The Dubai Marathon 2018

The alarm went off at 5am. I was aiming to be in a taxi between 5-5.45am. The journey to the start-line was only ten minutes away and we were advised to get there 90 minutes before the beginning (7am) – but I thought an hour would be more than enough time (very glad I did this!). The race was originally supposed to start at 6.30am but I found at the Expo they’d changed it to 7am which was good in terms of having more sleep but not as good in terms of the temperature.

In the morning I got my kit on, including my dad’s jumper to throwaway at the start as it was cool in the early morning, popped my porridge in the microwave that I’d prepared the night before (we were staying in an apartment with a kitchen), went to the loo and said goodbye to my mum. She was heading down to the finish area around 7am to mosey about and catch me running.I had a mini porridge meltdown, literally! My amazing container I’d gotten from Waitrose (yes Waitrose) the day before had melted a bit! (I had no milk but brought a sachet of chocolate protein powder which helped make it taste a bit less bland).
I had no time and no other breakfast options so I just took it with me and hoped I’d not die from plastic contamination.

I got a taxi (they work 24/7) and asked him to take me to the marathon start and after he looked confused I clarified with the Dubai Police Academy. As we got closer to the start area he said to me the roads were closed and couldn’t go any further. He still looked confused when I explained I knew and it was due to the marathon. The marathon was not really known about to people who weren’t involved. I jumped out and surveyed the start area.It was super foggy and dark. It wasn’t that cold – maybe 12-15 degrees Celsius? Positively balmy for us Brits 😉 I ate my porridge (didn’t taste of plastic. Win!), drank my Beet It! shot and then decided to find the loos. The loos (not portable loos but more like posh proper temporary loos) were literally a 10 minutes walk away from the start.There were no loos near the start. I went to the loo, then walked back to the start. It was 6.15ish… 45 minutes to go. So I turned around and walked back to the loo again. Might as well! Nothing else to do.What I really didn’t like was that as the start is right next to the finish we could see all the boxes of medals and could see the finish-line. In fact we had to walk through it. I was getting very bad joujou! What was odd as well was that there were non-runners in this area supporting their runners. So you’d see people clearly not going to be running the marathon (in jeans and flip flops etc.) just hanging around the start area. I guess that’s not too odd but it felt weird as normally you’re separated at this point.Then they opened up the proper start but where we could see the start funnel thing. As we walked along there were barriers keeping us in and on the other side of the barriers and road I spotted more loos… a couple spotted them too and conspiratorially we all decided to hop the barriers and use them quickly. The security didn’t look very happy and when I tried to re-hop back over the security tried to stop me but I begged them to let me through rather than walk all the way back round. Very cheeky I know. They kindly let me through, telling me to go quickly. Whew! I ran across the road and then did a Tom Cruise barrel roll over the final barrier and felt like a superhero 😉 I got a few chuckles from other runners.There were lots of different nationalities. Lots of Americans and Brits. I saw some Poles, some Swedes… a good mix! And then we were off!I’d been worried about my calf but as I started running it felt fine. Good good. But we’re only on mile one. It was less foggy now as the sun was rising. The first “chunk” of the race was the 10k out and back. This was the route that the 10k race (starting a few hours later) would be doing.I’d broken the race down in my head in the most obviously way: 10k, then the two loops (another out and back that runs up the Jumeriah Beach Road). I assumed the loop was around 10 miles.As I was running I felt mentally in a very bad place. I had a lot of anxiety in my tummy that I’d never felt before. Normally I’m really excited when the marathon actually begins. It’s all “oooh” and “ahh” and fresh and lovely at the beginning. You’re running a marathon! This is cool! Look at me go! But not this time.I was dreading the course. I had no major milestones to get excited about, no major variations in the course to prepare for. Just a lot of long roads. As I’d felt this way leading up to the marathon in the days before (especially after seeing the road I was going to run along) I’d prepared for this by creating a “feel good” playlist. Normally I only listen to music in the last 10k to power me through to the finish.But I decided I’d have some music to power me through the first boring bits – but not “go go go” music. Just music I enjoyed and could zone out to.I made myself wait until the first 10k was over though before starting it. I wanted to make it really worth it after a chunk of silence. I really needed a wee (yes another one) but there weren’t many loos on the course. I saw people dash into nearby bushes and I realised I’d run out of bushes soon as we got onto the main loop as it would be buildings and shops on the sides, whereas the first 10k was going past fancy hotels with big foliage areas and the beach. I was clearly umming and arr’ing about it as he man next to me laughed and said “just go and do it!” So I dashed off and under what I can only describe as a very light coverage had a quick wee. I imagine several people probably saw my bum. Hey ho.As I headed to the first loop I saw my mum ahead. That really boosted my mood up! I was so chuffed she’d gotten there safely and I’d seen her! She’s not quite my dad’s levels of support (physically I mean, my mum supports in other ways too of course).So I finished the first 10k, whacked the playlist on and zoned out. Ahh just what I needed. I felt much better – music and seeing my mum. My calf felt absolutely fine – hurrah! I still didn’t feel well tho. I could feel I wasn’t quite right – but I kept an eye on my heart rate to make sure it didn’t start to spike really high. It seemed OK.There were no mile markers, just kilometres. I tried to work out how the first “out” of the first loop was but my brain couldn’t do it. This frustrated me as I wanted to know how far I’d be running away from the finish. It didn’t help that because it was two laps the km markers were mixed up with the laps.I tried not to think too deeply that I’d be back on that same stretch after a few hours… The Burj Al Arab (above photo) was basically at the point when you’d start the next lap. It’s a fantastic building but ultimately quite dull after you’ve seen it once. And literally the only landmark on the course (there’s probably more and this is very narrow minded of me to say).What I noticed a lot of was runners who had friend(s) cycling next to them keeping them company. There was enough space on the wide roads (nothing like the closeness of some other big marathons like London or Berlin). It seemed bizarre them being there. But I guess nice for people to support in this way. I also saw a guy running while kicking a football which was fun to watch! Turns out he was trying to break the world record. I don’t know if he managed it and I’ve tried Googling but to no avail!A cool sports car thing drove past and I tried to get a selfie next to it as it was driving slowly.Finally I started to see people running down the other side of the road and this gave me some indication that the turning point was coming up. I tried to do the maths again by using the km markers on the other side of the road to work out how far it would be. It made my brain hurt.Finally I reached the turnaround point. It was a relief to be heading back down towards the end of the loop, though I knew I had a way to go yet.The sun was now shining and it was warm. Every water station I grabbed a water (mini bottles), took a gulp then tipped it over my head, arms and legs. This helped keep me cool for a chunk of time. I was glad I’d decided to take my sunglasses with me as there was no shade. Speaking of the water stations, they were quite disorganised at the beginning. Some of them by even set up and the volunteers scrabbling in the plastic to grab the bottles and get them set out in time. There were energy drinks in cans but I didn’t try any, and no gels or fruit. They did have sponges and buckets of water tho. There were Nike cheer groups (I think they were Nike!) and other local running groups tho who were great and waved flags, clapped and cheered and handed out extra water and trays of fruit.As I got to 13 miles I decided to switch to a podcast (to maximise the effect of my music at mile 20). That helped pass the time. The road was so long and the fact I couldn’t see the Burj Al Arab ahead further clarified how I’d be on this same road for a good chunk of time. The buildings on either side were just shops. I made little milestones in my head (Starbucks, KFC, Costa…). I spotted a guy taking a photo of his friend (neither of them running) in front of the course so I’d dived behind and photo bombed it. They laughed and cheered me which was good! Finally I got back to the Burj Al Arab and knew I’d be turning soon (my 3rd turning it of a total of 4 in the entire race FYI).I spotted my mum again which was great. And then as I hit the turnaround bit I saw her again as I started my second loop.It was nice to see a friendly face and I updated her that I felt hot and tired but was OK. Just over nine miles to go.Whew, second loop. Last time I’d run on that road now. But jeeze did it go on and on. I worked out I’d have four miles to run up it. Four miles in a single direction is flipping awful by the way. With every step forward I knew would mean one step further away from the finish that I’d have to run the other way. It was mentally destroying.As I hit 18 miles (that’s me trying to show my watch in the selfie above) I was mentally struggling. The road was killing me. It was just so long and straight. The sun was beating down. There weren’t many people around me to latch on to. It was tough.I tried to grab some energy from the spectators by waving and smiling and clapping – that always helps get them cheering you which boosts you along I find. Plus it’s nice for them rather than you just being another miserable looking runner 😉 I hadn’t taken any gels yet as I hadn’t felt completely right but now my energy had dipped I decided to have one. I threw the other away – I wouldn’t use it and didn’t want to carry it. Any extra baggage was draining right now.I couldn’t wait to get to “just a parkrun to go”. I was using road signs, spectators ahead… anything to break down the distance. I started counting down the kilometres and they seemed to crawl by so slowly. Despite this my pace had picked up. I went past a man and he asked where my energy had come from. I replied I just wanted to finish.I took the above selfie at “one parkrun to go”… that was my thinking with the single finger ha! Around me a lot of people were walking. Though a man overtook me looking strong and peeled ahead so I kept him in my sight and tried to use him to drag me along. We were both overtaking quite a few people. It was so hot. I was still pouring water on myself to keep cool. I got a notification on my watch saying my dad had text saying “just a parkrun to go” from my dad which was JUST what I needed. Yes he was slightly out of sync as I only had just under two miles to go now but it was so nice to know he was tacking and spurring me on.

I saw the bloody Burj Al Arab again and then the sign for “To the Finish”. Yes! Less than a mile to go and I was on the edge. My legs felt like they were going through porridge. Surprisingly my pace was still good… just hold on! It was literally a case of mind over matter. One foot in front of the other. The final straight to the finish was the WORST. The finish funnel seemed miles ahead. There were spectators either side of the road but not vast numbers. I just tried to not stop. My legs were struggling! And then I finished. Whew.

My god. Stopping I felt dizzy and exhausted. I lent on the barrier and just thanked everything holy that I could finally stop running. My time was 3:39:58, just dipping under 3:40. Very pleased indeed!I shuffled along with the other runners, got my medal, some water, a banana, a protein bar, some vitamin water and then tried to find my way out. It was really confusing and I had no idea where to go. I mean, I was post-marathon confused so that didn’t help! I decided to ring my mum as that would be the most sensible thing to do to find her. Bless her she hadn’t realised I’d finished, despite sitting in the stands at the finish-line.Thankfully we found each other fairly quickly. We decided to head to the Souk Madinat Jumeirah which was nearby so we could sit and take a moment. We knew there was a Starbucks in there. It seemed a fitting place to collapse – it’s exactly what we did when I did the Boston Marathon!I also wanted to meet up with the lovely Lily who writes the blog Lily Lipstick who currently lives in Dubai. She was actually the one that first got me thinking about doing the marathon and originally she’d even offered to let me stay at hers. But then my mum fancied joining and it seemed sensible to get a hotel. Lily has helped me so much with all my Dubai related questions (what I could wear, where to go, what plugs I’d need etc.). She was doing the 10k which started at 9am and we were going to meet and have lunch but annoyingly my mum and I had to check-out of our hotel at 2pm (originally we were told 11am, which wouldn’t have been possible at all but thankfully we negotiated 2pm before I booked). 2pm was still this was pushing it as I needed to get back and shower. I messaged Lily telling her we were in Starbucks and she said she’d come and join and have a coffee with us.Lily brought her boyfriend and the four of us sat and chatted with iced coffees. It was lovely. It was so nice to chat and hear about Dubai from them – as they both live and work there. But we were both hot and shattered from the run!

My mum was tired too, bless her. She’d walked a long way as well. It was the hottest day so far. After the coffee we parted ways and my mum and I had a tricky job of trying to find a taxi to get us back to the hotel. The roads were only just opening up after the marathon and the road the marathon took place on is quite a busy one so hailing a cab is very tricky. A car, that didn’t look like the traditional taxi, stopped and said he was a taxi and we jumped in. Reading that sentence… yes I know. Absolute idiots the two of us. I told him the hotel name and area and he said OK, though unlike most of the other taxi drivers he didn’t speak English.

He took us on an unfamiliar route but it made sense at the time as the roads were still closed in different places. At one point we went over a dirt track and I suddenly felt scared. Where were we? He could do anything right now. We were very, very stupid looking back. We did that ridiculous British thing though of not saying anything and waiting it out rather than questioning where we were going. When he eventually stopped we were not in our hotel area at all. I was like “er no this isn’t it”. So he made me type into his phone on Google Maps the hotel name. Thankfully we weren’t far away. When we stopped outside the RIGHT place this time he asked for 50AED. Now from the area we were in to the hotel I knew it should have been around 20AED had we gone straight there. I point blank refused and said “no way, I’ll pay 30”. He argued with me and honestly I would have only give 30 had I not had only two 20s. It was his lucky day. We got out of that taxi very fast.

The rest of the day… I won’t bore you. We had a long day ahead as our flight was at 2:50am. I had a fairly rough time of it as I was getting some seriously bad stomach cramps and starting to feel the effects of running through not being well. Thankfully I was able to eat (when am I not, let’s be honest) and topped up my calories sufficiently through the day. To be honest, the choice of restaurant was just the closest one. I’m not a huge Italian fan (not liking pasta…) but we ended up in an Italian restaurant purely because the host mentioned they do burgers. SOLD!I had a double burger with fries. Bliss. Later on after we meandered around the Jumeriah Beach Resort area and then down the Marina we chilled out in another Starbucks with a coffee and a giant doughnut (for me). Perfection.So in closing, I don’t recommend the Dubai Marathon. It is mentally tough with the boring course and physically hard with the heat (it was a hot heat and not a humid heat thankfully). It didn’t have the glamour of the Majors despite being a bigger marathon and it felt rather lonely at times as the course was so wide and the numbers not big enough. But it’s done and I’m pleased. And the calf survived! It feels fine… though the real test will be when I get running again.

Have you ever been to Dubai?

Have you ever run a boring course? How did you get through?

Have you ever run when ill?

New Year’s Day Swim

New Year’s Eve was pretty quiet this year. No big parties, getting drunk and waking up with a hangover.

Instead I had a lovely evening with the family playing games and eating good food. Sadly I missed parkrun on Saturday due to my calf. With Dubai being so close I don’t want to turn a niggle into an injury. I know I can run the marathon and that I have enough time to let the calf sort itself out IF I’m sensible. But if I try and push through the tightness and discomfort then it could become something serious and I won’t be able to run Dubai.

So I was sensible. I went to the gym instead (something I don’t do at the weekend) and spent some quality time on the elliptical machine. The weather was fairly awful over the weekend with windy showers so actually I wasn’t too sad to miss a cold and blustery run. I watched The Sinner and got in some solid cardio. Of course nothing beats parkrun in terms of those warm, fuzzy feelings and the social elements of it but with Dubai creeping closer and the motivation for the gym at its best during the morning, parkrun had to be missed.

I knew I wouldn’t be doing the double parkrun on New Year’s Day either, as much as I’d loved to have gone. I was quite down about it but decided instead of moping I’d do something completely different to take my mind off of it. As I live near the Solent I’d often heard about people taking a dip in the sea on New Year’s Day. I decided I’d give it a go! I’m not really a swimmer – I can swim, I just don’t enjoy it (it’s such a faff, especially with my hair and I don’t get any sort of runner ‘s high-like feeling from it) and I really am not a fan of swimming in the sea. But it would be a challenge and an experience.

Initially I thought I’d just go down to the beach and do it on my own – or with a mini support crew that is my parents and granddad. But my mum mentioned that the Lifeboat people (GAFIRS) do an organised event at Stokes Bay every year. That sounded far better. The thought of doing it on my own sounded horrific, but with a bunch of other people it sounded…fun? All I had to do was register online and show up at 11.45am.

This was ideal as it meant I could go to the gym in the morning to do some cross-training beforehand (effectively doing what I would be doing if I had gone to parkrun) and then eat breakfast and go to the beach. Luckily Stokes Bay is close so it wasn’t a trek to get there.Unfortunately it was tipping it down!IMG_2403I’d decided to keep it simple and wear my running shorts and a sports bra as I knew wearing anything more would only make things worse with the cold water. Basically, wearing less is better! Though when we arrived and I spotted lots of people wearing fancy dress.
IMG_2402I was quite envious of the people wearing onesies or who were more covered up – they looked far warmer. Of course I had my layers on beforehand thankfully and my dad ready to hold on to them when I went it. I had my flipflops on (the best I could do at such short notice) and a thick towel in a bag ready with some dry clothes as well to put on. I was very well prepared.IMG_2411My mum and granddad found a good spot on the side of the beach with the other spectators. My granddad made me laugh later when he said my mum was “lethal” with her umbrella. She’s quite short and I don’t think she was quite aware of how many people she was poking…The GAFIRs had put on a great welcome for everyone with hot drinks, cakes, snacks and even a steaming buffet of chili! As someone who lives near the sea I fully appreciate the work these guys do. The lifeboats and the coastguard must work in some terrible conditions at times. So this event is fantastic at helping raise money for their charity.IMG_2404.jpgAt 11:50 they told us to get ready and stand on the slipway. There were almost 400 people that were going to be entering the water so things needed to be fairly well organised. There were lots of spectators huddled under umbrellas and photographers taking our photo.IMG_2405It was funny because I got my dad to take a quick photo on the slipway in my “swimming gear” and suddenly about four photographers started taking my photo too… You can see my dad in the background looking a bit awkward (and slightly Russian…) haha!
IMG_2466Not my best look it must be said!IMG_2465But anyway, we all stripped down to our gear and got ready on the slipway. My feet by this point were freezing. I’d been in my flipflops from the beginning and the cold rain had really chilled them to the bone. We stood like penguins together, all shivering and honestly I would have cuddled up to anyone I could at that point I was so cold. Big burly men were looking rather appealing! The organiser on the megaphone told us it would be eight minutes before we’d be released. WHAT. There was a huge collective groan from everyone as we realised we’d be standing there in the cold for a while. Others around me were dressed in a wetsuits (cheating really), swimsuits, trunks, fancy dress and everything in between. Two lovely ladies next to me said their children had signed them up to do it which made me laugh.

What felt like an eternity later we were told “five minutes to go”. At this point I was hopping up and down and rubbing my arms furiously to try and not die (well, that’s what it seemed like it anyway). It’s funny because the whole set-up felt a bit like a pre-race bit. The excitement, nerves, the huddles of people…OK half-naked people but people with intentions anyway! The only thing was I knew in 10 minutes time I wouldn’t be warmer, as I would be in race, I would be very much colder.

FINALLY we counted down 10 seconds and then the ribbon was lifted (by the Mayor of Gosport no less – no she wasn’t going in) and we all stumbled/ran/walked into the water. I mean, it was cold but it wasn’t like Jack floating in the ocean cold. In fact, the water was warmer, so they said, than the temperature outside. But it was still bloody freezing. The shock of it as it hit your skin was really quite something.IMG_2423Everyone was screaming, splashing and laughing and it was rather exhilarating. I made sure to fully plunge myself in (though not my head; they warned us from doing this because we might go into shock!). I felt my flipflops slip off my feet as I stepped forward, but there was no way I was going back for them. And then I quickly got myself out of there. To climb the pebbly shore back to the slipway was SO painful. My feet were in agony, they were so cold.

Bless my dad he practically ran over to me and then quickly wrapped the towel around me (though in his haste he did manage to drop my clean, dry clothes into the puddles then step on them *sighs*). We then huddled in the doorway to the lifeboat centre while I got a bit warmer. Everyone around us was in the same boat (excuse the pun): freezing, a bit in shock but, as I was, very much happy. It was a fantastic experience!IMG_2408The only bad part was my walk back to the car, which really wasn’t far away but my feet were now in agony. My big toes had gone numb and it was just awful. My mum tried to guide me back but she was walking too quickly (I say “quickly” but really we were crawling along) and she had to slow down further for me. My granddad had gone ahead to warm up the car – the invalid that I was now!IMG_2409It might have been nice to have hung around a bit and chatted to the other people but it was just so cold and the rain was still coming down so we thought it best to head off. I was very grateful for the warm car – though really it was only my feet that were still frozen. The rest of me felt quite invigorated. My dad gave me his fluffy hat to put my feet in, bless him.

I went straight for a hot shower after getting home. This sounds like a broken record now, but the pain of the hot water on my feet was almost worse! The bottom of my toes were tingling awfully. Would I do it again? Absolutely! It was such a thrill and full of comradery with the other people. But next time I would DEFINITELY wear better shoes – like those wetsuit style ones. They’d be far better! I would also probably wear fancy dress because, well, it’s a bit more a laugh then! 😉

The rest of the day, after finally getting warm and my feet feeling normal again, we spent dog walking, playing games and enjoying a delicious chicken roast dinner.IMG_2412Obviously it would have been lovely to have started the year with a run but the swim was fantastic. Plus my calf is feeling far better so I’m not stressed 🙂

Have you ever done a New Year’s Day swim?

Do you like swimming in the sea?

Did you do the double parkrun?

Double parkrun and Christmas

Another Christmas done! This year felt very quick indeed. For the first time in MANY years I’m back at work during the three days between Christmas and New Year so it hasn’t really felt like a proper Christmas at all. But hey ho, such is life when you need to take a chunk of holiday in January!

The weekend before Christmas was a bit weird. It felt odd having such a big lead-up to the day. I guess I’ve gotten used to the past couple of years where you finish work on the Friday and then it’s Christmas very soon after. Did anyone else feel this? Or maybe it was just more noticeable to me because I would be back at work on the Wednesday.

On Saturday I decided instead of going to the Netley parkrun or anywhere further afield I would go to Lee-On-Solent instead. This meant I could also run there and back and get a solid 10 miles in and then I wouldn’t have to worry Sunday. Not only that but I’d be running on Monday for the Christmas parkrun. My calves have weirdly felt very tight so I didn’t want to push things. On that note, it’s weird because they started feeling tight after I changed my trainers a week or so before the marathon (I went from Adidas Boost Supernova Sequences to ASICS Gel Exalts) and my calves felt TERRIBLE. So I tried to buy new Supernovas ASAP but as I’m an idiot I’d already thrown away the older trainers so had to continue using the ASICS until the new ones arrive and this just made my calves feel worse.IMG_2109During my run to parkrun they still felt tight and the left one uncomfortably so. As my legs were still tired from the marathon I decided not to push parkrun. I turned up to Lee and saw so many people wearing festive fancy dress… ahh damn!IMG_2086I love fancy dress and happily would have joined in (though saying that, I’d have had to have run there and back so maybe it was for the best…). My friend Rebecca had made a fantastic effort as a Christmas pudding – she looked amazing! IMG_2085There was also a band playing festive tunes which was lovely. Lee splitsMy time was 22:18. (for my 158th parkrun!). I then headed off home soon after. On my run home I spotted confetti on the floor in lovely shades of pink and purple. As I passed it by I briefly thought “ahh that matches my running gear” and as I got to the top of the road I decided it was too good an opportunity to miss so turned around and went back to do a very “Insta-worthy” photo – one for the ‘gram as all the kids are saying 😉IMG_2115The rest of the day was spent sorting stuff out for Christmas (food, tidying, presents, etc.). My dad had braved the food shops with my grandad (who was down from Stoke) so I’d missed that joyous job (ha!).

On Sunday I had contemplated another run but with my calves not feeling right at all I decided a day of rest was best. I cursed myself for writing a bloody blog post on not being injured. Honestly, I do know how to tempt fate don’t I? Never, EVER again will I be so arrogant to assume I’m out of the runner god’s sniper sight.IMG_2134Instead I went out with my family to Romsey where we’d be reliably informed (by Facebook no less…) that there would be a Christmas market. Well, I assure you it was not a Christmas market. It was just a market and really wouldn’t have been out of place any day of the year. But hey ho. There was a gin stand (my mother was happy!), pies, meat, vegetables, bread and cakes. Not bad but not Christmassy. We had a nice walk round Romsey, which is a very quaint English town and then headed home for an evening watching films (finally saw Sully, brilliant!) while doing a jigsaws puzzle. Rock and, indeed, roll.IMG_2140Christmas morning I was off to Netley for the annual Christmas parkrun. My dad was going to come but as the turkey had still been frozen the day before it meant he needed to attend to it that morning (usually my parents cook the turkey overnight). To be fair, it was probably for the best as the weather at Queen Victoria Country Park was AWFUL.IMG_2146I headed down early to help set-up and we all miserably set a “skeleton” course out (which basically means we didn’t do all the flags and cones because the majority of people coming that day would have come before so would know where to go and it would mean we could pack up quicker to go home at the end).IMG_2147The wind was blowing an absolute gale. As we were on the winter course it meant that we were right next to the water’s edge and it was so cold and wild. I had come dressed in my elf outfit and was quite thankful for the extra layer of wool and hat!IMG_2153The wind along the front was AWFUL and I felt so unfit struggling against it, especially going up the hill. But by mile two I managed to feel a bit more “with it”. My left calf was really not happy though. Bugger. It was painful, just felt very stiff and tight. Not right at all. Hmmm, time to have a bit of rest then! Netley splits

I finished parkrun in 23:35 which wasn’t too shabby at all. Christmas parkrun in my view is never one to blast – it’s a good festive run. IMG_2165It was rather muddy though!IMG_2152There was a table of snacks and Bailey shots set up, people dressed up and Christmas music. It was good fun.

IMG_2171Thanks Beth for the photo!

My friend Nick, who is part of the set-up crew, came first (he’s very speedy) and we joked that he’d gotten “Christmas number one”. Hilariously he replied that it seemed fitting as Ed Sheeran, a fellow ginger, had also gotten the Christmas number one. Hehe.IMG_2161We packed up quickly and I headed off home ready to start Christmas properly! My sister and Mike were already there so I quickly got showered and sorted ready to open presents with everyone. We’re the type of family who opens presents first. It’s all very chaotic and crazy with wrapping paper everywhere, my mum offering cups of tea or bucks fizz, a strong delicious smell of turkey, the dogs trying to eat everything and everyone trying to get to grips with who’s got what from whom. I love Christmas with my family and wouldn’t change a thing!

To add to the stress my dad and I thought it would be a great idea to make a pudding this year. As both him and my mum are still doing Slimming World (and doing very well!) he decided the Slimming World Chocolate Log would be perfect (amongst all the other puddings of course). So we quickly got to work on that. Obviously though, as is Apple Family standard, we were missing self-raising flour (why on earth would you check these things beforehand right?). Luckily we had normal flour and baking powder so we went with that!

And as usual we didn’t read the instructions properly to realise that once it comes out of the oven you need to roll it and then let it cool. Well, we just left it to cool flat. IMG_2173So when it came to adding the filling and trying to roll it stone cold…well, it didn’t quite work.IMG_2174That said, it did hold its shape and actually tasted very nice! Not really my sort of thing it must be said as I’m not a huge fan of chocolate and fruit together but it was a nice addition to the other puddings I had 😉Christmas dinnerWe had a prawn starter (basically just prawns with either a sweet chili dip or a Marie Rose dip, delicious!), followed by turkey with all the trimmings and then a slice of the chocolate log… and maybe some trifle and lemon tart as well 😉

Then we played an awesome but very simple game called Bottle Top.IMG_2195You basically have to stack wooden coins on top of a bottle. The aim is to lose all your coins and not knock any coins off, but you can’t go higher than nine levels. It’s very tense!

The rest of the day was spent enjoying time with the family, playing with my puzzle (I’m fully addicted and almost finished my LOTR-themed puzzle) and eating more food. I had a lovely evening snack of Christmas cake (from Betty’s tea shop in Yorkshire!) and stollen.IMG_2201Heavenly! We did manage our annual Christmas walk down the beach with the dogs but it was SO windy and wild it was very much “heads down, go go go” kind of walk. Only a handful of other dog walkers seemed to brave the weather like us. It was good to get out though and the dogs needed the run.

A successful Christmas indeed.

How was your Christmas?

What did you have for Christmas dinner?

What are your family traditions?

The Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 2017

The Portsmouth Coastal Marathon was the first marathon I ever signed up to. Sadly I never made it to the start line as a runner, but I have supported the race so it wasn’t entirely new to me.

I was initially excited about the marathon when I finally got myself a place (it was sold out when I tried to enter it but managed to find a place from a friend of mine who unfortunately couldn’t run). But as the date got closer and the weather colder, my enthusiasm dwindled away. The night before I chatted to my parents saying I was genuinely nervous and worried about the race. I had no “oomph” to do it and felt a bit meh. Normally I’m nervous, yes, but also excited to get going. I just didn’t feel like I was about to run a marathon the next day.IMG_1916Happily I slept well and woke up with a renewed vigour. I’d gone over the race in my mind and was feeling a bit more ready (I find mentally going through the miles and my plans help calm and motivate me). I woke up at 6.30am, ready to leave with coffee, my Beet It shot and porridge to have en route at 7.15am. The marathon began at 8.30am, which is quite early for UK marathons but handily the start was only about 30 minutes away.IMG_1920My dad was coming to support (bless him) and had heated the car up ready which was divine…for all of about 10 minutes before we both found ourselves sweating. It was a very cold morning but the combination of the heaters, my coffee and porridge just made me overheat. The night before I’d umm’ed and arr’ed about what to wear before settling on a thicker long-sleeved base layer, my ever faithful thick sports bra, arm sleeves, a buff and my running club vest. Still in shorts but with my long compression socks. I was really worried about being too cold but also about being too hot. The arm sleeves and buff would be ideal as I could remove them if necessary (I did indeed remove the buff, but not the sleeves). I considered a hat but with the headphones I wanted to wear it just didn’t work. I wore my winter coat to the start and genuinely never felt cold the entire race – even when I was stood on the start line. It very much helped that up until five minutes from the start I was inside the Pyramid Centre (where the HQ was located). It’s a very relaxed affair so getting to the start minutes before we were off was about as good as it can ever get.IMG_1924The start is right on the Southsea prom, just a few metres from the parkrun start. The sunrise was spectacular! IMG_1945It was a beautiful morning and all my nerves disappeared. All I had to do was run. It was flat, I was warm and I had no time goals other than not to run like an idiot (i.e. not too fast). I was somewhat concerned with how late I’d left eating my breakfast (only an hour ago…) but actually it was fine.

IMG_1951I felt well fuelled running and had two SIS gels packed in my running belt.IMG_1949The first two miles ran up the promenade, past the pier and the cafes. There were lots of people cheering and it felt very relaxed and festive with people wearing fancy dress and familiar faces all round from local clubs and social media.IMG_1932I hadn’t had a chance to go to the loo before starting because the queue was too long (there was also a half marathon and an ultra happening). Plus I knew I’d need to stop anyway at some point because I’d drank that coffee so late. There was a proper loo just before two miles so I was aiming for that. Luckily no one was in it and I managed to dash in and out with no issue. It seems to be a thing for me now to always have a wee in a marathon *sighs*. Now I could relax and get these boring beginning miles past me. My dad drove past and beeped an excessive number of times – but it did make me smile. Off he went to his first supporter point.IMG_1953It’s a relatively small marathon, with around 900 runners. Despite this though, I was never alone. There were always runners near me. A significant part of the course at the beginning snakes along coastal paths so you’re always following someone. As we got to mile three we came to halt as there was a bottleneck to get safely down the steps onto the beach section. I was well aware of this section, having been warned by fellow runners, so I wasn’t surprised by it. And since I wasn’t aiming for a fast time I didn’t mind the  stand-still moment. My only annoyance is that I didn’t make the most of the time by taking a photo! I was wearing nice thick gloves and the effort of taking on off and fishing in my belt for my phone seemed like too much effort at the time.

I felt a little sorry for the marshals who were continually shouting to runners to not try and sneak round and go an unsafe way down to the beach to beat the queue. You could feel the anxious energy around as people hopped from one leg to another, keen to get on. Finally we were onto the beach and off again…across the pebbles and sand. It only lasted a few minutes though and then we were back onto the path once more.IMG_1933You could see where we were heading – the course hugged the coastline – and the runners further ahead. Someone near me commented that it was like one big runner conga. You couldn’t really pass anyone but the speed was perfect for me. Not quite the 9 minutes I had told myself, closer really to 8.20-30. But I felt very comfortable (a good test for me is being able to run and breathe easily through my nose and to be able to easily hold a conversation).IMG_1935The course is entirely flat, but not entirely easy. The mix of terrain (tarmac, sand, pebbles, mud and trail) makes it tricky underfoot, but in my opinion it keeps you entertained. It’s an out and back route, following the Portsmouth Harbour. As the day was so still and so clear the views across the water were fantastic. The sun rising created beautiful picturesque colours and everything was very peaceful. Hands down one of the most beautiful marathons I’ve done. And believe me, I NEVER thought I’d say that about a marathon in Portsmouth…IMG_1984The miles ticked away fairly nicely. My first milestone was 6 miles as this would be my dad’s first spectator point.1-6 milesI could see the point from a distance and it gradually drew closer and closer. I listened in to people’s conversations as they chatted away, but was quite content to not get involved. IMG_1982I just switched off. I reached the 6 mile point and spotted my dad. He waved, I waved, all was good. As I passed him I imagined his journey to get to the next point up the motorway at 10 miles, just next to a the Ship Inn. The course is very handy that there are so many easy spots for supporters to gather.IMG_1978In this pic I saw the photographer laughing and knew the guy behind had done something fun, so I turned to him and said I was looking forward to seeing it later. He laughed 😉

The next few miles were along a cycle path (tarmac) and were parallel to the motorway which was just hidden away behind the bushes. Not that scenic anymore. I was familiar with this part of the route as it was where one of the Wiggle runs had gone down so I knew what to expect.IMG_1939What I really liked about the marathon was that you were never on one type of running route for too long. So you could segment the run into “down the cycle path for a mile” to “back onto trail and through an industrial site”. It kept things interesting – it wasn’t just a never-ending road that was always the same (oh hey Dubai Marathon…). 7-13 milesThere was another bit you run across the pebbles, but for the life of me I can’t remember when… but I’m pretty sure it was before the 10 mile mark. It was quite the grind (though not nearly as bad as it was on the way back!).IMG_1961I seemed to reach 10 miles in no time and spotted my dad again. There were quite a few supporters here all along the pathway which makes it quite narrow but also makes you feel a little like a famous athlete because there’s so much cheering. I had a quick stop to hand my dad my gloves (while also telling him to keep them with him as I might need them back again later). I told him I was feeling good and then headed off.IMG_1976After about another 0.5 mile you come to another good supporter point and lots of people were handing out Jelly Babies and water. IMG_1974I also spotted a guy I work with and it was nice to have him cheer me along. The next part of the marathon is probably my least favourite as you’re simply running to then turn around and come back. My dad would be waiting at the Ship Inn point again but I wouldn’t be back there until about 16 miles so I had a fair chunk to get through. To help me along I put on a podcast. I’d chosen the BBC 5 Live film review show which would have the Star Wars review in it. As I was seeing Star Wars later than day it seemed perfect.IMG_1942The route went down a trail path, so was a bit muddy and puddly, but otherwise easy underfoot. At about 11-12 miles the first marathoners started heading back. Some of them might have been ultra amazing ultra runners as well (as they started earlier) but I wasn’t sure. Eventually we made it to the turnaround point. IMG_1941I had now run all the course so there were no surprises (so I thought). Heading back meant I got to see a lot more runners – and people I knew. It kept me entertained to look out for people. I also took my first gel here (an SIS one with special ‘immune boosting’ vitamins. Can’t say it made me feel any different but the cranberry flavour tasted nice). As there was no bin around I tucked it back into my running belt. On this note, I saw a guy have a gel and then lob it into a bush. This made me REALLY angry. No one is going to be able to find that! Well done for littering the place up, you idiot. If you’re going to use gels make sure you depose of your rubbish responsibly. Rant over.IMG_1983As I got to 14 miles someone ran up next to me and said hello. It was a guy called Graham who I know from Twitter and parkrun. 14-20 milesI was surprised to see him as he’s usually very speedy. I told him he didn’t have to go my pace and good speed ahead if he fancied but he seemed content at the current pace. I turned off my podcast and we settled in to some nice running chatter. This really helped the miles fly by.IMG_1977In the distance I could see my dad. My hands were starting to feel the chill again as it was becoming a little more overcast. I attempted to signal to him that I’d need my gloves back. Luckily he understood and handed them to me as I passed him, while he cheered us along.IMG_1964I remember certain parts of the route and used them as milestones to get to. We were running at a comfortable 8.30 and I was feeling positive. We quickly got to the 20 mile point where my dad was spectating from again (it had been the 6 mile point). How the miles were flying by! My dad drove past (honestly, I couldn’t escape the man. He was everywhere ;-)) and honked – off  he went to the finish.IMG_1966Graham mentioned he ticked over to a marathon and this was when I realised he wasn’t running the marathon but actually the ultra! I just hadn’t been listening to him properly! Now a few of the things he’d said made a lot more sense now. Idiot that I am! No wonder he wasn’t speeding ahead at his usual super speed, he’d run five miles more than me!IMG_1943I suddenly found myself with a second wind and I gradually started to increase my speed. I gently pulled away and headed off on my own. I felt bad for leaving Graham but I wanted to push the pace. When I got a polite enough distance away I took my phone out (snapped a photo) and put some music on. In the process I managed to accidentally call my dad. I eventually cancelled the call and sorted my music out only to have him ring me back. We had a very quick conversation where I explain I hadn’t meant to call him and he said he’d see me at the finish.

Now I was grooving. The music was perfect and I felt strong. This is literally the best part of a marathon for me. When I’m IN THE ZONE and hammering it (relatively speaking of course) to the finish. In the back of my mind I questioned the increase in pace (what happened to a 4 hour marathon, Anna?) but I just went with it. I felt gooooooood. I was smiling, waving to marshals and just generally feeling the buzz. I heard a number of different people say a similar comment of, “she’s still smiling!”. This feeling in a marathon is what I live for, I love it!

I had mentally prepared myself for another jaunt across the beach but I was surprised to find us heading in a different route than we’d come. In fact, we were winding our way down residential streets. I wasn’t sure where we were but we had less than a parkrun to go now (well, so I believed). I eventually got back onto a familiar path and passed the toilet I’d stopped in at the beginning – so long ago now. The final stretch down the Southsea promenade – potentially very windy and unforgiving but luckily nice and still. With less than two miles to go I felt a few drops of rain… and then it started drizzling. Well, we had been very lucky to not have had any earlier and I was quite warm that I didn’t mind. My watch ticked over 26 miles… then 26.2 miles and we weren’t near the finish. As I passed a photographer he said “just half a mile to go”. Riiiiight. I knew we were about that away because I was familiar with this route (parkrun and GSR) so just knuckled down to that extra distance to get it done.

There were a lot of supports at the end which was fantastic. My only quibble (and this is really pathetic and moany so I’m sorry) is that as I was about 50 metres from the finish a man who was just ahead had his entire Von Trap Family of children join him to run with him to the end. This is all very lovely and ahh how cute, but I almost collided with four different children as they randomly went from supporter to runner. I then couldn’t get passed them – they were all running so slowly – and it kind of buzz killed my finish. I GET IT. You’re all so proud and want to share the moment, but there are other runners running the race as well… Meh. Rant over. Anyway, I finished, hurrah!21-27 milesMy time was 3:45:36. second in my age category, 13th female (out of 280) 🙂  I was now fairly soggy. I collected my medal and goodie bag. I spotted my dad and he passed my coat quickly. IMG_1970What a hero! I saw some other freebies being handed out so headed over to have a look. A marshal was handing out free beers so I went to take one. He looked at me and said, “well I shouldn’t really, but I hope you’ll give this to your dad as you’re underage”. I stared at him, asked him if he was joking and when he said no I said, “I could actually hug you. I’m 29!” He laughed. Well, if that’s not the best thing to hear when you’ve finished a marathon I don’t know what is!IMG_1975We then had a bit of a length walk back to the car in the rain… My dad wasn’t able to find a space any closer. But the walk did me good – it helped stretch my legs a bit. And luckily we made it in the car before the rain really began.IMG_1944We drove home, I showered and got myself together and then we headed straight out again for some much needed Nando’s, followed by a ridiculous amount of sweets at the cinema watching the new Star Wars film.IMG_1973It was such a fantastic way to celebrate and relax afterwards. Though my legs didn’t thank me for the 2.5 hours of sitting and doing nothing… When the film finished I got up and my legs were SO stiff and awful. But otherwise, all good! I really enjoyed the film as well. I’m loving these new Star Wars 🙂

I really enjoyed this race and have already signed up to next’s years. It really was a fun and festive event – not necessarily one for a PB but more for enjoyment, which is exactly my kind of race!

What do you like doing after a long race?

Do you like running with other people in races?

Do you enjoy out and back races/runs?

My trip to Llandudno and a Christmas party

Life lately has been so good. I know I’m probably a broken record on this front but I’m very happy right now. Running is going well. I’m loving my job. I have a solid group of friends who continually make me smile every day. Life is indeed good.

I’ve just got back from Llandudno, seeing my grandparents, and instead of the usual “oh god it’s back to work” I was actually quite happy to go back. Not necessarily as happy about the super early morning, but you can’t win them all.IMG_1646Spending the four-ish days in Llandudno was lovely. Unfortunately my grandad wasn’t his usual energetic and fighting fit self due to an ongoing cough he couldn’t shift, but it was nice to be there anyway. Though he did go on an epic 5.4 mile walk with my dad around the Great Orme while I was out doing my long run on the Monday morning. I mean, as you do when you’re almost 84 right??My 15 mile long run was great. It was very icy and frosty but it was nice to get out in some different scenery. To make life easier I used a 5.6 mile loop that my grandparents had marked out for me (on proper maps, with elevation charts and everything!). This was handy because it meant if the roads were too dangerous I wasn’t going to be too far away from their house to stop.Llandudno runIt also felt a bit easier in my head mentally to think I was doing two-three loops rather than 15 miles. It was a great route because it went from one coast to the other, so you got to the see the sea twice which is always a win in my book.IMG_1697I didn’t have any choice but to wear my shorts as I hadn’t packed any leggings with me (I live in Anna La La Land where I don’t consider any negative prospects ahead, just everything running smoothly and the sun perpetually shining). But actually my legs were fine. It was my the tops of my ears and my fingers that suffered. I was wearing my Nike gloves and they’re still quite thin so my hands got really cold. I ended up pulling my sleeves down over them too. I made sure to  stop a couple of times to take some photos – it was so beautiful (with or without snow, really) that I had to.
Snowy LlandudnoThe first lap was good because I was new to the route and had to double-check my carefully written out paper instructions to ensure I was going to the right way, which helped pass the time. The second lap I just zoned out as I knew where to go. When it came to finishing the second lap I was at over 11 miles I didn’t fancy doing another lap as it would make my long run too far (almost 17 miles) and I really couldn’t be bothered. Instead I started the third lap but turned around when I hit the golf club, which we’d walked to the day before and I knew was 2 miles, so there and back would get me to my 15 miles. Perfect.
15 milesThe rest of the time in North Wales was good old fashioned family time. Lots of walking, quality quiz time (I love a quiz) and good food. My grandparents eat really healthily and light so the only indulgences were when we ate out for food (we had an Indian and a Christmas meal) or when I bought a chocolate drenched waffle at the Christmas market…IMG_1802Some thing have to be done. We also did a fun walk around Llandudno to find all the different Alice in Wonderland statues (called the “Alice Trail”). I love stuff like this.IMG_1799Then I was back at work on the Thursday, just in time for our Christmas do. It was at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which was rather fancy and meant I could put on a sparkly dress.IMG_1868The event only cost £5 and we got a drink on arrival, half a bottle of wine, two drinks tokens and a three course meal. I mean, that’s not too shabby at all! I got myself all glamorous (well, as glam as I can really) and enjoyed a fun evening of food and dancing. IMG_1871I did drink but not to excess as I had work the next day (and not to mention a marathon the following weekend). I’m actually not a huge drinker. I don’t mind getting a bit tiddly but I hate the feeling of wanting to be sick or the room spinning, which inevitably happens after drinking too much. The dinner was great (even more so because my friend and I got to split someone else’s meals between us as they hadn’t shown up). And the pudding was a pudding BAR. I will unashamedly say I returned after my first selection for more. I must have eaten about nine different selections (tiffin, rocky road, mince pie shortbread (!), blondies…). I mean, to be fair they were quite small.Historic Dockyard Christmas partyAnyway it was a really fun evening. It was nice to have a Christmas party with people who were around my own age. However, it did make for getting up on the Friday morning somewhat tricky. Luckily though everyone who’d been just as foolish as me not to take a day off or a half-day was in the same boat, so I wasn’t alone in my grogginess at work!

I’m working most of Christmas (except the Bank Holidays) but I don’t really mind as everyone is so jolly and festive. Plus I have a holiday to Dubai in January to look forward to. I’ll have my Portsmouth Coastal Marathon recap coming soon! Spoiler: I finished and I’m not injured 😀

Did you have a work Christmas party?

Do you run in the snow?

Do you cope well with being hungover?