped Isaac going to the Nana’s each week overnight. We made this decision because what with him going to nursery twice a week and then seeing both Nanas on the other two days, it felt like our Isaac time had diminished so much. As much as I loved having that night of sleep and lie-in the next day, it felt wrong him going away somewhere else again in the week.

So this all entailed me not feeling particularly fresh. But I had no time goals or great expectations for the marathon so I thought I might as well see what happens.

Kyle drove Isaac and I to Southampton while I ate my three pieces of toast.

We parked and walked over to the race village where we met Kyle’s mum, his sister, his brother and his brother’s girlfriend – the support crew! My parents were sadly suffering from a sickness bug so couldn’t come.

After a quick wee, I headed to the start. It was a bit nippy and windy but otherwise a lovely sunny morning.

It felt very odd to be in such proximity with so many people and someone joked had COVID even happened. This is the first time I’ve been in such a crowd – the other races I’ve done haven’t been quite as busy or packed at the start.

And then we were off! It felt really exciting and I couldn’t help but have a big grin on my face. The crowds of supporters really upped the atmosphere and I felt so buzzed. I let the bustle of runners carry me along and the first mile flew by in a blur. There were loads of people around me and I just remember thinking how much I love a big race, especially a big marathon.

Then we got to Itchen Bridge, the first of the major hills. It’s such a long grind up that bridge but the support along it was great. The wind was against us as well so it was hard going. I decided to take my mind off it by simply counting to 100. Amazingly this really worked! As I got to 100 I’d reached the top and was then heading back down, which was obviously far easier.

From Itchen Bridge you do a little loop down by the water and I saw some of my running club friends which was lovely. And then it was back towards Itchen Bridge again for the 2nd of the four times I’d have to run over it. I counted again as I ran over it and it worked nicely once more.

As I ran down the other side I spotted my lovely supporters and they gave me a big cheer which boosted me along. As I continued on, I knew my next major milestone would be the football stadium so I looked forward to that.

Running through the stadium was fun. It was spongy underfoot as they’d put some kind of turf down to protect the ground and I felt very springy as I ran across. My pace was still quite consistent and I felt pretty good.

Then we were off towards Bitterne. I remembered parts of this from the two times I’d run the half but knew that the route had changed a little. In the back of my mind I was praying that the big hill around mile 11 wouldn’t be there…

We ran along the river and again it was just so lovely how many people were out supporting. Loads of people giving out Jelly Babies, water and even offering to spray you with a hose as we passed houses.

I didn’t feel too hot at this point but I’d started to take on more water. A few sips here and there at each aid station. The drinks were these weird plastic bag things that required a bit of navigation to get to work and you were in danger of being aggressively squirted if you weren’t careful!

Sadly there were more hills to come even before the potential mile 11 hill. As we climbed a particularly long incline I heard a pacer say that there was only one more hill after this one. Ah OK then yes mile 11 hill was likely still to come!

The hills on the course were quite tough, I won’t lie. And mile 11 was no different. I just used my counting technique which helped. It also helped not really minding too much about pace. I would of course slow down going up the hill but I found I made it up on the downhill so it all evened out.

As we got nearer and nearer towards the finish, running along part of the Southampton parkrun, the crowds were getting more excited. They were yelling at us that we were almost there and not long now. Of course this was true for the half marthoners, but not for the marathoners! We still had to do this all again.

A slightly depressing part of the course was that the marathoners had to run literally down the finish line and then right before we went over the line we turned left to go again for another lap. It was a little bit frustrating!

Now we were on to the second lap and I knew exactly what was to come. I quite like this about a two lapper. The first lap is all about taking it all in, and the second lap you’re just ticking off the sights you’ve seen before.

But now the course was far more empty. No more half marathoners crowding the field. The supporters were few and far between now as the bulk of the race was over. It suddenly became a little bit like a ghost town at times.

I saw Kyle and Co. again which was lovely and they peppered me on nicely.

What was nice though was that the supporters and marshals that were there all cheered you on pretty much individually. I got a lot of “Go Anna!” which was really nice and encouraging.

Itchen Bridge the 3rd and 4th time came and went, though a lot harder this time. No longer did my count to 100 get me up the hill, it was more like 160. And now there was limited shade from the wind as the field was so empty.

But do you know what? I was still having a great time. I was far more hot now and each time I went past a water station I grabbed a water and kept it with me so I could sip as I went. I definitely needed it now! I was also so pleased I’d worn my sunglasses.

I got to mile 18 and remember distinctly thinking “ahh I love marathons”. I know that might sound a bit twee but honestly I do love them. Yes they’re so hard, long and boring at times but I was just in my little zone ticking off the miles enjoying myself. I had my headphones with me to listen to some music but I didn’t actually fancy it at all. I was quite happy with my own thoughts and the sounds from outside.

As I got to around three miles to go I decided to push on a little bit harder. I actually caught up with a guy I’ve known for a while and we swapped hellos. Then we just sorted of stayed in step with each other.

We didn’t chat – we were both too tired and in our own little worlds. But when he edged further on I pushed myself to keep up, and likewise for him. So in the end I we were really pushing the pace to the end. Far quicker than I think I would have had I been on my own that’s for certain!

The finish line sprint was amazing. The crowds were really thick here (including my family) and everyone was bashing on the barriers and cheering so the atmosphere was electric and ridiculously loud.

I properly sprinted to the end – faster than I’ve probably done for the majority of my marathons! But I was loving it.

My time was 3:30:08, which I am SO pleased about considering I had no time goals in mind. It was a lot faster than I’d intended.

Am I sad I didn’t dip under 3:30? Of course 😉 But no, seriously, I’m so happy and honestly don’t think I could have given anymore in that sprint.

Then I met up with my family and enjoyed a lovely roast dinner later in the day.

I am honestly so happy with how the Southampton Marathon went and really only have happy memories from the day. I just ran at such a consistent pace and never felt like I was over-reaching (until perhaps the last couple of miles which were definitely a hard push!). it just further reminded me of how much I love a pressure-free marathon.

In short, hilly, hot, windy but thoroughly enjoyable!

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! 😉

My Running For Two Half Marathon at almost 20 weeks

So this “race” recap is a bit delayed as it was actually back in Feb that I ran it when I was almost 20 weeks pregnant (I’m now 23 weeks pregnant). But hey ho!

With still being able to currently run fairly comfortably (*touch wood*) I’d said to Kyle that it was such a shame there were no races for me to plod round as I’d love to get a medal that I could later show our little guy and be like “I got this when you were inside of me”.

Obviously with the lockdown, races just weren’t being scheduled anytime soon (of course). The nearest races seemed to be late May or June. By that time I would be fairly heavily pregnant and I couldn’t guarantee I’d be able to run 5k let alone a half marathon.

I toyed with the idea of doing an official virtual one but Kyle said if I was going to have to do it on my own anyway I might as well just make my own up and really personalise it. It would save a bit of money and I could schedule it however I fancied. This sounded perfect.

I decided to go for a half marathon and came up with my own route round where I lived and created my own bib and name for the “race”: the Running For Two Half Marathon. I mentioned it to my parents and they said they’d come and support as well, which was lovely (strictly speaking breaking the rules a little but they would stand a distance from Kyle and obviously I’d just be running past).

I decided to go with the Sunday just before I turned 20 weeks, so almost half way, which fit nicely with the half distance as the little guy would be half baked. I had a pizza the night before, as is my pre-race tradition, and got myself mentally prepared. I’d been running 10-12 miles  for a few weeks so I wasn’t too worried about the distance – or how long it would take me as this wasn’t about times.

Unfortunately on the morning I woke up to aggressively windy and cold weather. As my route was basically along the coastline I knew I was in for a rough time. But it was planned, my parents were heading over to stand in the spot they were going to cheer from (about 9 miles – then the plan would be they’d walk down to mile 11, and then I’d finish near Baffins Pond and they’d walk down to see me, from afar), so I couldn’t back out now.

I’d dressed snuggly in two layers and my hat, gloves (and yes, shorts). Within two miles I realised I wasn’t warming up that much. Usually by half a mile I’m good but the wind was so icy and was tearing through my layers and stinging my legs. The wind was pushing from the side and I knew from the direction it was going it was going to be horrendous along the seafront.

I got to my three mile loo stop (my absolute saviour at the moment) and had a quick wee. No run can go without this anymore! I can pretty much manage up to four miles before it becomes impossible. Luckily all over Portsmouth there are some decent quality public toilets – especially in Southsea along the front. As I would in a race, I didn’t stop my watch.

Then I headed off through Old Portsmouth to then turn east towards the front. Ah jeeze. That icy wind was straight against me. It was AWFUL. Had I not been doing a race and had Kyle and my parents not been waiting at a certain spot, I honestly would have turned around and headed back home. I knew I had three miles along the front with this wind and it was soul destroying, not to mention freezing.

It was such a rubbish day. Normally if it’s windy or a bit overcast people still come and walk and spend time down the seafront but there was a sparsity of people on the prom, and those that were there looked miserable.

I just put my head down and counted down the 0.1 miles. Eventually I finally got to my next loo stop and thankfully turned the corner to head back north. The relief for both the loo and the wind to stop being full against me was incredible.

Now I was almost at 7 miles and knew it wouldn’t be such a slog to get to my parents. It was basically all north to them, so the wind was just be sideways on me not against me. But it was still cold. I just wasn’t warming up. It wasn’t even because of the pregnancy that this was hard, it was just an awful run because of the external conditions.

Finally I could see from about 0.5 miles away where my parents and Kyle would be. I could just make out their bodies. I felt immensely sorry for them. At least I was running so wasn’t absolutely freezing, whereas I knew them just standing there in the cold wind would be horrendous. I felt very bad indeed.

Eventually I got near enough to hear them shouting my name and cheering me on, like the absolute troopers they are. I could barely raise a smile to them though. I was cold to my core, so fed up and mentally drained. This was not the glorious celebratory run I’d hoped for.

I quickly told them I was changing my route as the one I’d planned  involved heading back to where I’d come from, and that was just utterly miserably in my mind. I wanted to keep moving to other areas and not head back to the hell I’d come from.

So I carried on running north until I roughly worked out if I turned back I could make the 13.1 mile distance if I just ran home. There was no way I wanted to be outside anymore. I wanted a hot shower, hot porridge and a cup of tea. I quickly rang Kyle and explained that was what I was doing. My parents could meet me there and we could chat from the front door. I felt bad but realistically it was no better than standing outside in Baffins Pond.

Happily they’d actually parked the car near to where they’d stood so they had been able to shelter in the car for warmth while I was running to them. So they drove back to our house (yes with Kyle masked up in the back of the car… it was just too cold to expect him to walk the mile back – at least both my parents had had the vaccine at this point).

I sped up on the final mile knowing I was heading home to warmth and shelter and then finally finished to them clapping me along the street which was lovely.

I ran 1:58:34 which I’m over the moon with, especially with two toilet stops. Under two hours was an unimportant goal I’d vaguely had in my mind so it was nice to achieve it. Long gone are the days of sub 1:40 or even sub 1:45 halves!

I’m really pleased I got the run done. It wasn’t what I’d hoped for and to be honest we were all feeling pretty rubbish afterwards. I felt terrible for my lovely supporters but they assured me it was fine and they were happy to see me achieve this milestone. To be honest, had I have known what the weather was going to be like in reality then I’d have changed the day. But it was what it was. It was certainly memorable!

And I got a medal! We had one made and I’ll be able to show our little man and say that I ran a very tough run to get this for him! And that’s something special to me at least.

Have you been running in the cold temperatures?

Have you been doing any virtual races?

Goodwood Marathon 2020

I was so nervous going into the Goodwood Marathon race.

What with one thing and another, I hadn’t done a proper marathon race since Chicago last year. Yes I’d done my “lockdown marathon” in April but it wasn’t an official race. It was just me running round my local area for 26.2 miles.

So when I heard that the Goodwood Marathon was still going ahead, and the fact it was just 30 minutes away and that I’d successfully done a few 16 milers, 17 miler and an 18 miler… well, it was far too tempting to not sign up for. Especially as this year I’ve signed up to so many marathons for them to be cancelled/postponed (Rotterdam, Southampton, Iceland and a local lapped event) . At this point I just wanted to run a damn race!

With around two weeks before the race, I’d signed up and was feeling excited. But then as the days crept closer I started to really feel not up for it. Originally my parents, Kyle’s mum and Kyle would be coming to support, until we realised that would be pretty reckless considering it was likely to be fairly crowded already and they were trying to discourage spectators. So just Kyle and I then (and even having Kyle watch me wasn’t guaranteed).

I was nervous and just feeling flat about it. It was just up the road so the commitment to go was minimal. It was lapped, so I could stop anytime really without issue. And ELEVEN LAPS. All these things just weighed against me.

Kyle massively helped hype me up though. He suggested that I could dedicate each lap to something or someone that would keep me entertained or focused. He could hold up a photo on his iPad each lap I passed him. We came up with 11 fun and random things and then Kyle was going to surprise me with the photo. I also made the best music playlist I could. One for just plodding through the miles and one for 20 miles onwards (high tempo go go go music).

Saturday I did a gentle 5k shakeout run with Kyle and had a my usual pizza for dinner (I go to the pizza counter in Asda – I get a BBQ based chicken and veg pizza with less cheese – while I adore cheese, they put loads on and I didn’t want it to be super heavy).

I prepped all my stuff ready for the next day: bag packed, clothes out ready and porridge ready to be made. Then I got a fairly early night.

The next morning I was up at 6:50am, got dressed and washed, had a small but strong coffee (in a fun mug Kyle got made for me with my face on haha), took Alfie for a 10 minute walk, ate my porridge and we were ready to go.

Because I knew the only toilets available were within the race village (which is a faff to get to from the course itself) I wanted to drink as little as possible in the morning to prevent me needing to go during the race. I wasn’t concerned about dehydration because I had drunk a lot the day before and had had some water during the night. I also knew there would be water available every single lap.

We arrived half an hour before the start, parked and walked over to the Goodwood Motor Circuit (parking is super easy, it’s in a field literally next door, and it’s free).

Before we could get in we had to sanitize our hands. The COVID safety measures were really top notch for this event – we felt very safe. All marshals wore masks, everyone was keeping apart and there was minimal contact (no bag drop for example). I kept my mask on in the race village (you didn’t have to) but mainly because it was so cold!

And because I wanted to keep going to the loo beforehand (that sounds excessive, I went twice!).

Kyle leant me his coat and we milled around a bit before they called over the marathon runners for a warm up. It was so cold! I mean I know compared to like November or January it’s not that cold, but considering the previously temperatures we’ve all gotten used to, it certainly felt cold.

And it was windy. Really windy.

The marshals then called out waves for what times people were hoping to finish – starting at 2 hours 30. Blimey! (Spoiler: the winning guy did it in 2:29:56!). When they shouted out 3:25 I decided to go for it. I knew it wasn’t likely to get that time unless I really felt good but I wanted to give myself a good shot… just in case.

We were directed over to the start in lines with markers to keep us 2 metres away from each other and they started four people at a time every 10 seconds. It was like a conveyor belt of runners. Very strange but obviously the safest way to do it.

And then I was off. We had to do a little out and back bit to make up the distance for the 11 laps (2.3 miles per lap) straight into the wind before turning round and heading off in the direction we’d be going round the track each time. 11 laps. Here we go.

I looked up at Kyle who was stood on the balcony bit to watch me and he held up the first photo on his iPad. It was a picture of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s a bit of a random one, I know, but we’ve really been enjoying watching the Buffy series (again for me, first time for Kyle) and I’m Team Spike rather than Team Angel. It made me laugh as I headed off.

Looking up for Kyle

The wind was right behind, pushing us forward nicely. But it was cold. In my vest and shorts I really felt quite exposed. I kept my music off and told myself to do at least two laps without it (always better to use musical sparingly during a marathon as then it’ll have more of an impact). We were all spaced out on the track so it felt a little lonely but it was nice and flat so I just focused on plodding away.

As we turned round the corner I felt the wind now pushing my side. Not quite as easy as it pushing behind but not too bad. As we continued round the lap we were now starting to face the wind. Urgh it was now very cold and getting harder as we were heading into the wind. It was one of those “head down, grind teeth, push forward” times. And in my head thinking “10 more times of this”.

In reality it was probably just a mile of into the wind pain, and then as we turned again it was back to the wind going across us – but definitely a relief from before. And then as we continued on as we followed the loop round, the wind was back to behind us. Whew. And then it was easy running back to towards the start again. Each lap this was the best part, turning that corner, the wind behind and heading to finish the lap and seeing Kyle. It really was a tale of two halves for each lap. A hard grind followed by easy running.

As I got close to the end of the lap I would raise my arm and wave towards where I knew Kyle was on the balcony. He would wave back and then I could spot him easier when I got closer so I could see him and the photo he would hold up. As I finished the first lap I looked up and saw the next photo: apples 😀

Then it was off for another lap. Now I knew what to expect and I knew where it would be hard and where it would be easy. I just zoned out and kept my pace as consistent as I could (well, effort level I guess). While this marathon is quite boring as there isn’t much to look at and you’re doing so many laps, it does go by fairly quickly because you’re just trying to complete the lap your on and 11 laps mentally go quicker than 26 miles. To be honest, I stopped looking at my watch for the miles because there was no point. I knew the number of  laps I had left so it didn’t matter about the miles.

The next lap Kyle held up a photo Thor (I always joke that I love him). And during that lap I made up a little song in my head to repeat over and over to just keep me occupied (don’t laugh) “Thor, Thor, I am Thor” over and over. It was just so rhythmical so it just worked (I don’t have desires to actually be Thor, I must stress). I still kept my music off. I was good for the moment.

The next lap was a photo of a dinosaur (this then went round my head as “di-no-saur, di-no-saur”) and then I starting thinking about how far I’d need to be away from a T-rex to be able to outrun it… the weird things that go round my brain during a marathon, eh.

I think at this point I’d definitely been lapped by the front runners – who were insanely fast! And they just seemed to glide along, despite the wind. I passed a guy who said “urgh this wind” and he seemed to be about to fall into step with me and moan a bit more, but I really didn’t want someone next to me unhappy and I also didn’t fancy chatting much. I needed all the positive energy I could get. Luckily I manage to up my pace a bit more and lost him.

At some point the 20 mile racers joined the course and it got more busy. Eventually they’d be the 20 milers, half marathoners, 10k’ers and 5k’ers out on the track. So throughout the race there was an eb and flow of busyness. It was cool to see the other runners join – even if it was just to keep me occupied by watching them zoom past or me pass them.

Kyle held up a photo of my parent’s dog, Dylan, for lap five. Sadly Dylan passed away a few weeks ago so it was a nice way to remember him.

At this point I was feeling very warm and decided to stop and grab my drink. There was a drinks station just before each next lap and (because I remembered how it was last time) decided to bring my own water bottle so I wouldn’t need to waste any water bottles and could keep as contactless as possible. I’d also attached a gel to the side with tape in case I wanted it. It was really nice to have my own drink – I’d even popped a couple of Nuun tablets in it so it was lovely and refreshing (in the end I didn’t use the gel).

Lap six was a photo of a cake (of course). Then on the 7th lap Kyle had gotten his times muddled and as I waved over to him I didn’t get a wave back… and as I passed he looked panicked and hadn’t got his iPad ready. He looked completely stricken bless him. It did slightly stump me tho as lap 7 was supposed to be a surprise photo so I was a bit disappointed.

At this point I was listening to my music (I had started it on mile 10). I was in the zone and just trucking along. I would be making no crazy moves for a while. Just keep running at the same effort, just stay focused.

Lap eight came around and Kyle quickly held up two photos: chicken wings and the 7Eleven logo (would have been apt for lap seven… lap 7 out of 11).

Lap 9 was a photo of my family. I thought this would be the hardest lap because three laps is still so far from the end (actually it was lap 10 that was the killer). I was around 20 miles now, but not ready to change my music and start running faster. I was feeling the drag. Then my headphones made that little noise which means they’re low battery. I had some spare in my FlipBelt so decided on the 10th lap I would change my music and my headphones and be ready to go go go.

Lap 10 was a photo of Alfie. I grabbed some more water and then headed off. I swapped my headphones and tried to get the new headphones to connect to my phone’s Bluetooth but it said it wasn’t possible… grrrr! So I switched back the headphones, switched the playlist and hoped the battery would hold out. Right, now was time to jump on a the pain train for a little bit. Now I was counting the number of times I would have to run into the wind.

The final lap there was no photo – it was “Kyle” and so he just gave me the biggest cheer and shouted “one more to go!”. And that’s all I needed to be like, “right let’s do this”. To be honest, my pace didn’t dramatically get that much faster but I definitely felt more motivated to get to the finish now. The final time through the wind was tough but I knew it was the last time. Then when I turned the corner, the wind behind me, I picked it up as much as I could and headed for as strong a finish that I could manage.

I could see Kyle cheering me on and I felt spectacular. Oh how I’d missed this!

My official time was 3:33:44 and I was over the moon. Going into this I was going to be happy with a sub 3:45, maybe  push for 3:40. When I was racing and feeling good I considered being near 3:35. So 3:33 was a big win in my book.

I finished and picked up my medal from the table, still wrapped in its plastic and walked towards Kyle. He was there with a man who I recognised lived on our road. He’d just done the 10k, what a small world!

My legs were definitely tired and done. This is what happens when you don’t have a solid lead-up to a marathon – a few long runs does not make for a proper marathon training plan! But I was chuffed nonetheless. At no point was I going to stop, like I feared I’d be tempted to. Once I had started that was it. I had so missed the race atmosphere, people running with you all trying their best, and then the flourish of a sprint finish. It just felt so nice to be doing something like this again. It’s definitely sparked me up again 🙂

But I can definitely say that I never want to run round Goodwood Motor Circuit ever again.

Have you done any races?

Have you got any races planned?

My next running challenge

So my running lately has been a little bit without focus or a goal.

And I’m sure this has been the same for so many other runners out there too because of COVID and races being cancelled and rescheduled left, right and centre. And entirely understadable and the right thing to have been done.

But while I’m not really the type of runner who is strongly motivated by PB’s or getting faster, I do like to have a race in the diary to schedule my training to. An endpoint so I can schedule my peak in miles and then have a finishing point. It feels a little like groundhog day week and that makes scheduling my runs somewhat tricky.

As someone who really enjoys long runs, it’s hard to not go overboard and end up running a long run every single weekend (like 15+ mile long runs). While I enjoy them, I know it’s not particularly sensible or even necessary. During marathon training it makes sense, but without that goal it can end up just being long run after long run without an end in sight and my body gets worn down unnecessarily. As an injury-prone runner, very risky.

However, this has now changed. I now have a marathon in the plan! I mean this could all change and it could be cancelled of course because, well, COVID really loves ruining things, but SO FAR it’s still to go ahead.

Despite not entirely loving the experience and probably ranking it down the lower end of my top marathon experiences, I’m going to be doing the Goodwood Marathon again 27th September. I ran it two years ago and while it was a fairly fast time for me, it was mentally a tough course to run because you do 11 laps (2.3 miles per lap) around the Goodwood Motor Circuit. It’s flat and an ideal course to get a good time, but it is dull.

However, at this point I’m so desperate to do a race and a marathon again I will take that. I have no idea what time I’m going to aim for, but I’ll do my best. My running has been fairly decent recently. I’ve been doing speed sessions every week, I’ve been doing some solid long runs… will it be enough? Who knows and, frankly, who cares!? It’s an organised race! They’ll be actual runners near me! They’ll be a medal!

I ran 18 miles last weekend. I hadn’t firmly set out to do 18 miles but I decided that if I managed it and felt good for it I’d do it, and then that would dictate whether I would do a marathon in the near future. I managed 18 miles and it felt good and I felt happy with the distance.

At that point I hadn’t entered Goodwood. I was going to run another marathon on my own (similar to how I ran the “lockdown marathon” a few months ago on my own). I just need to get it out of my system again. So I’d planned to do it round Portsmouth. Then I heard about Goodwood still being on from a friend and with it being soon I was sold.

So I’m excited and nervous – which I think is a healthy outlook to have for a marathon. The race organisers seem to have good COVID safety measures in place and it’s not a particular big race, so I’m not concerned about that. I’ll be as safe as I can while running – wide berths with any overtaking (positive thinking on that front), masks where appropriate, minimal contact and touching things I don’t need to… it’s a big track as well so I can’t imagine there being any great risk during the race anyway.

I just can’t wait for the whole shebang, you know? The night before’s pre-marathon meal, setting my clothes out ready, getting up early, eating porridge, getting there and having a million wees. I just love it. Then standing there ready to go with everyone else. BANG, you’re off. One mile in and over 25 to go. It’s daunting, terrifying, hard, tedious, boring, relentless, but exciting, fun and one of my favourite things in the entire world. That last 5k. Knowing how far you’ve come, how long you’ve been running. Just a parkrun to go. Push the pace a bit if you’re lucky. Smile for the cameras (turns out you grimaced), sprint finish to the end – which is never ever a sprint, but in your head your Mo Farah and you’re winning gold. I cannot wait.

I just hope it goes ahead.

Do you miss races?

What race would you love to do right now if you could?