The Brighton Marathon 2018

As I previously mentioned, I had fairly ambitious (for me) goals for this marathon. I was going to “go for it”. I haven’t done that for a marathon in a good while! I was going to start at 7:50s and see what happened, with the ambition to speed up as I went along (not crazily but enough to get close to my PB of 3:24:06).

But after chatting to James a bit the night before I decided to go out a bit faster. He made a good point that if I was going to go for it I should actually go for it with a pace that was a bit scary and was genuinely a risk. At least then if I blew up or it went wrong then it happened because I had the balls to try a tasty pace, not halfhearted one that wasn’t as tough. It needed to be a true test.

So anyway. The morning of the Brighton Marathon… woke up at 6.30am, had a black coffee, got my gear on and drove to a road near to Charlotte’s flat where parking wouldn’t be an issue with the road closures. Paddy, Charlotte’s hubby, was ready in his gear. Charlotte would be spectating (while simultaneously looking after their six week old baby, what a superstar!) as her road was literally next to the course.We made and ate our breakfast (porridge) at Charlotte’s and then headed to meet our taxi, to avoid having to have left super early to have walked the three miles to the Preston Park start. I almost drank my two year out of date Beet It! shot but decided to err on the side of caution and give it a swerve. It saddened me to throw it in the bin (I’m quite reckless with out of date stuff).We got to Preston Park where Paddy and I said goodbye to James, who would be heading to the fast start up the road (due to his fast predicted time – it gives the elites and faster runners a flatter first mile than the rest of the marathon field). I stupidly left my gels by accident in his bag, the numpty that I am. That was fine because though as I knew there would be High 5 gels on the course and I’m fine with them. In fact, it was nice to not have to carry any gels in my Flipbelt to be honest.Paddy and I then separated as we headed to our respective loo queues, which were SO long it was ridiculous. But hey ho, what else are you going to do? Then I made my way to my start pen, where I proceeded to stand in line for another portable toilet. I saw Stephanie briefly and we swapped pleasantries having only ever conversed through social media. So that was nice.The start went without a hitch and I was over the moon when Paul Sinton-Hewitt yelled “go Anna!” to me as I ran past (I had my name on my vest – he doesn’t really know me sadly). It really buffered me along though and I was smiling happily to myself, the parkrun nut that I am.

As we started we straight away hit an incline to climb. Oh man, I knew our first mile wouldn’t be flat but this was quite demoralising. Already my legs felt tired. My dream goal pace of 7:40 quickly disappeared as I was over 8 minute/miling up that bad boy. The incline (it was definitely an incline) went on for 0.6 miles. But then we had a nice downhill that, to be honest, probably evened up the first mile in the end. But it was a shock to the system to start that way.

I straight away found myself wanting to go too fast and had to focus on not getting overly excited. 26.2 miles is a lonnnnng way and though a pace might feel easy now it most certainly would not feel easy later. Keep focused on the goal Anna. Annoyingly I had cramp in my side. Nothing to stop me or slow me down but I did have to do some weird arm stretches and change my breathing up a bit, but it didn’t really shift.

At around three miles a runner friend, Matt, sidled up next to me. I know him through social media and we also ran together at a London 10k a year ago – I remember him dropping me half-way round as he was a lot stronger than me. He’s been having a crummy training time due to a niggly hip so had said he was going to take it easy as he also had the London Marathon the next Sunday (I mean, whaaaaaat). After chatting for a bit I glanced at my watch and realised we were running 7:10s so told him I was going to slow down as this pace was too fast for me. So he headed off into the distance. Happily my cramp had gone away too.

Part of me was a little sad to lose a chatting buddy but I knew I needed to be sensible and focus. I just find the first 10 miles of a marathon very dull. I don’t let myself listen to anything other than the environment around me. The crowds were great and the course was interesting enough to let my mind just wander.After five miles we hit the seafront and started to make our way along the coast past Brighton Marina and up to Ovingdean. It was somewhat undulating but not hilly. Eventually the front runners starting coming back the other way. The lead runner was so far ahead of the pack. It was fun watching them storming down at wincingly fast speeds.I picked up a gel from an energy station ready to take at mile eight. My plan was to take three gels. I can manage on one now in a “normal” marathon but because I was going for a speedier time I decided to go back to how I used to do it and have one at 8, one at 13 and one at 18. I remember taking to James about gels beforehand and how he had his orange flavoured High 5 ready and I poo-poo’ed it as I’m not an orange flavour fan at all, smug with my tasty Honey Stinger that I then didn’t get to use. All the High 5’s were orange. Wonderful.

As I came up to the turning to head into another mini out and back in the Ovingdean area I heard someone shout my name and spotted James heading back down the other side. It was a shame really that I’d been caught unawares because I’d been thinking of all the cool things I could shout to him if I did spot him during an out and back. All I managed was a pitiful “Go James!”. Ah well.

Then someone else called my name and I spotted the lovely Rob and Fi, friends from last year’s Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp.At first I just thought it was just a random supporter cheering my name because it was on my vest so I just smiled and waved. Then I spotted them properly and did a little screech and cheer. Always graceful and calm, me. Ha. It was lovely to see them.Then we finally headed back down the way we’d come. I heard someone next to me say “well that’s the last of the hills” and felt a huge relief. I mean there were a couple of undulations as we headed back down, but nothing to really kill you.

I was easily maintaining a 7.30-7.40 pace and feeling really comfortable. I was looking forward to allowing myself to listen to some music at mile 10 but otherwise I felt fresh and happy. In the back of my mind I knew I might crash later but as it was I was good for the moment and kept with it. Nothing risked, nothing gained. Mile 10 ticked by and I put my pre-planned playlist on. These were songs I was enjoying but weren’t GO GO GO tempo so wouldn’t suddenly rev me up or make me want to break out a 7 min/miler. I could lose my mind to the music and just drift along. The music would be low enough so I could still hear the crowds and marshals though.

Along the front the crowds were fantastic. I mean the crowds were great everywhere but especially this front. I honestly lost count of how many people cheered my name. I’m a bit of a loser in that I will try and smile at people and get them to cheer as well because it HUGELY helps me. Plus if you’re a supporter I know how nice it is to see someone genuinely happy that you’re there clapping them.

As we got towards half-way the crowds were quite thick and I felt buzzed along. People cheered my name over and over and I was so pleased to have chosen to wear my vest with my name on. I smiled at everyone and just fed off of the support. I’ve read a study somewhere where it says there are some runners who are super motivated by external factors, like music and crowds. That is me 100%. Give me cheering and music and I will truck along happy as anything. I was going a bit too fast for my original plan though but I decided to just go with it. It didn’t feel harder per se. But that said, I did have the voice in the back of my head saying “you’re going to crash soon…”.

I saw the lovely Lauren from my club and I squealed again. It was lovely to see her and have her cheer me on.What helped was knowing that there were people “watching” my progress through the Brighton Marathon app. Every time I ran over a mat I knew my times would be zooming their way to people’s phones who cared to track me. Especially my dad who I know would have loved to have supported me in person – especially as I was going for a time. I felt like I was doing him proud each time I ran over a mat as my times were consistent and I was well on track to my goal time.At mile thirteen I took another gel and started pouring water on my head as it was getting warmer. I was looking forward to reaching mile 15 as that’s where Charlotte would be. The miles just seemed to fly by at this point – where normally they’d be dragging. I always find 13-19 a real grind. There were so many people standing on the residential streets and waving to them, high-fiving and hearing them cheer passed the time so well.

At this point though I realised I probably could do with a wee. Now once you’ve thought that you need a wee it takes a lot for that thought to go away. It reminded me of the podcast I’d listened to a few weeks ago from BBC Five Live film review where Simon Mayo was discussing how his son said that runners in a marathon just pee and poo as they run. It was such a funny discussion I remember laughing literally out loud as I was running listening to it. Mark Kermode was so aghast.

To be fair, so was I. I’ve never considered just peeing as I run and certainly not pooing. I also don’t think I’ve spoken to any runner where this is the norm during a race. That said, you don’t talk about these things that often so who knows? Maybe I’m the minority. Anyway, as this discussion flitted through my head I momentarily thought, I could just pee as I run. But the sheer embarrassment of a) someone seeing b) someone SMELLING and c) then running along covered in pee just wasn’t worth the SECONDS I’d probably save myself. I didn’t want a PB that badly. I spotted a portable toilet on the other side of the road (for the runners coming the other way on the out and back) and relaxed knowing in a mile or so I could use an actual toilet.

I saw Charlotte on the other side of the road just after mile 15 and it literally made me squeal and cheer. She had Arthur strapped to her front (what a legend) and she waved and shouted. Ahh it was SO nice. Honestly, nothing beats someone you care about cheering you along in a race. It peppered me along nicely, especially as I knew I’d see her at mile 17 on the way back along the same road.

I also saw a man holding up a large sign for someone called Felix and he cheered me on saying he couldn’t believe I was smiling, which was nice.

(I took this photo before the race)

Sadly I passed Matt, who was suffering from hip pain. I tried to give him some encouragement as I passed. He still looked in reasonably good spirits though (and FYI still finished 3:35!). Then I was back to passing Charlotte again. Ahhh such happiness. And she had a proper crew with some friends and her neighbours who all cheered me along. I also passed the Felix man again and he laughed that I was still smiling. Weirdly I saw this man TWICE more before the end of the race. He laughed each time he saw me and called me “smiling girl”. I hope Felix did well!I jumped into that portable toilet I’d spotted and had a very quick wee before jumping out. Ahh relief. The next section was heading off towards the dreaded power station. I’d heard a lot about how depressing and quiet this area was. But I was feeling good, my pace still strong, nothing niggling and no issues. Without sounding arrogant, I knew that as long as I didn’t suddenly get an injury I had a PB in the bag. I took another gel at 18, made sure to keep sipping water and pouring it on my head (I liked that they were in paper cups – easy to squash up and create a small funnel to drink out of, easy to run over if there were loads on the floor and more environmentally friendly). At 20 miles I decided to wait until I was heading back to the finish area before switching my music over as I didn’t want to use all my energy with a spurt of speed too soon. Plus there were enough crowds to keep me going.

I smiled and waved to everyone I could. As I got to a turning point I smiled at a cheering squad and they gave me a huge cheer. Then later when I came back round to head back they were literally CHANTING my name. I’m not kidding. It was probably one of the best moments in the race for me as silly as that sounds. Anyway, as we ran through the power station bit there were all these stacked bits of timber and the smell was amazing. It was like one of those candles trying to be like a woodland forest. It was a nice smell.Then as I turned back to head to towards the finish (still about 4-5 miles to go) I switched my music to my “GO GO GO” playlist. As I got my phone out to do this I thought “ahh might as well” and snapped a selfie and a few pics. Had to be done!
I was passing people and feeling good. I remembered last week’s run where I was able to up my pace after my 10 mile run for the five mile race and that gave me confidence. I remembered the sub 7 minute mile I did at the end of the undulating Iron Bridge Half Marathon. I could DO this. We ran onto the prom and the crowds were solidly cheering and shouting. I literally smiled at everyone. I was in Happy Anna Marathon Land. I literally remember thinking “I bloody love marathons”. Yes I was tired, yes my legs were feeling like they’d been running for far too long, but I knew I had this and just had to HOLD ON.

I got to 23 miles (“parkrun to go”) and was able to up the pace. Just finish. Just get to the finish. Not long. I tried briefly to think about the time I might finish but I couldn’t work it out. Would it be a sub 3:20? Could I push for 3:18? I kept smiling and occasionally fist pumping (I know, what a muppet, but it works for me) which helped get the crowds to cheer me. I got to two miles to go and I was firmly on the pain train. It became harder to smile, harder to wave. I could just about nod to people and grimace smile my way along. The weather was turning slightly, a few drops of rain and a lot cooler. This was good.I saw the finishing straight and was overjoyed. ALMOST THERE. Not as long as the dreaded Dubai finishing straight which went on F.O.R.E.V.E.R. And right at the end I saw my other friend Mark, the Run Director of the Hove Promenade parkrun, and he gave me such a fantastic cheer. It was such a great way to cross the finish line. As I went underneath the timer I spotted 3:19:45. Omg sub 3:20!
I stopped my watch and did a double-take. 3:16:28 – WHAT??? I was literally in shock. And then, I walked straight into Paul Sinton-Hewitt – the parkrun founder. The next few minutes were a highly embarrassing fan girl flurry of gushing “omg I love parkrun” sentences of which I can only hope flattered him rather than terrified him. My phone was suddenly going off with James ringing me and my dad ringing me but I just had to get a selfie with the legend. He happily complied and honestly was the NICEST. He congratulated me on my run (and reassured me that if my watch time said 3:16 it probably meant I’d run that time and not the gun time on the board). He was so nice.

I then spotted another guy from my club who I’d managed to just pip at the end (I finished first in my club overall amazingly – OK there weren’t that many doing it but I will take it!). A guy then said hello to me saying he knew me from Twitter after photo bombing a previous photo of mine. How funny to see him at the finish line again then!

I probably made no sense to anyone I chatted to because I was literally on cloud nine. I spoke to my dad and he just cheered down the phone at me. He was over-the-moon, saying he knew I had it in me and how proud he was. I honestly could have cried. I got my medal and a water and then went to meet James.

James had finished in the CRAZY time of 2:56:38. Yeah. I know right. INSANE. So he was over-the-moon too. In my haste to meet him and in my PB haze I completely missed the goody bag pick-up!I could have gone back but I wasn’t that bothered. I had a water which was exactly what I needed at that moment.
As this has gone on already too long now, I’ll just say that James and me, both in euphoric PB happiness, hunted down some decent post race food from a fabulously lovely Mexican restaurant called Dos Sombreros where yes we did indeed wear our sombreros as we ate.
Sadly our eyes were bigger than our tummies and though we easily polished off the delicious chicken wings, we were both overwhelmed by the main course (I had fajitas while James had a burrito).My tummy felt somewhat delicate, but it’s OK because I was far too happy to care.Have you ever “gone for it” at a race with a time goal?

What’s your ideal post-race cuisine?

Do you like people to cheer your name when you race? I thrive off it.

Rants and Raves #40

I am in a very happy place right now. Life is good. I mean, a marathon PB does do that to you, but life in general asides from that is going well too. Here are some bits and bobs I’m loving and ranting about lately.

Rave: I had literally one of the best Mondays. My work had organised a bake sale to raise money for Stand Up To Cancer and it just so happened to be on the day after I’d run the Brighton Marathon. Usually the day of the marathon straight after you don’t feel like a whole lot (despite having dreamed of all the food you’ll eat). Though I did refuel well, I was more than ready the NEXT day to celebrate with a lot of sugar.Literally I was the first one at the cakes when the email was sent around and I loaded my plate up. For my first round, I had a slice of Victoria sponge (heavenly. Normally I’m not that big a fan as I find it a bit dull but my god this was a good one), a salted caramel cupcake and a white chocolate cookie.The salted caramel cupcake was very gooey and so delicious. Post lunch I had round two, another salted caramel cupcake (it was just so good the first time), another slice of Victoria sponge and a salted caramel crepe (which I heated in the microwave). And in the afternoon, PURELY to be polite to my friend, I tried his chocolate cake… gahhhh so good.So I definitely think I’ve caught up with what I burnt the day before 😉

Rant: Still on the subject of cake… Right each to their own and all that, but it hurts my soul that Victoria Beckham had a watermelon cake for her birthday. Not a cake in the shape of a watermelon but a cake made of watermelon (some may argue that that’s not even a cake).She’s always been rumoured to not eat much and be super conscious of unhealthy food (and is super slim) so I’m not entirely surprised but COME ON. Just have a slice of cake. (Obviously I’m making a snap judgement here purely on what she projected to social media and have no idea if she did eat cake in her own time blah blah blah so this might be an unfair comment, but whatever).

Rave: OK this is one for the ladies predominately. I’ve recently downloaded Clue. It’s a period tracking app.Now I am a big fan of apps that track stuff. I track my running, my steps, my sleep, sometimes I’ll have a mosey on MyFitnessPal if I want to know the nutritional value of something (I don’t track meals or food though – that would probably trigger me to become overly obsessed, which I certainly don’t want to be). But anyway, I like stats and data.

I love this app because you can fill in lots of lovely detail about your cycle (god I hate that word) – I won’t go into the specifics, but you know what I mean. Lots of things are affected by your hormones and period so you can fill out this data and then after a few months it can help forecast and predict things for you. It also tells you when you’re most fertile and ovulating and uses the data you put it to learn and predict. It’s also FREE and someone else can track your cycle too if you share it with them (yeah bit weird but hey whatever floats your boat).

Rave: I love movies. I love food. I LOVE the sound of Taste Film. Basically there’s a monthly film experience where the audience eats the food that’s served within the film (or basically relates to the themes of the film). Oh my god how good does this sound?? Apparently they did Bridget Jones’ Diary and actually had blue soup. The food looks amazing. I would so love to do this at some point. My only issue is it’s only in London… standard.

Rant: The London Marathon have changed their Good For Age Entries. GFA is basically the way that some (UK based only I believe) runners can get into London ‘guaranteed’ by achieving a certain time. I was able to get into London last year through this method as my marathon PB was sub 3:45. Anyway, they’ve changed some of the criteria.Mary wrote a great blog post highlighting the changes and her own opinion on this so check that out as it’s a good read. My opinion is this. OK it’s a very over-subscribed marathon and I imagine they needed to re-asses and readjust the times (well, the men’s time mainly) because of the demand. I personally don’t think the current ballot system is the best approach (it’s not really explained how the ballot system picks people and some people believe it could be down to the London Marathon wanting a spread of different people etc. etc. so some people who have entered like five times still can’t get in). It’s VERY hard to get a place. So the GFA was one way for certain runners to get in.Now that’s fine. They can set whatever criteria they like – it’s their race. What I object wholeheartedly to is that they changed these times mid marathon season. It’s like changing where the goal posts are half-way through a football match. For example, James was aiming for a sub 3:05 at Brighton so he could then do London next year. If he’d have gotten 3:04:59 he’d have been super pleased – as of Sunday the GFA still stood that his age group with a sub 3:05 could get in. Then a day or so later, the times changed and suddenly he needed a sub-3. Luckily for him he did get a sub 3…but how devastating for people who didn’t but were momentarily happy thinking they had qualified? Or that they’re entire training had been focused on sub 3:05 and NOT sub 3? Five minutes is quite a chunk!

There were a lot of sad people on social media who had this exact issue. That said, I don’t think London is the be all and end all of marathons. Yes it’s easy for me to say that having done it, but I only really did it because it was a Major and I’m trying to do them all. Obviously it depends on your experience, but though I did have a good experience I wouldn’t say it was the best marathon – not even top three for me. It’s a faff. It’s super busy. It’s expensive to get to and from (don’t forget, they don’t send out the bibs either so you need to go to London twice). And most importantly, there are SO many other good marathons in the UK and outside the UK – better than London, in my opinion. London IS NOT the only marathon.

What do you think about qualifying times for races?

Have you ever done London?

Do you like health tracking apps?

The day before the Brighton Marathon

Friday night was all about chilling and relaxing before the hectic weekend ahead.

The Friday before a marathon… always a weird one. You want a solid night’s sleep, good food and nothing crazy going on really. James came down to stay as he was also doing Brighton and we were driving down together on Saturday. Friday night was nice and chilled with a solid meal of chicken, veg and sweet potato (if I do say so myself…).

In the morning we headed to the super close Lee-On-Solent parkrun. I haven’t been to Lee parkrun in ages so it was nice to pop down there and see some lovely friendly faces. The weather was super foggy. You could barely see the sea. I spoke to the legend Rebecca (parkrun volunteer pro and now beginner runner making amazing strides). I wasn’t going to go mad at parkrun but I did want to stretch my legs a little and Lee is super flat so that helps to have a nice smooth run.Everyone lined up and we were off. I kept it steady, not going crazy but not going entirely super easy either. I felt happy though. Everything felt good. Hallelujah!My friend Ben was there cheering everyone on and took some snaps as I came back along to head out to the second out and back. You can see how bad the fog was in the photo! I sped up on the final mile – seeing James whizz past the other way (fourth male!). Out and backs are nice in that respect, that you can wave and cheer the others on coming the other way.I finished with 22:30, which felt like a good place to sit the day before a marathon. I know some people like to fully rest but I’ve generally always run the day before. I just like to keep the legs turning over. James got 18:44 which he was chuffed with too.

Then we headed quickly back to mine to shower and eat breakfast. We wanted to head to Brighton as soon as possible so we could beat any queues to collect our marathon bibs and then see my friends afterwards. My close friend Charlotte has recently just had a baby and I hadn’t met him yet and my other friend Kate was coming down from Bristol. Charlotte’s hubby, Paddy, was also running the marathon the next day (his first!) so it would be nice to see them and catch up with a cup of tea.

We made good progress to Brighton (James endured my driving and survived the trip). Brighton was similarly foggy. The temperature was cool but you could feel the sun trying to burn through. We found a decent parking spot not too far from the Marine Parade, where the expo was and walked down.Bib collection was super easy and there was literally no queue. Happy days! We had a mosey about – there were lots of food trucks and running pop-up shops all alone the promenade. I mean, it was slightly depressing to see all the amazing looking food but know you couldn’t have any of it because you had to be sensible for the marathon the next day.No sunshine by the sea that day! After moseying about we headed to Charlotte’s and met her adorable six week old. It was lovely to see my friends and catch up and also chat to Paddy about his game plan and preparation for the next day.

I felt for Paddy as he’d had a tricky lead-up with a calf injury and then obviously having a baby not long ago. Not exactly ideal preparation. Sensibly he had reset his expectations and wasn’t going to aim for the sub 4 he had originally planned (though he is more than capable of hitting that time for another marathon).

We headed out for lunch to a lovely little deli just up the road where we sat outside (in the sun it was lovely and warm). Most of us had the halloumi and Mediterranean vegetable wrap, which was delicious.And then because the cakes looked so good James and I got a slice of triple raspberry and vanilla cake each (we did contemplate sharing for all over 0.5 seconds but realised that would be foolish). It was delicious!We then headed back where we enjoyed the brownies James had made and brought with him (legend) and a cup of tea (carb loading at it’s best…). We also sorted out what time we’d meet Paddy in the next day and the logistics of race morning.

James and I were staying in an AirBnb about three miles away so we’d park near Charlotte’s (before the road closures), make our breakfast there just so we could eat a bit later rather than before we left where we were staying and then get a pre-booked taxi to the start area in Preston Park (again, about three miles away – just that bit too far to walk). Easy breezy!

For dinner James and I bought a simple pizza from Tesco (Hawaiian – gotta love pineapple on a pizza) and got to our AirBnb. The Airbnb was quite…odd. We arrived at the time we agreed with the host and after waiting a bit at the door for her to answer, she finally appeared in just a towel having just showered. She seemed a bit shocked we were there “early” (we weren’t, if anything we were later). And then she showed us to our room, which was actually her bedroom as she’d rented our the room advertised to someone full-time.

That was fine – the house was lovely and she was friendly, but the doors were all glass. Even the bathroom was just frosted glass. This made me feel a *little* uncomfortable because the rooms were on the ground floor and so we had limited privacy. She was going to stay with her sister for the night but her lodger would still be there (though staying upstairs).

Well, it was clean, comfortable and we had a relaxed evening watching easy TV. We also managed to hang up some sheets on the door to make things a bit more private. So we had a good night’s sleep despite it being a bit weird. And let’s be honest, it was like £60 or something in a good location so can hardly complain!

Have you stayed in an AirBnb before?

Do you run the day before a big race?

Do you avoid eating certain things the day before a race?

The last long run

So after being in Bristol and then Cheltenham on Friday night and Saturday I then drove to Birmingham.

The plan for the Sunday morning was to get around 9-10 miles before doing James’ running club’s local Grand Prix 5 miles. This race was one of several of the 5 mile series but I hadn’t done any of the others and this was the last one. It was just a nice way to break up a longer run and make things interesting.

As the Grand Prix didn’t start until 11 this gave us plenty of time to have an easy morning (James, a serial tea drinker, probably had about 19 teas in that time) and then head down to the race HQ to register, pay (a mere £6!) and collect our bibs. As we were leaving our bag there to collect later and wouldn’t be back after our long run I needed to tuck my bib in my Flipbelt along with the pins rather than put the bib on beforehand and look like a numpty running the streets of Birmingham.

We set off at a nice easy pace (very easy for super fast James) and the miles ticked by. Running round Birmingham is becoming more familiar to me now I’ve run there a few times…though I’m still clueless really where we were (I’d say to James “we’ve definitely been here before haven’t we?” and he would be like “er no, Anna”. Right. Well it all looks the same to me…Anyway the route was good, the pace felt easy and before we knew it we were in the park where the race would be starting and where the junior 2k race was already underway. It’s a weird thing being in a completely different area in a different running club’s “territory”. I knew a couple of people from meeting them briefly before in my times in Birmingham (and the lovely Helen and Andy Lane who I know through Marathon Talk) but essentially I felt a bit like a foreigner! I mean I know this is the same at a lot of races in that respect, but when it’s a very small and running club focused race it felt very strange. Not bad strange, just different.The field was very small with 68 people running (a combination of it generally being a small event and other bigger events happening on the same day). James mentioned that there were prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd – actual cash prizes! You’d basically get your money back from the race entry which I thought was a fantastic idea for a smaller race. Anyway I lined up where I thought best and solidly decided the most sensible decision would be to go no faster than 7.50min/miles. This would be sensible considering I had run hard the day before and had the marathon the next week.

As the horn blew we were off and I was running 6.30min/mile pace. What an idiot. I quickly realised there was a very speedy female far ahead of me but only one other female just ahead. Hmmm interesting, interesting. I mean, realistically I should have slowed down and taking it easy but the Stupid Anna side of my brain (quite a large portion of my brain I suppose – and probably a very big factor in my constant injury cycle) decided to see if I could scrape a podium finish. I’d get my £6 back! (And then straight away berated myself that I should have bought that £6 Daim Cadbury’s Easter egg the day before…what a lost opportunity).

So I pushed on. I didn’t maintain the ridiculous 6.30min/mile pace of course but eased back into the more comfortable (though still sustained level of effort) of 7min/mile pace. I managed to catch up to the second female and overtake her. OK that was good. I was solidly on the podium even if she caught me back up later.The route basically ran on nice flat paths around a pretty lake. The marshals were lovely and friendly and gave good encouragement. I was fully on the “focus and keep going” mental repeat in my head. I had no music (no headphones allowed) so I distracted myself with giving myself milestones to get to (the kid’s play area, the bridge, the metal fences…things like that) as it was three laps.Miles two and three were tough going. I felt like an idiot pushing the pace so much and spent the entire time worrying I was ruining Brighton and dicing with injury. But Stupid Anna couldn’t bare to drop the pace so dramatically to 8 min/mile and risk people overtaking me and thinking I’d gone out too fast (er, you had Anna). I’ve been very good recently to not let my ego dictate things like this but it’s hard when you’re in a new place and don’t want to look slow in front of new people (I’m well aware that this is a ridiculous argument. I deserve every niggle I pick up really).
My pace dropped to 7.15s but I felt comfortable and I could see two men ahead and decided to keep them I my sight. It’s always easier to run with people – like an invisible lasso helping to pull you along. Ehh five miles was a long way to go in what was basically my fast parkrun pace not so long ago so I needed every help I could get. I told myself repeatedly I could run all easy runs until the marathon and that helped somewhat.

Somehow though I managed to quicken it up on the last couple of miles. I kept the milestones in my head. Knowing I only have two miles to go helped – and basically one lap left of the lake. I managed to pass the two men ahead of me but then I was left with no one ahead to reel in or hold onto. It was tough going. Somehow I managed to hold on and finished strong in 35:05, a very solid performance for me!A solid but stupid performance is probably more accurate. My legs were pooped. Easy days indeed ahead. James got himself another PB (of course he did…not a week goes by eh ;)) and I’d managed to get second female, so happy days all round.We jogged back to the HQ, which got the total mileage of the day up to 15 miles which I was happy with. The week before a marathon I like my long run to be around 13 miles. I know some people do a lot less but for me it helps with my confidence and feeling good in myself.

We got to the sports hall and I had a nice cup of tea with two apples to tide me over until I could get back to something more substantial. Another nice touch of these races is that you’re entered into the small raffle as well. Lots of Easter eggs, wine and chocolate on offer! James won himself a box of Lindt chocolate balls and I won my prize money of £15! So I made myself a nice £9 for the day hehe.The rest of the day including lots of refueling and chilling out.To top the weekend off we enjoyed fajitas and then a healthy slice of a white chocolate and raspberry cookie pie thing. Delicious!

Do you ever do stupid training when you know it’s probably not the best but you just can’t help yourself?

Does your running club have any races like this?

What’s your ideal longer run distance before a race?

Brueton parkrun and so much food

Surprise surprise I was in Birmingham again this Easter weekend. Just can’t keep me away I guess…

I drove up there on Thursday after work. I had a really good dinner of chili in a tortilla bowl. If you’ve never done this, make it immediately. It’s a very tasty way of eating chili. As someone not hugely fond of rice, using a tortilla as a bowl it’s a nice way to get some carbs in (we had cauliflower rice instead, how fancy).Friday James and I went on a run together. Ooooof it was tough. I wasn’t going to be running Sunday as I was going to support James’ 10k race and so would do my long run the next day to parkrun, so it seemed like a good idea to try a little tempo run. Normally I’d have pushed it at parkrun so this was a good switch-up. James was the one suggested it – like I said, he’s good with this proper training malarkey and I probably wouldn’t have gone out and done this on my own (or at least not as fast anyway).

We headed out for a one mile warm-up and then it was pedal to the metal with three miles of tempo effort. I was really dreading this as running fast is just not my bag. We started on a nice downhill so that helped but then headed to a gentle incline. Afterwards though it was just flat. The miles sloooowly ticked by as I tried to focus on keeping my legs turning over and essentially not dying. It’s hard for me to do these sorts of efforts when I’m not in a race or parkrun, or I don’t have music so it helped James was there to push me along. Eventually I finished and had a nice gentle mile cool down. Ehhhh that was tough. It’s nice to see that my miles got quicker… and a 6:19min/mile! I do think there was a downhill that helped speed me up but still I will take that confidence booster!

Saturday was another new-to-me parkrun, Brueton parkrun. I needed to get my long run in so James planned me a route to run there (as he obviously knows the area and how to get to that parkrun) and then I’d do a few more miles afterwards to make it up to 17 miles in total. I mean I could have run all the miles I needed beforehand but I wanted a bit more sleep.

James put the route on my watch so I didn’t have to memorise anything – this was so new to me, having my watch tell me where to go! Very handy as he wasn’t going to be running with me due to his 10k the next day, but he’d meet me there and then drive me back.

But I think there was still a strong level of concern from both of us about where I’d actually end up… the Anna’isms are strong to overcome. I headed out just after 7am into the cold and wet weather. It was pretty miserable. I got my watch going and was fascinated when the little arrows appeared telling me where to turn. It was relatively straightforward but I did manage to go the wrong way WITHIN TWO MILES. I mean, come on Anna get it together. I just couldn’t see the way I was supposed to go as it looked like a dead-end. So I went back on myself and then found a route that followed the little map line as close as I could so I knew I was at least heading in the right vague direction. My watch told me I was off course but when I eventually found my way back onto the planned route it told me I was back on it, which was handy.After that there were no major issues, aside from my hands being rather cold and having to dodge out of the way of cars flying through large puddles in the road and almost splashing me. I took a quick photo on a pretty bridge crossing a canal but otherwise ploughed on to the park and found James warming up. Woohoo! Disaster averted.My legs however were feeling heavy and tired. parkrun was going to be a grind.I plodded round as best as I could and faded majorly in the middle…my legs just seemed to go “nope” before I eventually managed to claw my speed slightly back up as I could see the end was in sight.
The course was a two lapper and split nicely into a loop round the park bit and then a loop next to the pretty lake. It was a flat course and I’m sure it would have been a nice one to have tried some speed on had I felt any oomph in my legs and not run 11 miles there.My time was 24.32 but definitely felt a lot slower. Honestly it felt like a terrible run.After finishing parkrun we went for another three mile run to get my long run up to 17 miles. If I felt tired during parkrun it was nothing compared to this awful crawling grind. I just felt empty and flat. I felt bad for James as I was properly slogging along and dragging my feet.My hands were SO cold. I’d made the mistake of using my Nike gloves which are basically just material and because it had been wet they were soaked and this made my hands colder. Taking them off actually felt a lot better than leaving them on! I enjoyed a very nice hot bath (somewhat of a luxury for this shower-loving girl) when I got back which helped me warm up as I felt cold and damp to my bones.

That evening we went to the cinema and saw Ready Player One, which was so good. The music, the characters and the cool pop culture references throughout were really good. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and will check the book out now. I even managed to not buy any pick ‘n’ mix in efforts to save a bit of money and try and be a little healthier in the lead-up to all the chocolate that would inevitably happen the next day.Sunday the tables were turned as I was supporting and not running running at James’ 10k race. I wasn’t really sure how it would be on the other side but actually it was really good fun. The race was the Massey Ferguson RC Easter Tractor 10k, which was a flat three lapper. Having three laps made supporting a lot more interesting as I got to see James and the other runners three times. It was also nice not having to run a 10k race, which I personally detest and nice not running because I was injured. I’d done my running for the week so I could chill.James did amazingly, smashing his PB and getting 37:04…I mean whaaaat. Makes me feel ill it’s so fast. I did get a little annoyed at a fellow supporter who was near the finish while I was cheering. I was clapping and yelling generic supportive things, as you do, like “final push” and “keep going”, that kind of thing. He turned round to me and said “don’t say that, he was miles ahead of the person behind so just needs to cruise into the finish and not push anymore”. Erm, huh? What if he was after a certain time or wanted to smash his PB? Also, don’t tell me what I can and can’t cheer, buddy. What a knob.That afternoon saw me almost completely demolish my extra thick Daim Cadbury’s Easter egg (good god it was good). I was in a very happy place. I did have a moment of panic when I hurt my jaw though. I think I bit into the chocolate a bit too hard and something clicked making chewing really painful. I had a painkiller and it pretty much disappeared after about 10 minutes, thank god. Honestly, can you imagine that?? During Easter of all times! (Probably karma for my greediness I suppose).That evening to fully concrete my greedy person status, we went to an amazing restaurant called Hickory’s Smokehouse in Castle Bromwich. It’s a BBQ restaurant serving American-style food which just completely rocks my world.I went for the full rack of Kansas ribs while James had a BBQ platter and we both shared some chicken wings. Ahhh heavenly. I even managed to swap my fries for some frickles.Sadly though for once in my life it just got the better of me. I was UNABLE to finish the ribs. I think I’d overdone the chocolate earlier if I’m honest. My ego was very much dented and I felt like a failure 😉 After a pause of eating we did go for some pudding though as I feel like that’s an entirely different stomach.I went for the s’mores…which was a buttery biscuit base with melted chocolate and toasted marshmallows. Ahh soo good. And luckily not hugely rich or stodgy so could fit quite nicely into my already stuffed tummy. Happy days 😀

Did you eat a lot of chocolate over Easter?

Do you like to saviour your egg or eat it quickly? I wish I could but I’m far too greedy.

Have you ever run a route using your watch?