My travels up North

I mean I guess it’s probably more accurate to say to the midlands, but for me anywhere north of Bristol feels “Up North” as I live so south ūüėČ

But accurate geography aside, Kyle and I drove up to Stoke-On-Trent on Friday to stay with my grandad ahead of the Manchester Marathon on the Sunday.

Before that though we had a nice walk down to Lee-On-Solent to have some filling breakfast to fuel us for the 3.5 hour car journey. I like to have a bit of a walk or some sort of movement before a long journey as otherwise your body just feels so meh. So we walked about 45 minutes to the Penguin Cafe in Lee for some brunch.

We went for the rather greedy Emperor Breakfast, which was pretty much everything I love about a fry-up. GIANT.

I swapped my hasbrowns for more black pudding

Kyle even got extra toast. When we get breakfast we mean business. The Penguin Cafe is a lovely place – though it is very much your cheap and cheerful greasy spoon. Everything tasted delicious – so I’ll let them off for their bean contamination ūüėČ

After a lonnnnng drive to Stoke we got to spend a nice evening with my grandad and enjoy a home cooked meal of steak, vegetables and potatoes. It’s always lovely to see him and hear about his adventures in Scotland in the Cairngorms Reindeer Centre where he volunteers twice a year as their handyman and general all-round fixer-upper (“Handy Paul” as they call him). At nearly 80 I’m very proud of him.

Beautiful spring weather

The next morning Kyle and I ran the 1.5(ish) miles to Hanley park for the Hanley parkrun.

Happily it was a lovely downhill to get our legs moving. Hanley park itself was a beautiful park with a lovely pond.

Now I remember running Hanley parkrun a few years ago when I stayed at my grandad’s with my dad before the Liverpool Marathon. However I DO NOT remember it being that hilly (actually after going back to the old post I have clearly stated it was “challenging”. Obviously I wiped it from my memory…).

I told Kyle I thought it was flat but actually it really wasn’t. It’s number 406 on the elevation line-up of all the UK parkruns. My home parkrun Netley with it’s three inclines is 212!

We lined up, all happy and innocent of what was ahead, and got ready to start. Kyle and I agreed if one of us felt good to run ahead and as we got going I decided I felt like I bit of a push.

As we turned the corner we hit the first hill. OK I sort of remembered this now… but it was only one hill. Then we had a lovely stretch of downhill, where I lost Kyle (he’s a very cautious downhill runner whereas I’m pretty much a free-faller). And then we looped back round to the same hill. Hmmm.

The course, in the end, included this hill another time AND a nastier longer hill twice. So actually it wasn’t flat at all and was actually very undulating. At 1.5 miles I felt that draining feeling of tiredness where I wasn’t sure I could maintain my speed anymore. But the downhills helped me catch my breath and give me back some energy.

I managed to overtake a few females on the final mile and powered to the finish as second female. I finished in 21:42 and Kyle, not too far behind, finished 22:21.

The first female was already done and I overheard her talking to someone and saying she was from Portsmouth. I jumped over to say so was I. Turns out her local is Southsea and she was visiting family. What a small world!

Then we made our way slowly back to my grandad’s. Annoyingly having to climb up the giant hill we sailed breezily down before. Ooof it was a grind!

We got washed up, had breakfast then headed to Liverpool to see my lovely friend Charlotte, her husband and her little boy, Arthur. She used to live in Brighton (a far more accessible visiting distance) but now she’s so far away it seemed silly not to make the most of being nearby and dropping in.

As I knew I wanted a larger dinner I decided to be sensible and have a lighter lunch (yes, this is still Anna… mental I know). I went for a vegan salad but added chicken (I know, I know). It had falafels and chickpeas and was very tasty but…well, very light.

It was lovely seeing Charlotte but then we had to head off to our next destination – Manchester! Kyle and I were staying in an AirBnb about three miles from the race start and about a ten minute drive from the city centre, which was perfect.

We met up with my other friend, John from many MarathonTalk adventures, and found a perfect, albeit hidden away, pizza restaurant to carb load adequately before the race called Dogs ‘n’ Dough. John was going to be running the marathon too (Kyle wasn’t, he’d be supporting).

The pizza place was very cool and quirky, and helpfully very quiet! I went for BBQ chicken pieces to start. And a cheeky Bud Light.

And then followed it up with a giant 12 inch deep pan pulled pork pizza (The Pig Lebowski). Normally I’m more of a crispy thin fan but this was very tasty. And very filling.

I was definitely going to be well fueled for the next day! I was pretty much sent into a carb coma.

Centre of Manchester

It was nice to catch up with John, although we both admitted that it didn’t really feel like we’d be running a marathon the next day. He was going to be taking it a bit easier (he’s a 3:12 marathoner usually but is training for a much longer event). I wasn’t sure of my plans yet (am I ever??). I was pretty much going to see how it felt on the day. But I kind of wanted to give it a bit of a blast as it seemed like the weather was going to be cool and the course was flat. So an ideal opportunity.

The classic flat lay

John headed back to his hotel and Kyle and I headed back to our AirBnb. The couple who lived there (we were in a room, rather than an entire flat) were lovely and friendly. One of them had run the marathon before so I got to ask her a bit about it. It was quite amusing when they were advising me to have a good carbohydrate rich breakfast and get a good night sleep and giving me tips on running a marathon in general… they then asked if it was my first. I told them it was my 19th and they looked stunned. They then said “oh well I guess you know what you’re doing then!” hehe.

Have you ever been to Manchester before?

Do you prefer thick crusted or thin base pizzas?

What’s the hilliest parkrun you’ve done?

18 miles – feeling tough

I know I’m a bit of a weird creature in that I really do enjoy marathon training.

In general it’s enjoyable, it’s fun and I like doing it. But it can be hard. My motivation can dip and I can find myself wondering how am I going to do it.

Usually it’s the long run that I dread (though it’s also the one I feel most accomplished with and happy about usually). The thought of running 18 miles, almost three hours of running for me, well, it’s a long time. It’s a long way. It also means waking up on a Sunday morning and not being able to just lay there, or get up whenever. Because the later you leave it the more it eats into your day.

I felt this way leading up to my weekend long run this week. I had 18 miles planned and originally I was going to do it on Sunday. But the thought of going to bed Saturday night knowing I had to wake up and run all that way seemed really unappealing. Kyle offered to run a bit of it with me which was lovely but the route we’d go would mean he’d run 9-10 miles with, still leaving me with a good chunk left on my own. Urgh.

I decided to float the idea of running to parkrun on the Saturday. We’d have to set an alarm and get up relatively early anyway on the Saturday and by combining the long run with parkrun would break it up and mentally seem far easier because all you were doing was travelling to parkrun – a destination run is far easier, mentally, than just a big loop. However this would mean that Kyle would be running 15 miles in total rather than say 12-13 miles. Bless him, he agreed to do it.

So I woke up Saturday morning just after 6am to run about 5k beforehand, then picked up Kyle to then run to Havant parkrun. Though Havant parkrun is actually only four miles away from where he lives we needed to run a bit of a long-winded route to get there to get the extra miles. Actually it was very similar to the route we did last week to Southsea. The very hilly route through Waterlooville, Purbook and up the dreaded Widley hill…

Just finished the Widley hill

As soon as I started running I realised this run was not going to be easy. My legs felt heavy and I felt tired. I was a lot slower than the week before. Annoyingly the thing about running an almost identical route is that you have an identical comparison. After the first three or so miles after Kyle joined me we both moaned that it felt so much harder. It could have been because earlier in the week we’d done our first speed session in a while‚Ķ or the fact that we’d gone to the cinema the night before and had a Subway quite early for dinner. Either way, it was like running through porridge. We were probably 30-40 seconds per mile slower.

But we got to Havant with 10 minutes to spare

We were both dreading parkrun at this point. I’d just run 15 miles and Kyle was on almost 12. The run there had been so hard and such a grind. And Havant wasn’t a particularly easy parkrun. It wasn’t flat and had an especially steep downhill section which would be brutal on our legs. The ground was also very uneven and hard.

Zack, Kyle’s brother, met us there. He was just going to run parkrun (never “just” but you know what I mean) and was very kindly going to give us a lift back. He’d forgotten his barcode and wasn’t feeling very well so all of us were a bit “meh” about starting the run.

Kyle and I decided to run separately as neither of us wanted any sort of pressure to run at a pace we didn’t fancy. We just wanted to zone out and run however we liked. I was amazed to find that as soon as we were off my legs felt a lot better. Maybe the mini-break had helped? Whatever it was I was able to find a nice rhythm and run quicker. Perhaps I just wanted to get it done and finish the run.

I caught up with two men who were chatting about one of them surprising his partner with a trip to New York and I was able to zone out and listen to them chatter. I briefly considered telling them about the best cookie place (Levain Bakery) but decided not to interfere. Though when I went past them I wished the guy a lovely holiday and he laughed and said thank you.

I finished, HUGELY surprisingly to me, in 23:24. Kyle wasn’t too far behind, having cruised nice and easily in, followed by Zack who hadn’t had struggled a bit but still managed a stellar strong time. We were all glad for it to be done though! What a feeling to have 18 miles under my belt! And no injuries or niggles. I was quite surprised my calves didn’t feel too bad considering I’d forgotten my compression socks‚Ķ perhaps it is all in my head that they work on long runs eh!

I enjoyed a truly wonderfully hot bath when I got back to Kyle’s. I wanted to lay in there forever it was so good. And then enjoyed a giant mug of tea and steaming bowl of porridge. Honestly, these are the simple things I really crave after a long run. So good.

This photo makes me laugh – Kyle looks very happy with the run haha

For the rest of the day though I felt so drained. I was exhausted. I haven’t run that far since the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon at the end of December and I could really feel it. I even had a 40 minute nap later in the day. I was just absolutely shattered. It’s amazing how quickly you lose the adaptations your body makes during marathon training.

My post run porridge and tea, so good

Luckily though I was able to significantly refuel with a solid dinner with Kyle and my parents that evening at the newly opened Hancock’s in Whiteley. It was my dad’s birthday on the 14th (yes, Valentine’s Day) so we went out to celebrate.

The meal itself was a bit “meh” but the company was lovely. I went for cauliflower bites to start which were a little boring. Basically just cauliflower with buffalo sauce on.

My dad was disappointed that they weren’t able to do steak (something was wrong in the kitchen apparently?), so instead we both ordered the whole chicken (each). It was about the same price as a full rack of ribs so we were both SUPER surprised at how big it was. I mean, it was literally like they bought a family sized chicken from Asda! It was quite tricky to eat to be honest. Like carving straight in on your plate.

But the pudding was the star of the show. Chocolate fudge cake brownie. I mean, wow.

I think Hancock’s needs a few more weeks to find it’s feet if I’m honest. The food was OK but nothing to scream and shout about. My pudding was amazing but Kyle had the waffles and really it was just a waffle with a blob of ice cream on and some sauce. But as I said, it was the company that was the best bit. My parents, Kyle and me had a really nice evening together. Crazy I know, but sometimes food is secondary for me ūüėČ

How far are you willing to run to get to parkrun?

What are your cravings post long run?

Have you had a disappointing meal recently?

I am 30 and I live at home with my parents

This was the title of a BBC News article online. But this is also my life. Is this so shocking? I guess if you’d have asked me this 10 years ago I might have been concerned, shocked and disappointed with my life. Jesus, 30 years old, AN ADULT, living at home WITH MY OWN PARENTS.

Someone at work leaned over to me and pointed to this news title and went “ooof imagine that”. But I replied, “well that’s me and I don’t actually see the problem”. I was quite happy to say I wasn’t bothered and that I’m enjoying life. I’m very happy right now. It was a big decision that I made over a year ago, but one I’m 100% content with and have no regrets about.

I first moved out about a year after I finished university. I moved out with my fianc√©. We bought a house, we got married and we lived there for about 2 years. The marriage didn’t last and we separated, amicably. We sold the house and split the finances 50/50 and went our merry different ways. I bought a flat and lived there for about a year. At the time I was working in a job I really wasn’t enjoying. I found another job that paid significantly less. We’re talking a 13k pay cut, yes really.

I was very well paid in my previous job but the money wasn’t enough to make me happy. Though I could continue to afford to live in my flat on my own I would be limited to what I could do. I wouldn’t really be able to go on holiday and I would have to monitor my money VERY carefully. Quite the change in lifestyle.

My parents very kindly offered to have me move back home and I could then rent my flat out. This meant I could continue to pay my mortgage but also buffer up my salary so this difference in money wouldn’t be that great. So I moved back home.

I am in a very fortunate position in that I get on extremely well with my parents. We can easily hang out together and have long chats about just about anything. We go to the cinema together, for food together, go walking, go shopping. I enjoy spending time with them. I get their opinions and advice on big and small things. But they ask for my opinion and advice too. I genuinely love spending time with them. Even after I moved out I would speak to them daily and see them most weekends. I never wanted to move too far away from them.

I won’t lie. There was an initial time that I felt like I’d failed at my life. I was embarrassed when I told people what I’d done. I was embarrassed when people asked me if I’d be seeing my parents for Christmas and having to explain, well yes, like every single day. But I got over it when I realised, firstly no one really cared, and secondly I’m still independent and I’m happy. Crucially one of my main focuses in life is to be happy. I mean, if I’m honest, my parents should really make my life a little bit uncomfortable to encourage me to move back out‚Ķ I’m working on it!

I think the important part is the mutual respect, love and understanding that we all have to each other. My mum does not do my washing. My parents do not cook me dinner. They do not buy me food. I have my own fridge out in the garage. I come and go as I please. Of course I treat them and the house with respect. I clean up after myself. I let them know when I’ll be coming home so they’re not surprised. I give them space. They give me space. I maintain a level of independence and self-sufficiency that means I don’t feel like I’m 15 again.

I love living at home. I mean, I loved living in my flat too, but there is something so lovely about coming home to people rather than an empty house. It’s nice that Alfie gets a garden. It’s nice that I can leave him with them when I go out and not worry about him being left alone. And likewise, my parents like that I’m there looking after the house and dogs if they’re not in (they have three dogs).

This is Dylan

I could go on. My point is: I’m 30 and I live at home with my parents and this is not a problem. It’s just a stepping stone.

When did you move out?

Do you get on with your parents?

A non-running update

So I haven’t been running for about two weeks.

It actually hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be. Of course I’ve missed it. I’ve missed my lunchtime runs with Kyle, my parkrunning at the weekend and the lovely long runs on a Saturday. It has been sad in that respect.

I had a hard week last week with my granddad not being very well. My parents dashed up to see him in North Wales, while I had to stay behind to look after all the dogs. It was hard only knowing what was happening through phone calls and WhatsApp but there wasn’t much else I could do sadly. He’s such a strong man (he’s on Strava regularly walking and cycling!) and very competitive and strong-willed, so it was upsetting to have things change so suddenly. But because he is so strong-willed I really hope that he can pull through and get back to a relative normal.

Running would have been a great way to kill off some tension and stress, but I had to remain sensible and not make the niggle worse. Instead I was rather over-sensitive and delicate through the week – tough for all those around me I’m sure!

But with regards to the niggle, I’d rather take a bit of time now rather than have that insidious injury cycle that I’ve known far too well in my time. Instead I went to the gym a couple of times after work and the weekend to use the elliptical machine while watching Roma on my phone (a slow, black and white foreign film. Very good but I’m glad I watched it in a place of limited distractions).

What is my niggle exactly? I’m not sure but I know I’ve had something similar before. I’m almost certain it’s to do with my hamstring which has always had a weakness and why I can no longer do heavy deadlifts, It causes my calf to become quite uncomfortable and stiff, and can even make my foot feel a bit off. It’s like a nerve thing rather than a muscle thing. It just takes time and TLC to calm it down, and luckily it pretty much has calmed down.

Kyle has been lovely and helped take my mind off of not being able to run. He even came to a gym class with my on Saturday. Normally I’d be missing parkrun and being a bit grumpy about that, but instead we had a lovely lie in until 10.30am! Though to be fair we had a very late night after watching Glass and then going to Red Dog Saloon for ribs and chicken wings.

We went to a midday circuits class. I love going to the circuits classes. Yes they are super hard and intense, but because you’re only doing one exercise for 50 seconds and then changing you can get through it. It’s so varied and there’s always a good atmosphere with the others in the class, I really do enjoy it.

It was Kyle’s first time going (and I won’t lie, probably his last!). Though he used to do a lot of strength training in the past with his brother, this was an entirely different kettle of fish. Without sounding awfully patronising, he did really well. But he was a little broken afterwards (and a day or so later too). It did make me feel somewhat good that I’ve conditioned myself to not find the classes ridiculously hard – I mean, I’d be pretty rubbish if I was destroyed after each class despite having gone for so many months now! Though I should probably look to challenge myself each class and push up the weights to make it harder…

So I’m going to attempt running today. My leg genuinely feels normal, so I’m feeling rather positive. But we will see. Fingers crossed.

How do you cope with not running?

Have you ever gotten your partner to run or do a workout with you?

What was the last film you went to the cinema to see?

Reading parkrun and the Stubbington 10k

When¬†I¬†did¬†the¬†New¬†York¬†Marathon¬†in¬†November¬†I¬†stayed¬†with¬†a¬†bunch¬†of¬†girls¬†who¬†were¬†just¬†lovely. It was all arranged by Charlie, from The Runner Beans, and we had a fantastic time. Happily we’ve since kept in touch.

One of the girls, Cortney, was coming over from her home in Canada to visit so I headed up to Reading to do a little meet-up with a few of the girls. parkrun, brunch and friends – Saturday goals right there! I drove up straight from work on the Friday evening.

That evening we had a lovely girlie night at Charlie’s. Emma (from Nanny on the Run) made a delicious shepherd’s pie with a sweet potato topping. Daaamn it was good.

And we followed that with the less healthy but equally tasty Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (three different kinds! Be still my beating heart. I was a fan of the B&J’s Salted Caramel topped tub but not so huge a fan of the vegan Brownie one).

We chatted, we chilled, we ate and we watched the ever good When Harry Met Sally. It was lovely to see the girls again and properly catch-up.

The next morning we headed to the Reading parkrun. I had been tempted to run when I thought we were going to a different parkrun that I hadn’t done before (Woodley parkrun)…. but as I’d done Reading before (it was my ‘R’) and my calf was still not brilliant, I thought it best to play it safe and volunteer. Charlie was also volunteering and not running due to an injury as well. So I didn’t feel like I was missing out too much.

I was also quite chuffed because I’d been assigned the role of barcode scanner. I’ve never done that job at parkrun and was keen to tick another role off my list! I was also very chuffed for Cortney because it would be her first ever parkrun. Exciting times!

We arrived and ‘signed in’ to our posts. Cortney and Emma headed off to the start and Charlie and I got into our positions.

I was a little sad to be missing out but the other parkrun volunteers were so friendly and chatty that the time flew by and suddenly I was needed to scan the barcodes. It was MANIC. There were three of us scanning and it almost felt never-ending. Lots of people were super friendly and thanked me for my time or chatted to me but some people silently handed me the barcodes or, in a couple of instances, just pointed to their shoe making zero effort. I thought that was a little rude if I’m honest.

Some people asked how they’d done… I’ve no idea! I politely told them they’d find out later in the email. And some people, despite standing in the barcode scanning queue for a lengthy period of time still arrived at me expectantly but without anything prepared. It was quite an interesting experience it must be said. Eventually the buzz died down and I was able to relax a bit. Whew!

A lovely blog reader came and introduced herself to me. It honestly made my morning to hear about her running achievements and goals and that I’d had a little influence on it. I felt very touched. Sometimes it can feel like you’re writing into a void and no one is really listening but to hear from someone I don’t know who does read my random ramblings is just the loveliest thing.

Cortney and Emma did really well and it sounded like they both enjoyed it. Then we headed off for the essential refuel. Volunteering is hard work too! We went to Cafe Yolk, which is a small but very cute little cafe in Reading.

Unsurprisingly I ordered the full English, while the other three girls ordered avocado and eggs on toast. Probably the far healthier option but I’m fairly stuck in my ways and adore a fry-up. It was a rather posh looking fry-up so at least there’s that…

Then we headed for breakfast pudding of course. We originally went to one spot but their cake selection was not up to our high standards and so we headed next door to The Flowering Teapot instead. Now let me tell you, they were fantastic!

All homemade cakes, homemade bread… the whole shabang. The guy behind the counter was so helpful and friendly. Emma asked if there were any vegan cakes and he said there was a carrot cake being finished in the back so we waited for that (the owner who was finishing it said she’d be super quick for us which was lovely). While we waited the guy cut us a bit of the millionaire shortbread to nibble on. I mean, how good is that?

I went for the millionaire shortbread in the end because it was so good. We took our cakes and had a cup of tea at Charlie’s with them. A lovely way to end a lovely meet up!

The next day was the Stubbington 10k. This race literally runs past my house. It starts about a 5 minute walk up the road, and finishes about 15 minutes walk away so it’s super local and convenient. Sadly though I continued to be sensible and decided not to run. However, Kyle was.

He’s never run an official 10k race so I was quite excited for him. I detest 10ks so realistically I wasn’t too sad to miss the race but I was sad not to be running with Kyle and experiencing it with him. Instead, I would be walking to the 9k marker with my dad and Alfie in order to help cheer him. It would also be a nice walk for the three of us.

For whatever reason (probably entirely down to me being me) we thought the race started at 9.30am. I told Kyle he could easily leave the house at 9.15am and get to the start in enough time. My dad and I would need to leave just before 9am to walk the 2+ miles to the 9k marker, meaning we’d be there in time (9.35ish for Kyle to run past). Perfectly under control, nicely planned, we are amazing.

Except as my dad and me were 20 minutes up the road my mum rung to say the race actually started at 10am so Kyle and her were going to sit in a coffee shop for a bit to waste some time. Ah. Classic Anna.

This meant my dad and I were quite early and decided to go find our own coffee shop for a quick drink before heading to the spot. Not too bad considering – I mean, it’s not like we were late! That would have been a lot worse.

Around 10.20am the first runners started passing through and we cheered them on. I saw lots of friends, people I knew and people from my running club so it was good fun. However I do have silly panic moments where despite fully knowing these people I never seem to remember names!! Something about seeing people running just makes my mind go blank. Bit embarrassing but there we go.

Then Kyle ran past (I managed to remember his name ;-)). Then my dad and me quick marched to the finish to catch him afterwards. He’d done a fantastic time of 42:59 – just scraping under the 43 minute mark! Very jammy. And so fast! I remember for my first 10k I did 43:34. Clearly Kyle is going to be super fast in the future considering he hasn’t been running for long! He definitely has a lot more to give.

He mentioned he much prefers the shorter distances to the marathons. I can understand that (though I personally don’t have that preference, obviously). I think Kyle will do well in all distances but I think he’ll probably focus more on the shorter stuff.

Though I’m sad he doesn’t share the same marathon love I do, it does make it a little more interesting for us! I can happily support those shorter distances (I think I get the easier deal here hehe).

What distance do you prefer to race?

What parkrun volunteering role haven’t you done yet but would like to?

Do like to volunteer when you’re injured/not running?