A whole lot of food and not as much running

Well done to anyone who ran the London Marathon, the Southampton Half or Marathon and everything in between! After the crazy Brighton Marathon weekend, this weekend was set to be a lot more chilled. Less running, more chilling, but still good fun and good food.

Saturday I was back at Netley parkrun for the first time in ages. Though Netley isn’t as close as some other parkruns near to where I’m currently living (Lee is just down the road and Fareham is about 10 minutes away), it’s my “home” parkrun. It’s where a lot of my running club and running friends go and as parkrun (and running really) is such a social thing for me, I’m happy to go that bit further. This time I was able to take James as well and show him how we do it daaaaan Saaaath (down South).

Happily it was the summer course – so instead of six hills on the winter course there are just three. It’s still a fairly tricky course though because you go over the grass a lot and it was quite damp and slippy. But I wasn’t aiming for a speedy time so it didn’t bother me. It was a lovely warm morning and the sun was shining. It’s so nice when you get days like this, though it’s always going to be a more sweaty run.I got to meet my friend Mike’s ADORABLE new puppy as well, Luna. Oh my god she was cute. Her fur is so so soft. It was her first time at parkrun (not running, supporting) and she’s only just been allowed outside for walks, so as you can imagine she was quite excited. I look forward to Alfie meeting her! I only managed to snap this photo of her… Anyway, it was nice to see lots of my running friends and catch up briefly. My friend, Mark, had recently had a knee operation so was easing slowly and sensibly back into running. His plan was to run 15 minutes and then walk the rest. He’s also one of the casualties of the change in GFA times for London, having got 3:04 at Chester in order to do London next year. I’m gutted for him.

Mark and I ran together. He’s a lot faster but as he’s coming back from the op my pace suited him and it was nice to run round together catching up. James was steaming ahead at the front – by some significant distance it must be said (I had anxieties on his behalf that he wouldn’t know where to go, despite knowing just how many flags are put out on the course having set it up many times myself.

The legendary Carlo (who raises so much money for charity running as the Cookie Monster and just being a general legend above next to James)

But still, part of my is very glad that I’ll never be in that situation where I’m leading the way and having to know exactly where to go rather than just follow those ahead!).My legs felt good post marathon (SOMEONE TOUCH WOOD IMMEDIATELY). Just a bit tired and heavy, but no niggles and no issues. Jesus, who even am I? It felt tough though running at a less than comfortable pace and I wondered just how the hell I managed the time I did at Brighton. Mark, precisely to the minute, stopped to walk and I carried on. I managed to get faster as the run continued and finished in 21:35 and second female.
James smashed it and came first (18:24). His first ever first position so he was chuffed. Six days after a marathon PB, not too shabby eh.New Brighton Marathon t-shirt – an actual female small that looks good and fits nicely. Happy days.

After Netley, we headed back to shower and eat breakfast before doing what any self-respecting seaside living Brit would do when there’s a tiny HINT of sunshine… head to the beach! We walked along from Hill Head down to Lee-On-Solent where we stopped for a lovely cup of tea and slice of cake in the Penguin Cafe. I don’t know why it’s called the Penguin Cafe but inside there are loads of penguin pictures and penguin themes. It’s random but lovely and friendly and the cakes and food well priced and delicious. How I’ve never actually been there in all the years I’ve lived on the coast I don’t know. But it was nice to pretend I was a tourist for a bit with James.It was hard though to choose just one piece of cake. The lure of chocolate won me over and I had a chunk of rocky road. Omg it was good. Big chunks of biscuit, cherries, marshmallows. Gooey, sticky, melty… heavenly. James had a slice of crunchy chocolate cake which was apparently delicious too (we rarely share food. This is a rule I’m very happy with).The towering many-layered lemon cake looked immense though so we both got a slice of that to take home of course. We decided though that as it was pretty much summer (let’s ignore the bit of rain we had on our walk…*cough*), ice cream had to be done too. I got a scoop of white chocolate brownie and a scoop of rocky road (obviously the chunk I’d just eaten wasn’t enough). Ahh exceptional.I’m such a sucker for anything white chocolate really. To think I used to not like it. I mean, what!?

OK now withhold your judgement here please… In the evening we headed to 7Bone Burger for dinner. In fairness we didn’t have lunch (just all the ice cream and cake…). But anyway, we both ordered the blue cheese and bacon burger and I had frickles (fried pickles) and we shared halloumi fries. Daaaaamn it was good. I mean, yeah probably horrendously bad for you blah blah blah but I don’t do this every day (God I just couldn’t. I’d die). *Cough* we then headed to Sprinkles. In retrospect, this was unnecessary.I got the “Sticky Situation”, which is essentially a whole lot of cookie dough, ice cream, white chocolate and cream. I couldn’t finish it. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME. It was just too much sweetness. My body rebelled and said no. I enjoyed what I ate (which was probably 75%) but it really pushed me over the edge and I needed a little lie down and a quiet word with myself. Why do I do this to myself? No regrets though because I’d been craving one of these for ages. I think I’ve had my fun though… time to get a bit less piggy. At the weekend I do enjoy my treats but this weekend was a little bit overboard.

The next morning we were up super early to get in a long run before the London Marathon coverage started on the TV. I say long run, but 10 miles doesn’t really sound “long” anymore since marathon training. That said, it did feel long. A strange oxymoron really because during marathon training 10 miles would have been easy peasy.

It was lovely and cool when we set off. James had forgotten his Garmin so I was the one to keep an eye on the pace… hard going when one of you is a lot faster than the other and you feel a bit like you’re dragging them back when you say “slow down a bit”.

It was a lovely morning, not too hot but still sunny. In fact it was perfect temperatures to be honest (if only the London Marathon and the Southampton half/marathon had started as early as we had it might have been a bit easier as it really heated up later for them).Happily for us we didn’t get too hot. My legs felt good, still a little heavy and tired, but no niggles. In fact it was a nice run to just zone out and enjoy. We followed the Stubbington 10k route for about five miles and then ran along the coast from Hill Head to Lee-On-Solent and back round to Stubbington again. It was a nice quiet run.Then it was action stations to shower, have breakfast and watch the London Marathon. It was a good watch but I truly felt for the mass runners who had to endure such hot temperatures and sunshine. What troopers. We were so lucky with Brighton and how cool we had it. I’m almost certain I wouldn’t have done as well as I had if it had been as hot as London was.

Didn’t Mo do well, eh! Very pleased for him to have gotten third. But how cool is Kipchoge – smiling and looking cool as a cucumber as he smashed it out for first place. And in the interviews before and after he just sounded like such a nice guy. Really down to hill and humble. Mo did make me laugh a little in the press interview with the top three men…taking selfies and messing around. A little disrespectful to the interviewer but let’s be honest, he was probably quite chuffed with himself and deserves a bit of fun.

For lunch I made cottage pie with sweet potato mash and it turned out quite well I think! Not a particularly summer lunch granted…but it filled a hole.So another solid weekend with a bit less running but lots of food. And time to think about some new running goals I think…

How was your weekend?

Did you watch the London Marathon?

Is your home parkrun based on location or something else?

The last long run

So after being in Bristol and then Cheltenham on Friday night and Saturday I then drove to Birmingham.

The plan for the Sunday morning was to get around 9-10 miles before doing James’ running club’s local Grand Prix 5 miles. This race was one of several of the 5 mile series but I hadn’t done any of the others and this was the last one. It was just a nice way to break up a longer run and make things interesting.

As the Grand Prix didn’t start until 11 this gave us plenty of time to have an easy morning (James, a serial tea drinker, probably had about 19 teas in that time) and then head down to the race HQ to register, pay (a mere £6!) and collect our bibs. As we were leaving our bag there to collect later and wouldn’t be back after our long run I needed to tuck my bib in my Flipbelt along with the pins rather than put the bib on beforehand and look like a numpty running the streets of Birmingham.

We set off at a nice easy pace (very easy for super fast James) and the miles ticked by. Running round Birmingham is becoming more familiar to me now I’ve run there a few times…though I’m still clueless really where we were (I’d say to James “we’ve definitely been here before haven’t we?” and he would be like “er no, Anna”. Right. Well it all looks the same to me…Anyway the route was good, the pace felt easy and before we knew it we were in the park where the race would be starting and where the junior 2k race was already underway. It’s a weird thing being in a completely different area in a different running club’s “territory”. I knew a couple of people from meeting them briefly before in my times in Birmingham (and the lovely Helen and Andy Lane who I know through Marathon Talk) but essentially I felt a bit like a foreigner! I mean I know this is the same at a lot of races in that respect, but when it’s a very small and running club focused race it felt very strange. Not bad strange, just different.The field was very small with 68 people running (a combination of it generally being a small event and other bigger events happening on the same day). James mentioned that there were prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd – actual cash prizes! You’d basically get your money back from the race entry which I thought was a fantastic idea for a smaller race. Anyway I lined up where I thought best and solidly decided the most sensible decision would be to go no faster than 7.50min/miles. This would be sensible considering I had run hard the day before and had the marathon the next week.

As the horn blew we were off and I was running 6.30min/mile pace. What an idiot. I quickly realised there was a very speedy female far ahead of me but only one other female just ahead. Hmmm interesting, interesting. I mean, realistically I should have slowed down and taking it easy but the Stupid Anna side of my brain (quite a large portion of my brain I suppose – and probably a very big factor in my constant injury cycle) decided to see if I could scrape a podium finish. I’d get my £6 back! (And then straight away berated myself that I should have bought that £6 Daim Cadbury’s Easter egg the day before…what a lost opportunity).

So I pushed on. I didn’t maintain the ridiculous 6.30min/mile pace of course but eased back into the more comfortable (though still sustained level of effort) of 7min/mile pace. I managed to catch up to the second female and overtake her. OK that was good. I was solidly on the podium even if she caught me back up later.The route basically ran on nice flat paths around a pretty lake. The marshals were lovely and friendly and gave good encouragement. I was fully on the “focus and keep going” mental repeat in my head. I had no music (no headphones allowed) so I distracted myself with giving myself milestones to get to (the kid’s play area, the bridge, the metal fences…things like that) as it was three laps.Miles two and three were tough going. I felt like an idiot pushing the pace so much and spent the entire time worrying I was ruining Brighton and dicing with injury. But Stupid Anna couldn’t bare to drop the pace so dramatically to 8 min/mile and risk people overtaking me and thinking I’d gone out too fast (er, you had Anna). I’ve been very good recently to not let my ego dictate things like this but it’s hard when you’re in a new place and don’t want to look slow in front of new people (I’m well aware that this is a ridiculous argument. I deserve every niggle I pick up really).
My pace dropped to 7.15s but I felt comfortable and I could see two men ahead and decided to keep them I my sight. It’s always easier to run with people – like an invisible lasso helping to pull you along. Ehh five miles was a long way to go in what was basically my fast parkrun pace not so long ago so I needed every help I could get. I told myself repeatedly I could run all easy runs until the marathon and that helped somewhat.

Somehow though I managed to quicken it up on the last couple of miles. I kept the milestones in my head. Knowing I only have two miles to go helped – and basically one lap left of the lake. I managed to pass the two men ahead of me but then I was left with no one ahead to reel in or hold onto. It was tough going. Somehow I managed to hold on and finished strong in 35:05, a very solid performance for me!A solid but stupid performance is probably more accurate. My legs were pooped. Easy days indeed ahead. James got himself another PB (of course he did…not a week goes by eh ;)) and I’d managed to get second female, so happy days all round.We jogged back to the HQ, which got the total mileage of the day up to 15 miles which I was happy with. The week before a marathon I like my long run to be around 13 miles. I know some people do a lot less but for me it helps with my confidence and feeling good in myself.

We got to the sports hall and I had a nice cup of tea with two apples to tide me over until I could get back to something more substantial. Another nice touch of these races is that you’re entered into the small raffle as well. Lots of Easter eggs, wine and chocolate on offer! James won himself a box of Lindt chocolate balls and I won my prize money of £15! So I made myself a nice £9 for the day hehe.The rest of the day including lots of refueling and chilling out.To top the weekend off we enjoyed fajitas and then a healthy slice of a white chocolate and raspberry cookie pie thing. Delicious!

Do you ever do stupid training when you know it’s probably not the best but you just can’t help yourself?

Does your running club have any races like this?

What’s your ideal longer run distance before a race?

Eastville parkrun and tasty burger

Another weekend and more time away from good old Southampton. This time Friday night saw me driving to Bristol. I know I always say it, but I do love Bristol. A nice friendly city with loads going on (especially good food spots, just saying…).

So anyway, I headed up to Bristol and stayed over at my friend’s Kate and Jay’s house where we ordered a mediocre Indian take-away. It wasn’t the best and we all agreed. But the pudding more than made up for it.IMG_7463We shared a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Fish Food and a tub of Half Baked. Pretty good (though a little too melted for my liking – I’m far more a fan of the more “solid” ice cream consistency). While we were in the shop I did spy my dream egg for half price (now £6!). The struggle was REAL to not buy it. I walked away feeling a better person for beating the temptation but equally disappointed.IMG_7483Saturday morning the plan was to head to a relatively new Bristol parkrun called Eastville. Kate wasn’t going to run but she was going to take Doug the pug and support. Doug however was not impressed and really didn’t want to go, especially as the weather was pretty grim and rainy.
IMG_7490We picked up our friend Katherine, who’s a fellow parkrun lover and runner, and then drove about 20 minutes to Eastville.IMG_7487We parked in the nearby Tesco car park and walked the miserable drizzly walk to the park.
IMG_7497The park was lovely, but it was essentially on a hill.IMG_7489I knew this parkrun was not going to be an easy one but I did want to put in some effort. I went for a one mile warm-up (check me out being all sensible) and then Katherine and I headed to the start.

The course was kind of loops of the park but it veered off to go round a lovely lake and had several long inclines as well as some good downhills. A mixed bag really but all on tarmac so no mud to contend with.IMG_7493The start is nice though as you literally head straight downhill. This helped me gain some initial speed without jumping fully on the pain train straight away. Though the first loop curved straight back up into a long dragging incline back to the start area which was quite draining for the legs.

I heard a voice behind me and turned to see my friend Joe with his dog Barry run up next to me. I knew Joe was going to be there (he switches between Bristol and Southampton so it’s always nice when we’re in the same area for once and can catch up). Though I definitely wasn’t going to catch up while trying to maintain some sort of speed (for me). He breezed past nonchalantly and I shouted I’d see him at the finish. He said Barry would need a poo (a parkrun poo if you will) so I may catch up (spoiler: I did not and I’m not).

From there we headed downhill again to do a loop round the lake. There were no fences or anything for the lake so it felt a little precarious taking any of the curves close to it for fear of falling in (I mean, if anyone’s going to fall in it would be this idiot). I felt quite strong and happy with my pace but as we finished round the lake we had to climb this very sharp but short incline. And from there we then had to head back up the long incline for almost half a mile. It literally destroyed my legs. I felt my pace and will to keep pushing plummet.

And then it was back on the flat, picked the legs up a bit, and then downhill again. I caught my breath and felt my legs calm down a bit only to then have to climb back up that bloody long incline again. I saw Kate and Doug at the side but I could barely manage a nod (Kate told me afterwards I looked like I was in a dark place of hell. Accurate). Then a final flat stretch to the finish, whew.IMG_7502Jeeze that was tough, tough. tough. Thanks Joe for the photo bomb, ha!
Eastville parkrunI got 20:54 and third female which I’m super happy with. I put in a good amount of effort as well, which is what I’d wanted. IMG_7508I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a great time so to have a 20:XX was confidence-building.
IMG_7513Katherine did well too. She wanted to run the entire way and smashed it. And Barry, the dog, got himself a  parkrun PB. Happy days all round! A lovely friendly course marshals cheering despite the rubbish weather is always so appreciated!) – definitely worth a visit.IMG_7504 (1)I was wearing my cow cowl because I thought I was going to be a bit chilly but actually I was really warm on the run and had to roll my sleeves up. I’d forgotten about the buff until a man came up to me and started asking me about which parkruns I’d done. I suddenly realised he was also wearing a cow cowl (the unofficial indicator that you’ve hit over 20 different parkruns). He was also doing the Alphabet Challenge as well so it was nice to hear about the ones he still had to do. Love how friendly parkrun is 🙂

Then we headed back to drop Katherine off and then Kate and I headed to Cheltenham to meet up with our other friend Shell and her adorable 10 month old Eloise and her lovely hubby Rob.IMG_7534We all went for lunch in a lovely pub at the top of a hill called the Rising Sun and had a solid lunch. I hadn’t eaten breakfast to save on time so I was really ready for food at this point!IMG_7532I went for the pulled pork, brisket and mac and cheese burger. Now when it comes to burgers for me, more is always better. A burger in a bun is never that appealing to me, but add in about 14 other things and I am THERE.
IMG_7518It was heavenly. Any burger that you can’t actually pick up to eat (in public) is a winner to me. So much filling haha. In a bid to have a little health I swapped my fries for vegetables… and then cancelled everything out with the chocolate fudge cake pudding. Be still my beating heart.
IMG_7527I did get a bit of pudding envy though when Rob ordered the double chocolate brownie. It amused me greatly when he asked the waiter which out of the fudge cake and brownie was bigger. This is my kinda thinking. Though the fudge cake was said to be bigger, the brownie was richer apparently so Rob went for that.IMG_7528We swapped bites (I rarely do this FYI. Only in very rare circumstances…but I really wanted to try the brownie) and though it was nice, my cake was better 😉

I had an amusing moment with Rob (a non-runner) when he asked me what Strava was. Ahh to have no awareness of such things, eh! I tried to explain it as a running/cycling Facebook.

Then it was back in the car and a drive to Birmingham! Whew. Busy indeed.

Brownie or fudge cake?

Favourite burger topping?

Favourite UK city?

The Ironbridge Half Marathon

After managing to get a last minute place at the Ironbridge Half Marathon, James and I headed to Telford on Sunday (I was up in Birmingham after a work conference hanging out with James). A huge thanks to the Telford Harriers for allowing us to sneak in last minute and the faff that was involved in getting us bibs!

The plan was to get six miles in before the race and then with the race that would give me 19 miles. Great marathon training. However after parking, having a quick we in the nearby shopping centre and finding the registration area in the Telford Country Park we decided to do a shorter one before and then another after as we were worried about time. We picked our bibs up, dropped our stuff back at the car and then headed off for a very gentle 3.6 mile run. James is really good at keeping me slow and focused. I’m just rubbish when it comes to this sort of stuff and he’s a very patient person to my general Anna’isms and idiotic running tendencies. 
Annoyingly the race was delayed by 15 minutes so we could have done the whole six miles but such is life, can’t be helped! Anyway we lined up and got ready. For once I had some awareness of the course and the elevation profile and knew the first five miles would be downhill. And then it would be a mix of sharp inclines over a general incline. Nice
.

As I started my pace was around 7.45-50min/miles. It didn’t feel that easy if I’m honest and made me wonder if I’d ever be able to run a marathon one day at that speed! One day…one day. I guess my speedy parkrun the day before didn’t help matters. Anyway I did eventually find my rhythm. I think this is why I’m more a long distance runner than a sprinter. Takes me time to get into the zone.The course was really pretty (these northern places eh). We were running along compacted dirt and a nice straight track down to the River Severn. I zoned out a bit and relaxed into it, knowing I should enjoy these miles now before it got harder later.

The fifth mile was so downhill it was amazing. Like literally flying down the road. We ran past the Blist Hill Victorian Village museum which I’ve been to as a child and made me smile as I flew past it. Good memories 🙂We hit the river and ran alongside it for a bit. I was just waiting and waiting for the up hills to begin. I was listening to a podcast but decided to switch to a bit of Taylor Swift – very easy listening and I could dip in and out as I liked. Plus I couldn’t be bothered to faff about on my phone while running to try and find anything better, Swifty would have to do.Sadly the actual Iron Bridge was under construction so we couldn’t actually see it as we crossed over because it was all covered up. But this took nothing away from the beautiful surroundings, the quaint little village of Ironbridge with the lovely shops and cafes. The buildings were really pretty, like old school English village style. And there were so many supporters out in force clapping and cheering. It was fantastic!Funnily enough there were so many bridges in this race. You ran over a couple but mainly ran underneath so many. It was just such a beautiful area to run around. But yes, after running through the main Ironbridge area we hit The Hill. My god that hill. It was horrific. Not only was it ridiculously steep but it went on FOREVER. I remember passing a supporter and the guy next to me asked him if we were nearly at the top and the supporter was like “ermm a tiny bit more” but so clearly trying to be nice because it went on for fricking ages! It wasn’t steep enough for me to consider walking instead of running but it was a thigh burner I assure you.

After that hill there were a few more inclines but really it wasn’t too bad. I felt really in the zone now and was happily clipping along. We hit some off-roady areas and I spent some time sliding around in the mud but I managed to overtake people as I went and had no one overtake me. The dreeeeeam. One older chap cheered me on as I passed him saying “well, yes, you go go go, girl!” which made me smile.Then we hit back into the same path we originally started on. Meaning a long incline back to the start area/finish. 

I felt a second wind and managed to out the gas on a bit. In the distance I saw James jogging towards me (having finished a lot earlier). As he reached me he turned and ran back with me giving me words of encouragement. I couldn’t quite hear him because of my music (and I just had no energy to turn it off) but it was nice to have him there pushing me along, even if I did want to hurl. He left me at the final turn up the hill (ehhhhh) to the end and I finished what felt like a strong sprint (in reality, a very small increase in pace ha). My time was 1:40:19. And the announcer attempted to announce my finish but royally guffed it up as everyone seems to do: “And here’s Anna <pause> erm Smith <pause> Smith Jones? No wait hang on… <pause> ah Anna Smith-James!” The thought was there I guess.The goody bag was awesome. A proper sturdy bag with a zip compartment at the bottom for trainers! And the medal, a water, a Mars Bar and a technical t-shirt. Happy days!
James met me at the finish. He’d smashed his PB by like three minutes – 1:23:56. Yeah. Rapid. He’d already done his extra miles by running to me so I headed off to do mine while he grabbed a Costa. My legs felt a bit like jelly to begin with but loosened up and I basically did a very similar run to the first one.
I listened to a podcast and trucked along, probably too fast (no James to rein me in) and managed 3.3 miles, bringing my total for the day to just over 20 miles! I am beyond pleased. And EVERYTHING FELT OK. So so pleased.

I met back up with James and we headed to a dessert place we’d clocked before the race where we picked up a unicorn cake for me…Yeah I have no idea but it looked cool with all its colours, Ferraro Rocher cake for James and corresponding gelatos (that’s how the cakes came) and with two scoops of our own chosen gelatos because we’re both greedy hectors.I went for white chocolate and red velvet while James just had red velvet. I mean, whaaaat. It was so so good. Except my unicorn gelato was not. Not my thing at all – it tasted like overly sweet bubblegum. Nope nope nope.

So a very solid few days of running and eating. Just the way I like it!

What makes a good course for you in a race?

Do you prefer to add miles on before or after if you’re extending a race?

What is your gelato flavour of choice?

Walsall Arboretum parkrun, 18 miles and all the food

Saturday morning saw me going to the Walsall Arboretum parkrun with fellow Marathon Talk fan and runner James, who lives in Birmingham. It’s not local to me at all as I live near Southampton so it was quite the parkrun tourism.Sadly I do already have a W (Winchester) but I love a bit of tourism regardless and it was supposed to be nice and flat and not too far from where I was staying. James and I got there at 8.30am which felt quite early but actually worked out well because it was about a 1km walk to the start area and we both needed a wee beforehand.
The Walsall Arboretum is a beautiful park. There’s a large pond, lots of trees and grass, a little river flowing over some picturesque rocks and just a pleasant atmosphere. It was lovely. There’s a little cafe as well with a loo so that was handy. Apparently Walsall rarely gets called beautiful but from what I could see, it was lovely.It was their sixth birthday so there were a few fancy dresses and a good turn out of people.The run director spent some time thanking everyone and talking about how far they’d come and then the Mayor of Walsall said a few words – quite cool that he was there (tho he wasn’t running). It was really a very friendly and lovely parkrun.
I hadn’t really planned how I was going to run. I set myself a range of between 22 and 24 minutes, thinking that was probably about right. I had my music and was just going to see how it went without too much stress.
As we started my legs felt a little sluggish but then I found my rhythm and got into it. And I really got into it. My legs just seemed to go, go, go. The course was wide enough to easily overtake people and not be hemmed in (where I started anyway) and it was a slight downhill so this worked nicely.

The course is three laps, but it didn’t feel like too much of a drag that some three lappers can because it was split out into two sections really. The first section goes around the lake/pond and then the second runs up a path alongside the river and then comes back down on the other side. So you can see runners on the other side, which is always nice and distracting. (Photos from the Facebook page).The marshals were super friendly, cheering us along – one of them even holding their parkrun birthday cake for the runners to see. It looked great! I saw James ahead near the front going super fast. His training has been awesome (he’s also doing the Brighton Marathon). But then I just focused on the music and getting my little legs turning over as fast as I could.I was running alongside a few other guys and this helped me to cling on to the speed. I looked at my watch and noticed I was fully sub-7 minute pace and this both shocked me and gave me a huge confidence boost.

I finished, thought I stopped my walk and headed to see James (who had finished in the ridiculously fast time of 18:23!). Annoyingly I didn’t realise I hadn’t actually stopped my watch so had no idea what my time was! I thought it might be around 21 minutes but would have to wait until the email/text to come through to be certain. I was really happy anyway as it felt like a solid effort of a run and I’d experience no calf or hamstring niggles. Hurrah!My time came through later as 20:30!! I am over the moon! I cannot believe I managed to get such a speedy (for me) time. James smashed his PB as well by like over 20 seconds. But both of us were concerned about the course being short as James only got 3 miles on his watch and I wasn’t certain at all because I hadn’t stopped my watch, though he checked other people’s results on Strava and it seemed to be fairly accurate – and I guess the trees didn’t help with the satellites. Well, whatever I definitely got a sub 21 minute parkrun (and James definitely got a PB as it was such a significant improvement). Very happy to see the 20s again, despite my rubbish training lately.

I also got to use my brand new very swanky barcode wristband.Very handy and I love the colour. No more barcode confusions for me…

For lunch we decided to go for something unhealthy and entirely delicious at the Original Patty Man burger place (OPM). We got there quite early and thankfully beat the rush – as we were ordering a queue had started to build up outside!

I went for the bacon cheeseburger with a side of cheesy gravy fires. Omgaawwwd it was so good. But extremely messy.In true Anna fashion though it didn’t leave me stuffed and as James and I had spotted a “dessert lounge” called Pirlo’s as we walked to the restaurant we knew exactly what was going to happen next…

We both looked at the menu and I instantly spotted the biggest sundae option – the mega sundae. Happily James has a similar appetite to me and had seen the same one. When we ordered and the server realised we didn’t want one to share hewarned us of its size… we were like, “pfffft, you clearly don’t know our capabilities”.

The sundae came with chocolate, strawberry and Ferrero Rocher ice cream (which I swapped for salted caramel), lashings of Nutella, cream, brownie and Kind chocolate chunks.Oh my god it was good. It was enormous but so much fun to eat. Literally chocolate everywhere. I’m changing my opinion on Nutella. I used to be like “meh I don’t care for it” but now I seem to be realising what the fuss is about.

We went home STUFFED. Full to the brim. Luckily we didn’t have much else planned except for James’ running club awards night (where there was a buffet…ahaha). There was a quiz which our team did spectacularly badly in (we came last) but was good fun. I did feel fairly sick though throughout the evening…but a couple of buffet sandwiches and some chicken nuggets helped calm my tummy 😉

The next morning, as James and I are both training for Brighton, we’d planned a long run. James was going to do some tempo miles while I ran an easy 18 (18 miles is NEVER easy but you know what I mean). I was going to follow James’ route but he’d run back to me after his tempo parts (he’d get a solid 20 miles). He’s really good at training, like he does all the proper speed work, easy runs and tempo sand runs like 70 miles a week. Amazing amazing. I wish I could run as much as him but such is life. He’s good to hit up for advice though because he knows his stuff.

My tummy didn’t feel great it must be said. But as we started running it calmed down and I felt surprisingly good. My legs felt fine and I felt in the zone and on it already. James didn’t feel quite as good and decided to just stick with me for the run rather than do his extra tempo miles. I thought that was probably a sensible decision. Our greed got the better of us the day before! Clearly I’m far better than him at over-consumption of food and then running 😉

We ran about four miles to the canals and then ran along them for most of the run. It was lovely and flat and nice underfoot. I obviously had no idea where we were or where we were going but it was nice to not have to think about the route and to just follow someone else.My dad grew up in Birmingham and one of my granddads lives in Stoke-On-Trent, not too far away, so when I was a child we’d often drive to Stoke and past Birmingham and I’d always remember my dad telling me about “Spaghetti Junction” – with all it’s crazy bridges and roads going over each other. James’ route went underneath the junction so I had to stop and get a few pics.Even though you probably couldn’t describe it as scenic, it was strangely quite impressive and looked very cool.It was quite surreal to be running under roads that my parents used to drive us over back in the day. Oh the nostalgia.The run carried on without any issues for me (asides from a wild wee in a rather open but empty area…the fear was real). I felt bad for James though because his tummy really wasn’t feeling great. But he pushed through. Our pace was fairly easy between 8.20-8.40s and I just felt like I was gliding along. I did get a weird overwhelming sense of tiredness around 12 miles and felt myself lagging a bit but then I managed to pepper myself up a bit and got back into the zone.

18 miles seemed to fly by. The route and company definitely helped it stop being a slog. The weather was wonderful. Sunny and cool, though by 15 miles the two of us were hot and started talking about cold beverages…We stopped at a convenience shop to grab a water which helped!I am SO pleased. SO so pleased that this long run went well. Big thanks to James for pulling me along and finding a really decent route!

So Brighton seems to be no longer in contention. I just hope that I continue to pootle along as I am. Fingers crossed!

Have you ever been to Birmingham?

What’s your favourite ice cream flavour?

Do you have any weird nostalgias?