parkrun, afternoon tea and dogs – a few of my favourite things

For once, I was in Southampton this weekend.

I went to Netley Abbey parkrun on Saturday and was (semi) glad to see that we were doing the cricket pitch course rather than the winter course as there was an event setting up in the area on the summer course. The cricket pitch course (five laps around, you guessed it, a cricket pitch) is an exceptionally dull course. It’s flat and repetitive. However, I prefer it to the winter course has six hills and can be windy.

I helped set up, which was super quick because it’s a simple course, but all on grass so I gradually felt my feet getting more and more wet due to the previous day’s rain. Mike had sensibly brought a spare pair of shoes but unfortunately for him had not brought a spare pair of socks… haha. Wet feet all round.

The barcode sign in the distance in the middle of the field…

I did a quick warm-up (just over a kilometre) and found my legs to be quite heavy and tired. I had umm’ed and arr’ed as to whether I’d put some welly into this run but I could see it probably wouldn’t be that fast. We lined up and headed off. I had a long-sleeve on and even gloves as it was that chilly that morning! It was just a bit of a miserable morning – so different to last weekend (I’m sure all the London Marathoners and Southampton racers were feeling a little cheated).

Photo Credit: Ken Grist

The first mile was a slog and I quickly realised a quick time (for me) wasn’t really on the cards but decided to keep with the effort level and get a solid tempo effort in. I ambitiously wanted to stay around 7min/miles but on the second lap it just felt like a total graft to maintain any sort of speed. There were also tricky areas to navigate through as the grass got more and more muddy.

Photo Credit: Ken Grist

A man was running next to me who was using a metronome – basically it audibly gives off beats so he could work on his cadence (As he told me afterwards). At first I thought I’d find it annoying once I began hearing it but then it became very rhythmical and nice to zone out too. We stuck together for most of the run.On the final mile (and God knows what number lap – I had to keep count on my hand) I felt myself have a spurt of energy. Probably because at this point I just wanted to finish the monotony of running in circles on sodden grass. I finished in 21:19 and a surprisingly high finish of 24 (2nd female). I think a lot of people were resting their legs after London and Southampton half/marathon last weekend.I helped close down and had a drink in the cafe after. Two of my running friends, Kate and her husband Mark, are heading to Devon and it was fun discussing the parkrun challenges of them trying to get all the Devon ones – apparently there are quite a few! I think down South we do very well with parkruns, there always seem to be new ones cropping up all over the place. This is both good and frustrating because just when I thought I was almost done with Bristol and Brighton they start creating new ones!

Later that day I went for afternoon tea with my friends from home. I hadn’t seem them in a while so it was nice to catch up. It’s mental to me that so many have had babies or are pregnant. While also discussing about turning 30 and arranging a big joint birthday party and how we’ all getting “old” I had a moment of, “shit am I a failure here?”.

It’s so easy to find yourself falling down that silly comparison hole. I absolutely do not want a baby right now. I actually couldn’t think of anything worse. I have a lot of plans I’m excited about and I love my life. I love the freedom I have, my holidays and running… not that having a baby means that everything you once loved disappears but it certainly means change and a whole lot more responsibility and proper adulting. But I think it’s so easy to let society tell you you should be living your life in a certain way, especially when you’re surrounded by people who are living that way. I don’t regret the choices I made and the way things have gone – I’m very happy with my life 🙂 Random tangent over!Now onto the important stuff… 😉 Afternoon tea was good but it was a bit too “delicate” for my liking. I’m a big fan of the big slabs of cake and chunky scones and regular sandwiches. Teeny tiny “pretty” cakes aren’t really going to cut it with me. That said, I was the human dustbin for everyone else so I did get a good share of extra cakes and sandwiches!The scones were delicious and the sandwiches were nice but I didn’t massively enjoy the tart (which was like a bland egg custard tart) and I’m never really a fan of creamy desserts that are like posh yogurts (I think it was a lemon posset?). My friend Anna (good name) said to me, “Don’t look behind you Anna, it will really upset you”. Obviously I did… a whole table with so many scones and cakes left behind. NOT EATEN. What!?

Anyway it was lovely to catch up with my friends and eat cake. Good times.

The next morning I met my friend Martin (who I ran the Gosport Half with back in November). I haven’t seen him for a good while so it was nice to touch base with him again, especially while doing a very scenic (albeit hilly) 13 miles. We did an out and back route through Durley which was really very pretty and, for the most part, car free. The hills were pretty savage though!After finishing the run I dashed home to shower and eat breakfast quickly before heading back out to meet Mike for a dog walk. Mike has a 13 week year old Siberian Husky crossed with a Golden Retriever who is just adorable, called Luna. I brought Alfie so Luna had a new friend. We met up in Royal Victoria Country Park (where parkrun is held) and walked round the field before heading to the dog fair that was going on.Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many dogs in one day! There were just so many. All of different breeds and sizes. Alfie was a little bit more wary of the other dogs – he’s very much a lone wolf, whereas Luna wanted to play with EVERYONE and EVERYTHING. Ahh the excitement of a little puppy. I remember when Alfie was like that. He’s almost nine years old. That is MENTAL. I still remember how tiny he was when we picked him up and he sat in my lap. I also remember feeding him a slice of apple and then him promptly throwing it up on my lap five minutes later. Lovely.Anyway, we walked round the stalls, chatted to other dog owners and enjoyed watching the “dog recall” competition (how quickly your dog runs back to you – there was a leaderboard and everything). Then we sat and had a coffee in the cafe outside while Luna enjoyed chasing every napkin that flew past her while Alfie rolled his eyes and tried to avoid getting jumped on.They got on well though despite the age gap. It’s a shame the weather wasn’t a bit brighter but thankfully we dodged the rain on all accounts.

How was your weekend?

Do you like dogs?

How many courses does your parkrun have? Netley has several!

A weekend of cancellations

So despite the spring-like temperatures and beaming sun during the week, the weekend didn’t look good. Cold temperatures, bitter winds and potentially snow. Again.

I had the Reading Half Marathon planned for the Sunday but before that parkrun and afternoon tea with friends. I was originally going to go to Queen Elizabeth Country Park for a friend’s 100th but I’d forgotten it was Netley parkrun’s 6th birthday and I hadn’t been there I ages and wouldn’t be back there in ages so it only felt right to go there instead. I headed there early Saturday morning to help set-up the course, as I always used to, and realised I might have misjudged the shorts weather. It was COLD. The wind was so icy and as Netley is right next to the waterside, you really felt it.I was in my biggest coat and scarf, but yes shorts. My hands were cold despite their gloves. It was a rather miserable setting up process indeed. Despite the weather, it was nice to be back and see everyone again. There were several jokes made about who I was because I hadn’t been there in so long, but it was all in good fun.After we set-up I decided to be very anti-social and sit back in my car. I was just so cold. Eventually Mike pulled me out and we went for a quick warm-up (me still in my coat) and neither of us felt any warmer afterwards. Ah well. We then headed to the start.I was a little sad that the run director didn’t actually mention that it was Netley’s 6th birthday (or at least I certainly didn’t hear a mention). It was a shame considering I’d been to such a good 6th birthday the week before…ah well. There was still lots of cake afterwards. Avtually it was probably a good thing not to have a lengthy pre-run brief because it was so bloody cold!

I started running with Mike but he sadly had a hamstring issue so I ran ahead while he played it safe. I decided to push the speed as I was just so cold. I had planned on running an easy run but when it came down to it, I couldn’t bare to plod along in the cold. I felt like the effort level was quite high, despite my pace not being my fastest. The wind along the front and the two hills you have to do twice just dragged my pace down. That said, I do think it was one of my fastest Netley parkruns on the winter course so I’ll happily take that!

Photo Credit: Ken Grist

A lot of people were volunteering because of the Eastleigh 10k the next day (quite a popular flat 10k amongst the local clubs – I’ve never done it as I hate 10ks) so I managed to scrape first female. But like I said, a hollow victory considering so many females weren’t running. Hey ho! 21:42 and 18th place – high positioning due to lack of numbers!I finished, grabbed a cake and a photo and then it was quick time to put my coat and scarf back on! Brrr!I had a slice of rocky road which was delicious. Rocky road has to be up there with one of my absolute favourites. Not technically a cake I guess but just SO good. I could eat an obscene amount of it quite easily. After we packed up the course (how quickly you get back to being cold despite having run a 5k) we headed to the cafe for a hot drink. It was so nice to be back chatting away to the usual gang with a hot peppermint tea. But parkrun tourism is still a big priority for me right now! Gotta get those letters 😉

After parkrun I headed home, showered and had a lovely stodgy bowl of porridge. I was meant to be going to afternoon tea with some friends but sadly a couple of them had to cancel so we called it off. I was a bit down about this as it would have been nice to have seem them but they have kids so different life priorities. Fair enough. My sister was coming over that afternoon to see my parents so I asked if she wanted to go instead. Happily she was keen. And she’s NEVER been to afternoon tea before. I mean, what kind of a life is that??

We went to the Vintage Tea Rooms in Fareham and it was fantastic. I had brie and chicken sandwiches, a fruit scone with clotted cream and jam and a slice of salted caramel cake. This cake was the SAME cake I’d had the other week! I was chuffed because I knew how amazing it was.It was lovely to catch up with my sister, who I don’t get to see that often due to our working schedules and just life. But it was nice to swap gossip and have some serious girl talk… nothing beats girl talk like it does talking to your big sis 😉I actually thought she’d struggle with the afternoon tea. She doesn’t have a crazy appetite like me, but she polished the lot off! I was genuinely disappointed as I thought I might get half her cake…but alas, she hoovered it all up. I was very proud indeed. That evening I set my alarm for 7am… the plan was for my dad and I to leave for Reading for the half marathon at 7.30am ish. We were to be parked in a car park about 3 miles from the start. I was going to run a gentle warm up to the start so I wouldn’t be so cold at the start (the temperature was looking to be very chilly) and then my dad would see me at mile 5 and mile 11. Despite so many other races around the country being cancelled Reading Half was still saying they were going ahead…and then later that evening that they’d update us closer to the time.They were getting a lot of stick from people saying that they needed to know earlier to know whether they should travel there or not as they were coming from a far distance away (quite understandable). I checked my phone several times during the night and then when my alarm went off at 7am I saw they’d Tweeted that it was cancelled because of the heavy snowfall during the night. I checked my dad had seen it too and then promptly headed back to bed for another two hours sleep. I was disappointed yes but at the same time it made sense to cancel it.It was very snowy outside here in Fareham so it would have been unsafe for us to have tried to have traveled. I still needed to get my long run done so I walked Alfie to check the temperature and the ground… snowy but not slippy, very very cold with an icy wind. I forwent my original choice of shorts and decided to be sensible and wear leggings. Not only to keep my legs warm but also if I did slip over to save my skin. I don’t need more ugly scratches over my legs!
I went out with the ambition to run at least 13 miles. It was tough underfoot to begin with but otherwise I felt good. My legs didn’t feel that tired. I had a podcast on and just zoned out, stopping a couple of times to take some photos because everywhere looked so pretty. It was tough going though mentally… I’ve become used to running with other people so running solo for so long was a bit tough. But to be honest, I needed to do this as I won’t be running the marathon with anyone so.As the run continued I felt better and decided to go with 14-16 miles. I had a good long run route where I could add or take away miles as I went so I didn’t stress. Along with it being mentally hard work, I found the icy wind hard work as it pushed against me all along the sea front – where quite a chunk of my run was and also cold. My hands, despite the gloves, were cold. As I got to about 9 miles I decided to make it 17 miles so added on another loop and then headed on the road back. I felt good, though cold. Imagine if I’d have worn my shorts eh!As I got to 13 miles I decided to speed up. I wanted the run to be done and the road I was on was a good one to get the legs turning over. I amazed myself by hitting 7.29min/mile and then 7.22…and even 7mins! But then I turned the corner and hit the wind. But my effort level remained the same so I felt strong finishing despite my pace creeping back up to 7.19. I was certainly glad to finish though. I know had I run Reading I’d have probably run the 13 miles at a faster pace but I was happy to have added some solid tempo miles at the end of this run. I got home and decided immediately I needed a hot bath. My lovely mum made me a cup of tea and enjoyed a glorious hot and relaxing bubble bath. I massively overheated but after being cold for so long it felt like BLISS. I haven’t had a hot bath in so long. In fact, I made it so hot that when I stepped into it I immediately had to jump out as it was the temperature of lava. I’m clearly very rusty at running baths. I must have stayed in there for a solid 40 minutes. I was a bit light-headed as I got out though and suddenly ravenous. A hot bowl of porridge was exactly what I needed 😉
It was sad to not have run Reading but it was just unfortunately one of those things. I was excited about running a slightly different course and seeing where my fitness was at but at the end of the day it wasn’t meant to be. I feel for the organisers as it must have been such a stressful time and they now have 15,000 medals that are essentially worthless. What a shame. But, for me, I managed another solid long run! Mentally and physically tough with the conditions.

Have you had a race cancel before?

Do you like baths or showers? I prefer showers because my hair is impossible to wash in a bath.

Can you finish afternoon tea easily?

Reading Half training day and lots of cake

This weekend was quite busy with me being in both Reading and then Brighton. I was in Reading for the Reading Half Marathon Training Session.

I’ve never done an event like this so I was quite excited about what it would entail, even if it did mean missing my usual parkrun 😉 It was nice to mix things up a bit. On Saturday morning I had a quick breakfast and got myself going at 8.30am. Surprisingly for me I arrived bang on time  for 9.30am – in fact, earlier than other people! Normally I’m late!IMG_2597I finally got to meet the lovely Tess (who writes the great blog The Fitbits) who I know through social media. She’s just as lovely in person as she is online – and, I hope she doesn’t mind me saying this, she is TINY but full of energy!

The session involved lots of different bits. We got to meet the Reading Half Marathon Run Director, Judith Manson, who was lovely and friendly and got us all excited about the upcoming event (18th March – there are still places available FYI, as well as a competition to win a place HERE).

Then we had a workout with the Townsend Twins, Francesca and Chloe, who will be doing the warm-up before the half marathon on the day. IMG_2568They took us through a solid body-weight workout involving squats, single leg deadlifts and lunges etc. followed by a core-focused workout. They gave us options to make it easier or harder which was nice as there was a variety of skill level within the room. They had a great energy and kept us going.D7B7CB84-E4D8-4528-92E8-FCAB2829CE66Then Ali Galbraith took us through a discussion on pacing.IMG_2574He gave us some good tips on how to pace our ideal race. Some of his points included:

  • Having a good knowledge of the course so you would know when the tricky sections were like any hills so you wouldn’t panic when your pace decreased and where you could pick it up later.
  • Not going off too fast at the start (such an underrated tip – this is my biggest tip to anyone when doing a half or a full marathon. It is SO easy to get over-excited at the beginning and then burn out).
  • Practising your goal pace during your training.

And other top tips. Most of it was familiar to me but the tip that stood out was having a good knowledge of the course.D0B739E2-1DE7-4711-A245-3FE21DF0E41CFor some strange reason I don’t like to look at course maps too much because it’s almost like I don’t want to ruing the surprise for myself… which is ridiculous. Too often I have very little awareness of what’s coming up in the race. So I took this point away with me to change.IMG_2606Then we headed out for a 5k run. What I really liked about this (and the workout before) was that the warm-ups weren’t the old school static stretches. It was all dynamic movements to get the muscles warmed up, things like leg swings, squats and lunges. Far, far better! There’s no point stretching cold muscles.IMG_2593The run itself was good. We split off into groups due to everyone differing in paces. The group I was in had a pace of 8.30-9 minutes per mile which was led by Ali. The run was around the local area and took in the first mile of the Reading Half Marathon, so we could get a feel of what race day would be like (though I have run Reading twice before, but not the new course).IMG_2596Then we headed around the Madejski Stadium before heading back. It was a lovely crisp cold morning which we all agreed would be perfect weather for the race day. My calf felt a little uncomfortable but nothing major.Reading runThen we all met up back at the conference centre the event was held in and had our final session which was with Jim from the Berkshire Physio. They would be at the Half Marathon too – so if you need any advice or post-race massage, they’re your guys!IMG_2599Jim was super knowledgeable and pretty much everything he said he backed up with research. He talked about RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) as a treatment for an injury and also gave us some great stretches and strength exercises to keep us injury-free. One of the best exercises he gave us was called the “slump” and involved “neural flossing” of the Sciatic nerve. Instead of stretching your hamstrings with the standard static stretch, he recommended this exercise. Basically you sit on a table and slump your back to relax your spin with your chin to your chest, then you straight one leg and then bring it back down again. You continue to do this, and should feel things loosen from your leg to your back if you’re really tight. Apparently this is “flossing” your Sciatic nerve and helping to reduce tension and tightness. Obviously my explanation is a bit pants, so I recommend you google it if you’re interestedIMG_2570The event was well run and a good session. It was nice to meet fellow runners and to chat about training and things like that. I met the lovely Tamsyn from the blog Fat Girl to Ironman and Katie and Kate from the blog These Girls Do. So a fantastic bunch! I’m really looking forward to the Reading Half now 🙂

Then I hopped back in the car around 1.30pm and headed to Brighton. I hadn’t really planned lunch and didn’t really want to stop for anything proper as I just wanted to get there so I pushed on through. I did however eat four apples to keep me going. I’m not AnnaTheApple for no reason 😉

I got to Brighton and met up with my lovely friend, Charlotte. I was staying over for the night ready for a baby shower celebration the next day with my uni friends. I managed to persuade her into ordering an early dinner from Deliveroo as I was past the point of hunger and dangerously close to hanger. We ordered from a Turkish place called Almoosh Snack which we did the last time I stayed. I went for the mixed grill (which was HUGE but absolutely perfect for my hunger levels) and Charlotte ordered a large halloumi wrap and tabbouleh salad.IMG_2602My mixed grill was as I remembered it (lots of chicken wings, lamb mince koftas etc. on a bed of rice) but Charlotte’s was literally just slices of fried halloumi and her salad. It was definitely not a large wrap – and certainly missing the garlic sauce and pickles described on the menu! I rang up to complain and the man did apologise and said Deliveroo must have given us the starter version. He didn’t really offer a solution though… I’m still going to look into this further as it was a disappointing. Charlotte had to add a bagel to make it into an actual meal. Hmmm. Despite this, we had a lovely evening watching Hidden Figures (so good) and lots of First Dates (such addictive trashy TV).IMG_2609The next day I had a fabulous lie-in and then headed out into the bitter cold for a 4 mile run. I had intended on going a bit further (maybe 6 miles) but the calf was just not happy. I’d warmed it up and done some exercises before going out but it was no Bueno. It just felt so uncomfortable every time my foot hit the ground. IMG_2608The run location was lovely – the weather cold and windy but bright and the promenade was just full of fellow runners and a beautiful view of the sea. But I headed back and called it a day. 4 milesAfterwards there was a dull but non-specific ache in the calf. Hummm. Yeah I probably shouldn’t have run after running the day before. I never learn.

Our other friends soon arrived and we all headed to Metrodeco, a very quirky and friendly café in Brighton, for afternoon tea. We didn’t do any crazy crazy baby shower games but we did have a fun game where we couldn’t say “baby” and had pins that we’d try to win off of people when we noticed someone saying it. Very good fun! And probably safe to say I lost…IMG_2623The afternoon tea was amazing. There were open sandwiches of ham, salmon, creme cheese and brie. A large scotch egg sliced up, two mini fruit scones, a chocolate brownie, a mini red velvet cupcake and a selection of fruit tarts.IMG_2625We also had unlimited tea from a very large selection. I chose the Puer Tea, simply because I’d heard Victoria Beckham drank it because it was healthy (haha I’m ridiculous I know) but actually it was delicious and complimented all the sweet foods perfectly. It was like a refreshing and gentle black tea. We could change our teas whenever we fancied but I stuck with that one.IMG_2626The whole afternoon tea was so good! We could ask for more creme (clotted of course) and jam and the service was just super friendly and helpful. And, as usual, I played the human dustbin and helped where people needed it 😉 It’s become worryingly easy how my stomach can put this stuff away!

Then we played some more games (quizzes, no horrible baby shower games involving nappies!), the mother-to-be opened presents and then we headed off home. A lovely weekend with lovely people 🙂

Have you ever tried Puer tea?

Do you enjoy the games usually played at baby showers?

Are you running any half marathons this year?

The Great South Run 2017

I hadn’t planned on running the Great South Run (GSR) as I hadn’t entered. It’s another race I had bad feelings about.

I ran it in 2013 and aimed for a really ridiculous target time which set me up for high pressure and ultimately inevitable failure. I also became injured afterwards and subsequently didn’t run the first marathon I’d set my sights on (Portsmouth Coastal, which to do this day I’ve still not done). So, bad joujou.

The GSR is an expensive race (over £40) and it’s always very busy and very windy, being right along the coastal front of Portsmouth. So I didn’t sign up… but the week before I saw how many of my club and people I knew who were and I started to get that classic ‘fear of missing out’ feeling. The thought of running 10 miles on my own on Sunday sounded really unappealing. Since the marathon I’ve been a bit “meh” about long running because I don’t have any set training plan yet. Not an issue in itself but I kind of wanted to keep my long runs around 8-10 miles so I didn’t have to build back up in November (and I have a half mid-November).

So when a place became available by a lady in my running club who’d double-booked herself, I was there like a shot. I fancied a pressure-free, good atmosphere run with thousands of people to get the mojo going again – and nicely hit 10 miles again (and maybe get rid of the bad joujou). The GSR doesn’t allow bib transfers or deferrals (which, for the cost of the race, I think is very cheeky) so I would need to run as “Sarah”. It didn’t bother me as it wasn’t a goal race.

I asked my parents if they fancied supporting but my dad sadly was busy with work but my mum was up for it. My dad likes to pull my mum’s leg by saying he’s the better parent because he supports most of my races whereas she stays behind (her excuse always being to look after the dogs… sure, sure) so she was quite chuffed to have one over my dad on this occasion. I was just chuffed to have an adult supervise me.

As the GSR is over in Portsmouth, which is just up the road from us (but far enough away for us to be safe… ;-)), I didn’t think we needed to leave crazy early and I was rather relaxed about the whole race morning. My mum suggested that our 9am leaving time for my 10.38am start might be somewhat pushing it but I hand-waved her away saying as long as we got to Gunwharf Quays (where we’d be parking) by 9.30am we’d have loads of time to walk the 3 miles to the start. I’m sure long-term readers and anyone who knows me can see the problem already. Logistics and timings left in my incapable hands would only lead to disaster.My alarm was set for 8.20am… kit on (sadly not my usual HERC running vest due to my vest having “Anna” on the front which would look strange next to the bib with “Sarah” printed on), no breakfast, just a coffee and I was good to go. Well it didn’t take long at all to get into Portsmouth. Unfortunately that’s where we stopped… the traffic was horrendous. We crawled along and 9.30am came and went. I tried not to panic, because really there was nothing that could be done. It’s not like I could have jumped out of the car as we were still on the motorway. We saw the park and ride was completely chocka block and continued with our Gunwharf Quays plans. Only to find that road closed. In the end we parked in the Cascades car park – which, despite still being a good 3 miles away, was actually perfect. They opened the shopping mall just as we arrived and I dashed inside to use a PROPER loo. How fabulous.Then it was a quick march to the start. It was cold and windy and my mum, bless her, struggled to keep the pace. We spotted the lovely Rebecca ready to marshal and she gasped when I told her my wave. TRYING NOT TO PANIC. As we got about a mile away my mum said she just couldn’t continue at that pace and I should go on. What my mum really needed was a hot drink (she was, as she describes, “feeling woo”). I 100% didn’t want to de-layer at this point but felt terrible to force her on so reluctantly handed her my coat and bag that she was kindly going to look after. She knew my wave and vague timings. I told her to go and sit in a coffee shop and I’d see her around 12.Actually it was probably a good thing I headed off on my own because I was able to run to the start (I would have been far too cold to have walked). I got there at 10.35am and looked around for my wave. I had a little peep at the elite wave (tried to spot my super speedy blondie-making friend Michelle) and then walked down to my wave. I couldn’t see it but could see the orange wave who looked like they were about to get going. Well I was all warmed up and the thought of standing around and getting cold again sounded awful, plus this would mean I’d finish a bit earlier for my mum.

So within five minutes I was starting! This was somewhat stressful as I tried to get my headphones working, only to realise I hadn’t paired them with my old phone that I was using. So I now had a pair of useless headphones I had to wear for the entire race…wonderful. That said though I actually didn’t need them. The atmosphere of the race was enough and I found whenever I passed by any supporters playing music it boosted me up and really motivated me.The first few miles were crowded with people, as is always the case. The wind was gusty and blustering around us but generally OK. At this point you’re feeling fresh anyway so the wind isn’t an issue. My pace for the first mile was just under 8  minutes as I was weaving in and out of people. The crowds were fantastic, cheering us along, and I felt very relaxed.

As you head into Old Portsmouth you hit mile two and run through the Historic Dockyard. This is always a fun bit (a brief bit of cobbles, but over very quickly) as you get to see the HMS Victory and the Mary Rose museum (so many trips their as a child…). I chuckled at some of the Navy statues that were dressed up for Halloween.My pace increased and I continued to overtake people. There’s an out and back section mile 4-5 and I enjoyed spotted people I knew and shouting to them. As I wasn’t wearing my traditional HERC vest I wasn’t easy to spot so was able to creep up (well, run up) next to fellow Hedgies and say hi.

There were lots of water stations around the course and they had small bottles, which I always prefer as you can take them along with you for a bit, but one blew across the road and I turned my ankle on it which was quite painful and concerning. Luckily though after the initial turn it was fine, whew!! Apparently my ankles aren’t injury prone like the rest of me.

The GSR is very flat – barely any elevation changes – but it does change direction a few times and this can mean you’re suddenly battling the wind, or the wind is nicely pushing you along. There are so many crowds cheering you all along the course which helps buoy you along too. I spent a lot of time looking out for my mum wondering if she found a spot to stand, but I didn’t see her. I spotted a few people from work which was cool though.

I was feeling fantastic, despite my pace seeming ridiculous to me. I’m sure the wind definitely helped at points! I ran past Rebecca at her marshaling point around mile 5 but she didn’t notice me. I ended up hollering to her and her friend nudged her to spot me which made me laugh.

As I got to mile 6 the wind was really on our backs now and it felt fantastic, albeit annoying with my pony tail and flyaway hair bits getting in my face (I was happy to accept this tho with the benefits of the wind pushing us). Amazingly I saw my friend Sarah (not the Sarah I was running as) from my club around the same mile where I saw her the last time I ran. I was having a very bad time then and ran with her the rest of the way. This time I said a quick hello and carried on. She was listening to music and seemed very focused.

By mile 7 I felt my first “dig deep” moment where I would have quite liked to have had some music to keep me motivated. Instead I had a mash-up of Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic and Daft Punk Harder better Faster Stronger spinning round my head randomly. Miles 7-8 are away from the seafront and are a bit of a lull moment. I was also well aware that at mile 8 we’d be turning onto the seafront and heading straight at the wind with no shelter. It would be tough. Someone from the crowd shouted it was almost time for the final sprint and a few people chuckled wryly; two miles is not time to sprint! A lady next to me muttered that it was the worst two miles as well. Yep!

As we turned the corner the wind did indeed push against us, but surprisingly not as bad as I remembered. It was hard, yes, but not horrific. I played the game of chasing bibs ahead of me and slowly reeled people in. I saw my pace was sub seven minute miles and had no idea how I was doing it, or if I could maintain it. But I kept going.

A novelty about a 10 mile race is you are running to the mile, not the 0.2 or the 0.1 like in most other races. There was no great ambiguity of how far you’d have left to run like there sometimes is in the other distances. Just get to that beep on the Garmin! I knew I’d added a bit more mileage due to all my weaving but not a huge amount. I could see the finish ahead and I sprinted to it, giving it my all.I checked my time, 1:13:23! I couldn’t remember exactly what my PB was as I hadn’t checked beforehand (I didn’t think I was aiming for it as I’d had a rough goal of sub 1:18). I was pretty sure it was 1:15 something though so was fairly certain I had it in the bag. Either way I was OVER THE MOON. Such a comfortable race (not easy, but not a lung-busting omg I’m going to be sick feeling – comfortably in control of a good effort feeling), with no music and just a general sense of happiness all the way round. No niggles. No issues. Just a fantastic race. On a quick check of my blog (so handy to have my PBs stored there) I found I had indeed got a PB of 1min 50 seconds. Not too shabby! And FINALLY a decent 10 mile race. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a good one before.
I saw some of my club volunteering and had a quick natter and a hug before heading over to pick up my medal and goodie bag. I was really pleased to see that there was a technical t-shirt in the bag as well – it always used to be a cotton t-shirt! Though it’s still rather large despite being a small.I saw some of my club who’d run and we chatted away – all seeming to have had a good run. A few selfies and I rang my mum to find out where she was. Apparently she’d seen me around mile 5 which was nice.After meeting up we started the long 3 mile walk back to the car. I was glad to put my jacket back on, but with my medal prominently out of course.We stopped in Starbucks on our meanders back, now that my hunger was kicking in (I did’t fancy the giant protein bar in the goodie bag. Almost 300 calories! That’s a meal). A hot coffee though would tide me over. I would be back-loading my calories in a big way, so don’t worry I wasn’t going to go hungry all day!

We made it home substantially quicker than it took to get there and I wolfed down a solid lunch before showering and getting ready for my friend Sarah’s (ANOTHER Sarah would you believe!) baby shower. It took place in the very lovely Tea Room in Lee-On-Solent (of which I’ve been to many, many times).Sarah had no idea so when she walked in with her husband, Ant (who, by the way has recently stepped over from a non-running friend to a running friend), and she was so surprised. We’d hired out the entire place so it was a really lovely afternoon. I’m not really one for baby-related stuff but it was great. Lots of fun games and laughter.

The waitresses then brought round afternoon teas for everyone. I immediately bagged myself a fruit scone and a slice of red velvet (you gotta be in it to win it when it comes to food…). I humoured myself by having a couple of token chicken sandwiches before slathering the delicious scone with jam (first of course) and then clotted cream. OH SO DIVINE.There were boxes provided to take cake home but this was highly unnecessary for me. In for a penny, in for a pound and all that. I was apparently the only person to do the full afternoon hog of sandwiches, scone and full slice of cake. I’m not even sorry. I even had a little bit of the chocolate cake that someone had sliced in half (sliced in half? I don’t understand this). I know, I know. I’m far too greedy for my own good. The sugar coma I fell promptly into was fully deserved. But I tell you what, it was worth it.Can you manage a whole afternoon tea?

Have you ever done one of the Great Run series before?

Do you like a 10 mile race? 

You can never have too much cake

This weekend past was pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. It was a great balance of being ridiculously busy and then nice and chilled.

Friday night was a casual Christmas drinks evening with some running club friends at the pub. Annoyingly this pub was walking distance from my new home but I had to house(dog)-sit for my parents while they were in London over the weekend, which meant I had to drive instead. Anyway it was a great evening with most people wearing Christmas jumpers and just having a nice natter.

Christmas jumper

There was even a Michael Jackson tribute singer so a few of us had a boogie. Don’t blame it on the sunshine…

The next morning, as usual, was parkrun at Netley Abbey. The weather was ridiculously mild, albeit a bit windy. We decided to get a photo of our usual set-up crew which was lovely. A few us had our parkrun Volunteer 25 t-shirts on as well which worked out nicely.Netley Abbey parkrun volunteers

I love setting up parkrun with these guys. They’re all just so lovely and we have a good laugh. They were all really supportive when I had my rough times earlier in the year as well. There’s something about running that just brings people together in a good way.

There were loads of guys from the running club running as well because it was our club’s Secret Santa. It was great to see so many familiar faces. At the start I was quite concerned that I was stood next to my super speedy friend, Michelle, but she assured me she was taking it easy having run eight miles already. I think I stayed with her for all of about 100m before she was like a blip in the horizon! Even my friend Chris who I used to be faster than pre-injury zoomed away despite being hungover having not left the pub last night until 1am. My ego got a bit of a kicking 😉

Even splits

However I was really chuffed with some very even splits. I got 22:59 which I’m over the moon with. I really kept my mind focused on the effort. It’s funny because I’ve stopped listening to music at parkrun now. I’ve found it distracts me and makes me feel claustrophobic. I think if I was really pushing for a specific time I might wear some motivating music, but at the moment I’m enjoying ‘naked’ runs. I’ve taken a minute off my faster time from a few weeks ago. This is definitely progress!

I did do some investigation on Strava to see what my fastest time on this course was and found it’s 21:57 in March this year. Jeeze that’s a challenge! Maybe in a few months…

Secret Santa was good fun as well. We all crammed into the café and exchanged gifts.Secret Santa

Thanks again to my official blog photographer, Mark, for the photo 😉

My label said Anna Jayne Smith (*sighs*) so the person didn’t know me that well but they knew me well enough to get me very posh Strawberry and white chocolate cake and a Christmas pudding shaped chocolate slab. Very pleased!!

Afterwards my sister, her fiancée and Meg and Ellie, her two daughters, met up with me so Ellie could run a children’s fun run which was happening in the park at 10.30am. It was a charity race for Ben’s Heroes and entry was £3. Such a good cause. Ellie is almost six years old and has been doing Junior parkrun quite a bit lately with her dad. I’d love to do it with her but it’s a fair distance away from me and I haven’t been able to get there so I was really excited that I was finally able to see her (and join her!) running.

My heart melted when Ellie said she wanted to be a runner like me and run marathons. I’m beyond proud. Obviously this might be a passing trend but for now I’m over the moon she’s so into it. For Christmas I’ve got her some really funky purple Nike leggings.IMG_6852

I’m jealous! I want a pair! But they are TINY.

Back to the race, Ellie was really excited and kept sprinting off and showing me how fast she could run, bless her.Children's raceIt was two laps of the cricket pitch (our usual fast summer course) and the race organiser said the kids could run one or two laps depending how they felt (there were some quite young children). She held my hand and chatted the entire way round. She even told me that running was good because it made you “live longer”. I’m not sure Ellie should be worried about her mortality at this point in her life but it made me chuffed that she associated running with being healthy. I was careful not to run too fast and kept to her speed andsaid we could walk if she needed to, but she was adamant to keep going. In the end we did the two laps (her choice) and she did an amazing sprint finish at the end.IMG_6850

She got a little goodie bag and a lovely medal. She was really pleased with herself and looked like she had so much fun. I was also so proud of her when she offered her goodie bag to a little boy who didn’t get one because they ran out.

The rest of the day was a mad rush of getting myself sorted, checking on my parent’s dogs and then getting back to my flat to have a catch up with my friend Louise and her husband Tom. We’d arranged a kind of afternoon tea gathering as I said I had a panettone I was reviewing for the blog that would be great to share with them and Lou said she might bake something.

Well, they turned up with some very nice artisan bread, loads of different filling choices for sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, jam and a huge freshly baked carrot cake! Afternoon tea indeed!
Home-made afternoon tea

I had a delicious brie sandwich with onion marmalade, a pallet-cleansing slice of panettone 😉 following by a clotted cream and jam scone and then finished nicely with a slice of carrot cake. All washed down with tea obviously. They brought their little one, Jake, over and we had a lovely time stuffing our faces and chatting away. I’ll do a full review of the panettone in another post but honestly we were all pleasantly surprised at how tasty it was. It was the perfect level of sweetness for such a sugar-frenzied afternoon.

I then had to rush to an opticians appointment and then rush to my friend Mike’s surprise 40th birthday party (honestly, there was not one single thing I was on time for the entire day). I took with me some sticky garlic and honey chicken wings and breaded paprika chicken tenders that I’d rustled up earlier. Mike was really surprised when he got home and saw us all there after being told he wasn’t allowed in the house until 5.30pm. It was lovely to see how chuffed he was (I might be over-using the word “chuffed”…).40th birthday party food

Sheryl’s photo of her amazing cake and my own poor quality photos below (chicken wings bottom right)

Now you might think that considering all the food I ate earlier would hinder my process in making a dent in all of the buffet food on offer here. You would be wrong. My capacity to eat a lot of food still astounds me. Sheryl made this amazing cake and she let me have a taster piece before she sent out slices to everyone – you know, just to make sure it was tip top quality 😉 I then proceeded to have another slice afterwards. As if I hadn’t already eaten enough cake for one day…40th birthday party

The birthday boy (Photo credit to Sheryl)

It was a lovely evening. Towards the end after some people had left, there were just a few of us and we just sat around chatting about all things running and funny stories. Such a great party!

That night I woke up in the middle of the night not feeling well at all. That’ll teach me. I never learn though. I regret nothing! If you can’t enjoy good food with good friends then something is very wrong.

I was going to recap Sunday but this is far too long now!

Have you ever been to a surprise birthday party?

Are you good at being on time? I am awful. I never leave enough time or contingency time when things invariably go wrong.

Have you ever run with a small person?