Gosport Half Marathon 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you like to run to races?

Would you do a race round where you normally run?

The New York Marathon – part 2

Carrying on my New York Marathon recap.

**Catch up with Part 1 HERE**

So I had just come off from the (dreaded) Queensboro Bridge and the mile slog that had entailed. Coming out of that silence and tough effort onto a nice decline and then straight into the busy streets of New York again was fantastic. It was almost nice to have had that respite of silence to fully appreciate the crowds again.

The sun was still shining, I was feeling a bit warm but nothing crazy. Now from 17 miles to 21 miles it was literally straight down First Avenue. It was also gently downhill. So with the crowds and the now wonderful feeling of no longer being on a bridge grinding upwards, I was flying along. I started to wonder what time I might get… sub 3:30? Could I do it?My pace was dangerous but I felt good. Now we were in Manhattan. I was still having the time of my life, waving at crowds, smiling and just being on top of the world. A woman in the crowd pointed at me and shouted “Anna you are STRONG” and in my happy little mind I thought “yes, yes I am!”.I find with marathons that it really helps to smile, even if you’re not feeling it. It tricks you into thinking it’s going OK and it boosts the crowds to cheer you. I definitely felt boosted!

I hadn’t paid enough attention to what Charlie and Anna had said before the race about where they were going to stand and clearly got confused because I thought they were going to be at mile 19… but they actually said they were going to be at mile 24. So at mile 19 I was looking for them but obviously didn’t see them. I’m annoyed that I didn’t listen properly because had I have known I would have looked at 24!

But around mile 19 we passed the area where our AirBnb was – and “our” Dunkin Donuts that we’d been going to. I suppose to anyone else it would have just been another Dunkin Donuts but to me it was like “ahhh! Familiar places!” and was a really nice moment. I knew where I was!At 20 miles I felt a new lease of life. Like I’m almost there. Less than hour I’ll be done! I put some high powered tunes on and focused on keeping going. I could barely hear my music though due to the crowds but it helped a little. Another bridge and we were into the Bronx, where I’d been told the support would thin out. I don’t feel like that was less support but I wondered just how more bridges to go and as we headed back to Manhattan I saw a sign that said “This is the last bridge!” and was SO grateful.

I remembered Charlie saying that mile 23 was the tough one. We’d run a bit of it the day before and it was literally all incline. It was a tough ask at this point. My legs still felt good, I was still buzzing but now my smile was occasionally a grimace as I knuckled down.

I started doing maths in my head for what time I thought I could get. Now I was wondering if a sub 3:25 would be on the cards. I was well over the mile markers possibly due to satellites or general drifting around the course so I made sure to try and work it out from an actual marker and not my watch. I was working out the eight times table in my head as I thought that was the easiest and most conservative.Charlie and Anna saw me (though I genuinely can’t remember seeing them) and they snapped two fantastic photos  which were better than any of the official ones.I was clearly in the zone! We got properly into Central Park and a man shouted to me “Hey Anna! Welcome to the Park!” and it was a really lovely moment. So random, but really lovely.And now I was on the struggle bus. Every 0.1 was a grind. I was holding on for dear life, pushing up the inclines and trying to fly down any declines. I knew the final 5k was going to be tough and it was. But though physically it was hard, I was still happy. Yes, happy that the finish was soon but also because the crowds were just amazing and I was smashing it. The finis line was after a grueling final uphill and I (gratefully) crossed the line 3:21:29, 3713/52697 overall, 116/3544 in my age group, 205/1812 Brit. Pretty cool! I was over the moon and honestly quite shocked how I’d managed to do that – and how I’d found it a lot easier than the previous Goodwood Marathon which was around 5 minutes slower. It just shows what a fantastic course and cheering crowd can do!I shuffled through the finish area and the sunshine and felt wonderful. My dad rung me straight away – he must have got notified I’d finished. I chatted to him very briefly as I realised I only had under 20% battery left and still needed to navigate my way back. I wanted to speak to Kyle but kept it sensible by using WhatsApp rather than drain any more battery.

Charlie had given me the AirBnb key as it was likely I’d be the first to finish. I hadn’t really planned what i was going to do after the race… but I knew Steph was going to head and find an apparently very popular pie straight after.She had luckily managed to get into Wave 1 so had started ahead of me and though she was taking the race as a training run (I think she did 3:50ish) finished around the same time as me. Very handy! Especially as I really didn’t know how to get back. I was going to walk using my phone to navigate but at this point I don’t think it was going to last.So I headed to pick up my amazing poncho and goodie bag. The poncho…well I can’t even explain how decent it is!It’s huge, waterproof, with a fleecy lining and a hood. I won’t be throwing this away anytime soon. It was part of my package (I bought my place and flights for the marathon with 209 events – I fully recommend them) but  believe you do have to pay extra to get it.

I met up with Steph (thank god!) and she took me to the amazing Milk Bar for some post marathon treats. Steph is very much into her food like I am so she a good person to be around at this point 😉

The Milk Bar was tricky to find and tiny. Once inside though, we had to wait in a quite a long queue – clearly a popular spot!Steph assured me the thing to order was the Crack Pie (real name), which I was totally game for.And I also bought some Birthday Cake Truffles.We then shuffled to the Subway to head home. Countless random people congratulated us – it was brilliant. In fact, we passed the Trump building where people were protesting outside and watched a very heated and sweary shouting match between a protester and a passerby. As we walked past the protester immediately softened his voice and said “Congratulations, girls!” it was quite amusing.

A this point neither of us had sat down since the Staten Island ferry – remember, we didn’t even sit on the bus! My legs were dunzo. I was exhausted. I almost cried when we got onto the metro and saw a rather shifty and possibly high/drunk guy sit sprawled out on the only two seats left on the train.

A wonderful woman noticed and promptly berated the man to stand up and let us sit down, “These girls have just run the MARATHON”. He quickly hopped up and we were able to sit down. I was so grateful to that lady!

We FINALLY got back to the AirBnb and the two of us happily sat and scoffed our pies and a numerous number of grapes (so refreshing). I had a glorious shower and then enjoyed seeing each of the other girls come in and swapping marathon stories with them. Everyone had had a good (albeit tough of course) race. Hurrah!

That evening we went out for Mexican food at Tolouche and celebrated happily together. I’ve never seen guacamole be demolished as quickly as it was though! The tortilla chips were hot and the guac was INSANELY good.For my main, I went for some sort of pulled short rib thing on a tortilla. It hit the spot.Of course we all wore our medals! Though I would have liked to have had a giant pudding of some sort I sensibly followed suite of the majority ruling (post marathon tummy is a delicate thing). We were all grateful to head to bed early that night – Anna and Charlie as well, they’d walked and cheered for silly lengths of time!Genuinely, the New York Marathon is my favourite marathon yet. I felt amazing both physically and mentally. I literally LOVED it. Yes there were tough moments but I remember distinctly thinking several times “I love this” as I was running. Having no time goals or pressures definitely helped. The crowds HUGELY helped. The sights and the sheer amazingness of New York helped. My only sadness is my family and Kyle were so far away, but I had some great new friends who helped make it very special.Next up… Portsmouth Coastal Marathon in December!

Have you ever run the New York Marathon?

What’s your favourite race?

What food do you like post-race?

**Check out Charlie’s blog for details about future running-related trips she’s organising!**

Great South Run 2018

The Great South Run is a very local run to me. It’s basically just down the road so always a fun one to enter because it’s so popular and so well supported by the locals.

It has all the feels of a big race, despite being “only” 10 miles. It’s almost like a mini-London Marathon with the atmosphere and support. It is, however, an expensive race (£46). I was luckily offered a free spot from the lovely people of Simplyhealth. I originally had plans to race it, like I did last year, but in the end I decided I’d much rather enjoy the race by running with Kyle. This is not meant to sound derogatory to Kyle, but he’d had 5 weeks off of running and had only just got back into things. This run was not about racing, but just about getting to the end without reigniting any issues. So I felt very relaxed going into this race (unlike poor Kyle, bless him).

The morning of the race was somewhat stressful when Kyle realised he’d forgotten his shorts. Clearly spending time with me is rubbing off on him and he’s developing his own “Anna(Kyle)-isms”. Luckily though his mum and sisters were going to be meeting us in Gunwharf so they were able to bring his shorts. Whew! Crisis (and lots of chafing) avoided.Kyle was running for Cancer Research UK and has been raising money for them (if anyone is feeling a tiny bit generous, his page is HERE).So my parents, Kyle and I headed off to Gunwharf bright and early (a lot earlier than when my mum and me left last year which resulted in SO MUCH PANIC because of traffic).We got parked nice and early and milled around enjoying the views and taking some photos. The weather was perfect.We then met up with Kyle’s mum, Sarah, and his two sisters, Lucy and Laura, (who are all so very lovely) and Kyle was able to get properly ready for the race. We then all headed to Southsea. It’s about a 30 minute walk but the weather was lovely so it wasn’t bad at all. A nice leg stretcher.On arriving at the race village area the support crew headed for important business with a bacon sandwich van while Kyle and I headed to our wave.We did a rather enthusiastic warm-up (kind of a standard Great South Run procedure) and then we were off. Our plans were to keep it nice and gentle at the start. The problem with the GSR is that you do get a bit swept away with all the runners. The crowds are so loud and happy that you just forget all semblance of the plans you made before.Our 9min/miles ambitions quickly turned into 8min/miles. But we were at least consciously aware of this and decided to slow down a touch but ultimately keep a bit quicker. I was relying on Kyle to feedback if he was having issues (though I did constantly ask him – which was probably just a teeeeny bit annoying for him I’m sure…).We were running strong chatting away and enjoying the crowds for the first few miles. The sun was quite intense but I was enjoying feeling its heat after feeling a bit chilly all morning. We ran through the Historic Dockyards and saw a guy dressed up (like fully dressed up) as Henry VIII, which was amusing. We saw another guy from work and other people we knew so it felt very friendly.

I think I might have scared Kyle a bit when I would randomly shout out to club members and people I knew when I saw them as he wasn’t quite expecting it. But there were a lot of people from my club, which was nice and the switchbacks were a great time to people spot.

As we got to about 4.5 miles we saw my dad, Sarah, Lucy and Laura and they cheered us on with such enthusiasm as we passed them. It was brilliant and really boosted us.As we got to around 6 miles Kyle got a bit quieter and I could feel he wasn’t finding it as easy as the previous miles. This would be entering distance territory that he hadn’t hit for quite a few weeks so I knew it would be a struggle at some points for him. He pushed on though and I stopped yabbering away and let him concentrate on just running (well, I tried to for the most part…). He was still in good spirits high-fiving young kids and cheering back when people shouted his name.

I spotted the lovely Carlo from my club who runs the Great South Run every year as the Cookie Monster and saw he was walking. I told Kyle I’d catch him up and I stopped to walk with him for a bit. He was having a bad day (he’s normally SUPER fast) but he was still being positive – as he always is. He raises so much money every year for MNDA and runs so many ultras and marathons – he’s a true inspiration.I hardly needed to give him any sort of motivation or encouragement but he said it was nice that I stopped to chat so I hope it helped!

We saw my mum at another point and she waved and cheered madly as only mums can do. She’s got painful feet at the moment (long story) so couldn’t walk as far as the others but it was nice to have her at a different point anyway to keep us going.As we got to 7 miles Kyle was finding it a bit more tough. It was very warm in the relentless sunshine so that was having an effect. Amazingly though our pace kept strong and we were pushing on. As we got round the corner I was amazed to find there was no wind. Normally along the seafront at this point the last two miles are horrendous struggle but it was clear blue skies and stillness. Hot yes but still.My lovely friend Rebecca cheered us on which was nice (last year she missed me and I had to shout to her but this year she spotted me first). I also saw my good friend Mike ahead and encouraged Kyle to catch him up, which we did. Mike was having a good race – hitting a PB for sure but the final metres were tough all round.With the final 100m Kyle put in a brilliant sprint – of which I struggled to keep up with!My personal trainer was there at the finish as well and got some great photos!
My time was 01:21:06 (Kyle’s was 01:21:05). We were both really pleased. A solid run!We then went and found our amazing supporters. They’d done so well to get round to different points in the course and were such a fantastic cheer squad.It was a really lovely day. The weather, the running and of course the support. Family is a big thing to both Kyle and I so to have them there was really lovely. They were awesome.

Happily Kyle had no injury issues during or after. So fingers crossed this remains that way!

The Great Runs might be expensive,  but they really are fantastically organised events. They usually attract a good amount of support and the atmosphere is always so boosting. I’d love to do the Great North Run one day! And the goodie bags are pretty good (Nando’s money off and sauce, protein bars, maple syrup, technical t-shirt…etc.!).Do you do any of the Great Runs?

Do your family come to support you at races?

Rough Runner and rough running

Last weekend was quite the busy one.

Through work, I was signed up to do Rough Runner 10k as Team Wiggle. Rough Runner is an obstacle course run where there are about 10 obstacles for the 10k and you basically just run to each one. You don’t have to do them if you don’t want to (one of our team members had a bad shoulder so avoided a few of them) and there are no penalties (like in Spartan for example where you have to do burpees).The one we were doing was located somewhere near Bristol (I’m hazy with where exactly). Kyle, a fellow Wiggler Steph and I drove up together in the delightful downpour and got there for 9.30am. We met up with the other team members (also found out one of the girls had only just woken up and would therefore not be joining…lol) and then cowered under one of the sponsor tents as much out of the rain and cold as we could.I was not really feeling it if I’m honest. I hate being cold. Probably more than I hate being hungry – and this is saying something. I think it goes cold, hunger, tiredness in order of what I detest the most. I could feel myself being quite grumpy and just wanted to either go home or get started. I was wearing leggings (I tend to for obstacle course runs just as a bit of protection as you always end up clambering around on the floor) but just a vest top. It was supposed to be about 18 degrees and while it didn’t feel that cold, the wind and rain made that temperature really hard to believe.Eventually we went into a tent and watched a safety video. As we came out again into the open and headed to do the warm-up we were pleasantly surprised that the rain had stopped and it actually felt quite nice. The warm-up itself was quite amusing as Kyle got randomly picked and had to run round and high-five everyone in our wave (a good-70 people) and then our wave was named Team Kyle (throughout the actual run quite a few people remembered this and shouted “go team Kyle!” which was quite funny).The obstacles weren’t ridiculously difficult (like Tough Mudder which you’d probably need a good amount of strength and training and your team’s help) but it did require a good balance and generally being a bit lighter helped… I managed to fare quite well on the obstacles (I’ve done it before so I had that advantage too) but for some of the taller chaps on the team (*cough* Kyle) it was a bit tough. I did find it immensely amusing that I managed to do the ring swings (like monkey bars but basically dangling rings – think Gladiators) and two very muscly heavy-set guys failed miserably. It was a moment of female pride I must say 😉It was good fun in the end, especially as the sun soon came out.Kyle and I then headed to meet up with my Bristolian friends, Kate and Jay, for an epic refuel. A giant Lebanese meat platter in a lovely place called Lona Grill House.So much food and yet we managed to make quite the dent! Then we headed home quite tired and quite full. It was lovely to see them both, as always, and to catch up.Sunday morning I reluctantly (really reluctantly) got up and headed out for a long run. There’s nothing like hearing the rain and wind battering against the window to make you really not want to run. But I was determined not to be a wuss. It wasn’t that cold (14 degrees?) and I’d run in rain before. Come on now, Anna.

I put on a t-shirt, shorts and compression socks and headed out to do 16 miles. Straight away I was soaked and the wind was quite strong. I was immediately cold. My hands were freezing. After the first mile I still wasn’t warm. I seriously contemplated heading back home to put on a long sleeve top and getting my gloves. But I couldn’t be bothered. The thought of getting home, taking off my wet trainers, going upstairs etc etc. Urgh just get on with the run. The quicker I plough on the sooner I finish.

I was truly miserable running. The first part of the run (1-3 miles) is along the main road and I got tired of dodging out of the way of puddles and cars splashing me. I was soaked through so really this was pointless effort. My legs felt heavy, I felt drained and I was fully grumpy. I really debated just going home. My mum had said to me just before I left that I was mad going out and that she’d pick me up if I needed to at any time. That was a strong temptation in my mind.

I decided I had a six mile route I could easily do as a loop to get home. But as I got to the point I would turn back home I decided to just push on a bit further. I was now running along the coast and happily the wind was behind me, pushing me along. OK this was a bit better.

“How about 10 miles?” I bargained with myself. OK 10 miles is a good run. But as I got to that point where I’d turn home I decided to just woman up and do the damn run. I was out there and might as well. But I would do 15 miles instead of adding the little extra bit on to get my 16. That was a decent compromise that weirdly lightened my mind to the run. Now I was at the point of no return. Just get home. Just get home.I felt like I crawled towards the end of the run. Literally like my feet wouldn’t move faster. Bless my mum, she made me a lovely cup of tea straight away. I felt a bit emotionally spent weirdly as the whole run had felt like one big negotiation with myself. I had an amazing hot shower and felt miles better, but fairly exhausted. Just drained. It was not a good run at all! Nothing like the amazing long run from the weekend before. I’ve got to remember how much these things add up. I’m not a machine and almost 20 miles will take it out of me for the week!

But the rest of the day was lovely. I chilled watching Beauty and the Beast (the live action version, which I’ve never seen) and enjoyed a huge roast dinner and a slice of an amazing homemade chocolate cake.It was delicious! Chocolate buttercream, chocolate sponge, Matchsticks and Cadbury’s Chocolate Fingers round the edge.I felt nicely topped up. The memory of the terrible long run was washed from my mind. Nothing like cake and good company to help 😉

What’;s your favourite roast dinner?

If you had to be cold, tired or hungry which would you choose?

Do you run when it’s raining?

Clarendon Marathon Relay recap

The New York Marathon is about three weeks away.

What with lots of plans happening left right and centre it’s getting tricky to plan in a solid proper long run of the 18+ miles variety. Though I know I’ve recently just run a marathon I did want to do at least one good long run before New York to kind of “top me up”. But I wasn’t sure how I was going to get this in as I had the Clarendon Marathon Relay planned for the weekend before last – the best weekend available to me.

The Clarendon Marathon was obviously a marathon event but it also allowed runners to joining as a team of four and run the race as a relay too. I’d signed up with three others from my running group weeks and weeks ago and it had suddenly come around. My leg was number 3 but was “only” 7.6 miles. This would be fine but in reality I needed more. I also didn’t want to run a mega long run the day before as I wanted a lie-in and had plans.After discussing it with my team mates I decided I’d run another leg unofficially just to top up my miles. I added up three legs but it came to almost 20 miles and I wasn’t sure I was up for that long a run. I decided instead I’d run with Mike on his leg (leg 2) and then carry on for my leg after, giving me about 14 miles. Then I’d try and do another shorter run later in the day when I got back (urgh).

So on the Sunday morning I was up early and had some porridge. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have bothered with breakfast (I never tend to before a run) but as I wasn’t going to be running until after 11am it wasn’t a good idea to leave myself that long without food and then try and run. Plus I didn’t know when I’d be back and I’d probably be a hangry wreck to be around. Then I headed off to meet the team at Hedge End for 8.30am. I got to the meeting spot and found there were quite a few doing it from our club – I hadn’t realised it would be this busy!We had a few teams entered for the relay and a few guys doing the full marathon – so we were amongst very friendly company.The race starts in Salisbury and we parked up on a residential street just opposite the school. Several people followed suit and soon the road was quite full of cars. This probably wasn’t an entirely desirable situation for the residents but I imagine many, like us, wouldn’t be hanging around because we’d need to drive to the next relay point – and any marathon supporters would need to drive to the finish in Winchester (it’s a point to point course).Alan, our first relay guy, got himself ready to go and the rest of us milled about putting our numbers on and joking around. A photographer came over to me and asked if I was part of the HERC and I said yes. He then asked if a bunch of the male HERC members could pick me up and hold me for a photo. Riiiiiight. I was quickly hoisted up and had a very bizarre photo taken. In efforts to keep the balance, this was quickly replicated with another member – a larger male runner. It was quite amusing.We then headed outside to cheer on the marathoners and the first relayers. It was beautiful and sunny, albeit chilly, and surrounding us was beautiful hilly scenery and fields. It was lovely.So we cheered the first runners and marathoners off and then headed quickly back to our cars to drive to the next point – just over 10k away (I obviously didn’t do any of the navigating or driving because that’s far too much adulting required).Relay races always feel like such an adventure in this respect. Everyone rushing about trying to get to the next point on time and all the while knowing your runner is out there steadily heading that way.We got to the next point and I had a quick wee before waiting with Mike to see the first runners come through. This was Mike’s leg and I was merely going to be joining him – he would set the pace and I was happy with that. I wasn’t looking to break any records (nor was he). Just a nice scenic amble of just over 10k.Alan headed through in just over 51 minutes (very respectable considering how hilly the course is) and Mike took the chip from him (which could be strapped onto his wrist) and we both headed off. The course was mostly off-road and undulating/hilly. But there were minimal cars, it was well sign-posted and the smiling cheering marshals were frequent enough for us not to get lost and push us on. There were lots of aid stations as well full of squash, water, cakes and nibbles. The temperature was perfect for running – a bit nippy in the shade at the start but lovely in the sunshine without being too hot.Mike and I chatted away when the hills weren’t too strenuous and I started to ponder what I’d do about my run. I felt very comfortable running… the miles were ticking by easily. I could take my run nice and easy and then maybe, just maybe I could keep pushing until the end? Wouldn’t that be easier than having to tack some more miles on later in the day. I mean, we’d have to wait for Keith, our number four runner, anyway so it made sense to use the time wisely rather than schedule it in later. I decided to judge how I felt during my run, which I knew would be the hilliest of all the sections. If I needed to stop after that then fine. But I also knew Keith’s leg was the shortest (just under 10k) and not as hilly.As we got to about 100m from the relay hand-over point (the sign posts were nice and clear for the handovers which made it a very seamless transition), Mike suddenly put in a sprint. I was not prepared for this and had to sprint with him to keep up – after all he would be handing over to me!! I grabbed the wrist-strap from him and as we got to the point I headed off and he stopped. Lots of our club were there and they cheered me on.After a mile I switched my Aftershokz headphones on and listened to some very chilled music on a low volume. It was just nice to have some background noise while I zoned out. It was one of those runs where you think of nothing and everything. I took in the beautiful scenery and found myself running a bit faster. It was a good running day!After a mile or so of my lap suddenly there was an influx of runners who appeared coming round the corner. Like over a hundred runners joining the run! It shocked me – were two races merging on one day? Then I remembered that the half marathon was also happening and this must be where they started. They all looked super fresh of course. It was a little frustrating to suddenly have to weave through a lot of people and I felt like a bit of dick at times but eventually I got to a position where I could be “one with the flow” rather than dodging my way through.And yes the hills were tough. On one significant one I decided to walk – as a lot of others had too. I saw a friend of mine, Ben, from Lords Hill and we chatted as we slogged on up. He had done the cross country earlier that morning (he too was after more miles for a long run) so we were both taking it relatively easy. That said, his easy was not my easy!

As we started running again we chatted for a bit before I told him to go on. I was no longer feeling relaxed at that pace. I did manage to catch him up later as he had a rough time of it towards the end, but he did well regardless (I think he did over 17 miles in the end).

There was quite the break-neck downhill at one point and I tried to just let myself go. I could see the bottom of the hill was clear running so I had nothing to fear. It was terrifying but fun!As I got to the handover point I knew I was going to carry on. I felt strong and I felt good. I ran over to Keith and handed him the relay arm strap thing and told him I was running on but not to wait for me. I didn’t want him to hold himself back (and ultimately our team!) because I’d decided I wanted more miles and couldn’t keep up.

I managed to stay with Keith’s VERY fast pace for about a mile before he gradually peeled off. I was more than happy with this because honestly his pace was insane to me at this point! I couldn’t maintain that having run all the miles before and it being a hilly course. The main thing that kept me going really was that I knew it was less than 10k and a few people had told me beforehand that the last leg was the easiest OK, just hold on Anna.

I went past one marshal who happily yelled “fantastic! We need more ladies up the field!” which was nice. All the marshals were brilliant to be honest. I kept Keith in my sights and was able to overtake a few marathoners and half marathoners as I went and felt so pleased that I wasn’t going to have to run again later.

I was very conscious though that I didn’t want to hold our team up though because they’d have to wait for me at the end. This was strong motivation to keep me going and maintaining a decent pace. I did feel a bit cheeky that I was getting cheered on as technically this wasn’t my race anymore… The photographer even jokingly remarked at how often he’d seen me (on our bibs it says our leg number).There were two quite sneaky and painful hills at the end and then finally someone shouted it was about 500 yards to go – not that I had the foggiest what a yard looked like really. But surely that meant reasonably close?

Thank you Andy for the photo!

I turned round the corner and there was a nice stretch of grass before the finish funnel. Whew! 19.75 miles DONE.I was so pleased to have gotten almost 20 miles done and dusted. And it hadn’t felt like a super long run. Being joining by different people and the undulating course helped break up the monotony. I was glad to have a guzzle of water at the end, pick up my medal and t-shirt (which fitted perfectly! Actual female small sizes yay!). Then I joined my team to celebrate.
Keith had finished just ahead of me so thankfully they didn’t have to wait too long for me. We came 5th out of the mix relay teams which isn’t shabby at all! Our overall time was 3:30:42. This is a great time! I don’t think any of us would have been able to have run the entire marathon in that time!The winning team did it in sub-3 hours which was insane – a solid 42 minutes ahead of us (can I also say, a full female team as well!).Then we cheered on a few more of the other HERC team members coming in (and other runners of course) before deciding to head off home. Whew! I was so so glad not to have to run again and that I’d gotten it done all at once. Last solid long run before New York dunzo!This was a fantastic race – I fully recommend. Friendly, scenic and well organised!

Have you ever done a relay race?

Are you good at organising in team events?

Would you like to the start or finishing position a relay?