Hackney mini-break

I am buzzing. I had such a fantastic weekend full of lovely people, good food and my first (non-marathon) PB since 2013. To say I’m pleased is an understatement!

So the weekend started, as normal, with parkrun at Netley Abbey. For the first time in the year we were on the faster course, which is five laps of a cricket pitch. Fairly boring and repetitive but, crucially, flat. It’s called the “marmite course” as you can imagine.

Annoyingly I couldn’t attempt to blast it as I had the Hackney Half Marathon the next day that I needed to save my legs for. However I did go faster than I should have. I remember looking at my watch and seeing 7.30min/mile and thinking it felt comfortable enough that I could chat to Mark, my running club friend who was running with me, but wondering if I maintain it (and faster) for so many more miles? I started to doubt myself a little bit. It was a good run nonetheless (22:25) though it did start raining at the end.

I had such good intentions of getting all my housework done before leaving for Hackney later that day but time just flew away. I got home, showered, breakfasted, picked up a parcel and packed and saw my parents as they picked up Alfie and suddenly it was only an hour from when I was to be picked up by Mike who was driving Karen, Mark (different to the previous Mark) and me to our hotel in Hackney. I hadn’t done any of my normal jobs! This did plague me a little as I hate leaving the house with chores left to do, knowing I’d need to do them the next day post-race…

I’ve never been to Hackney before so it was all very new and strange to me when we got there. I’ve been to London a few times but obviously London is a big place and there are so many different areas. Hackney is very culturally and ethnically diverse. There were so many shops selling food and bits and bobs I’d never heard of. Our hotel wasn’t in the most affluent area so it was a bit of an eye opener to me (I fully admit I live in a middle class bubble – it’s just how I’ve grown up and I know I am very, very lucky).

Despite our hotel (Ibis Style) being very cheap and not being in the safest area, our rooms were lovely. Karen and I were sharing one, and Mark and Mike shared another. They were James Bond themed which was quite cool.

Ibis Style Hackney But what does the top right stencil mean??

It was very clean and modern – though it was a little loud in the evening with a few boy racers and police sirens. And most importantly, it wasn’t too far from the race start in Hackney Marshes.

After checking in and dumping our stuff we decided to head to the nearby Westfield shopping centre for a little mosey about the shops and some food. The last time I was there  was in 2013 when I did the National Lottery 5 mile run around the Olympic park and Olympic Stadium (also with Karen funnily enough). It felt surreal being back for another race.

It’s massive. So many shops! And shops that aren’t on normal UK high streets either, like Victoria’s Secret, Forever 21, American Eagle…Karen and I were in heaven. The boys not so much 😉 We also depressed ourselves by looking in Nike. So many beautiful things but so expensive. I did get these shorts in Forever 21 though:

image I’m really chuffed with them because I found them online last week and really wanted to buy them but didn’t want to pay P&P for just one pair of £12 shorts. They also have a zip at the back which is so handy as my other shorts don’t. I was tempted to wear them for the race the next day but thought it best not trial a new pair of shorts for the first time during a half marathon.

We then found a brilliant restaurant called Cabana Brasil which just sounded right up my street. I was secretly quite glad we weren’t going for the (in my opinion) boring option of just pizza or pasta but it hurt my soul not to be able to order the full rack of ribs. Especially when I saw someone else enjoying them. Major food envy!

IMG_0575 Instead I went for nachos with guacamole to start and then a garlic marinating chicken skewer with sweet potato fries for my main – safe food. Although it was all very tasty, I was a bit disappointed with the size of the main, especially as I had to add in the sweet potato fries. For my monster appetite it wasn’t really enough! I couldn’t help but steal some fries from Karen who has a far more lady-like appetite and was feeling full with the same meal.

We all went for pudding though and honestly it rocked my world. The boys had a delicious looking cheesecake, Karen went for a frozen yogurt with toppings and I had a frozen yogurt sundae (with brownie chunks and chocolate sauce).

IMG_0540Frozen yogurt sundae?! Good lord, it was good.

The boys had a cheeky Starbucks before we left and we got to admire the cool London 2012 Olympics display they’d created.

IMG_0541 Different Olympic athletes had signed a cup! It was fascinating to read what they wrote and who they were. Admittedly there were a lot from Team USA…what? Americans liking Starbucks coffee – surely not! Hehe 😉

Then we headed back to the hotel and had a master plan meeting for the next day: what time to get up, breakfast, leave, etc. Then we headed to bed. I wasn’t nervous and fell asleep quite easily surprisingly.

But then the stress began when the alarm went off the next morning at 6.20am. Not my alarm, but Karen’s alarm because my phone had decided to turn off and not turn back on at all. PANIC. I went into Full Anna Melt Down. No phone means no contact with anyone (what if I got lost on my own in Hackney!?), no music during the race and no photos. My phone has been playing up recently with the touch pad going crazy and either not working or just randomly typing so I did a full restore on Friday but now I had no idea what was going on.

Mike came to the rescue with his excellent Googling abilities while my dad (on Karen’s phone) calmed me down. I managed to wolf down some instant porridge and a shot of Beet It with a black coffee through my pathetic drama thankfully. I chose not to have the breakfast that came with our rooms as I wasn’t sure they’d have porridge (they didn’t) so I brought my own.

IMG_0542 I strangely enjoy the Beet It shots. I love beetroot so maybe that’s it? The shot is very earthy but also sweet with a hint of lemon they add to make it a bit more palatable.

Karen and I made the executive decision to wear crop tops instead of our Hedge End Running Club vests because it was already warm despite not even being 7.30am and the forecast said it would be hot and sunny later. I was quite nervous about wearing a crop top as I’ve never run in one before and I was worried people would think I thought I was some sort of elite or I thought a lot of myself. I was glad Karen was with me as I’m not sure I’d have had the courage to have worn it without her! But honestly it was the best decision I made – I felt very streamlined and cool (temperature wise!) wearing it while running and was grateful to not have a vest flapping about me.

I applied sun tan lotion all over me as I knew I’d burn or risk overheating (despite wearing next to nothing!) and wore a long-sleeved top and leggings to walk down to the start that I could put in my bag for the bag-drop.

IMG_0543Our walk took us along a pretty canal

The walk was about three miles and it helped calm my nerves and loosen us up.


As we got closer we saw more and more runners and began hearing the music. It was all very exciting!


There were loads of food stalls in the race village and I instantly zoned in on the rib stand! I mean, come on, how mean is this?? I can’t have them before and undoubtedly I wouldn’t fancy them afterwards *sighs*.

IMG_0550 The place was buzzing with people stretching, warming-up and milling around. We headed straight to the portable loos as we knew they’d get very busy closer to the start (we got there about 45 minutes before the 9am start). Then we peeled our layers off and headed to the bag drop. It was very well organised so no complaints!

IMG_0553 We wrote a message on the Brooks chalk board (“Come on Hedgies #HERC”) and had a standard pre-race photo. I still felt very nervous about wearing pretty much nothing but saw quite a few other ladies wearing similar tops so this helped. As did this…


Very amusing!

Karen and I parted ways with the boys so we could visit the loos once more and then go to our pens. The guys were aiming for 1:45-1:50 and Karen was aiming for sub 1:30 (yep, she is that fast) and I was aiming for anywhere near 1:36 (my PB being 1:36:10).

The loo queues were massive and we wouldn’t have had time to queue as our pen was going off first (I say our pen but really I mean Karen’s pen as it was the 1:15-1:30 but we wanted to start together, though, crucially, not run together for my sake!!) Anyway, we decided to find a bush instead and as we went round the back of the loos we saw a lone portable loo sat on a trailer. No one was near it and on closer inspection it looked perfectly fine. What a find, eh! Though it did slightly rock when you were in there as it was on a trailer – we just made sure not to lock the door in case it fell over or something. Could you imagine?!

And then the race happened 😉 I’ll recap that fully in another post. Stay tuned (or something as equally as cheesy…).

Are you calm or stressed on the morning of a race?

What’s your usual go-to pre-race meal? (Breakfast or dinner!)

Have you seen a lot of London?

16 Replies to “Hackney mini-break”

  1. Oh you got to experience the joys of Hackney! It’s a weird place – definitely becoming ‘uppified’ with all the cute coffee shops and artsy stuff… but some areas are still pretty grim, understandably. I think that’s something I love about London most – it’s SO diverse!
    Cat recently posted…Castles, Carbs and Cats (My week in Provence)My Profile

  2. Ahhhh. Glad to see someone else starting to split their recaps into two. Although now I realise just how annoying it is from the other side! Glad I read Twitter for the spoiler version! 😛 I find there’s always just so much to say after a race I can never condense it into just one manageable-sized post!
    The pictures of the guys in their crop tops made me laugh! There have been debates for a few years over whether or not our club should have club crop tops as well as club vests but not enough women at our club are confident enough to wear them. Both yours and Karen’s stomachs are amazing. I’m sure no one thought you thought a lot of yourself, they were probably too busy wondering how to get a stomach like that themselves! 🙂 If you’ve done the hard work, then show it off I always say. 😉 It was such a warm day on Sunday. I managed to turn my face bright red from just a couple of hours out on our walk.
    Mary recently posted…The Waendel WalkMy Profile

    1. I just had way too much to say haha! Especially when you have a good race – you just want to talk all about it.
      We’ve only just got crop tops organised for our club though they haven’t arrived yet. There wasn’t a huge demand for them to be honest – similar to your club I expect, it’s down to confidence (it did take a huge amount of confidence to wear one for my race I can tell you!) In the end I figured I might as well while I can I suppose! Look back later in life with envy at myself haha.
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Yoga, food and a buff reviewMy Profile

  3. Karen definitely looks like she’s someone who could run sub-1:30. So do you though…honestly if I was in a pen with both of you I’d feel compelled to move back because I’d know you were both so far out of my league. So don’t worry about wearing a crop top…I basically have no choice because I overheat so badly and I absolutely can’t let myself sweat too much or get dehydrated due to the state of my kidneys. I’m always concerned that 1.) I’m a godawful sight and too fat to wear one and 2.) people will laugh at me because I have to limp-hobble so much with my awful gait, and I never, ever want to give the impression that I think a lot of myself or I believe I’m fast/worthy of wearing that kind of outfit. Trust me, you can’t look any worse or more silly than I do.

    I am *always* stressed about races…unless they’re trail races, when I don’t feel as though I’m under so much pressure to run a certain time and I don’t stack up quite as badly compared to everyone else. I never really get my pre-race meal right either…I’m always either flagging because it’s too small or feeling extremely sick because it’s too big. Half marathons aren’t so bad because Pulsin’ bars and bananas hold me over, but marathons are a nightmare.

    Looking forward to part two ~ you can’t just keep us hanging on like this!
    Jess @ One Step Closer recently posted…Some Answers…And Some QuestionsMy Profile

    1. Oh, and when I ran the London Marathon I was really, really struck by the level of inequality in London and the deprivation in some parts of it. It’s part of the reason I’m not that keen on London as a whole ~ it doesn’t seem right to have such luxury and opulence side by side with those who are struggling every day just to get by. I know every city is like that, but it seems particularly marked in London.
      Jess @ One Step Closer recently posted…Some Answers…And Some QuestionsMy Profile

    2. Jess you’re so modest – your half marathon PB is around 1:30 is it not?? You would easily belong in that pen (OK, injuries aside for the moment).
      You look fab in your top. I actually felt comforted by knowing you always wear a crop top as an encouragement for me to wear mine!
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Yoga, food and a buff reviewMy Profile

  4. M15- very clever! I love things like that.
    I know what you mean about Westfields- so huge! We went there after the Olympic park run for some froyo as it was one of the few places (back then) that did it!
    I try never to use the portaloos before races- even before Brighton I told myself it was all in my head and tried to ignore it, because I hate them so much. I do get very nervous before races, even though I enjoy them- not sure why.
    I like some pizza or a big salad before a long run (the night before)- I don’t like pasta so much, and my favoured breakfast now is toast.
    Looking forward to the next part of your recap 🙂
    Maria @ runningcupcake recently posted…New shoes! Don’t wear jeans to the sports shop!My Profile

    1. Ahh that’s what it is! Too smart for me 😉
      The loo situation really is in your head isn’t it. I’m sure I could easily run a race without that last “one more” portaloo visit. It just makes me feel better! After Endure24 (*shudders*) I can deal with most portaloos now!
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Yoga, food and a buff reviewMy Profile

  5. Congrats on the PB!
    Haha at the James Bond themed rooms, how funny!
    I used to work in a smoothie van and we were always at festival sites. Anyway, I was in a similar portaloo situation once and the trailer DROVE OFF with me sat in there!!!! Let’s just say it wasn’t a highlight of my life so far 😉
    Claire @ Flake and Cake recently posted…Salcombe in the springMy Profile

    1. HAHAHA that is the funniest thing I’ve heard all day. Thank you for brightening my afternoon with that. Sorry to laugh at your unfortunate incident but that is so funny.

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    blog cung hoàng đạo recently posted…blog cung hoàng đạoMy Profile

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