Not the weekend I had planned

My plan for this weekend was to go to Liverpool on Friday night.

One of my close friends has just moved from Brighton to Liverpool, which makes visiting a little trickier. Happily though I live very close to Southampton Airport and I found that flying to Manchester and then getting a train from there to Liverpool was the quickest way. Driving would take over 5 hours and the train was £150+.

So on Friday after work I headed to the airport (handily my parents dropped me off as they were off to do some late night shopping in West Quay nearby). I was looking forward to catching up with my friends and also squeezing in the Princes parkrun that is very close to her house.

However, after being delayed the airline then announced that the flight was cancelled. Oh. And the next flight wasn’t until 8.50pm, which I’d be lucky to get on considering the great stampede of disgruntled customers to the customer services and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get a train from Manchester at the other side later that night. So in the end I cancelled the trip. It was really disappointing but we’re going to try again to catch up at some point. My parents were able to swing by and pick me up after their shopping, which was so handy! And I’ll apparently be refunded AND compensated for my cancelled flight, so there’s a silver lining at least.

On Saturday morning I met Kyle, his brother, his sister and his mum (who would be supporting, not running) to do parkrun at Portsmouth Lakeside instead. Because I wanted to still be cautious of my calf post-niggle, I decided to take it easier. I wasn’t in the right mindset to push the pace too much anyway so I was happy for a slightly faster than gentle amble round.

Kyle shot off and I was content to run on my own and concentrate on how my leg was feeling. Hmmm, not 100%. I tried not to let it bother me – i.e. not go into full Anna Panic Mode. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t feeling as good as it had during the week. Maybe because I was going faster than I’d run then? I don’t know.

Our friend Connor was also running so there were a good few people to smile and wave at as we went round. There are a few out and backs so you can see where people are through the run. Kyle was far ahead and I wondered how fast he’d do it in. He’s very much going for the shorter distances and I’m almost certain he’ll be hitting a sub-20 parkrun soon.

I finished in 22:53 which was good for an easier run. I didn’t feel like it was too much of an effort. Kyle finished first out of us, then Connor, then Zack, Kyle’s brother, then Lucy, his sister, followed by Connor’s girlfriend. Everyone but me managed a PB. I was made up for Kyle who got an incredible time of 20:31! Though I did say he looked far too comfortable and happy when I first saw him just after the first mile… ūüėČ He has more to give!

Kyle, his family and I then headed to Harvester for one of their epic breakfasts – the “All In”. This is basically all you can eat. You can have up to FIVE of each item – including unlimited toast and cold and hot drinks. I forwent the chips (!!) and hash browns and stuck with the modest portion (ha!) of four sausages, three bits of bacon, three eggs, two black puddings, beans, two tomatoes, two mushrooms, a slice of toast and a breakfast muffin.

The toast was done by one of those self-service conveyor oven things. I got it wrong by putting in my slice of bread twice as I wanted it a bit more toasted. Proper charred bread – which Kyle’s mum said she’d eat as she loved burnt toast. WHAT?! This blew my mind.

Afterwards I headed home and got loads of little annoying, niggling little jobs done and felt very productive. Kyle popped over later and we enjoyed a cheeky takeaway and an evening watching You, which we’re really enjoying. It’s creepy but absorbing.

The next morning Kyle and I were going to do eight miles together but after my calf felt a little niggly during parkrun I reverted back to my paranoid runner state. Instead we headed out for four miles. Kyle had just bought himself a Garmin 235. He had previously relied on his Apple Watch and using Strava and after Strava had cut off his run for some reason the day before he decided to push the boat out and treat himself. I’m still amazed by the fact that he ordered it in the afternoon and by 8pm he had it. The wonders of Amazon Prime eh!

It was so windy! Though it was lovely and sunny, that wind was both strong and very cold. I kept the route as much away from the seafront as possible to avoid too much blowing about. Though we did stop to take a photo on the small section we went along. Such a beautiful day.

My leg was feeling good so we decided to make it up to five miles. Nice and easy. I was sad not to have done eight but I’m happy that I was sensible (OK this did not come that naturally to me. It took a bit of Kyle talking to me to make me see sense…).

So not quite the weekend I had planned in any way but still a lovely one.

Have you ever had a delayed flight?

What watch do you use for running?

Does anyone else like eating burnt toast??

Reading parkrun and the Stubbington 10k

When¬†I¬†did¬†the¬†New¬†York¬†Marathon¬†in¬†November¬†I¬†stayed¬†with¬†a¬†bunch¬†of¬†girls¬†who¬†were¬†just¬†lovely. It was all arranged by Charlie, from The Runner Beans, and we had a fantastic time. Happily we’ve since kept in touch.

One of the girls, Cortney, was coming over from her home in Canada to visit so I headed up to Reading to do a little meet-up with a few of the girls. parkrun, brunch and friends – Saturday goals right there! I drove up straight from work on the Friday evening.

That evening we had a lovely girlie night at Charlie’s. Emma (from Nanny on the Run) made a delicious shepherd’s pie with a sweet potato topping. Daaamn it was good.

And we followed that with the less healthy but equally tasty Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (three different kinds! Be still my beating heart. I was a fan of the B&J’s Salted Caramel topped tub but not so huge a fan of the vegan Brownie one).

We chatted, we chilled, we ate and we watched the ever good When Harry Met Sally. It was lovely to see the girls again and properly catch-up.

The next morning we headed to the Reading parkrun. I had been tempted to run when I thought we were going to a different parkrun that I hadn’t done before (Woodley parkrun)…. but as I’d done Reading before (it was my ‘R’) and my calf was still not brilliant, I thought it best to play it safe and volunteer. Charlie was also volunteering and not running due to an injury as well. So I didn’t feel like I was missing out too much.

I was also quite chuffed because I’d been assigned the role of barcode scanner. I’ve never done that job at parkrun and was keen to tick another role off my list! I was also very chuffed for Cortney because it would be her first ever parkrun. Exciting times!

We arrived and ‘signed in’ to our posts. Cortney and Emma headed off to the start and Charlie and I got into our positions.

I was a little sad to be missing out but the other parkrun volunteers were so friendly and chatty that the time flew by and suddenly I was needed to scan the barcodes. It was MANIC. There were three of us scanning and it almost felt never-ending. Lots of people were super friendly and thanked me for my time or chatted to me but some people silently handed me the barcodes or, in a couple of instances, just pointed to their shoe making zero effort. I thought that was a little rude if I’m honest.

Some people asked how they’d done… I’ve no idea! I politely told them they’d find out later in the email. And some people, despite standing in the barcode scanning queue for a lengthy period of time still arrived at me expectantly but without anything prepared. It was quite an interesting experience it must be said. Eventually the buzz died down and I was able to relax a bit. Whew!

A lovely blog reader came and introduced herself to me. It honestly made my morning to hear about her running achievements and goals and that I’d had a little influence on it. I felt very touched. Sometimes it can feel like you’re writing into a void and no one is really listening but to hear from someone I don’t know who does read my random ramblings is just the loveliest thing.

Cortney and Emma did really well and it sounded like they both enjoyed it. Then we headed off for the essential refuel. Volunteering is hard work too! We went to Cafe Yolk, which is a small but very cute little cafe in Reading.

Unsurprisingly I ordered the full English, while the other three girls ordered avocado and eggs on toast. Probably the far healthier option but I’m fairly stuck in my ways and adore a fry-up. It was a rather posh looking fry-up so at least there’s that…

Then we headed for breakfast pudding of course. We originally went to one spot but their cake selection was not up to our high standards and so we headed next door to The Flowering Teapot instead. Now let me tell you, they were fantastic!

All homemade cakes, homemade bread… the whole shabang. The guy behind the counter was so helpful and friendly. Emma asked if there were any vegan cakes and he said there was a carrot cake being finished in the back so we waited for that (the owner who was finishing it said she’d be super quick for us which was lovely). While we waited the guy cut us a bit of the millionaire shortbread to nibble on. I mean, how good is that?

I went for the millionaire shortbread in the end because it was so good. We took our cakes and had a cup of tea at Charlie’s with them. A lovely way to end a lovely meet up!

The next day was the Stubbington 10k. This race literally runs past my house. It starts about a 5 minute walk up the road, and finishes about 15 minutes walk away so it’s super local and convenient. Sadly though I continued to be sensible and decided not to run. However, Kyle was.

He’s never run an official 10k race so I was quite excited for him. I detest 10ks so realistically I wasn’t too sad to miss the race but I was sad not to be running with Kyle and experiencing it with him. Instead, I would be walking to the 9k marker with my dad and Alfie in order to help cheer him. It would also be a nice walk for the three of us.

For whatever reason (probably entirely down to me being me) we thought the race started at 9.30am. I told Kyle he could easily leave the house at 9.15am and get to the start in enough time. My dad and I would need to leave just before 9am to walk the 2+ miles to the 9k marker, meaning we’d be there in time (9.35ish for Kyle to run past). Perfectly under control, nicely planned, we are amazing.

Except as my dad and me were 20 minutes up the road my mum rung to say the race actually started at 10am so Kyle and her were going to sit in a coffee shop for a bit to waste some time. Ah. Classic Anna.

This meant my dad and I were quite early and decided to go find our own coffee shop for a quick drink before heading to the spot. Not too bad considering – I mean, it’s not like we were late! That would have been a lot worse.

Around 10.20am the first runners started passing through and we cheered them on. I saw lots of friends, people I knew and people from my running club so it was good fun. However I do have silly panic moments where despite fully knowing these people I never seem to remember names!! Something about seeing people running just makes my mind go blank. Bit embarrassing but there we go.

Then Kyle ran past (I managed to remember his name ;-)). Then my dad and me quick marched to the finish to catch him afterwards. He’d done a fantastic time of 42:59 – just scraping under the 43 minute mark! Very jammy. And so fast! I remember for my first 10k I did 43:34. Clearly Kyle is going to be super fast in the future considering he hasn’t been running for long! He definitely has a lot more to give.

He mentioned he much prefers the shorter distances to the marathons. I can understand that (though I personally don’t have that preference, obviously). I think Kyle will do well in all distances but I think he’ll probably focus more on the shorter stuff.

Though I’m sad he doesn’t share the same marathon love I do, it does make it a little more interesting for us! I can happily support those shorter distances (I think I get the easier deal here hehe).

What distance do you prefer to race?

What parkrun volunteering role haven’t you done yet but would like to?

Do like to volunteer when you’re injured/not running?

Oh how I’ve changed

Running and I have come a long way. Not just in terms of PB’s or times or parkrun tourism…but in terms of how it affects my life and my views on it.

My yearly calf niggle has cropped up again. This always happens from time to time and to be fair I’ve had a good run (ha) of not having any issues so it was really only time before it happened again. I’ve done a lot recently – three marathons very close to each other. I can feel my body saying “can we please have a rest?”. I like to think I’m good at judging this, but clearly I need something to actually stop me. I’m good, but I’m not that good.

Of course I’m a bit bummed out – I love running. I do it frequently through the week and enjoy the freedom, the endorphins and the mental “ahhhh” I get from it. It makes me sad when suddenly I can’t run, or can’t run as much, and when things aren’t feeling as good as they felt before.

But that’s all – I’m bummed. I’m not distraught, or depressed, or feeling angry. I know this is my fault and I know I just need a bit of rest to clear it up. Time and TLC (tender loving cake? No?) and I’ll be back in no time. It’s a nice reset and refresh for my training if anything.

It did make me think though. There was a time when running was everything. Where getting injured literally ruined my week. I would become very down, very sad and everything else became tarred by the same darkness. Looking back I think this is because I was putting a lot of eggs into one basket. My happiness was quite dependent on my running. If I didn’t run, what else did I have?

Not to sound too pathetic, but a big part of my life was to do with running. I hated my job (the job before this one) and felt unfilled, lost and indifferent. I clearly didn’t have a marriage that was working (though at the time I kind of just ignored this, assumed all was well and didn’t question niggling doubts or feelings). I had my family and friends, but I was very focused on my running and became somewhat isolated in the relationship I was in. It wasn’t healthy.

Then when my marriage fell apart all I had to focus on was my running. Running would get me through the hard times. And it did. I love running for that. I was able to put a lot of emotion into it and use it to strengthen me mentally. It hugely helped and I’ll never regret that. The only problem is when you use running to make you strong, to keep you going and to enjoy life… when it’s taken away things become hard very quickly. What do I do with myself? How do I define myself? How can my body be so weak? Why have I failed?

I had no happy job to keep me focused. A lot of my friends are runners. My whole social media was just about running. My spare time was about running.

Today things are a lot different. Of course I still love running. It’s a huge part of my life. It makes me very happy and I love doing it. It’s one of the reasons Kyle and I got together – it brought us a closer than just talking in the office at work. I hope to always have running. But the difference is, I have so much more to me now than just running.

I have a great boyfriend. I have a fantastic job I enjoy. I love the gym and pushing myself there – the strength gains and being one of the best in circuits class some days. I still have running friends but I also spend quality time with non-running friends – and the close running friends I have are always there for me with or without running. I use social media for more than just talking about running (heyyyy Instagram food accounts). I don’t define myself by my running. It doesn’t control my happiness.

So yeah, I have a niggle. But hey, so what?

Is running a big part of your life?

What’s a niggle you always seem to get?

Double parkrun – Havant and QECP

One thing I love about the festive period is the chance to rack up quite a few more parkruns than you ordinarily would be able to.

There’s the Christmas day parkrun AND the double New Year’s Day parkrun, on top of the usual Saturday ones. Three bonus ones! In total, five parkruns within two weeks. Pretty good going.

Last year I was sadly unable to do the double day on NY because I was slightly injured (or at least, I was being sensible and not aggravating a niggle). Instead I plunged myself into the sea – a horrific but weirdly fun experience. I have to say, I was glad to give it a swerve this year!

As I was staying over Kyle’s for New Year’s Eve it made sense to go to his local parkruns rather than drive over 40 minutes to get to Netley (and then proceed to Southampton for the double). Havant parkrun is literally just round the corner, and then QECP a mere 10 minute drive from there. It made sense.

New Year’s Eve itself was good fun. Kyle has a large family and we played lots of games (if you’ve never played Doble you really must, it’s brilliant) and ate lots of good food. I had a takeaway kebab and chicken wings, I was in heaven.

So after a rather late night the alarm going off at 8.20am was bad enough! But Kyle and I got ourselves together, drove to Staunton Country Park, where the Havant parkrun happens and ambled to the start.

We were somewhat shocked to find that the parkrun had already begun (by my watch, a good 2 minutes early!). Usually you can count on Havant waffling for a bit and not actually starting on time… but I guess people were keen to get to the next parkrun on time. This did mean that I had to rip my coat off and throw it to a nearby tree and we had to start running straight away. To be honest, it was all a bit of a fluster! I was only asleep less than an hour ago…what a wake up!

Havant parkrun is a tough course. Not only is it uphill most of the way (albeit gently, but it’s there) with quite a sharp and scary downhill section (there’s even a sign to warn you) but the stony ground is very uneven so it takes a lot of concentration to keep you from losing your footing or doing your ankle over.

The weather was cold, crisp and dry so this was a relief (especially as the entirely off-road QECP was next). We spent the first mile pretty much overtaking and winding as we were some of the few who started late. Then on mile two we got into a nice rhythm. I saw a few people I knew from my running club which was nice!

It’s two and a bit laps so it does go fairly quickly (mentally at least) and on the final stretch we pushed the pace and had a tasty sprint finish. Whew! Our times were identical at 25:16, (though my watch time was 24:55). One down, one to go.

There was no great rush to zoom over to QECP as the 2nd parkrun didn’t start until 10.30am and the journey was super short. However there was a long queue to get into the car park. We parked and got ourselves together and had a far more leisurely start than Havant, chatting to people I knew and trying to keep warm. Usually QECP attracts around 100 or so runners, but today it was over 400 and it was practically buzzing!

Though Kyle and I had run together at Havant we decided to do our own thing for this parkrun. And being so busy it would be tricky to run easily together. The first section of the course is a bit mental: you run straight uphill which is an absolute GRIND. Then you turn the corner and run immediately downhill at rather breakneck speed. The course is pretty much entirely on grassy tracks and a good chunk you’re either running uphill or downhill. It’s not for the faint of heart.

I found my legs were far more into running at this point than they were for Havant. I’ve been trying hard to let myself go a bit more during the downhills – basically allow gravity to do a bit more of the work rather than working against it and breaking as I go down. I found myself flying past the more cautious runners and used the momentum to carry me along the flatter and then uphill sections.

I embraced the horrendous uphill on the second lap once again and kept pushing. I was shocked to see a 5.30min/mile as I rocketed downhill – which obviously quickly disappeared as soon as I got to flatter sections. But hey, it was cool to briefly see! Finally I got to the long, slightly inclined, finally straight and pushed to a 23:03 finish. Hurrah!

Kyle finished just behind at 24:33. I found it somewhat amusing that a young girl almost overtook him at the finish-line because compared to Kyle’s 6ft3 she looked positively miniature ūüėČ

We were both very chuffed to have gotten the double parkrun done and felt immensely satisfied at starting 2019 in such a positive way. This year I hope to get more parkrun tourism completed, but also continue to go to Netley as well. I feel I’ve neglected it a bit recently and I do miss it when I don’t go for a while – mainly the people of course, not necessarily those hills on the winter course!

Did you do the double NY parkrun?

Do you like to do more parkrun tourism or stick to your home one?

How did you celebrate New Year’s Eve?

New year, same me

I just re-read my last year’s New Year’s resolution post. I say “resolutions” but I don’t really make them… basically it was what I had planned for the year basically.

It was really interesting. My plan for the Dubai Marathon, that I ran in January, was to “go for it” and my plan for the Brighton Marathon was to just bimble round. How different that turned out! Dubai was my slowest marathon time of the year (3:39:58) whereas Brighton is now my PB (3:16:28). It’s funny how things are never as you plan (well for me certainly).

2018 was a really good year for me in terms of running. I ran five marathons! I put the exclamation mark because this still shocks me. My body is so much stronger. SO much stronger. Regularly going to the gym and working on my strength has hugely helped. I know where my weaknesses are and what to work on. I’ve had minimal niggles, and anything that did crop up disappeared relatively quickly.


I ran¬†1,633.9 miles. I PB’ed at my 5k (19:40),¬†was five seconds off a 5 miles PB (33:48),¬†unofficiallybeat¬†my 10k three times during training runs (41:49), beat my half marathon PB (1:31:106) and got a new marathon PB (3:16:28). So in purely performance-related achievements, I think I’ve done well!

Hitting my target of running a sub-20 minute parkrun, a goal I had at the start of the year, made me very happy. I mean it was horrifically hard and I felt every single second, but I got there (twice actually, I squeezed a 19:59 at Victoria Docks parkrun). I’m very happy with that time and feel no desire to attempt to go faster. Sure sub-19 minute sounds amazing but so does winning the lottery, some things in life aren’t meant to happen to me ūüėČ

One of my most proud achievements was getting my parkrun Alphabet Challenge completed. It genuinely took me a lot of organising , but I had so much fun along the way. It gave me good excuses to visit friends, go to different places and have adventures. Something I see goes firmly hand in hand with my running.

So 2019. Well, I’d love to do 4-5 marathons again. In the plan currently is a Barcelona in March, Manchester in April (I know, scarily close to each other), Chicago in October (my LAST Marathon Major!!!) and probably Portsmouth Coastal in December again. I see a gap between April and October so I’m sure if all is well I’ll squeeze something in between. But I don’t want to become complacent with my new found “lack of injury” status I have so I won’t make any assumptions lightly!

It might be nice to get close to my marathon PB again. Manchester or Chicago might be viable options as they’re both flat. The New York Marathon showed me I could put a good time in and still enjoy myself so that makes me more inclined to try. But getting under 3:16 will require consistent, solid running and almost certainly with some speedwork put in. This is something I probably should have as a goal… but actual track? No I think I’m done with that. Let’s be honest, going from zero speedwork to intense PROPER speedwork on the track was never going to be a great fit for me.

So perhaps some less formal sessions with Hedge End Running Club (who are a bit more chilled about these things) and some sessions on my own… once in a while anyway. I won’t commit to anything as ludicrous as “once a week” as that’s a lofty target that I’ll never hit. Baby steps.

In terms of my life outside of running… well, if you couldn’t tell I’m very happy. I wouldn’t have thought I’d be this happy last year but I am.

It’s funny because I actually didn’t think I was missing anything. I was quite content bumbling along with my life and didn’t really think I needed anyone to “make” me happy. But there you go. Kyle and I have a lot of adventures planned for this year. I just hope I don’t mess anything up! I mean there’s bound to be many more Anna’isms through the year but I guess that’s to be expected…

Do you make New Year’s resolutions?

What are your goals for the year?

Did you achieve what you wanted in 2018?