Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 2021

Sooo it’s been a while since I last blogged!

I wont lie, the desire to blog has been very low. Time is very precious right now and when I have a few moments to spare I don’t really fancy blogging. I do a lot of updates on Instagram but it’s just not the same as having a bit of a ramble on here. And what better time to have a little ramble than post marathon! My favourite blogs to write are race recaps and I love to keep the memories of the race, while they’re fresh, alive on here (even if no one cares or no one reads!).

I came back to running after 12 weeks of giving birth to Isaac and I did it sensibly, but I also did it with the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon in the back of my mind too. From starting running to that race it was about 12 weeks… which could be doable for an “easier” paced marathon. A marathon that I really enjoy for its festive and fun atmosphere, it’s literally on my doorstep, just before Christmas and one that isn’t about PB attempts (at least for me).

My comeback to running went well – nothing felt off, my pelvic floor held out and I slowly built up the miles. I hope one day to write a bit more about this journey but for now the Sparks Notes is that I built the long runs up, did supplementary strength training to keep my body strong and just ran consistently 3-4 times a week.

I’d managed to (gently) coerce my good friend, Mike, to run the marathon too. We’ve run another marathon together before – the New Forest marathon – when I tried to help him get a sub-4 hour.  This time though it wasn’t about me pacing him, just about us running together enjoying the race and each other’s company. I wasn’t aiming for any sort of fast time and Mike just wanted to get round, which sounded perfect as that would roughly be around an “easier” pace for me considering the long runs I’d managed to do beforehand.

I had a Papa Johns pizza and some chicken wings (sage and onion festive flavoured – they were incredible!) the night before. And my usual porridge in the morning. Kyle’s lovely mum had Isaac the night before so we could get a good night’s sleep before the race, which was just so helpful! He’s waking 2-3 times a night still… So Sarah came over in the morning with Isaac and to drive down with us to the start.

It was so so lovely. Kyle’s mum, sister and brother were coming to support Mike and I as well as my parents. It was really lovely of them and it meant so much to us to have those cheers throughout the race. I’m very lucky to be part of a family who are so supportive.

Yes it wasn’t a goal race but it was my first race post baby. The Portsmouth Coastal isn’t a big race in terms of numbers (less than 1,000?) and while the marshalls are incredible there isn’t a huge amount of consistent support round the course. So knowing we’d see my family 4 times around the course was such a boost.

I met Mike down at the start area about ten minutes before the start. I had a quick pre-race pee and then we were off. The weather was fantastic. No noticeable wind. Not too cold. No rain. It was perfect.

For the first seven miles (before we first saw my family) Mike and I had a nice relaxed start, chatting away and catching up on life. The miles flew by! We also saw a few people we knew from Hedge End Running Club as well as some other familiar faces. It’s such a local race that you just see so many people, which is great.

The annoying bit where you run across the shingles wasn’t too bad. There hadn’t even been a bottleneck to get onto it like there had been the two times I’d run it before. So it was just a quick amble across – try not to break your ankles! – and we were done. Whew.

We did go a little too quick perhaps as we bumped into people we knew and without realising we were speeding up. We all laughed and realised this could be problematic and that none of us wanted to go too speedy! So we slowed down again. It’s always dangerous during a marathon to go too quickly at the start because you feel so good. You’re so fresh and the miles haven’t really hit you yet. But it’s a long race and you have to be cautious because you have literally hours to go!

I was feeling really good though. Nice and comfortable and like I said the miles seemed to fly by. Suddenly we were at Farlington Marshes where our support crew were waiting. We got a big cheer which was lovely, Mike picked up his Lucozade which Kyle was holding for him (handy having supporters for this!) and we were on our way again. Isaac was having a nap in the car so I didn’t see him then, but he was in excellent hands of course.

The course had slightly changed from the previous races but it was still mostly familiar to me and I’m sure I bored Mike to tears with “when I ran this a few years ago…” conversations we had. I’m a broken record!

Both Mike and I were feeling good and enjoying ourselves. The miles were ticking off and around 10 miles (I think) we started seeing the front runners of the marathon heading back. Wow!! We cheered them along – it’s amazing how fast they were! I love and out and back race because you get to see the faster runners coming back and it helps pass the time.

We passed the Lambrook pub where my family and I were actually going to go for lunch after the race. It was funny to think in a few hours it’d all be over and I’d be sat eating a big carvery there later.

Mike and I got to around 11 miles where there’s always a festive aid station (shots of port, cups of mulled wine, mine pies and Jaffa cakes) and where the next location our supporters would be. The last time I ran this I was waving so much and paying too much attention to the cheering that I almost ran into a bollard (a hilarious video was of course captured). As I ran past them this time my dad shouted “mind the bollard!”. Haha I definitely saw it this time!

As the route had slightly changed, we wouldn’t be running too much further on. The turnaround would come sooner. This was a nice thing to do because previously it used to be quite a long run out at this point and the route was quite samey with the terrain and scenery not changing too much. It sort of goes a bit off road (not crazy off road, just on compacted trail and away from the traffic etc.). I needed a wee at this point so was on the lookout for a well concealed bush. Thankfully I saw a fork in the road and ran off there to do my business. A few people shouted I was going the wrong way but I said nature calls and they laughed.

I’d told Mike to keep running so now was the job to catch up with him again. I felt a bit uncharitable picking up speed and overtaking people and (they must have wondered what the hell I was doing suddenly sprinting along). It was also tough going to suddenly be trying to run a lot faster than I had been before, but it wasn’t too long before I’d caught Mike back up and could settle back into a more reasonably chilled pace (and catch my breath!).

Eventually we reached the turnaround point and headed back the way we’d come… all 13.1 miles of it. I love this point of the race because now you know exactly what you’re in for. The route does slightly change from what we ran to begin with but it’s basically the same (we avoid the shingles this time because the tide will have come in).

I sent Kyle a quick voice note on my phone to ask him for some Vaseline as I could feel a bit of chafing happening but as we got to the cheer spot we couldn’t see them. Then suddenly across the road I saw Kyle and his brother Zack race over shouting that they didn’t realise the turnaround was quicker this year haha! Thankfully he had the Vaseline and threw it over to me as I waited for them to cross the road and told Mike to go ahead. Then I had to catch him up again.

As we got to about 16 miles Mike started to slow down a little. But we were still going a nice clip and were in good spirits. We had another annoying bit of shingle which wasn’t nearly as fun to cross this time with all those miles in our legs!

At mile 19 we saw my family again and they gave us a lovely cheer. I gave Isaac a quick kiss as he was now awake. It was just so lovely to see him mid-race. Something I would never have dreamed about in a million years!

And then we were off back towards Southsea seafront. Things were getting trickier now. We were starting to slow down more and more now. I wanted to keep Mike’s spirits up so kept talking rubbish to him (which I’m sure he really appreciated…) and hopefully helped him. We stopped at an aid station and I decided to risk it and have a mulled wine. It’s Christmas why not eh! It was delicious.

The changes in terrain as we headed over some grasslands didn’t help Mike’s twinges that he was starting to feel in his quads. I wish I could have helped him but there’s nothing really you can do but keep encouraging. Our pace wasn’t descending too badly and we were still trucking along so this was good.

I needed another wee and knew there was a toilet ahead so I told Mike I’d dash in and catch him up. And now we were on the Southsea prom, just one long stretch to the finish along the waterfront. We had slowed a bit more now and Mike needed to do some run walking to help with his painful quads. I knew he felt frustrated and just wanted to get to the end now.

Mike said he was happy though as this had happened a lot later in the marathon than he thought and we were actually on for a faster time than he’d expected. We literally had only a couple of miles left and despite the long straight dragging out in front of us, we’d be done soon.

We saw my family again right at the end and we got ourselves together and ran to the finish. Ahh it felt so good! My time was 4:13:19.

Despite Mike’s painful legs, he said he was really happy with the race and the time we’d done. I think we’d both expected to be around 4.30 so to be so much faster was a happy surprise. Our intention was never to smash out a fast time or go for a sub-4 but to get so close to his PB (around 4:08) this was such a decent result!

Myself, I was so chuffed. Yes I’ve run faster marathons but I’ve never run a marathon after a baby and to feel so strong all the way through has given me such confidence. To know I can do the distance again and not break has made be very happy indeed. I can’t wait to see what I can do in another marathon now.

I got reunited with my little man which was just lovely. Though he had been fed by my family while I was running, I did need to feed him myself as my boobs were quite full now! So I sat on the grass and fed him while I enjoyed a post-marathon glow 😊

After doing some post race celebrations and chats with Mike, we headed off for our carvery. It was delicious. Nothing like a gigantic plate of roast dinner to refuel after a marathon eh!

So in a nutshell, I’m SO pleased with how this race went. I had a fantastic time running with Mike. He’s a great person to run with and it’s such a festive fun race before Christmas you can’t help but enjojy yourself. I mean obviously it’s still 26.2 miles, but for me during this race they just seem to fly by as it’s so varied and enjoyable. And of course, a huge thank you to my incredible family who just made the race so much more amazing by being there for us. I feel so warm and fuzzy 🙂

Now on to the next race eh! 😉

3 Replies to “Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 2021”

  1. That’s an amazing achievement to run a marathon so soon after giving birth and whilst still breast-feeding. I am in awe!

    Hope you felt OK the next day and that you are all still well, I really enjoy reading your updates.

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