The days before the Chicago Marathon

The Chicago Marathon… my last Marathon Major. Jeeze it was stressful.

The week leading up to the race was honestly one of my worst pre-race weeks. Despite feeling fine (albeit tired) during the Bournemouth Half, the days afterwards my knee suddenly felt really stiff and not right. I was VERY confused. It had felt absolutely fine during the race and now it was swollen and sore.

And so the days leading up became project recovery and repair. I iced every night, elevated it, took ibuprofen and didn’t run at all. I was in panic mode. Luckily my very lovely physio had offered to give me a free hour session before I flew (he’s literally a legend) and so I could see him before I flew.

Actually I was supposed to see him Saturday but I’d gotten the date wrong, idiot that I am, so we’d rescheduled for the Wednesday night, the day before Kyle and I were flying. This was fortuitous because Saturday I was fine, but post-Bournemouth I was not!

He worked his magic and I prayed for the best. It’s funny because I’d been so worried about my hamstring and now I had me knee. My hamstring, ironically, felt normal. I was worried about the long flight aggravating it but it felt absolutely fine. I stood up and walked about a number of times but generally it was OK.

So many people on the flight were also going for the marathon which was cool. Spotting people with the Garmin’s and the race tops.

We arrived in Chicago midday, caught the train to Wicker Park, where we were staying for one night in our first Airbnb. Wicker Park was really cool. Very hipster.

We had dinner in the raved about Pequod’s pizzeria. I’d done my research, it had been consistently rated as number one in the deep pie lists.

I’m actually not a big pizza fan but Kyle would eat it every day if he could. He really loves a deep pan as well. I definitely prefer a thinner more rustic base, like sourdough but I was of course going to try it.

We were quite hungry and being the greedy couple that we are, ordered a medium and an order of chicken wings for me. I’d have a slice or two of the pizza but I was there for the wings really. The waitress was sceptical of our eating ability but I was like “lady, American portion sizes were made for us”.

The pizza took a solid 40 minutes to get to us – as the deep pans tend to. By the time it arrived with the wings I was about ready to eat Kyle’s arm. The pizza came in a giant dish and the waiter served us up a slice each. Now a normal human would probably fine with one of those slices. They were THICK. And the cheese pull (a new phrase I’ve only just become acquainted with) was Instagram worthy.

It was ginormous

It was a sausage and mushroom cheese pizza and it was a monster. The base was so thick and doughy. The crust was caramelised burnt Parmesan, as they’re known for.

My wings were good… a mixture of buffalo and BBQ with the blue cheese on the side. I mean, they weren’t anything crazy. Decent wings, I was happy.

I had a couple of slices of the pizza… it was good, big chunks of sausage. Kyle really enjoyed it. It was a little too doughy for my tastes though. It was delicious but I wouldn’t go for it again. I’m more about the toppings!

The next day we headed from Wicker Park to downtown Chicago. We made a little coffee stop in a very cool place called The Wormhole which was full of retro gaming and film memorabilia.

Star Wars lifestyle cardboard characters, a DeLorean car and even an old school Nintendo with all the games. It was good fun.

Then we headed to our next Airbnb. SO fancy, we had the entire apartment. A great view, it’s own kitchen, bathroom and living area. It was very nice indeed. And literally 10 minutes from Grant Park and the Marathon start.

We had a lovely breakfast in Eggy’s Diner, which was just delicious. I had a turkey and goat’s cheese omelette with home fries.

We then headed to the Expo to pick up my bib and Kyle’s bib for the Chicago International 5k.

I was supposed to be running the 5k too but after some hard thinking (and excessive worrying and flustering) I decided not to risk my knee. I could support Kyle, who was going for a PB… and not just any PB, a sub-20 minute 5k! His PB currently stood at a few seconds over, so it was time to give it a blast.

The expo, like all the Majors’ expos, was impressive and big. A giant hall full of running-related vendors, race organisers and cool things to see. It was very busy though and in the Nike clothing area (the official sponsors) there were barely any small sizes. Luckily I picked up a long-sleeve top in small but it was by sheer chance!

I won’t lie though, I was honestly not that excited and feeling very nervous and a bit down. My knee was still swollen and stiff and I had a lot of doubts as to whether I’d get to the start line let alone finish.

As I hadn’t run at all since it had started feeling stiff I had no idea how it would feel when I started running. Would there be pain straight away? Would the pain happen later? I had no idea.

I became even more superstitious, finding wood and touching it every time we talked about each finishing or running.Numbers became weird,g important… the number 13 kept appearing for us. We noticed it appearing in all different places – the number of the booths was to pick my bib up from, the number of our apartment, the price of something we bought…the date of the race. Honestly I became a crazy woman. I don’t know how Kyle didn’t kill me.

What was cool though, in my bib packet it had instructions of how and where to pick my Six Star medal up from at the end of the race. I had a special QR tag on my bib and, if I so desired, I could wear an extra bib on my back to say I was running for my six star. Ha! Like I’d risk such am assumption. No way would I wear that. Tempting fate much, eh? All I could see was me stood at the side of the race, with that bib on my back as I hobbled with a dud knee trying to find Kyle. Nope.

That night to make life easy we decided to Uber Eats some good. We’d walked a lot and couldn’t be bothered to go out again.

Instead I ordered a very large portion of chicken wings (don’t judge me) and Kyle ordered a Philly cheesesteak AND a burger. In fairness, we hadn’t had lunch…I have to say that the wings were incredible. A mixture of BBQ and garlic Parmesan, oh my lord they were amazing. The garlic Parmesan were a new flavour to me and one I want to find again!

The next morning we were up early (a theme for the entire holiday really), ready for the 5k race.

We had to walk about 20 minutes to the start and it was bitterly cold. I was wearing ALL the layers as I wasn’t running, but Kyle just had his hoodie which he’d be handing to me before the start.I’ve never supported at a race on my own before and it was quite stressful for me.

I wanted to get to a good spot to cheer him on… but I wouldn’t have long due to the shortness of the race and his speed. So I headed off before he started.

Hilariously later on when I showed him a cool picture my friend had gotten with Paula Radcliffe Kyle said “oh wow is that Paula? I thought she was mixed race? I had a conversation with that lady at the start of the 5k.” WHAT. So Kyle had no idea he had been stood next to Paula Radcliffe and spoke about the weather with her!

Happily, Kyle did indeed break 20 minutes in the 5k. He got 19:56. Absolutely over the moon for him! I am so proud of him. We the headed quickly back so he could shower and then we headed to meet my lovely friends, who were also running the 5k and the marathon, for brunch.

A simple but effective breakfast!

These were the friends I’d made from the New York Marathon trip last year. It was great to see them but I did just further increase my nerves. In fact the entire day really was me being a bag of nerves and not much fun. Kyle did a fantastic job of looking after me and calming me down.

We did a lot of walking and sight seeing and then eventually it was time for my pre-race dinner and wind down. We went for a takeaway Blaze pizza which was just down the road from the Airbnb.

I got a chicken bbq pizza and we shared a side of garlic dough bites. Perfect!Then off to bed… I was definitely going to start the race, but I wasn’t sure at all how it would go.

Do you usually run the day before a marathon or big race?

Do you have any superstitions?

Have you been to Chicago before?

Now a member of the sub-20 5k club!

Leading up to the Brighton Marathon and the weeks after I’ve had a lot of solid, good running. I’ve felt strong, injury-free and I’m gaining some good speed. So on Saturday I decided to test out what I could do at parkrun.

I went to bed knowing I was going to go for it. I got a good night’s sleep and woke up at 7.50am… a lie in! I’d had a horrible dream about failing miserably at parkrun, not being able to run and just feeling like I was stuck in porridge. So I woke up feeling a bit apprehensive. I walked Alfie and then had an SIS Go Caffeine Shot (150mg of caffeine). I didn’t want a coffee because I didn’t want a lot of liquid inside me. I then drove five minutes down the road to park my car by the beach where I then ran 1.5 miles to the Lee-On-Solent parkrun start. The weather was perfect. Cool and still.

During my warm-up my legs felt good. I had a quick wee and then did some dynamic stretches in the 10 minutes I had to spare. To be honest, I was just nervous and needed something to do. My lovely friend Rebecca spotted me and we chatted for a bit. I hadn’t told I was coming as it was a bit last minute. I also spotted the lovely Kerry, who I know through social media. So it was nice to have a natter beforehand to some friendly faces.

Then we lined up. I got close to the front, knowing how busy Lee can be at the start. I felt very close to the front speedy guys but I knew I needed to give myself as good a chance as I could. If I failed at my time I wanted it to be down to me and not something external. I had my Bluetooth Jaybird headphones in and I was ready. As soon as we started my legs just went for it. I was scarily close to the front (I say front, I mean that there weren’t masses of people in front of me, but rather 15-20 people).

I looked at my watch and saw 5:45min/miles which made me panic. Jeeeeeeeze that’s fast for me. I knew though I just had to give everything straight from the go. Running a 5k is nothing like running a marathon. You only have three miles to play with so you can’t waste one of them warming up or building yourself into a sprint. It has to be bat out of hell fast and then hanging on for dear life for the rest of it before you crash.

Inevitably, obviously, my pace slowed to a more manageable pace – but still ridiculously fast for what I’d run previously (6:17!). I felt comfortable though, my breathing easy, my legs smooth. I smiled at the marshals and thanked them as I raced past. We came to the first hairpin turn to head back the way we’d come and I felt the wind slightly against me. That meant a tiny bit more effort was required. I knew I just needed to just get to the next turnaround and it would feel a bit easier (in theory). But that was ages away.

I still had to go over the slight mini slope up the promenade (but then the lovely down section after that) and then the God-awful shingles you have to run across for about 100m. It really takes it out of your legs running over pebbles, trying to find your footing and getting no real grip on the ground. But then I wasn’t far from the turnaround bit. Two females were ahead of me; the first way ahead and the second was ahead but not within a distance I could reel in unless she faded dramatically. But it helped me focus on something to keep her in my sights.

We turned and then the wind was off us (I say wind, it really wasn’t windy but it was that slight bit of extra energy I needed to maintain my pace). On the second mile my pace had dropped to 6:27. I knew I was OK though because I needed 6:26 per mile for a sub-20 and I had some time in the bank from the first mile. I also knew at this point after the turnaround I was safe. I could maintain the pace and I was heading back to the finish. Just keep running forward. No turns, just the pebbles and the slope again. The pebbles hugely sucked. It killed my pace momentarily but I kept pushing.

At this point I was gasping and spluttering. No waves, no smiles, just head down, keep running. As I got over the slope I could see the finish ahead. Nice mini downhill and then just a stretch to the funnel. I was literally making all the noises now. I remember someone cheering me and me replying “I hope this is what a PB sounds like!” and he laughed.

And then I got to the finish. I looked at my watch and squealed. 19:39! I jumped about and cheered, telling the funnel marshals that I’d just got a PB and my first ever sub-20. One of the ladies said “and most definitely sub-20!”. I was so chuffed. I was also dead on my feet and so grateful I was no longer running. I sat down and stared at my watch. I did it! And my watch said “Fastest 5k record” and had 3.1 miles recorded. No short course! An actual 5k. I was beyond chuffed.

At the same time, it did feel a bit empty. I was there on my own. No one to celebrate with. It was what it was though. I ran back the 1.5 miles to my car. I saw Rebecca on the way back and cheered her on and mentioned about my PB. She was very pleased for me which was nice 🙂 She had a good run too. I got back to my car and decided to just chill for a bit looking at the sea and cooling down. It was very peaceful watching the gentle waves on the shore. I do love being so close to the sea.I spent some time trying to take a photo of my watch with the PB on it but because my main camera has broken (don’t even ask…) I was trying to use the selfie camera to do it. By the way this is a NIGHTMARE to take a normal photo with. As I was fumbling around an elderly couple walked past me. The man jokingly asked me if I’d won. I smiled and said, “yes I have…well, my own race anyway”. He asked me what I’d done and I explained about parkrun down the road and how I’d gotten a good time that morning. They both said congratulations. It was a nice moment.

A not so nice moment was almost losing my car keys due to an Anna’ism. So… I tend to leave my keys on the tire of my car (FYI, I won’t be anymore!) as I don’t want to run with them. Yes I know. Not safe. Stupidly risky, yadda yadda yadda. But remember, I’m Idiot Anna. So I went to grab the keys from the tire and I knocked them off. They fell behind the tire under the car. I bent to grab them and saw they were LITERALLY an inch away from a grate. Now had they fallen down the grate I’d have been actually screwed. Not only would they have fallen into the murky depths of a disgusting watery filled hole but as my car was on top of said grate my chances of retrieving them would have been slim to impossible. I do believe my PB glory was giving me a slight saving grace (this is lies, it was pure chance). I’ve never felt so lucky in my life. Lesson very much learnt. I mean, had my car ever gotten stolen I’d have probably learnt that lesson there as well. Hey ho.

Back to my run. Everything that morning had conspired to help me get my time. The weather, the course, how my legs had felt, a solid night’s sleep… it just worked out. My training has been good and people around me having confidence in me certainly helped. I feel like I’ve ticked off a significant goal that I’ve had going for ages. Since getting 20:06 (my previous PB) four years ago it’s been something out of reach for me. That said, I never put the effort in to get there again so I can really only blame myself.

The next day I had another glorious lie-in and then headed out for a 15 mile run. I didn’t feel to excited about it if I’m honest. I was dreading it a little. It’s a long way to go and I was going solo. Originally my friend Martin was going to run with me but he called in sick on Saturday… so it was me, myself and I. I lined up a podcast and set off on a familiar long run route. It annoyingly includes quite a big hill that goes on and on at mile 3 but otherwise it’s fairly flat and goes along the seafront.

It was sunny but not overly warm so I didn’t take water. I knew I had my dodgy tap at the half-way point so I wasn’t too worried. The miles seemed to crawl until I got to 6 miles and then I was into the run and enjoying it. Weird how it takes so long for me! Classic long distance runner I guess. I got to the tap, drank and splashed the water on myself before heading off. I decided to do my 13 miles route and then add on miles at the end. Mentally it felt easier heading back towards home then heading further out. The mental games we play, eh.It did mean the final two miles were a bit windy and looping but it was nice to be so close to home (and it did mean I could swing past the dodgy tap again), so mentally I knew if I fancied just stopping I could. But of course I didn’t. 15 miles done!So this week I managed to hit 40 miles. I don’t usually do such high mileage. I’ll normally be around 30. But since adding in another run I’ve managed to climb it up gradually over the weeks. I’m really happy with where I am right now. I’m not going to increase it any higher for now. Hopefully leaving around 35-40 miles will allow my body to adjust and adapt. I desperately want to avoid getting injured. So far everything feels good but I know from a wealth of experience this is not a good indicator of what’s lurking round the corner! I just need to be sensible. But long may my strong running continue. I won’t let it go to my head though. I know I’m not invincible. I’ll have another post soon on my current running and my goals going forward…

How was your weekend?

How do you celebrate a PB?

What mental games do you sometimes play to get through runs?

Rants and Raves #39

A Friday post for you! And I’m ranting and raving… sorry for the complete randomness of this.

Rave: Well I really have no excuse not to go to the local 5k race that takes place literally at my work. We have this lovely lake right next to the big office building (which is why it’s called Lakeside…) and there is a 5k series (Lakeside 5k) that goes on on some Wednesday evenings during the summer. I’ve never gone before because I’ve never been able to get back from work in time and then get there…and it’s a 5k. I hate 5ks. However it was my friend’s birthday and he was going and it is literally at my work so I figured I best make an appearance! I’d probably only run 3-4 miles anyway on my own. It’s always nicer to run with other people.Anyway, loads of my running club turned up which was nice and my birthday buddy, Joe, so it was a lovely social evening. I did a 1.5 mile warm up round the lake with a couple of the guys and convinced myself a fast run was not happening. Why do warm-ups always feel so crap and you feel so sluggish?

But weirdly as soon as we started going as the race began my legs were like “let’s do this”. I managed to maintain a decent speed and chip away at my time as the miles continued. I overtook some Hedgies in front of me and tried to encourage them with me (without sounding like a cocky so and so). My friend, Robbie, was ahead and I caught up with him and we raced to the finish together. I was dying a death inside but Robbie managed to sprint ahead of me (I was barely maintaining my final burst of speed!) and slam dunked the finish. What a sprint finish! Super impressive. Apparently the fastest 5k he’s done in ages, so major kudos to him!

I’m also really pleased with my time. I got 21:26 which is definitely the fastest Ive run in a good while. But jeeeeze, it was tough! Glad I went though as it was some good speedy miles that I’d have never done on my own.

Rave: I’ve now been to the cinema three times in the past two weeks. This is incredible for me. I love watching films and I do love going to the cinema but with my (old) commute and needing to get back for Alfie…well, I just had no time in the evening to really do anything but walk Alfie, make and eat dinner and chill a little before bed! Now that I have more time in an evening and more time in the morning (so less ridiculously early mornings) I’ve been able to get out a bit more. Ahh freedom!

This does unfortunately mean spending more money. And this is both on eating out and the actual film. I’ve been eating at Nando’s each time before the cinema because it’s a) easy, b) relatively cheap (OK it’s not really for just chicken), c) I love it and it’s always a consistently good meal for me. It’s also not something super indulgent on a weekday (all about that balance). I can’t always avoid the temptation of a pudding in other restaurants, whereas at Nando’s I feel fully satisfied after my meal (always a whole chicken, plain, with a side salad and sometimes a corn on the cob depending how I feel) to be content with just a main (I say “just” but we all know it’s a ridiculous meal for a girl my size).

Anyway so recently I’ve seen The Black Tower, Logan Lucky and American Made. The Black Tower was tolerably interesting but ultimately I wouldn’t recommend at all. Logan Lucky was hilarious, quick-moving and definitely worth a watch. American Made was a good watch but it dragged a little. It’s Tom Cruise’s new one and he basically plays Tom Cruise. A fun evening though anyway.

This also means that when I listen to my two movie review podcasts (Empire and BBC Five Live Kermode & Mayo) I actually have an opinion on the films for once!

Rant: Ahh Game of Thrones is over. The last episode was really good and made me feel more positive towards it then some of the other episodes. I really can’t wait for the next two books to come out though to see how George R.R. Martin will deal with the different characters and story-line.

Rave: The Great British Bake Off is back! OK yes it’s moved to Channel 4 (overseas readers, this is such a bugbear for us Brits as it used to be on the BBC, so there weren’t any adverts and it had the very British charm and gentleness that the BBC bring to TV, whereas Channel 4 is a bit more racy and ‘different’). But this does mean that every Tuesday evening I’ll be craving cake *sighs*. I haven’t actually watched the first one yet due to my busy evenings but I’m excited to catch up.

Rave: Speaking of cake…We recently had a successful big project complete at Wiggle so cake and fruit was brought for everyone in the office.Now THIS is how you get and maintain good levels of morale in a workplace. OK, not just bringing in food, but the fact that the workforce is thanked in such a nice way. It’s the little things that really help keep things consistently happy in a workplace.The cakes were really good as well. Lots of different flavours. I had a chocolate one (not normally my flavour of choice when it comes to cake but it had a wedge of Galaxy chocolate in the icing…) and a carrot cake one. SO good.

Rant: It really annoys me when shops try to upmarket something that you can get somewhere else for like half the price. Popcorn kernels are easily available and far more affordable in supermarkets!Don’t be won over by the fancy packaging. Believe me, as a girl who regular pops her own popcorn. They’re the same kernels!

Rant: OK not really a rant but just a bit of a “what?”. These fluffy things seem to be everywhere… I see them all over people’s handbags.And don’t get me started on those weird furry sandal things (sliders?) that girls are wearing. They look like slippers! What is going on!?

Finally… Not sure if this is a rant or a rave. But on my walk with my dad the other day we walked past a farmer’s field to find a load of pumpkins appearing. Summer is definitely over!

Are you sad summer is coming to end?

Do you adorn your handbag with fluffy things or similar?

Does your work treat you to fun things and cakes?

Currently – March

Thursday, hurrah! Or as I like to call it…Friday Eve 😉 Here’s a little update of how things are currently going for me.

Running: TOUCH WOOD, TOUCH WOOD IMMEDIATELY. Things are actually going OK. I am tired and feeling the effects of continued marathon training but my marathon training in comparison to others is kind of weak. No 50+ miles a week going on over here. But that said, I am running consistently and attempting the longer runs at the weekend.

What I’m really pleased about is the run I did last week after work. I picked a reasonably flat route (which is tricky given I work in Basingstoke Amazingstoke). I didn’t intentionally set off to run fast but I did want to do some fartleks so I popped on some motivating music (“banging tunes” some might say, I would never say that…out-loud/in public). As I started running my legs suddenly felt pretty good so I went with it. And consequently ran my fastest 5k in almost two years. TWO YEARS (to be precise, since July 2015 20:43, at Little Stoke parkrun).I was so in the zone that an elderly man cycled past me and said “you go girl!”. I stopped my watch exactly at 3.1 miles and couldn’t believe the time! OK not my fastest and still over a minute off my PB but for not having done any real speedwork lately, I WILL TAKE THAT.And happily, a royal flush negative split. Pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. And this has encouraged me to do one speed session a week. So last night I headed out to do a speed session (my intention was some 1km repeats with a couple of minutes rest between) but my legs went “nope” so I decided to do hills instead. Four hills (0.3 miles long, 11% gradient)…ooof. I do prefer hills though because even when you’re not feeling it, it’s still a good workout for your legs despite not actually going that fast. So mentally I can deal with it.

Books: I’m a keen reader so I’m always reading a book. When I finish one I move on to another. I usually read before I go to sleep to chill me out and with my breakfast in the morning (#nerd) so I can get through them fairly quickly. I signed up to BookBub.com (NOT an affiliated link, just a random recommendation) and you get emailed about discounted e-books around the web so I often take advantage of that. I rarely ever buy a book over £4. Anyway, I’ve just finished The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult.

It was fantastic. I love Jodi Picoult. She has such a great way of writing. This was really thought-provoking and I didn’t know how it’d end.

Before that I read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.Whenever a film comes out that is based on a book I’m always prompted to go and read the book if it takes my fancy. This book was quite short but sad. I was literally crying into my porridge one morning reading it. But a good story.

Gym nutrition: I’ve been trying a new BCAA drink from Sci-Vation. I fancied a change from my usual BSN Amino X Intra-Workout.

I chose this because it contains no proprietary blend (which is a supplementary company’s way of cost cutting because they don’t have to state the dosage of the ingredients within the blend and you’ll likely be fobbed off with an ineffective dose to have any real effect) and 7 grams of BCAAs (a 2:1:1 ratio of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine; plus an additional 2.5g of glutamine per scoop and 1g of Citrulline Malate) and 1.1 gram of electrolytes. Basically, a good BCAA drink! It’s more expensive, but more effective. And it tastes DELICIOUS. I use it during my fasted gym visits.

Slow cooker fun: I’ve been back on the old slow cooker wagon again.My meals are verrrrry basic but it’s so nice to come in to a home smelling of food and having dinner ready. LAtely I’ve been throwing in chicken drumsticks and thighs with butter squash chunks and other veg and just adding some basic seasonings and spices, like paprika, garlic, fish sauce (trust me, it works), Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce.

Quickly back to running quickly, this week has been feeling tough (probably because I’ve suddenly started doing speedwork again and did a fairly tough 16 miler on Sunday…oh and I ran a marathon last month!). I don’t feel injured but I do feel worn out. I am “meant” to run a long run on Friday morning (as I’m away this weekend) but I’m just thinking it’s not going to happen. I’d rather turn up to London undertrained and than overtrained (or injured) so I’m probably going to skip it. Listening to my body and all that 😉 I might be able to get out Sunday afternoon when I’m back but I won’t cry about it if I don’t. And it depends how I feel!

Do you use a slow cooker?

What book have you read recently?

What signs tell you when to take some rest from working out?

Olympic Park 5k

While I was in London a Twitter friend and blog reader told me about a cool race series that was scheduled for Thursday evening while I was in London last week. After my disastrous run on Tuesday night I was reluctant to venture out on my own again and the race was 5k which was actually perfect for my training plan.

The race was run by The Race Organiser, who organise a lot of races in and around London. They also provide services to other races to with things such as race management, race timing and photography. A 5k race around the Olympic Park was scheduled for the Thursday at 6.30pm which was perfect timing for me. I finished my course at 5pm, went back to the hotel, got changed and walked to the nearby tube. The tube journey didn’t take long and I was rather chuffed with myself for having figured it out on my own without going wrong(!). However, when I got to Stratford I realised I didn’t know exactly where the Park was.

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I ended up walking around in circles for a bit and my lovely accrued buffer time slowly ticked away and I started to panic. Finally though I found the way (I was the wrong side of station I think) and then desperately looked around for fellow runners.

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When I go to different parkruns, for example, it’s always handy when you get close when you can see runners heading in the general direction and so I just follow them. There weren’t any runners I could see though and the Olympic Park grounds are actually quite big. Eventually though I asked a security guard and he pointed me in the right direction.

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A little race HQ area was set up with a table and marshals handing out the race packs. There were real toilets nearby (opposed to portable loos!) and the race bibs were chipped. I realised it wasn’t a huge event as 16 people shuffled up to the race briefing. I suddenly felt a little nervous as I was expecting a few more people. With so few people I felt a bit exposed…I wasn’t up for a fast run and the guys around me looked rather speedy.

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But hey ho, no backing out now! The event director explained the route (three laps outside the Olympic Park, though the first lap included a little out and back to make sure the distance added up as there was a slight diversion on the course due to construction). He mentioned it was clearly sign posted and there were several marshals pointing the way.

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I still felt a bit nervous. I mean, I’m not the best at directions (as has been made very clear lately) and if there are only 16 of us I might not have a person straight in front of me to follow if they’ve all dashed off.

But anyway we started and I went way too fast for the first 500m as I desperately didn’t want to get left behind. I think everyone felt similarly and as we got into the first mile we found our more natural paces. Luckily there were a couple of people (including my friend, Dasen) ahead of me who I could follow. I didn’t feel particularly comfortable in my running in terms of my pace and wondered if I could hold onto it for long, seeing a crash in the near future. I reminded myself it was just three miles and to hold on.

I managed to overtake the couple of guys ahead and felt myself getting strong as the race continued and this gave me confidence. The marshals were lovely, smiling and cheering us on and the temperature was a little warm but not too bad. The course was relatively flat with a few gentle inclines and declines and the wind wasn’t strong. So all in all, perfect conditions really and this spurred me on to run faster than I would have done had I been running solo.

I increased my speed at the end, feeling a lot stronger and knowing I didn’t have long to go. I finished in seventh place overall and second female (the joys of a very small race!). My time was 23:22. For not wanting to run fast (for me!) that evening, I was quite pleased at how I got my body moving in the end.

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I haven’t done any speed work in months (something I really must improve on) so I can’t expect super fast times but the effort level was there so I’m happy with a good solid workout.

I received a second place prize of some interesting detox drink powder things… (I’m slightly annoyed as I did take a photo of the goodie bag contents but I think I deleted it). The goodie bag was great: Haribo sweets, a health drink, a tester pouch of the detox stuff I won, a cereal bar, a water and a medal.

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I spoke to the event director and they were super friendly. I said how much I enjoyed it (well, enjoyed finishing anyway!) and how organised it was for such a small event. I even got a photo of them (which they found hilarious).

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It’s not the cheapest race in the world (I think for an affiliated runner it was around £17-18) but I definitely felt like I got my money’s worth as the organisation and location were superb. We were emailed out times later.

I chatted to Dasen afterwards and we got a selfie together, of course 😉 He lives just a tube stop away so it’s very handy for him!

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A great race, all in all for a random Thursday night in London! Then it was a quick hop on the tube back to the hotel. No getting lost thankfully!

Do you run many 5ks (excluding parkruns)? I tend to avoid them like the plague ordinarily!

Have you ever done a super small race before?

Have you done many races in London before? This was my second one. My first was another race (a 5 miler) around the Olympic Park as well.