A Winchester run and brunch and my game plan

The weekend just gone my lovely friend, Emma, and I had planned to meet up and do the Winchester parkrun followed by brunch.

She lives in Reading and we wanted a location that would be nice and relatively half-way. After some deliberation we decided on Winchester because, though it’s not really half-way, it is a lovely place and there were a couple of different brunch spots that took our fancy.

Unfortunately as we got closer to the weekend we realised Winchester parkrun had been cancelled. Ah, that scuppered that plan! After to’ing and fro’ing we decided to still go but do our own run together instead. Winchester is a beautiful place and has a nice river area to run along.

But before I get to Saturday, first Friday night. I just have to mention the meal we had at the Merchant House. Kyle and I went out with some friends from work. Happily I like the people I work with so it was a fun time. And the food was, as before, so good.

I went for the triple chicken burger with a portion of the loaded burnt end fries.

I actually felt a little embarrassed because last time I shared them with Kyle but this time I wanted my own portion… I liked them so much and I’m greedy. But the reason I was embarrassed was because one of my colleagues turned up and the first thing he said was “oof the portions here are huge so I’m going to give the fries a miss!”. Ahh here Anna goes again being the one who eats the most… but it was damn good and I enjoyed every bite.

Moments like these do make me feel like the most greedy person in the room because generally I do eat the most. It’s just that I enjoy food. I’m not stuffing myself to a ridiculous level, I do just think I have a big appetite and can eat a lot. But it does make me sometimes feel self-conscious when I eat more than everyone else…

But back to Saturday. I met with Emma at 9am and we ran four miles together.

The weather was lovely and sunny, but not too hot, and we kept the pace conversational so we could catch up. We regularly stay in touch through messages but it’s always nice to see someone in person.

She’s doing Chicago Marathon as well so it was nice to hear about her training – though it did give me major anxieties about my lack of training. This was the longest run I’d done for over 10 weeks. But no panic, no panic. I can only do what I can. At this point I’m still not 100% certain I will do Chicago…

Anyway the four miles were relatively comfortable, though there was a low lying discomfort it was still feeling better.

We then headed to the Dispensary Kitchen for some brunch.

I decided on the vegetarian breakfast after seeing it being whisked by me to another customer (it looked delicious!) and Emma went for poached eggs on avocado and toast. We shared a fruit and yogurt platter.

The food was delicious and looked gorgeous. I felt very saintly. It had halloumi, mushrooms, poached eggs, sourdough toast, avocado and homemade baked beans. The fruit platter was incredible as well. So much food! Just how I like it 😉

It was such a lovely meet-up 🙂

When I got home I decided on another two miles because I really wanted to get six for the day. My reasoning behind this was because I wanted to increase to eight miles the next week.

This is going to be a sink or swim lead-up to Chicago now. I just have to get into training. If my hamstring says “nope” and regresses then I know that Chicago isn’t going to happen. I’ve already taken over 10 weeks off of running. I’ve rehabbed as best as I can (I still am), I’ve avoided anything that aggravates things, I’ve seen two different physios and changed my trainers.

At this point I think I just have to try consistently running and see what happens. Obviously I’m going to be sensible and not suddenly go out and do a 20 miler or five runs a week. But I’d like to do three runs a week and one of those runs gradually building up. I won’t get higher than 16-17 miles before Chicago (if all goes well in my plan) but I’m absolutely fine by that.

I just want to run issue-free. Times and paces literally don’t matter to me right now. When I had this issue a few years ago after the Boston Marathon I managed to get back into long running with some persisting symptoms but otherwise it didn’t get worse.

So I know each run isn’t going to feel perfect or the discomfort entirely disappear just yet, but I can’t be frightened to run. As long as it doesn’t make it worse. That’s my rationale right now. I so hope this works!

How was your weekend?

Have you ever run through an injury?

Bushy parkrun – finally!

Waaay back in like February when I went to the Marathon Talk Run Camp in the Peak District, my friend Fiona mentioned that she wanted to celebrate her birthday in true runner style: going to Bushy parkrun.

I bunch of us were going to meet-up, do the parkrun and enjoy some brunch. Sounded perfect! I’ve actually never done this parkrun and as someone who loves parkrun and everything is stands for, this is a bit mental. Bushy parkrun is the FIRST ever parkrun (in 2004 with 13 runners!). It’s about 1.5 hours away from where I live and though I could of course head up early on a Saturday morning, it was never in my diary to do because I wanted to do it with other people. Kyle and I could have gone just ourselves but we seem to have something planned every weekend at the moment. So this meet-up was the perfect excuse.

Kyle and I decided to stay in an Airbnb on Friday night so we wouldn’t have to get up super early Saturday morning and be stressed. Plus we do love an Airbnb trip. We drove up after work on Friday evening and stopped en route at a delightful pub called the Hen and Chicken for a carvery.

The carvery was a bit more posh than your standard Toby Carvery. Everything looked a bit more home-made rather than mass produced (don’t get me wrong though, I do love a Toby carvery). The gravy for instance was SO tasty and thick. I had roast turkey and gammon (odd combo I know), with creamed leeks, carrots, roast potatoes, red cabbage, stuffing.

It was really good and set us up nicely for the rest of the journey to Hampton for our Airbnb. The Airbnb was nice and we had a lovely evening watching Netflix and munching on those delicious new M&M chocolate bars (so fricking good).

The next morning we were up by 7.30am and heading out the door to walk the two miles to the start. It was a really easy walk, albeit windy. In an ideal world we would have run there but I wanted to be cautious about my hamstring. I haven’t really been consistently running and haven’t gone over three miles yet. I’d be lucky to manage this parkrun let alone anything extra!

Bushy Park itself was so pretty. Huge trees, wide open green spaces and so many deer. I think Kyle got sick of me pointing out different ones… look one with antlers! And then we reached the road where cars were streaming in towards the car park. I was glad we’d chosen to walk. Apparently car park is full even before 8.30am!

We bumped straight into Fiona, her daughter Nikki and her friends, and then John. We sheltered for a little bit under one of the sheds and then saw the other Marathon Talk friends approach. How easy to meet everyone! For John this was easy peasy as this was his local parkrun, but for others like Fiona and Vicki it was more of a journey (Staffordshire and Wiltshire).

The gang

We chatted and caught up briefly before heading to the main start area. It was nice and organised, despite the masses of people milling about.

We headed to the first timer brief and listened as the marshal explained the course and welcomed any tourists. It was a bit annoying because as the marshal continued to explain and give us some hints and recommendations for the course a woman next to me started loudly chatting to her friend. If you don’t want to listen that’s fine, but take yourself away and start your conversation elsewhere! It was really distracting and very rude.

Anyway, after listening we headed to the lonnnnnnnnng line-up to get going. Because the front line-up is so wide you feel very close to the front!

I wasn’t intending on blasting any sort of time – I would be lucky to finish at all, considering my DNF from last week. So I edged further into the main body.

John was just behind me

Kyle moved a bit closer to the front as he wanted to see what time he could do. I was happy to run solo, less pressure and I could concentrate on my hamstring.

After a solid introduction from the race director (using a microphone because of the large audience!) we were off.

The course was mainly on compacted dirt and a little bit of grass – so very easy to run on. Also it was super flat and wide, so despite there being so many people running it was never congested or crowded (in the area I was running anyway). You didn’t feel alone at any point though. There were always runners near you, which was quite nice.

John caught up with me and we remained running next to each other chatting. He’s semi-injured too (after doing the epic Race to the Stones) so neither of us were down for pushing the pace. Instead we took our time and caught up. It’s a shame we don’t see each other more often but it’s always nice when we do.

My hamstring was niggling a bit but it wasn’t as bad as the week before so I remained running and talking with John to keep my mind off it.

I finished in 25:32 and joined the very organised funnel – which sort of blew my mind how they did this. There were two different funnels and I couldn’t work out how they managed to work out the barcodes or positions.

We then headed quickly to the Pheasantry Cafe for brunch. Luckily two of the chaps were super speedy (Stuart and Marcin) they got us a table and we were able to order before the rush.

I went for avaocado on toast with poached eggs which was very hipster of me!

Unfortunately one of the egg yolks spurted all down my leg which was pretty grim. Egg yolk is super tricky to wipe up I tell you! But anyway it was very tasty. As was the delicious VEGAN chocolate cake Deni had made for Fiona’s birthday as well.

It was so lovely catching up with everyone – epsecially Vicky and Stuart who had recently got married but due to my cancelled Edinburgh flight I wasn’t able to make.

Then we all parted ways and Kyle and I walked back to the Airbnb where my car was parked.

We saw more deer and managed to not get rained on – what a bonus.

So a very successful Bushy parkrun pilgramage. I’m so chuffed to have finally done it. Of course I’d love to have been a bit less injured but I’m happy regardless.

Have you ever done Bushy parkrun?

Where’s the furthest you’ve gone for a parkrun?

What’s your favourite thing on toast?

A failed parkrun but an epic burger

Coming back from injury is a tumultuous and emotional process (for me anyway).

You fill yourself huge amounts of hope and excitement. Yesss I can run. I can’t wait to jump ease back into training. Things start to feel very positive after so much negativity and darkness (perhaps an exaggeration, but you get the vibe).

I woke up on Saturday morning and straight away knew my hamstring was feeling pretty terrible. The plan was for Kyle and I to go to Netley as we hadn’t been in so long and I missed seeing people I used to regularly touch base with. I wanted to catch up with my friend Mike as well. Kyle wasn’t feeling particularly well but both of us, possibly unwisely, carried on anyway.

As we walked on over to the start area I knew deep down this wasn’t going to go well but I pushed that feeling aside and convinced myself a miracle would occur.

Of course a miracle did not occur. As soon as I started running it felt uncomfortable. Not quite as bad as pre-new physio but definitely not great. Ehhhh this was pants. I was glad to have no one running with me (Kyle was running solo – I didn’t want to hold him back again). I could spend my time focusing on how it felt and wondering what to do.

I was literally spiralling through so many thoughts… do I stop? Am I making it worse? Is it as bad as before? Should I push on through? And all the while I would have different people I knew overtake me as I increasingly got slower, and they’d say something along the lines of, “Either I’m running too fast or you’re running slowly!” with a chuckle.

And I don’t mind that people are overtaking me or that I’m running slowly but it just further compounded that I wasn’t running at my natural pace. I was running well over 9 minute miles. And of course there’s nothing wrong with that, but I felt I couldn’t run faster. Not because of fitness but because my injury was holding me back.

So in the end I stopped before the first mile. I found a point on the course I could quickly dash off from so few people would notice. I didn’t want someone to see and ask if I was OK. I just wanted to disappear. I was embarrassed, frustrated and angry. As I pulled away from the course I burst into tears. It was pathetic really but I just felt so frustrated and annoyed.

A lovely woman walking her dog asked if I was OK and it did feel ridiculous trying to explain what was wrong. In the end I just said I was OK and I rung my dad (who later told me having a phone call from me at 9:12 on a Saturday morning is never going to bode well…).

Kyle was still running so I just sobbed to my dad about how sad I was and how I felt panicked about Chicago and how I thought I was heading in the right direction…until now.

Eventually, after morosely walking around the cricket pitch away from the course, I headed back to the parkrun area. I didn’t want to cheer anyone on. I didn’t want to talk to anyone really. I felt embarrassed and I didn’t want to explain I was injured. I found Kyle and Mike, who’d just finished, and I explained how I’d pulled out and that I just wanted to go home. Mike understood, gave me a hug and then Kyle and I left.

Kyle was obviously lovely and we had a nice day ahead of us going to Bournemouth so I quickly cheered up. We got showered and sorted and then sat in the long traffic to get to Monty’s Burger Lounge to meet up with some of Kyle’s friends.

We’ve been to this restaurant before (over a year ago!) and we loved it. I’d recently won a burger from them as well through Instagram (they ran a competition and I won it) so it was the perfect place to meet with his friends.

I gave Kyle the free burger as I’m not a huge burger fan. The burger is called The Sinner and contains chicken nuggets, hasbrowns (which I don’t like), a 12oz beef patty, pulled pork sauce and American cheese. So pretty epic.

I, of course, had two lots of BBQ chicken wings. I adore their wings. So juicy and tasty. Probably some of my BBQ flavoured favourite wings (buffalo are still my all-time favourite).

And I also had a portion of mozzarella bites (coated in cheesy Dorita crisps!).

We had a lovely time eating and chatting away to Kyle’s friends. It massively helped take my mind off of my failed run. There are so many more important things in life and having lovely people to spend your time with helps puts things into perspective 🙂

But my hamstring thankfully feels a bit better and I hope to continue trying to run. I’m seeing my new physio again this week so FINGERS CROSSED.

Have you ever got upset about a failed run?

Have you ever had a parkrun DNF?

What’s your preference: Buffalo or BBQ wings? I’m also partial to vegan wings too – either cauliflower or tempeh, both are nice!

What I’ve been loving lately (July)

July has flown by, it is CRAZY.

So some cool stuff has been happening round here.

I’ve been eating some very tasty food as of late. As you should well know by now I’m a big believer in eating for your body and for your soul. Kyle and I went to the newly opening Greenwich pub which is home to the Nice Slice. They sell RIDICULOUS pizzas (20 inches!), burgers, chicken and lots of vegan options. We went with work friends for a random Thursday dinner and it was GOOD.

I had the double chicken burger (the Mickey Burger) with buffalo sauce and pickles with a side of chicken wings (obvs).

Kyle had a 20 inch (!) meaty pizza. I did have a cheeky slice 😉

The burger and wings were fairly spicy. I should have ordered the other chicken burger I think, that didn’t have buffalo sauce because two lots of buffalo was quite a bit to contend with! It was very tasty though. We’ll definitely go back!

Over the last year or so I’ve become a big M&M fan. I don’t know quite how this has happened but it’s happened. I’m actually not a big fan of the traditional chocolate ones, but all the others are a big yes for me (I could literally eat a giant bag of the peanut ones…god so good).

Anyway, I recently spotted in Tesco that they’d brought out an M&M chocolate bar – in several different flavours. I’m not a hazlenut fan (urgh Nutella…) so I avoided that one, but I bought the others. LEMME TELL YOU, they are INCREDIBLE.

It’s speckled with mini M&M’s and the peanut one has peanuts throughout. Very yummy!

I’ve also heard on the grapevine that there are now salted caramel M&M’s as well. They currently do the caramel ones, but they’re crunchy rather than soft like the American version (I love both to be honest). I will be grabbing some as soon as I can.

On a perhaps more health-focused note, I was recently sent some supplements from Wicked Gummy Co.

They’re almost like sweets, I kid you not. I was sent the full line-up: Happy Tummy, Hair, Skin & Nails, Multi Vitamin, Peaceful Zzzzz and Vitamin D Sunshine. A solid list of good stuff.

They are very much like gummy sweet and are tasty to eat. They’re also vegan friendly. They do contain glucose though, so be wary on that front if you’re popping all the supplement at once. That’s a fair amount of sugar!

The Multi Vitamin contains vitamin C, A, B6, E, selenium and biotin. This is all good for bone health, the immune system, vision and brain. The Peaceful Zzzzz contains valerian root extract (which has been argued to help with sleep, though I think conclusive scientific evidence isn’t there yet) and 5-HTP (again, similar to valerian).

The Hair, Skin & Nails contains similar ingredients to the multi vitamin but with zinc and folate. Happy Tummy contains Lactobacillus cultures, which are supposed to help promote good bacteria in your gut.

Now I can’t say for certain if my hair has suddenly become shinier, or my bones stronger, or I’ve caught less colds BUT they taste really nice and are easier to take than “proper” tablets. If you want to up your vitamins but hate tablets or don’t think your diet is good enough then these might be a good shout. To be honest, I just quite enjoy having a couple after my breakfast for a nice sweet treat 🙂

Do you take any supplements?

What’s your favourite kind of M&M?

Do go out for dinner with work people?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the supplements from Wicked Gummy Co for free in return for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**


My travels up North

I mean I guess it’s probably more accurate to say to the midlands, but for me anywhere north of Bristol feels “Up North” as I live so south 😉

But accurate geography aside, Kyle and I drove up to Stoke-On-Trent on Friday to stay with my grandad ahead of the Manchester Marathon on the Sunday.

Before that though we had a nice walk down to Lee-On-Solent to have some filling breakfast to fuel us for the 3.5 hour car journey. I like to have a bit of a walk or some sort of movement before a long journey as otherwise your body just feels so meh. So we walked about 45 minutes to the Penguin Cafe in Lee for some brunch.

We went for the rather greedy Emperor Breakfast, which was pretty much everything I love about a fry-up. GIANT.

I swapped my hasbrowns for more black pudding

Kyle even got extra toast. When we get breakfast we mean business. The Penguin Cafe is a lovely place – though it is very much your cheap and cheerful greasy spoon. Everything tasted delicious – so I’ll let them off for their bean contamination 😉

After a lonnnnng drive to Stoke we got to spend a nice evening with my grandad and enjoy a home cooked meal of steak, vegetables and potatoes. It’s always lovely to see him and hear about his adventures in Scotland in the Cairngorms Reindeer Centre where he volunteers twice a year as their handyman and general all-round fixer-upper (“Handy Paul” as they call him). At nearly 80 I’m very proud of him.

Beautiful spring weather

The next morning Kyle and I ran the 1.5(ish) miles to Hanley park for the Hanley parkrun.

Happily it was a lovely downhill to get our legs moving. Hanley park itself was a beautiful park with a lovely pond.

Now I remember running Hanley parkrun a few years ago when I stayed at my grandad’s with my dad before the Liverpool Marathon. However I DO NOT remember it being that hilly (actually after going back to the old post I have clearly stated it was “challenging”. Obviously I wiped it from my memory…).

I told Kyle I thought it was flat but actually it really wasn’t. It’s number 406 on the elevation line-up of all the UK parkruns. My home parkrun Netley with it’s three inclines is 212!

We lined up, all happy and innocent of what was ahead, and got ready to start. Kyle and I agreed if one of us felt good to run ahead and as we got going I decided I felt like I bit of a push.

As we turned the corner we hit the first hill. OK I sort of remembered this now… but it was only one hill. Then we had a lovely stretch of downhill, where I lost Kyle (he’s a very cautious downhill runner whereas I’m pretty much a free-faller). And then we looped back round to the same hill. Hmmm.

The course, in the end, included this hill another time AND a nastier longer hill twice. So actually it wasn’t flat at all and was actually very undulating. At 1.5 miles I felt that draining feeling of tiredness where I wasn’t sure I could maintain my speed anymore. But the downhills helped me catch my breath and give me back some energy.

I managed to overtake a few females on the final mile and powered to the finish as second female. I finished in 21:42 and Kyle, not too far behind, finished 22:21.

The first female was already done and I overheard her talking to someone and saying she was from Portsmouth. I jumped over to say so was I. Turns out her local is Southsea and she was visiting family. What a small world!

Then we made our way slowly back to my grandad’s. Annoyingly having to climb up the giant hill we sailed breezily down before. Ooof it was a grind!

We got washed up, had breakfast then headed to Liverpool to see my lovely friend Charlotte, her husband and her little boy, Arthur. She used to live in Brighton (a far more accessible visiting distance) but now she’s so far away it seemed silly not to make the most of being nearby and dropping in.

As I knew I wanted a larger dinner I decided to be sensible and have a lighter lunch (yes, this is still Anna… mental I know). I went for a vegan salad but added chicken (I know, I know). It had falafels and chickpeas and was very tasty but…well, very light.

It was lovely seeing Charlotte but then we had to head off to our next destination – Manchester! Kyle and I were staying in an AirBnb about three miles from the race start and about a ten minute drive from the city centre, which was perfect.

We met up with my other friend, John from many MarathonTalk adventures, and found a perfect, albeit hidden away, pizza restaurant to carb load adequately before the race called Dogs ‘n’ Dough. John was going to be running the marathon too (Kyle wasn’t, he’d be supporting).

The pizza place was very cool and quirky, and helpfully very quiet! I went for BBQ chicken pieces to start. And a cheeky Bud Light.

And then followed it up with a giant 12 inch deep pan pulled pork pizza (The Pig Lebowski). Normally I’m more of a crispy thin fan but this was very tasty. And very filling.

I was definitely going to be well fueled for the next day! I was pretty much sent into a carb coma.

Centre of Manchester

It was nice to catch up with John, although we both admitted that it didn’t really feel like we’d be running a marathon the next day. He was going to be taking it a bit easier (he’s a 3:12 marathoner usually but is training for a much longer event). I wasn’t sure of my plans yet (am I ever??). I was pretty much going to see how it felt on the day. But I kind of wanted to give it a bit of a blast as it seemed like the weather was going to be cool and the course was flat. So an ideal opportunity.

The classic flat lay

John headed back to his hotel and Kyle and I headed back to our AirBnb. The couple who lived there (we were in a room, rather than an entire flat) were lovely and friendly. One of them had run the marathon before so I got to ask her a bit about it. It was quite amusing when they were advising me to have a good carbohydrate rich breakfast and get a good night sleep and giving me tips on running a marathon in general… they then asked if it was my first. I told them it was my 19th and they looked stunned. They then said “oh well I guess you know what you’re doing then!” hehe.

Have you ever been to Manchester before?

Do you prefer thick crusted or thin base pizzas?

What’s the hilliest parkrun you’ve done?