Gosport Half Marathon 2018

I was all of a quandary for the Gosport Half Marathon this year.

Last year I ran it with my friend Martin, trying to help him PB and had really good fun. I mean, I guess he wasn’t having quite as much fun as I was as he was going for a PB time whereas I was using it as a long run but I hope it was a good day regardless for him. I did try and get Kyle a place last minute but that failed so he gamely said he’d support instead.

This year I was coming off the back of some solid marathon training and some speedy 10k training runs… so I could be in with a shot for a good time. A PB? Hmmm unlikely. I’m realistic enough to know I’m not in that sort of shape (1:31:06! I still don’t believe it). That said, a good solid full-on effort could possibly get me 1:33-34 if I was really pushing it and the weather was kind to me.

But I was in a quandary. Firstly, the weather really does make a huge amount of difference for this race. The course runs twice up and down the coast – literally next to the sea. It’s a route I regularly run for my long runs so I’m well aware of how the coastal wind can really punish or help you. As you run up AND down, it can be a game-changer. If the weather played ball, it could be a great opportunity to give it some welly as the course is very flat, but my problem was that I wouldn’t really know for certain until the day.

Secondly, I was feeling myself wussing out (as I always do) and decided to potentially shoot myself in the foot and make it into a long run regardless by running four(ish) miles to the race start in the morning. In my head this was a solid warm-up, (though realistically too long a warm-up necessary for a half marathon). Basically I was covering my bases if the run went badly then at least I’d gotten in a 17 mile run – miles in the bank, as it were.

The morning of (still undecided on how I would run) I woke up feeling very sick. This is the second time in a few weeks this has happened to me. I’m generally quite a healthy person and rarely get ill. I pride myself on my stomach of steel. I couldn’t think of a single thing I’d eaten that would have caused me an issue. The only thing that I could connect the two mornings where I felt sick was the fact that the day before I drank a can of Monster energy drink. I don’t normally drink energy drinks but I’ve found myself quite enjoying the taste (and after doing a bit of research found they wasn’t actually that much more caffeine than my regular Starbucks coffee). However, I don’t think they agree with me because the only two times I’ve drunk them has made me feel incredibly sick the next day. That’s the only thing I can think of. It might not be, but who knows? (No, I’m not pregnant – big lols to that).

Anyway, whatever the reason, I felt sick and it woke me up an hour before my alarm. When my alarm eventually did go off (I lay dozing in bed fretting and not particularly having a good time with my tummy) the major nausea had passed and I thought I might as well attempt the four mile run there and if it went badly I’d can the race.So off I went. I hadn’t had breakfast or coffee, just a bit of water. Normally if I was aiming for a PB I would have had both (can you tell I’m getting in the excuses early? ;-)) The 4.6 miles (whoops longer than I thought) actually went surprisingly well. My stomach felt fine and by the time I reached the final bit I found myself running 7.30 min/miles and not feeling it too much of a strain. The wind was a leeeetle breezy along the coast but nothing catastrophic.

I knew I wouldn’t have a stellar speedy race – the lead-up and sickness just hadn’t set me up for it and my mindset was of “ehhh I’m just not feeling it”. But I also didn’t want to waste an opportunity of decent weather and a good course. I decided to compromise with myself and aim for 7.30min/miles and no slower. That would be a solid tempo run – and with the 4.6 miles at the start, a good long run. The temptation to run with my friend Mike (who was aiming for 8 min/miles) was strong but I knew I needed to woman-up. I was in good shape, it would be a solid training run.

So I collected my bib and headed to the start with some of the other Hedgies. It wasn’t that cold (well I wasn’t anyway considering I’d done the run before) and it was lovely and sunny. As we started, I made sure to head off quickly to avoid the temptation of ditching my plan and running slower.Because I’d started a fair way back it was really tricky at the start to weave in and out of people. And then when we got onto the road it was just packed. Only one side of the road was cordoned off and this made it tricky to get properly going.

The race has a strict no headphones policy (even stating no bone conducting headphones) as it is only partial road closures. That’s fair enough. I obviously didn’t wear any so let my mind wander and listen in to other people’s conversations.I stuck to my aim of keeping around 7.30min/miles or under. To be honest it was a little dull…I’ve run up and down this exact road so many times as it’s literally where I do all my long runs, but in that respect it did make the miles disappear quickly.

At Lee-On-Solent, near where the parkrun is held, I saw my top support crew: my parents, Kyle, my sister (!!), her partner Mike and my two nieces Megan and Ellie. They whooped and cheered and I was boosted along. This is actually the first race my sister has ever come to support me at so it really was a lovely moment (she works a lot of weekends and has two kids to look after so I’ll let her off). I also saw the lovely Rebecca who cheered me on – always so cheerful!

I ran past the water station. They were using plastic pouches which I think is great in terms of dropping on the floor you won’t trip over them like bottles. However, the use of so much plastic is still bad. So much waste. However, to be fair to the organisers they did mention this on their website that they were conscious that the use of plastic wasn’t ideal but because of the wind they’re unable to use paper cups as they just fly all over the place. Tricky.At around 4 miles you get to Hill Head and turn around. There were lots of marshals and supporters cheering which was nice. I saw lots of familiar, friendly faces. (Thanks to James for the above photo. And Martin Lewis for the below photo).Then it was back up the coast to head back to where we came from. The only difference was now we were on the promenade bit rather than the above pavement next to the road. I saw my support crew again who really pushed me along. I was managing to maintain my sub 7.30min/mile pace but it wasn’t easy. It was a sustained effort. And urrrgh to do this all again, it felt very taxing on my brain.The nice part is as you run back to the start you have the faster runners coming back and you can watch them and cheer them on – and sometimes get cheers back from people who know you which is nice. I got back to the start and did the turn around. Right, just one more time!The wind was pushing us on in this direction (I wouldn’t have said it was that windy but you could feel it – and certainly feel it against you on the way back). I tried to smile when I saw people I knew but it was an effort. I definitely did not feel that amazing joy I felt during New York, and it just further reminded me of how much I love marathons and how much I dislike all other distances 😉 The pressure to go faster makes it tough (yes, the pressure that I put on myself!)Kyle mentioned later that when he saw me I looked like I was having a tough time. I was. It felt hard. Though looking at my paces this would make sense.And though I felt like I was getting slower and slower I actually wasn’t doing too badly. It felt like everyone was overtaking me but realistically I wasn’t dropping behind. I guess everyone around me was just doing a lot better! Though mile 12 was definitely a GRIND.I managed to pick it up towards the end and the final long sprint was tortuous but speedy (for me). What a relief to finish! I stumbled along and was handed a goodie bag, a chunk of cake (wheeeee!), my medal and a cold drink of water. Much better.What a difference of a race from last year! Happy smiling and loving life last year (though not racing) with a time of 1:46:40 compared to this year attempting to race in a sustained effort sort of way and getting 1:36:10 – 10 minutes quicker but probably 10 times less fun 😉What was nice was having my mum, dad, sister, her partner, my nieces and Kyle there to support me. It really was lovely. It’s such a local race to me and running a race round the roads I normally do my long runs is quite bizarre. It’s a little dull, yes, but it’s a good course with good support. Lots of my running club do it as well which makes for a friendly and fun run too. And of course there is good cake 😉

I’m glad I didn’t wuss out completely but I’m also glad I did the miles beforehand. I feel like I got a really good (but tough) long run in. I don’t often use a long run as a proper training run (to be fair, I don’t often do training runs…). Happy days.

Do you like to run to races?

Would you do a race round where you normally run?

Zary parkrun

When I first decided to fully embrace the parkrun Alphabet Challenge I quickly realised it would not be an easy thing to accomplish. Well, easy in terms of it’s just a series of 5k runs you complete over a period of time, no closer together than a week. But logistically it’s a lot more tricky.

The only letter I had left was the infamous Z. I mean technically I still have X left, but so does everyone else. A parkrun beginning with the letter X does not exist… YET. So for the moment, I just had Z. And the easiest and most cost-effective location to achieve this was Poland (otherwise it’s New Zealand or South Africa). So hence why I found myself in Zary, Poland.Saturday morning Kyle and I woke up at the not too early time of 8am. Happily our hotel (ApartHotel) was located just ten minutes away from the parkrun. We decided to give ourselves a decent window though in case something happened (likely another Anna-related incident of some sort). But I’d Google Earthed the location, I knew exactly how to get there and I was feeling confident.So at 8.30am we headed out and 8.40am we had arrived in the correct car park staring at the parkrun flag. WE HAD MADE IT.It was quite chilly, though thankfully not raining, so we decided to stay in the warm car for a little longer as there weren’t that many people there yet.By absolute amazing chance we happened to be there the weekend Poland was celebrating their 100th anniversary of independence, and to celebrate (we had to translate their Facebook page to find this out) they had encouraged people to come dressed in white and red.As we only found this out the evening before we were a bit stuck with what we had packed and neither of us had anything white or red so sadly we could only observe the celebrations rather than fully join in. We saw people arrived, and pretty much all of them wearing something red and/or white and with hats and flags. It was fantastic!They had music going (basically a loop of the Star Wars bar scene) and a very festive and friendly atmosphere. It quickly became apparently though that we were the least dressed in our t-shirts and shorts. Everyone else was wearing leggings. A girl looked at me, sort of laughed (in a nice way), pointing to my legs and said something in Polish. I assume she said something like, “why on earth are you wearing shorts? Aren’t you cold, you weirdo!”.We had a big group photo which was nice to be involved in (photo above from their Facebook page). It felt a little bit awkward being there and not being able to speak Polish – a bit like outsiders coming in to a community! But we didn’t feel unwelcome, just a bit bewildered.

I was a bit chilly but it wasn’t nearly *that* bad. I was actually fine in my shorts! What was cool was on the map for the park area we were going to be running through the parkrun course was written up and (I assume) explained in more detail on a proper board that remained there all the time.After more people had arrived a woman led a warm-up. There were lots of squats, lunges and things like that. Everyone got involved – including us of course.I spotted a little Westie running around the place and I tried to make friends but it was too busy dashing around. It was very cute (he/she who knows!).And then we made our way to the start. I’d already got an idea of what the course would be like from my parkrun friend Paul Jeffrey’s blog so I knew it would be completely off-road, slightly undulating and tricky underfoot. No PB attempts today 😉We headed off to the start. There weren’t a huge number of people (80 in total) so I shuffled near the front. And then we were off!The course was beautiful. As you can see in the pictures it was very misty and eerie looking which made it even more pretty as it contrasted with the colours of the trees and the leaves on the ground.I found myself quite near the front as we spread out. I was about fourth and hanging on nicely to the chaps in front of me. The lead runner was miles ahead though never to be seen again (he did 17:24!). There were no marshals on the route but the route was marked clearly with the long tape and signs on the trees.I just followed the guys in front. I wanted to push myself that morning and try and go for a faster time but it was tough work on the uneven ground and the slightly undulating course. I was enjoying myself though. The course was basically all through the wooded area on a rough trail. It was lovely.I managed to overtake one guy just ahead before the finish and snag myself into 3rd place (never been so high in positioning before!). There was a final little hill and then a nice decline back the way we’d come (the whole course was one loop which is always a nice change) and then went past the timekeeper who handed me my token – no finish funnel as such. My time was 21:40 – not too shabby! Kyle came in in 9th in 23:16. He took it a bit more leisurely and stopped to take some photos (he’s still being very cautious about his previous shin injury – though it does seem to be fine now thankfully).At the end we were given a bag of those really yummy soft gingerbread biscuits, Polish flags and mugs. It was lovely! I tried to tell the Run Director that we’d come from England and we had really enjoyed it and while she didn’t seem to fully understand (likewise me to her Polish!) she smiled and nodded.The man I’d overtaken at the end came up to me and shook my hand. We managed to bumble through swapping names and ages (using our hands!). He was 65 and looked very happy that he was just behind a 30 year old, bless him.

Then we headed off back to the hotel. I was so chuffed to have done the parkrun. SO chuffed. Finally complete, woohoo! We showered, checked-out and then headed to a nearby little restaurant for breakfast (basically I Googled restaurants that would do Polish breakfast and handily there was a quaint one a short walk away). It was a lovely restaurant, buy very quiet.We ordered a set breakfast and then you could add on an item to it from a list. Kyle chose pancakes whereas I chose sausages.We got bread, jam, honey, butter, pate, cheese and salad bits. It was delicious. My sausages were so good as well (they had a bit of a smokey taste to them).Kyle said his pancakes, which were very much more European style pancakes than American ones, were overly sweet but nice. Just a bit too sweet for first thing!Then we headed outside to wander around Zary a bit more before we needed to drive back to Berlin to catch our flight.There wasn’t a great amount to see, as Zary was a small quiet town but there were flags everywhere celebrating the 100 years of independence.We had a lovely coffee in a little cafe and then headed back on the road. Zary was lovely and I am beyond pleased to have compelted the parkrun Alphabet Challenge. I had so much fun going to different parkruns all over the place, exploring new areas, seeing friends and just having a great time. I will definitely be continuing my tourism, but I need to think of a new challenge!

Are you doing the Alphabet Challenge?

Do you like to do challenges like this?

My trip to Berlin and Poland

So the time had come to finally make my journey to collect my final letter for the parkrun Alphabet Challenge. I wanted to get this done before the end of the year for arbitrary reasons and because it’s getting cold.Kyle humoured me in joining me – he’s good like that 😉 And we flew to Berlin Tegel from Gatwick on a Thursday evening. Now I had only just got back from New York Tuesday morning so this was quite the turnaround for me!

It has been a while since any Anna-Related Incidents have occurred so it was only right for one to crop up. Everything had been going all fine and dandy until we reached the car hire place in the airport. I was down to drive the car (Kyle doesn’t have a car licence – he rides a motorbike instead). So when the man behind the counter says, “Can I see your driving licence?” I had a sudden feeling that someone had poured cold water over me. Driving licence… ah yes. That thing I did not pack.

I turned round to Kyle and said “I’ve forgotten my driving licence”. Kyle, bless his heart, has the patience of a saint and just sighed a little. When I asked the man what would happen if I didn’t have my licence he looked at Kyle and asked if he could drive instead. Kyle showed him his licence, technically not lying by saying nothing, and the man nodded and said “OK, he drives then. You just need to pay the extra fee for changing the driver”. Riiiight. Seems legit. I tentatively asked if I could still drive the car (remember, Kyle can’t actually drive) and the man said “Sure, but I didn’t say it”. OK then. We paid the added fee of being able to take the car out of Germany and £100 later we were out of there (I paid £61 for my mistake – ouch).

We arrived at our hotel, nicely located less than three miles from the Brandenburg Gate, and got very lucky with finding the last parking space where we wouldn’t have to pay. Thank god. The hotel was called, wait for it… Apple City. I mean, how perfect right? They did indeed have apples in the lobby.

So the next morning we woke up early and headed out for a gentle plod round the sights of Berlin. Genuinely I was so chuffed with where the hotel was located. It was a lovely run along the Spree River to get to the Tiergarten.The autumnal colours were beautiful and we stopped several times to take photos and enjoy our surroundings. I love runs like this.We ran to the Brandenburg Gate and then to the Reichstag building and it brought back all the memories of running the Berlin Marathon.It was nice to get some photos without hoards of people milling about.It was also nice to finally get to showcase my new New York Marathon vest that I got at the expo (love the colour!). Kyle and I took the run nice and gently and ran just over 5 miles in the end. A lovely start to the day – and a great way to tick off some “must-sees”.We then got showered and ready and headed out to walk the way we ran to get back to the centre. After numerous recommendations from people, we decided on the Steel Vintage Bikes cafe for brunch.It was such a unique and cool place. There were bikes hanging from the walls, the artwork was really cool and even in the bathroom the tiles had little bikes on them. The service was super friendly and the menu looked great. I went for a tea and it came out in this very cute little teapot and cup affair. For food I had scrambled egg and we shared some maple bacon pancakes (which also came with scrambled egg).Brunch was really tasty and helped fuel us on our Berlin wanderings. We went to Checkpoint Charlie, the Jewish Memorial and the big cinema area where they have all the premiers.

I was so chuffed as there was a small Christmas market around that area and I was able to grab myself a chocolate covered apple (something I adore – can you quite believe, eh?).We then walked to the Berlin Mall where I was amazed to see that there was a slide that you could take from the third floor to the ground floor!I mean, how cool is that? Of course I had to give it a whirl. After that we walked back to the hotel.We passed a small bakery and we couldn’t help but buy a delicious looking iced thing (I have no idea what it was but it looked amazing) and a pretzel.It was delicious! And so lovely to sit outside this very small German bakery and enjoy the chilly but lovely weather.

We then packed up and got going to Zary. Driving through Berlin was a little bit stressful (not to mention being on the “wrong” side of the road and using the wrong hand to change gear) but we made it onto the autobahn. The road to Zary from Berlin is basically all motorway and one long road. It was very dull driving but with good company and good music (and a pretzel) it flew by.

When we arrived in Zary (blink-and-you’ll-miss-it size of town) it was dark and very misty. I’m not going to lie, it was quite eerie. Almost like we’d wandered into a horror movie.Big pine trees towering over long dark roads, not many people about with oldie-worldie feels.That said, we checked in to our very lovely ApartHotel and everyone was met was very friendly (that we could tell, to be honest most people couldn’t speak English and we ca’t speak Polish).

We checked in and then headed out to walk to the local town (a 5 minute walk) to find some dinner. We happened upon a pizzeria. I mean, there wasn’t a huge choice of restaurants because Zary is a small town but this place was fantastic. The menu was great (they had an English version, hurrah!) and the pizzas we had were very tasty and not to mention ridiculously cheap.We both had large pizzas and a beer each and it came to £8, which is insanely good for a restaurant meal! It was very tasty as well (even if we weren’t hugely hungry due to all the snacks and food we’d had earlier…).

Then we headed back to the hotel ready for a good night’s sleep before Zary parkrun…

Have you ever been to Berlin or Poland?

What is your brunch option of choice?

Have you ever driven abroad?

The New York Marathon – part 2

Carrying on my New York Marathon recap.

**Catch up with Part 1 HERE**

So I had just come off from the (dreaded) Queensboro Bridge and the mile slog that had entailed. Coming out of that silence and tough effort onto a nice decline and then straight into the busy streets of New York again was fantastic. It was almost nice to have had that respite of silence to fully appreciate the crowds again.

The sun was still shining, I was feeling a bit warm but nothing crazy. Now from 17 miles to 21 miles it was literally straight down First Avenue. It was also gently downhill. So with the crowds and the now wonderful feeling of no longer being on a bridge grinding upwards, I was flying along. I started to wonder what time I might get… sub 3:30? Could I do it?My pace was dangerous but I felt good. Now we were in Manhattan. I was still having the time of my life, waving at crowds, smiling and just being on top of the world. A woman in the crowd pointed at me and shouted “Anna you are STRONG” and in my happy little mind I thought “yes, yes I am!”.I find with marathons that it really helps to smile, even if you’re not feeling it. It tricks you into thinking it’s going OK and it boosts the crowds to cheer you. I definitely felt boosted!

I hadn’t paid enough attention to what Charlie and Anna had said before the race about where they were going to stand and clearly got confused because I thought they were going to be at mile 19… but they actually said they were going to be at mile 24. So at mile 19 I was looking for them but obviously didn’t see them. I’m annoyed that I didn’t listen properly because had I have known I would have looked at 24!

But around mile 19 we passed the area where our AirBnb was – and “our” Dunkin Donuts that we’d been going to. I suppose to anyone else it would have just been another Dunkin Donuts but to me it was like “ahhh! Familiar places!” and was a really nice moment. I knew where I was!At 20 miles I felt a new lease of life. Like I’m almost there. Less than hour I’ll be done! I put some high powered tunes on and focused on keeping going. I could barely hear my music though due to the crowds but it helped a little. Another bridge and we were into the Bronx, where I’d been told the support would thin out. I don’t feel like that was less support but I wondered just how more bridges to go and as we headed back to Manhattan I saw a sign that said “This is the last bridge!” and was SO grateful.

I remembered Charlie saying that mile 23 was the tough one. We’d run a bit of it the day before and it was literally all incline. It was a tough ask at this point. My legs still felt good, I was still buzzing but now my smile was occasionally a grimace as I knuckled down.

I started doing maths in my head for what time I thought I could get. Now I was wondering if a sub 3:25 would be on the cards. I was well over the mile markers possibly due to satellites or general drifting around the course so I made sure to try and work it out from an actual marker and not my watch. I was working out the eight times table in my head as I thought that was the easiest and most conservative.Charlie and Anna saw me (though I genuinely can’t remember seeing them) and they snapped two fantastic photos  which were better than any of the official ones.I was clearly in the zone! We got properly into Central Park and a man shouted to me “Hey Anna! Welcome to the Park!” and it was a really lovely moment. So random, but really lovely.And now I was on the struggle bus. Every 0.1 was a grind. I was holding on for dear life, pushing up the inclines and trying to fly down any declines. I knew the final 5k was going to be tough and it was. But though physically it was hard, I was still happy. Yes, happy that the finish was soon but also because the crowds were just amazing and I was smashing it. The finis line was after a grueling final uphill and I (gratefully) crossed the line 3:21:29, 3713/52697 overall, 116/3544 in my age group, 205/1812 Brit. Pretty cool! I was over the moon and honestly quite shocked how I’d managed to do that – and how I’d found it a lot easier than the previous Goodwood Marathon which was around 5 minutes slower. It just shows what a fantastic course and cheering crowd can do!I shuffled through the finish area and the sunshine and felt wonderful. My dad rung me straight away – he must have got notified I’d finished. I chatted to him very briefly as I realised I only had under 20% battery left and still needed to navigate my way back. I wanted to speak to Kyle but kept it sensible by using WhatsApp rather than drain any more battery.

Charlie had given me the AirBnb key as it was likely I’d be the first to finish. I hadn’t really planned what i was going to do after the race… but I knew Steph was going to head and find an apparently very popular pie straight after.She had luckily managed to get into Wave 1 so had started ahead of me and though she was taking the race as a training run (I think she did 3:50ish) finished around the same time as me. Very handy! Especially as I really didn’t know how to get back. I was going to walk using my phone to navigate but at this point I don’t think it was going to last.So I headed to pick up my amazing poncho and goodie bag. The poncho…well I can’t even explain how decent it is!It’s huge, waterproof, with a fleecy lining and a hood. I won’t be throwing this away anytime soon. It was part of my package (I bought my place and flights for the marathon with 209 events – I fully recommend them) but  believe you do have to pay extra to get it.

I met up with Steph (thank god!) and she took me to the amazing Milk Bar for some post marathon treats. Steph is very much into her food like I am so she a good person to be around at this point 😉

The Milk Bar was tricky to find and tiny. Once inside though, we had to wait in a quite a long queue – clearly a popular spot!Steph assured me the thing to order was the Crack Pie (real name), which I was totally game for.And I also bought some Birthday Cake Truffles.We then shuffled to the Subway to head home. Countless random people congratulated us – it was brilliant. In fact, we passed the Trump building where people were protesting outside and watched a very heated and sweary shouting match between a protester and a passerby. As we walked past the protester immediately softened his voice and said “Congratulations, girls!” it was quite amusing.

A this point neither of us had sat down since the Staten Island ferry – remember, we didn’t even sit on the bus! My legs were dunzo. I was exhausted. I almost cried when we got onto the metro and saw a rather shifty and possibly high/drunk guy sit sprawled out on the only two seats left on the train.

A wonderful woman noticed and promptly berated the man to stand up and let us sit down, “These girls have just run the MARATHON”. He quickly hopped up and we were able to sit down. I was so grateful to that lady!

We FINALLY got back to the AirBnb and the two of us happily sat and scoffed our pies and a numerous number of grapes (so refreshing). I had a glorious shower and then enjoyed seeing each of the other girls come in and swapping marathon stories with them. Everyone had had a good (albeit tough of course) race. Hurrah!

That evening we went out for Mexican food at Tolouche and celebrated happily together. I’ve never seen guacamole be demolished as quickly as it was though! The tortilla chips were hot and the guac was INSANELY good.For my main, I went for some sort of pulled short rib thing on a tortilla. It hit the spot.Of course we all wore our medals! Though I would have liked to have had a giant pudding of some sort I sensibly followed suite of the majority ruling (post marathon tummy is a delicate thing). We were all grateful to head to bed early that night – Anna and Charlie as well, they’d walked and cheered for silly lengths of time!Genuinely, the New York Marathon is my favourite marathon yet. I felt amazing both physically and mentally. I literally LOVED it. Yes there were tough moments but I remember distinctly thinking several times “I love this” as I was running. Having no time goals or pressures definitely helped. The crowds HUGELY helped. The sights and the sheer amazingness of New York helped. My only sadness is my family and Kyle were so far away, but I had some great new friends who helped make it very special.Next up… Portsmouth Coastal Marathon in December!

Have you ever run the New York Marathon?

What’s your favourite race?

What food do you like post-race?

**Check out Charlie’s blog for details about future running-related trips she’s organising!**

New York Marathon 2018 – part 1

The New York Marathon, my fifth Major and my 16th marathon. I had no real goals, no expectations… I felt strangely relaxed but excited. I knew it would be hard-work (marathons are never easy) and I knew the course would be tough. But I was fit, healthy, well fed and ready to go.Out of the girls, Cortney, Elaine, Emma, Steph and I were running, while Charlie and Anna would be supporting from the sidelines cheering us on. We decided that, even though we had different start times and ferry times, to all get an Uber together and just go to the start together as that would be far more fun than on our own.So the Uber picked us up at 6am and we headed to Staten Island Ferry. Most of the girls had already eaten breakfast/snack but Emma and I had taken ours with us. I like to have my porridge about 2-1.5 hours before the start and as I wasn’t starting until 9.50am I decided to wait. Even if this did mean my porridge would be a little bit like concrete by the time I’d get to eat it…As cheesy as it sounded we played Taylor Swift ‘Welcome to New York’ in the Uber and danced along together. It was the song of the trip and helped calm our nerves and make us laugh. Then we hopped out of the car and headed to the ferry.The place was teaming with runners! Not that you could really tell – everyone looked like a homeless person or someone from the 80’s with what they were wearing. Over-sized jumpers, old-school coats, ponchos, dressing gowns. It was all going on. I had one of Charlie’s old tops and my mum’s old jumper on. It was nice to smell my mum at this point – I know that sounds a bit weird, but it was comforting.We waited for the next ferry then got on with hundreds of other runners. It was buzzing.We then enjoyed a 20 minute journey, with beautiful views of the sky-line and the Statue of Liberty. It was fantastic. The atmosphere on the boat was one of excitement and nerves.Then from the ferry we waited to use the loos in the ferry terminal (might as well use a proper loo where you can!) and then got into a seemingly never ending and non-moving queue for the buses. The queue took forever. At 8ish I decided to eat my porridge. It was still a little warm but not the best. Needs must though!Eventually we got onto the bus, being assured it was just a 10 minute journey. Steph and I were happy to stand as the seats were all taken. Had we have known we would be standing for a long time we might not have been so willing. The bus took far longer than it should have. At least 30 minutes! At this point I was a little bit worried. It was coming up to 9am now. Fears of hanging around the race village for hours on end in the cold very much disappeared.

As we got off the bus (FINALLY) we were then searched by police (who were super friendly). Security was a high priority here.Steph and I then hightailed it to our start areas as we were now under an hour away from the start (the other girls were starting a bit later). We waited in a loo queue and then, as we were in separate colour corrals, parted ways.I was now solo. Unfortunately when I got to my corral I was told it was closed. I was too late! I’d have to wait until the next wave… I felt a little bit annoyed because it wasn’t my fault. I probably wouldn’t have queued for the loo had I known I would miss my wave but ehhh it was chip timed so it wasn’t catastrophic.Though it did mean that when my wave opened I was almost front of the queue, and was able to jump in a loo at supersonic speed for a final Psychological Safety Wee and somehow managed to shuffle all the way to the front of the wave. I tossed my two jumpers into the pile for charity and felt chilly but not too cold.After hearing Wave 1 set off, we were then let out to the actual start area just before the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge (the first bridge, of three I believe). I’d read in a few recaps that going over the bridge was a better route than being under the bridge (horror stories of people peeing above) so I was a bit disappointed to see where my corral was going was under… until I spotted a small gap in the barriers which I squeezed through to allow me to go to the “upper” route. Sneaky sneaky.We waited in the now glorious cold sunshine and I felt happy. A very lively and happy photographer was jumping around the place shouting (nicely I may add) at different people “show me your bib – I got you!” before turning to someone else. When he snapped my photo he shouted “ohh yeaaah I got Anna’s digits! Everyone, I got Anna’s digits!” and everyone around cheered and laughed. It was less creepy than it sounds I assure you. It made me laugh and relaxed my tension of JUST WANTING TO START.

Then the canon BOOMED (terrifying me as it shook the entire ground) and we were off! As I was fairly near the front and the other wave before us was long gone I was strangely seeing a very empty long road ahead of me, sparsely dotted with super fast runners streaming ahead. It was so bizarre. Such a huge marathon and to have that view was crazy.More and more people zoomed past me (steady, Anna, steady) and the uphill climb of the bridge began. But I was loving it. The views! The clear blue sky, the New York skyline in the distance, the glittering water, the excitement around me – it was electric. I had a huge cheesy grin plastered on my face and distinctly remember thinking “this is fantastic! Even if I crash and burn later, this marathon is FANTASTIC”. That moment alone would make everything worth it.The first two miles flew by as we went up the bridge and then back down. Mile one was 8.23 and mile two 7.26 but I wasn’t really sure what to think. I felt very strong and relaxed. It felt very natural and easy (of course it would, it’s the first two miles…).

As we got off the bridge we headed into Brooklyn. There were lots of people hanging out of windows, standing outside their houses and cheering from the sidelines.

I felt buzzed. Absolutely loving life and like I’d taken this special drug called The New York Marathon. I waved, I cheered, I smiled. I people-watched other runners and saw so many different nationalities. I saw a Polish woman (she was wearing white and red with Polska written on her back) get greeted by another Polish runner whom (from the way she reacted) she clearly didn’t know but they seemed to chatter on until she headed off. It was great to see.I became aware that I needed a wee. I decided to promise myself I’d have a wee around mile 15 (at the next available loo). I knew I wasn’t desperate but I knew it was going to annoy me and become a preoccupation in my mind.

I noticed someone’s sign on the sideline say “Go to your happy place” and I smiled and thought “this is it. THIS is my happy place”. I know that’s beyond cheesy but I just felt so bloody fantastic. I was running far faster than I’d intended but I was drinking in the crowd’s enthusiasm and my mind wasn’t even thinking about running or miles.The streets at this point were relatively flat and from miles 3-8 were basically a straight line. You could see out ahead of you, but instead of this giving me anxieties of the distance to come I just found it incredible. I was aware of the danger I was in – being buzzed right at the start, getting carried away on the flat roads and going too fast. But I reassured myself it would be fine. I had more bridges to come and Central Park so it’d all even out in the end.

I got to 10 mile surprisingly quickly. My pace had now been far faster than my expectations. It felt far easier than the Goodwood Marathon where it seemed it was a bit more of a concerted effort to maintain around 8 min/miles. I saw a line of portable loos available and decided to just go for it. I was in and out in super fast time, literally 20 seconds. I’d rather take that time than spend the rest of the race smelling of my own wee (yes, people do actually wee themselves rather than going to the loo because God forbid they might miss a PB. NOT worth it to me!).The crowds were still fantastic. The signs were brilliant (“You’re running better than the Government”, “Keep going random stranger!”). There were so many. I was smiling the entire time and made sure to wave at the supporters – which in turn would encourage them to shout support to me or cheer. I loved how the New York people said my name, “Go Enna” is the only way I can type that to explain.I got to half-way and was surprised at how good I was. I had brief visions of my dad and Kyle (who were at home tracking me on the app) wondering if I was running too fast too soon. Maybe I was but I felt strong and good.

There’s a small bridge after half-way (the Pulaski Bridge) which was brief and not too tricky. Then one of the hardest parts of the race by far was mile 16 as you go over the Queensboro Bridge. I knew they’d be tough bridges but I was so glad not to have known beforehand that this bridge went on for over a mile. It was like going down a long and uphill tunnel. It was enclosed, it was quiet and it was hard hard work. My pace dropped right down. But so did everyone else’s – I wasn’t being left behind. I was still surrounded by the same people.It was a good opportunity for me to listen to my music and find motivation inside to keep going. Before this point the crowd and the sheer thrill of New York had kept me going. Now I was enclosed in a god-awful bridge away from any happy people and was feeling the struggle. That said, I did look over at the views and still couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be running in such a beautiful and awesome place.As we finally got out of the bridge we turned round the corner and suddenly the crowds were back. The roar of cheering just blew the last mile away – I was back in the game!

I’m going to leave it there because this is already ridiculously long…

Have you ever run the New York Marathon?

What is a must for you on race morning?

How early do you eat before a race?