Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 2022

The Portsmouth Coastal Marathon is one of my favourite races of the year. It’s local, it’s festive and it’s a great time of year when there isn’t much going on in terms of big races. This is the fourth time I’ve run it and it didn’t disappoint.

This was going to be a special kind of marathon for me because on Thursday 15th December we lost Alfie, our 13.5 year old dog. Words can’t describe how much I’ll miss him and how much of a hit this has been to us. So, as silly as it might sound to some, I decided to run this marathon in his memory and use the time to just reflect and mourn.

The race started at 8.30am. This was fine as having a toddler means lie-ins don’t exist and we’d been awake since 5.30am anyway. This meant a relatively leisurely morning of breakfast, tea and us all getting ready. The weather was looking to be a bit pants… rain scheduled and nippy.

After Kyle’s mum had arrived, we got down to Southsea for about 8.15am where we met up with my parents. I hurried off to go to the loo (the great thing about Southsea is how many toilets they have around the place so I didn’t have to use a portaloo). Then I said goodbye and hurried to the start.

It was cold. It was windy. Rain was scheduled to come. I felt really sorry for my family because it’s one thing running in these conditions but an entirely different thing standing around in them. But they weren’t going to be standing outside the entire time. They would be driving to two different locations and then spending some time in The Ship Inn, which is literally on the course.

As the race begun I was just keen to get warm. I probably started faster than I’d intended but my mission was to make haste in the first few miles so I wouldn’t get bottlenecked when we hit the small path to get on to the pebbles. Having run this race three times before I was well aware of these things.

To be honest, I had zero plans for this race (do I ever?). I was just going to see what the legs did and sit at a comfortable pace and see how long that lasted. The wind was a south easterly one so while it was annoying in the first couple of miles to have it against us, I knew I would be grateful at mile 24 to have that behind me for the end.

I made a very rapid pitstop at mile two for a wee. I needed to get it done fast as to not hit the bottleneck which came just after. Thankfully I was super speedy and hadn’t lost much ground. We got to the little path to get onto the pebbles and it was plain sailing. The pebbles at this point aren’t that annoying, but the wetness of the sand and mud here made for slippery and soggy work, but it doesn’t last long.

Then back onto more firm ground and off we went. I was in familiar territory now as we were cruising along routes I regularly use during the week. I had my phone and headphones with me but was quite happy just letting my mind wander and listening to the outside world.

I was still clipping along at a relative speedy pace (for me) but decided to just embrace it because the wind was in our favour as we headed north to Farlington Marshes. I knew it would be harder on the way back so I might as well use the wind while we had it. As such, the first 6 miles flew by. Annoyingly though the rain had started a lot earlier than I thought.

I saw my family at Farlington Marshes (a great spectator spot) and they cheered me along. I saw big smiles from Isaac which were lovely. And then I was off again past the marshes to get to the more boring and less supported part of the course.

I really like this course because you can break it down into different sections. I love an out and back as well because once you get to the turnaround point you know you “just” have to make your way back the way you came and you know exactly what is to come.

There were some precariously muddy and slippery parts which I knew would only get worse on the way back and I questioned by choice of road shoes. That said, I’ve never worn trail shoes on this marathon and it’s only brief moments that they’re needed I think.

Then we hit the another pebbly bit. This is a real ball ache in the marathon. It’s a significantly long distance to be running across uneven terrain and really does sap the energy. Knowing you have to come back that way is mentally hard as well.

Eventually though we were back onto easy terrain and heading towards the road again. This part of the race is very dull because it’s through an industrial bit. However as most of the race is relatively scenic going along the coastal paths, it’s actually quite a nice change.

At this point a man, who I now know is called Justin, was running next to me and we started polite conversation. To be honest, at the start of the marathon I really didn’t want to talk to anyone. I was in a bit of a low mood and just wanted to be in my own head with my thoughts. But this was now at mile nine (I think!) and it was nice to chat to someone.

My amazing support crew

We actually ran together for a good few miles (I think it was 6 or so?) and it really did make the miles fly by. We chatted about all things marathons, training, races and even children. We ran past my dad and Kyle (the mums and Isaac were nice and snug in the warmth of the pub) and they cheered us on. Then we headed down to the turnaround point.

I can’t actually remember much about these miles because I was so lost in conversation. I was aware though that we were clipping along at quite a speedy pace. We decided to pull back just a little so not to burn ourselves out though. But I remember feeling that this just felt really nice and comfortable. Of course we still had half the race to go though!

We headed back past my dad and Kyle once again and then off we went back to where we’d come. As we hit the industrial estate bit again Justin said I should go on as he wanted to pull back a bit and I was speeding up. We said our goodbyes and I gradually pulled away.

I felt really good. I was so chuffed that we’d hit 16 miles and I was feeling strong.

OK I still had over 10 miles to go but I knew what I had left in the course and knew at some point the wind would help. I’d also decided at mile 20 I would pop some music on which I knew would keep me going. The rain was definitely picking up and it was getting colder though.

I saw my family again at Farlington Marshes, only 6 or so miles to go now. I then went to mission Get Music On. This involved taking a glove off, taking my Airpods out of my FlipBelt, popping them in, then grabbing my phone and getting to the Spotify playlist on. It was really raining and really cold now and this wasn’t pleasant. Then trying to get my glove back on afterwards was a near impossible feat. The glove fingers had gone inside themselves and peeling them out was taking so much time, while trying to run and not let my hand freeze to death.

Anyway, I got it done and then went into “go go go” mode. I had some good music. I had thought we’d be going the winding route round the houses as I’ve always done in the previous races because the tide comes back in and makes the pebble route impossible. However we were sent back to the pebbles as the tide wasn’t in. This wasn’t a welcome thing I have to say. My legs were tired and the pebbles were handwork. This was my hardest mile.

I knew I just needed to get to the seafront as then it would be two miles left and plain sailing with the wind behind us. I could convince myself that it was the last half of the Southsea parkrun as well (a particularly hard parkrun!).

It was such a relief to hit that seafront and I just knuckled down and pushed as much as I could. I knew my time was looking pretty good and I just had to hold on. I was almost nearing my PB but realistically I knew that wouldn’t be possible now in the final miles. But faster than my Goodwood time earlier this year? That was looking possible.

I got past the Pyramid centre and suddenly my mum was on the pavement waving. I almost collided with her! It was lovely to see her but I could barely manage a smile as I was pushing so hard and was now so cold in the biting rain.

And round the corner, Kyle and my dad cheering me on, and I was finished! Whew! 3.17.37 – my second fastest marathon! And what a marathon to dedicate to Alfie.

Gun time on the clock

I was so cold at the end, I was grateful for the foil blanket I was given (and firmly told to put on quickly). I felt so grateful to those volunteers, they were true legends.

Then we got in the car quickly, I headed home for a very quick and hot shower before we headed out for lunch.

Chicken and chips

I’m so pleased with how this race went. It means a lot to me, because of Alfie, I while I was definitely giving my all by the last four miles, the previous 22 felt really relaxed and comfortable. A completely different story comparing it to Goodwood at the start of the year where most of the race I was pushing hard with concerted effort. So it’s nice to finish the year with a race like this!

Now time for Christmas!

Alton Towers Half Marathon

Ages ago Kyle and I had signed up to the Alton Towers Half Marathon. Sadly when the time came around for it, Kyle was only just coming back from injury from his London Marathon. So he dropped down to the 5k instead, which was also on the Sunday. But to be honest, he was far happier with that distance anyway!

The great thing about these races are that after you’ve finished the race you can then go round the park and do all the rides. We both love theme parks and rollercoasters so this was perfect. And handily my grandad lives about 30 mins from Alton Towers so we could kill two birds with one stone and visit him as well. I don’t get to see him enough so this was really lovely.

After lots of thought, we decided to leave Isaac at home with the Nanas. The drive from Portsmouth is a long one (3.5 hours) which would be hard going for him and then be stuck in the running buggy for most of Sunday. Anyway the Nanas couldn’t wait to look after him so it worked nicely. Of course I missed him and it was hard leaving him… the longest time I’ve been away yet. He had a great time tho in the end.

We arrived at my grandad’s on the Saturday and had a lovely dinner catching up with him properly and then headed to bed early. We were shattered from an early wake up (Isaac doesn’t understand lie ins yet!) and a long drive.

The next morning, after breakfast, we drove up to Alton Towers. The race felt so well organised. We parked and walked to the race village. It was very misty and a bit chilly, but a lot warmer than you’d expect for mid-November.

As my race started first I said goodbye to Kyle and headed off to the start. We did a minute silence for Remembrance Sunday, which was a nice touch, and then the race began.

Having been to Alton Towers many many times in my youth (due to my grandparents living so close) I was well aware that it would be hilly. I mean, straight away, as we began the first 200m, it’s literally uphill. But it was such a cool race in that you were literally running through the park and past all the rollercoasters that I didn’t mind.

We ran past Oblivion and the Smiley, then headed off to other parts of the park. I was behind the 1:40 pacer, tho I didn’t think I’d go that fast. I was keeping to just under 8 min miles and felt comfortable there.

We whizzed through CBeebies Land where there were Telly Tubbies to high five. Then headed round past the gardens (thankfully not down into the gardens because that would be a very steep uphill!), past the Wicker Man and the rapids. There were lots of themed people wearing costumes cheering us on which was cool.

Eventually after going through the park, past all the rides and through the different themed areas and the castle, you head out to the less exciting part which goes round the car parks. To be honest it was fine. There was loads of support from spectators and volunteers so it didn’t feel boring. And you can’t expect the whole race to be exciting all the time. It’s a two lapper, which I quite like. It means you know what’s coming for the rest of the race.

The car park was quite hilly but there were also good downhills to get some speed back. Towards the second lap I put on some music to keep me entertained and I felt myself get far more into the race. I always find the further into a race the better I feel as I warm up. I naturally sped up and felt like I had more energy so this was encouraging.

As I hit the second lap I was really enjoying myself. During the week proceeding I’d felt very tired and demotivated running but now I felt back to normal and was loving it.

I saw Kyle a few times as he’d finished his race and had headed back to the car to get changed and pick up our stuff. He waved and cheered me along.

The crowds as you got back into the park after the car park section were really strong and the cheering was fantastic. It helps that none of the rides are open yet so all the spectators are just watching the race. I high fived loads of kids which is always good fun. Honestly, I had such a good time during this race!

I was so pleased to finish strong with 1:37:30. Far faster than I’d expected.

I met up with Kyle shortly after. He’d had a good race and finished with a time of 21:30. Coming back from injury without much training, he was really chuffed.

And then I popped to the loo, got changed and we headed to the rides that were now slowly opening up. We had such a good rest of the day enjoying all the rides and being like kids again. Kyle got a doughnut chicken burger. And I got a sausage baguette. It was a great day.

Then eventually after doing as many rides as we could be bothered – the queues were so short because there weren’t as many people in the park – we decided to head back home. That evening we had a lovely carvery with my grandad to coelenterate.

All in all it was such a good weekend. Seeing my grandad, doing a great race and enjoying Alton Towers. We’re definitely signing up for next year!

Do you enjoy roller coasters?

Would you do a race around a theme park?

New Forest Marathon recap – 2022

The New Forest Marathon was my 26th marathon (though I have actually run the marathon distance 28 times but they’re unofficial).

I did this race a few years ago and was looking forward to it. I normally predominately do road marathons, so it was nice to a “semi-trail” one. I say semi-trail because a lot of it is still on road and the non-road bits are on compacted trail so realistically it’s not that off-roady. You wouldn’t need trail shoes for this race.

Sarah, Kyle’s mum, looked after Isaac the night before and came to ours for 7.30am to drop him off and join us. This was really handy because it meant I got a decent night’s sleep the night before. I do have to wake up in the middle of the night though to pump as I’m still breastfeeding Isaac so it’s not perfect but definitely easier.

I fed Isaac and got my porridge together and then we were off. It was about 40ish minutes away and the race started at 9.30am. The traffic to get into the race village is a little heavy but we got there with enough time for me to go for a quick wee and do the warmup.

Then we were off! Sarah and Kyle were going to try and see me during the race but I wasn’t banking on it. It’s a tricky course to spectate unless you drive or cycle around. Spoiler alert: they couldn’t find a way to see me. It was just impossible. But it didn’t stop me thinking “I might see them soon” as I was running which, while ultimately disappointing as I never saw them, was a nice motivator.

I felt very swept away with the first mile, looking at my watch and seeing 7:20s and thinking wooah there this is not sustainable. I’m not in the mindset to GO GO GO. This race was more just about enjoying it and seeing what I could do with the level of effort I want to put in. I pretty much say this about every race so I know I’m a bit of broken record by now! But that’s just how I like to run and do marathons. And I do wonder because I don’t go for a time every time I enjoy them more and can do more of them as I’m not rinsed at the end every time.

Anyway I pulled back the pace a bit and let people fly past me. Marathons are a long way and I wanted to relax a bit more early on. The first 10 miles went by without much to report. The scenery was beautiful. Gigantic trees (apparently weighing around 104 tonnes!) and gorgeous views. It was very peaceful. The marshals were really supportive and happy, so that was great.

Mid-race selfie

The race organisers had said the change of course meant it was now “fast and flat”. Well between 8-9 miles it was certainly not flat! There was a slow incline up to Rhinestone House (which was beautiful) that seemed to suck the life from me. And at different points during the race I would be really questioning their “fast and flat” description. Maybe compared to last year! It certainly isn’t hilly but I wouldn’t describe it as flat. Occasionally bumpy.

I got to mile 10 and decided to put a podcast on. Recently I haven’t felt the need to listen to anything during marathons. I quite like the freedom of just running with the surrounding sounds. Sometimes listening to things during the race can put you in a little bubble away from the race atmosphere. However I was starting to feel a bit bored and the idea of 16 more miles was weighing heavily on my brain.

Don’t get me wrong, the views are beautiful and the marshals lovely, but I needed something to take my mind off the task at hand. So I popped one on and just zoned out.

It was getting really warm now, and humid. I hadn’t got anything with me because I knew there were enough water stations and from about halfway I started stopping at the water stations. Like literally stopping and getting a cup or two of water to drink. They were using paper cups (yay for sustainability!) and I didn’t’ want to try and run and drink because I was getting very thirsty and I knew I wouldn’t take in enough otherwise.

After halfway my mood started to sink. I was mentally struggling. Maybe it was the humidity or maybe it was just one of those days, but I found my pace dropping a bit. It just felt really hard, and finding it hard made me feel demotivated. I’ve run marathons before! I’ve done solid training! What’s going on! But this is why the marathon is so challenging, anything can happen and it doesn’t matter how many you’ve done. It’s still a long way and you’re only human.

I needed a wee as well and I couldn’t see any toilets on the course so I decided to duck into a bush. In doing that I put my foot straight into a soggy bog… ah wonderful. I had my wee and then got back mile 19. This was amazing! I’d somehow glazed over a mile. I can’t tell you what this did to my mood.

Now I was in a whole different head space. Suddenly the end was in sight – I could absolutely do this. I switched the podcast to music and BOOM I was good to go. It was like someone had injected lightening up my bum.

It’s crazy how suddenly my body didn’t feel so tired and demotivated as before. When I got to 20 miles I was feeling in a great place. Knowing I had only 10k to go – I could definitely do this. It helped that there was a great downhill at mile 21. My legs ached and were tired, of course, but I knew I could push through to the end.

I definitely could have had an easier time at the end had I just kept the pace nice and chilled but after I had started getting faster I was like “well I can’t slow down now!”. So I had to ride that pain train. I passed a few people who cheered me on which was nice and the supporters on the route were lovely. I tried to keep a smile on my face as much as I could because, ages ago, I remember reading about fooling your body into thinking everything was OK if you smiled (don’t quote me on that research, ha!). But also it encourages supporters to give you a big cheer so that was nice.

We had now joined the half marathoners which meant a bit of weaving in and out of runners. This involved more concentration that just head down pushing forward. Finally we got to the race village and I could see the finish line. I put some more welly into it and got going. My legs were BURNING. The finish line had a good crowd of supporters lined up along it so that was amazing. They were all cheering and that hugely helped. I saw Kyle and he shouted me on too.

As I almost got to the end I started to feel a little sick, probably due to the effort I was exerting, and I suddenly got a big whiff of a burger van nearby and I honestly thought I was going to throw up! Luckily, thank god, I didn’t. Whew!

My time was 3:24:37. I am SO over the moon as I really thought my race was nosediving in the middle. I actually thought I’d be closer to 3:30+ than a sub 3:30. I’m really really pleased. Especially for a race that I had zero expectations for. It’s one of my faster times (6th fastest in actual fact).

It’s a little annoying that it isn’t a full 26.2 miles on my watch but I’m assuming that’s because of the trees and satellites. I had the same issue last time, and that was a different course. Hey ho!

I met someone I knew from Instagram and we had a nice chat, so that was cool, and then I found Kyle, Isaac and Sarah. Ahh it was so lovely to be reunited and have a cuddle with my little man!

Apparently he’d had a great time enjoying crawling about the place, eating ice cream and spending time with his Nana (and dad of course!). A big thank you to them 🙂 I’m very lucky to have such patient and supportive family who are happy to come and join me when I do my races.

So all in all, a tough but enjoyable day. I’m glad I got myself out of my funny headspace mid-way through the race and finished with a smile on my face. Though my legs were certainly feeling more achy than I’d anticipated!

Do you prefer trail or road races?

Have you had a race where you’ve dipped but then brought it back later?

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… 😉

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!