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 😉

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 😉

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?

Christmas parkrun and all the trimmings

I think Christmas is probably my favourite time of year. I don’t care that it’s usually cold, dark and miserable.

I just love the festive cheer, the music, the happiness and of course the food. As if I need anymore of an excuse to eat silly amounts of chocolate, cake and roast dinners. It’s all part and parcel of the good times.

I also love doing parkrun on Christmas day. It’s kind of a non-negotiable thing for me (unless I’m injured and feeling thoroughly bitter and sad about not being able to run). To me there is nothing better than starting the festive fun with going to parkrun, seeing my friends and having a 5k bimble. Who cares about paces or PB’s, it’s all about the fun and the people (arguably, this is all parkrun should ever be about really).

I got there early to help set the course up. I’ve recently been slacking in this department. I would say “unfortunately” but realistically life has gotten in the way – and in a very good way. Sometimes parkrun has to take a backseat! I love to wear a bit of a fancy dress for the Christmas parkrun and having used my elf outfit last year and my “sort of Santa” outfit a couple of years, I needed to spruce things up.Anyone who knows me knows I’m very bad at arts and crafts and I’m not that creative, so when I came up with my tinsel outfit and actually made it myself I was SO proud. I got so many compliments as well! It cost me NOTHING as well as we had the tinsel and safety pins already (I knew there was a reason I was saving all those pins from races!).As I’d only run the marathon a couple of days before, and my legs were really tired and achy (all that slipping and sliding and a faster pace than anticipated) I wasn’t expecting anything more than a proper slog.Happily my friend Mike offered to run with me which was nice. We could just plod around and chat. I also saw my super fast and amazing doctor friend, Jo, beforehand which was lovely. We seem to only catch each other very occasionally (she’s a doctor up North while her parents are down South) so it’s always lovely to see her, though we keep in touch through the wonders of social media.My legs felt like bricks. And actually I felt very unfit in general. My breathing was struggling and it was just felt very hardwork. I was grateful for Mike taking pity on me and staying with me. It’s amazing how one day you can be flying and the next you can feel like you can barely run.

It was very muddy and the finishing straight was somewhat precarious – no sprint finishing unless you wanted to go head over heels! My time was 24:39, which considering how I felt and the state of my legs I will happily take!Then it was a case of quickly clearing up the course and getting home to start the Christmas celebration with my family.

Christmas with my family is usually quite chaotic and, well, manic. I have a small family but it still manages to be very busy, loud and crazy. We’re not particularly organised so when Christmas dinner cooking happens it can be quite stressful. I usually help my dad and my mum sorts out table settings and things like that (it’s best for everyone she doesn’t get involved in the cooking ;-)).

Anyway, due to some good forward thinking the day before and writing a list of all the different things we needed to cook with their timings, we were fully on the ball. We’d vaguely said 1pm sounded like a good time to eat and I kid you not, two minutes to 1pm saw us all sitting down to eat! WHAT.For the starter, my dad made these delicious roasted cabbage, goat’s cheese and bacon things… so good!Then for main we had the turkey and full trimmings. One of my favourite meals of the year!Yes I realise broad beans are a weird addition but it’s a fun family tradition to include them (hilarious I know… *cough*). I’m not a potato fan, but there were roast potatoes on offer I assure you 😉 I’m very much a stuffing, parsnip and pigs in blankets fan though!

The rest of Christmas was spent playing games with my family, walking (I love a Christmas Day walk!) and then heading to Kyle’s to do much the same. I’m very pleased that I have the stomach capacity to do round two of ALL THE FOOD 😉Kyle’s mum did an AMAZING buffet spread (bless her, she’d done buffalo chicken wings especially for me). The above plate was plate one of many! I also had some cake pops made by Kyle’s lovely sister Lucy followed by silly amounts of chocolate lebkuchen.I got so many lovely presents from Kyle’s family, and of course Kyle. I was OVER THE MOON to have received a Nintendo Switch from Kyle, which I’m now fully addicted to (Crash Bandicoot, how I’ve missed you). We also played a Friends Trivia game which was ridiculously difficult – I mean, we thought we knew Friends but clearly not well enough (who even remembers what WENUS stands for??).

On Boxing Day we headed to Kyle’s dad for even more food.Gammon, beef, pork, turkey… I was in heaven.

Christmas is definitely my favourite time of year. Spending quality time with your family, playing games, watching films and eating silly amounts of food. It’s just the best time of year. Spending it with Kyle as well was really lovely. I’m very glad that we both get on so well with each other’s families – something that is very important to the both of us.

Here’s to many more fun Christmases ahead!

How did you spend Christmas?

What#s your favourite Christmas food?

Did you do a Christmas parkrun?

Legging loving – SKINS DNAmic Ultimate Compression review

Leggings… oh leggings, how I do love you.

I’d say 80% of the time at the gym I’m wearing leggings. I feel less “exposed”. The harsh bright lights of the gym and the fact that you’re not really flying past people, but rather hanging out with them in the same space. And doing squats in shorts isn’t my favourite thing it must be said. So leggings at the gym = BIG tick.

But for running I do prefer to be a bit more “free”. In general my legs don’t get that cold. It’s more my upper body that feels the chills. However, I was recently sent some SKINS leggings to test out from their new DNAmic Ultimate Compression range. Though I was keen to just keep them for the gym, the Biblical rain and wind the other night pushed me to be a bit of a wuss and pop the leggings on.It was dark, miserable, cold and wet and I frankly didn’t want to go outside. But the idea of being a bit more covered up made the experience feel a bit more appealing. So on they went. Yes I realise actual skin is waterproof but these aren’t just regular leggings, they’re compression leggings. As a big fan of compression socks I was quite keen to give them a try.Compression gear enhances your natural blood flow, which can increase the oxygen supply to your muscles and remove lactic acid quicker. The compression is design in a way that it’s strategically placed on the areas where you’d need it the most, helping to keep you going and reduce injuries. For every single marathon I’ve run (and all my long runs) I always wear compression socks. I find they give my calves a bit of extra support and keep cramp at bay.The material of the leggings, as you can imagine, is quite tight but not overly so. I mean, let’s be honest, over the Christmas period I don’t think anyone is feeling their leanest but once you’ve got them on you don’t feel overly restricted (a big concern I had, even after all the Christmas chocolate I’ve been scoffing ;-)).

The design is high-waisted (apparently helping with core-support) – which I love. Anything high-waisted I’m totally on board with. And there’s a back pocket (always handy) and reflective details to keep you seen during those dark runs.

I personally really like these leggings. Though I’ll probably use them more for the gym and super cold runs, they do stick to you like a second skin but they’re not restrictive. I felt very much “at one” with the leggings, not fighting them – even though they had a compression feel to them. And happily they’re squat proof! No nasty see-through issues.They’re launching officially in February 2019, but have pre-launched just last week (18th December), replacing their existing A400 range.

Do you wear leggings or shorts for running?

Is that the same for going to the gym?

Do you wear compression gear?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the leggings for free in return for a review on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**