Christmas parkrun and all the trimmings

I think Christmas is probably my favourite time of year. I don’t care that it’s usually cold, dark and miserable.

I just love the festive cheer, the music, the happiness and of course the food. As if I need anymore of an excuse to eat silly amounts of chocolate, cake and roast dinners. It’s all part and parcel of the good times.

I also love doing parkrun on Christmas day. It’s kind of a non-negotiable thing for me (unless I’m injured and feeling thoroughly bitter and sad about not being able to run). To me there is nothing better than starting the festive fun with going to parkrun, seeing my friends and having a 5k bimble. Who cares about paces or PB’s, it’s all about the fun and the people (arguably, this is all parkrun should ever be about really).

I got there early to help set the course up. I’ve recently been slacking in this department. I would say “unfortunately” but realistically life has gotten in the way – and in a very good way. Sometimes parkrun has to take a backseat! I love to wear a bit of a fancy dress for the Christmas parkrun and having used my elf outfit last year and my “sort of Santa” outfit a couple of years, I needed to spruce things up.Anyone who knows me knows I’m very bad at arts and crafts and I’m not that creative, so when I came up with my tinsel outfit and actually made it myself I was SO proud. I got so many compliments as well! It cost me NOTHING as well as we had the tinsel and safety pins already (I knew there was a reason I was saving all those pins from races!).As I’d only run the marathon a couple of days before, and my legs were really tired and achy (all that slipping and sliding and a faster pace than anticipated) I wasn’t expecting anything more than a proper slog.Happily my friend Mike offered to run with me which was nice. We could just plod around and chat. I also saw my super fast and amazing doctor friend, Jo, beforehand which was lovely. We seem to only catch each other very occasionally (she’s a doctor up North while her parents are down South) so it’s always lovely to see her, though we keep in touch through the wonders of social media.My legs felt like bricks. And actually I felt very unfit in general. My breathing was struggling and it was just felt very hardwork. I was grateful for Mike taking pity on me and staying with me. It’s amazing how one day you can be flying and the next you can feel like you can barely run.

It was very muddy and the finishing straight was somewhat precarious – no sprint finishing unless you wanted to go head over heels! My time was 24:39, which considering how I felt and the state of my legs I will happily take!Then it was a case of quickly clearing up the course and getting home to start the Christmas celebration with my family.

Christmas with my family is usually quite chaotic and, well, manic. I have a small family but it still manages to be very busy, loud and crazy. We’re not particularly organised so when Christmas dinner cooking happens it can be quite stressful. I usually help my dad and my mum sorts out table settings and things like that (it’s best for everyone she doesn’t get involved in the cooking ;-)).

Anyway, due to some good forward thinking the day before and writing a list of all the different things we needed to cook with their timings, we were fully on the ball. We’d vaguely said 1pm sounded like a good time to eat and I kid you not, two minutes to 1pm saw us all sitting down to eat! WHAT.For the starter, my dad made these delicious roasted cabbage, goat’s cheese and bacon things… so good!Then for main we had the turkey and full trimmings. One of my favourite meals of the year!Yes I realise broad beans are a weird addition but it’s a fun family tradition to include them (hilarious I know… *cough*). I’m not a potato fan, but there were roast potatoes on offer I assure you 😉 I’m very much a stuffing, parsnip and pigs in blankets fan though!

The rest of Christmas was spent playing games with my family, walking (I love a Christmas Day walk!) and then heading to Kyle’s to do much the same. I’m very pleased that I have the stomach capacity to do round two of ALL THE FOOD 😉Kyle’s mum did an AMAZING buffet spread (bless her, she’d done buffalo chicken wings especially for me). The above plate was plate one of many! I also had some cake pops made by Kyle’s lovely sister Lucy followed by silly amounts of chocolate lebkuchen.I got so many lovely presents from Kyle’s family, and of course Kyle. I was OVER THE MOON to have received a Nintendo Switch from Kyle, which I’m now fully addicted to (Crash Bandicoot, how I’ve missed you). We also played a Friends Trivia game which was ridiculously difficult – I mean, we thought we knew Friends but clearly not well enough (who even remembers what WENUS stands for??).

On Boxing Day we headed to Kyle’s dad for even more food.Gammon, beef, pork, turkey… I was in heaven.

Christmas is definitely my favourite time of year. Spending quality time with your family, playing games, watching films and eating silly amounts of food. It’s just the best time of year. Spending it with Kyle as well was really lovely. I’m very glad that we both get on so well with each other’s families – something that is very important to the both of us.

Here’s to many more fun Christmases ahead!

How did you spend Christmas?

What#s your favourite Christmas food?

Did you do a Christmas parkrun?

Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 2018

I’d signed up to this race almost immediately after finishing it last year because I enjoyed it so much.

It was just such a good event. The course was interesting, the atmosphere was very festive and relaxed and it was a great way to end the year. Kyle had signed up earlier in the year as he was just getting into running and wanted a challenge. And I guess running with me quite a lot meant that the marathon seemed like the logical step considering I would always sing their praises!After a rather stressful day before (more on that another time), my alarm went off at 7am. The plan was to leave my house at 7.40am to get there for 8ish. I had my bib already and really had nothing else to do there. I’d already planned to have a wee a mile or so where I knew they’d be toilets on the course so I wasn’t worried. Kyle was going from his house so I’d meet him there.I ate my porridge and drank a black coffee and was ready to go. Marathon morning is always a little bit tense and as my dad, mum and I all piled into the car later than we’d intended a bit of an argument erupted. It was about nothing major really but enough to create a very stressful morning. My dad and I very similar personalities and are ridiculously stubborn so neither of us were backing down and in the end we sat in silence on the way to the start.Realising this was not going to go away and not wanting to spend the next 4 or so hours in a grump with my dad as I ran, I decided to make the move to reconciling and happily all was well again. We agreed we’d been very silly.
I jumped out of the car and met Kyle and his family: his two sisters, his two brothers, his mum (his dad, his dad’s partner and son would be at the end) -so quite the crowd! My dad was parking the car and as we were pushing for time, Kyle and I hurried off to the start. I noticed the start was further up the prom which was good news considering last year’s race was 27 miles so clearly they’d rectified this, whew!Kyle barely had time to say much to each other but I wished him lots of luck and then we suddenly realised the race had started! I hoped that it wasn’t too stressful a start for Kyle (but equally far better than waiting around for hours getting cold). Luckily it was chip timed so starting late didn’t really matter. We ran a few paces together before I headed off.

I was very tempted to run with Kyle. It would have been nice to have chatted and been with him, but I knew that the later stages of the race wouldn’t be as fun for him and he might appreciate not having me there wittering away trying to encourage him. It can be quite stressful to have someone run with you and I didn’t want to put any pressures on him with paces. Plus, as selfish as this sounds, I felt like my legs might be feeling good – could I beat last year’s time? (3:47ish).

As we’d started a little late, we were right at the back and the first mile was spent weaving around people and saying hello to people I knew. It was a great way to ease into the race and relax, as I was unable to shoot off too fast. My friend Mark sidled up next to me and we had a nice chat. I then dashed into the toilets when I spotted them and found all six cubicles engaged. Ah well! I didn’t have to wait too long and then I was out back in the race.

I eventually caught back up to Mark. He was running a controlled race (easy at the start, then from halfway picking it up). His pace was probably faster than I’d intended to go but I felt comfortable and it was nice to have a catch-up as I hadn’t properly seem him in a while.

Mark is a very fast and methodological runner. Like me he likes to have his paces fed back to him and the miles planned. We both knew neither of us would do anything too silly and equally if one of us needed space we could tell the other to, politely, go away and no feelings would be hurt.Despite the forecast giving me some anxieties the days before, the rain held off and there was just a moderate breeze. I had my arm-warmers on and short-sleeves. I knew I’d need to remove the sleeves at some point as I was starting to feel just slightly too warm. We were VERY lucky with the weather, but the previous rain that night had caused the terrain to be muddy, slippery and riddled with puddles.The first six miles seemed to fly by. We’d gone over the shingle (no major bottleneck like the year before) and then had the long stretch along the coast to the first point where I’d see Kyle’s and my family. Their cheering was so loud and enthusiastic, it was lovely. I felt very much boosted along.Now it was just four miles until I’d see them again. The great thing about this race is how segmented it is. You don’t get bored because the course is always different… down a pavement, through a forest, on a trail path, back onto pavement. It really helped mix things up and keep you interested.Mark and I chatted away about different training styles, races, life lately, the price of petrol, doughnuts…my mind could focus on other stuff rather than running. I imagine had I been on my own I wouldn’t have been running as fast as we were going, but equally I didn’t feel uncomfortable and could talk so I wasn’t too concerned.I took my sleeves off (annoyingly having to take my watch off to do this) and got them ready to hand over to my dad at the 10(ish) mile point. Again, the whole crew was there and I was so busy smiling, waving and enjoying the cheers that I failed to see a bollard and almost collided with it. To be fair there were two runners ahead of me blocking it and by the time I saw it it was almost too late. Thankfully I managed to quickly avoid a major collision, though it did arouse some laughter from the crowds. But whew, could have been nasty.

And on we went for the three-ish miles to the turnaround point. Now we were facing directly against the wind and amusingly one of the mile signs said “Bloody wind” underneath which made us smile wryly. All the mile markers had different things written on them like Muhammad Ali, Ronnie Corbett and Bowie – I’m guessing legends!

The three miles is a bit of a slog and for me is the most boring part of the route as it doesn’t change much. There were also lots of puddles and it was at that point where you just couldn’t be bothered to avoid them anymore. The nice part of this route is that you get to see other runners (the faster ones and the second leg of the relays) coming the other way.We eventually made it to the turnaround and I suddenly felt a new lease of life – we were heading back! Mark commented that our pace had increased in line with what he’d planned and this concerned me a bit. I shouldn’t be going for it just yet with 13 miles still to go! I slowed down a bit, but the wind was now behind us so helped make it feel less of an effort. I got to spot lots more people coming the other way now, including Kyle! He looked a bit tired but still strong. We waved and smiled and then he was gone. I hoped he’d continue to be as strong as the race continued.We got back round to the infamous bollard spot, now 16 miles, and I saw only my dad. I assumed it was because I was running a bit faster than expected and everyone else was in the pub across the road keeping warm (good choice!). Mark then said he was going to push his pace, so I waved him off and we wished each other good luck and he disappeared into the distance (FYI he finished very strong with 3:22:11).

I popped my music on as I felt I needed to zone out and enjoy some time on my own. The trail was now even more muddy and slippery as more people had gone over it. There’s a precarious bit right next to the water and I genuinely had fears of sliding over into it. Imagine!It started to feel quite tough now. I felt my energy disappearing, mentally and physically. It was now a concerted effort to keep going. I had a bit of my Salted Caramel Cliff Shot and hoped it would boost me up a bit. As I came up to the 20ish mile point I hoped to see my parents again. From a distance I saw a BMW pull up into the car park and I saw my mum get out of the car. My dad remained in the car. I was coming towards them quickly now and I started to wave. My mum saw me and clearly said something to my dad and he quickly jumped out of the car. 

They cheered and waved as I passed and I was so pleased to have caught them in time. It must have been a logistical nightmare to get from the different supporting points (as well as having two of us at different times running).Now I was on my own completely until the end. Just under 6 miles to go and then I’d be finishing. This spurred me on and I started saying mantras in my head that seem so ridiculous in any other setting but during a marathon can really make a difference to me. Basically I’ll think things like “I’m a strong runner” or “I can do this” and “I’ve got this”. I’ve even found myself saying it out-loud during the race if no one is around me. It helps drown out any negative thoughts about how tired I am.

We did the detour bit round the residential areas (due to the tide coming in) and I found myself overtaking a few people here and there. But I just wanted to get onto the front because then I knew how far I had left to go in real terms. This windy route through roads and back alleys was killing me.

Finally we turned the corner to the sea and I saw a girl just ahead. As we turned the wind went fully against us (exactly like what usually happens at the Great South Run). Ooof this was horrible! And in my mind I’d decided to try and overtake the girl. This now meant I needed to run faster than I was before to get past her but with even more effort due to the wind. It was a slow overtake that then caused me a lot of grief because she seemed to speed up a bit. I could hear her feet just behind me and all I wanted to do was get away from her. Eventually though I managed to pull ahead, but the effort level was so hard.

I then wondered where we’d be finishing – would it be where we started or further along near the Pyramids like last time? It was agonising because I just wanted to finish sooner but as we got to the start area I miserably realised no one was there… ehhh, further to go now! I passed a guy who told me I was running strong and doing well, but all I could reply was “gahh can’t talk sorry!”.

People who were casually walking up the prom clapping and shouted encouragement and I tried to keep a smile on my face. Ahead I saw our two families cheering me in and this pushed me to go as fast as I could to the finish. WHEW.My time was 3:25:35, first in my age category and fourth female overall. Damn it was good to stop running! I was so pleased though – I couldn’t believe how fast I’d gone!I collected my medal and goodies and quickly found the guys and asked them how Kyle was doing. Apparently he was three-ish miles away (his brother, Zack, was tracking him using the “Find My Friends” app on the iPhone – so he wasn’t far away at all. We all started wondering what time he’d be able to do – could he get under four hours?Zack and his other brother, Adam, walked up the prom to cheer him in further up and tell him to, well, get a move on basically if he wanted the sub-4! He was literally now only minutes away. We kept looking at the time on the race clock… but I knew we had a few minutes grace  because we started a bit late. It was going to be tight though!

Eventually we saw him coming in, Zack running besides him pushing him on. He squeaked in at 3:59:35. Sub-4!We spent a good amount of time taking photos, chatting and comparing notes of everyone’s day (I love to hear what the supporters get up to while we’re running – invariably my dad always seems to find a good breakfast spot) and I could have burst with pride for Kyle. He was a little battered and tired but he was happy.Ahh what a good day. And of course a huge thank you to our amazing support crew (who even made signs!). It massively helped keep us going and just made the day for us 🙂A fantastic way to the end the year and a fantastic result for Kyle’s first marathon!

Do you enjoy running a race with other people?

What do your supporters do during a race?

Merry Christmas!

The New York Marathon – part 2

Carrying on my New York Marathon recap.

**Catch up with Part 1 HERE**

So I had just come off from the (dreaded) Queensboro Bridge and the mile slog that had entailed. Coming out of that silence and tough effort onto a nice decline and then straight into the busy streets of New York again was fantastic. It was almost nice to have had that respite of silence to fully appreciate the crowds again.

The sun was still shining, I was feeling a bit warm but nothing crazy. Now from 17 miles to 21 miles it was literally straight down First Avenue. It was also gently downhill. So with the crowds and the now wonderful feeling of no longer being on a bridge grinding upwards, I was flying along. I started to wonder what time I might get… sub 3:30? Could I do it?My pace was dangerous but I felt good. Now we were in Manhattan. I was still having the time of my life, waving at crowds, smiling and just being on top of the world. A woman in the crowd pointed at me and shouted “Anna you are STRONG” and in my happy little mind I thought “yes, yes I am!”.I find with marathons that it really helps to smile, even if you’re not feeling it. It tricks you into thinking it’s going OK and it boosts the crowds to cheer you. I definitely felt boosted!

I hadn’t paid enough attention to what Charlie and Anna had said before the race about where they were going to stand and clearly got confused because I thought they were going to be at mile 19… but they actually said they were going to be at mile 24. So at mile 19 I was looking for them but obviously didn’t see them. I’m annoyed that I didn’t listen properly because had I have known I would have looked at 24!

But around mile 19 we passed the area where our AirBnb was – and “our” Dunkin Donuts that we’d been going to. I suppose to anyone else it would have just been another Dunkin Donuts but to me it was like “ahhh! Familiar places!” and was a really nice moment. I knew where I was!At 20 miles I felt a new lease of life. Like I’m almost there. Less than hour I’ll be done! I put some high powered tunes on and focused on keeping going. I could barely hear my music though due to the crowds but it helped a little. Another bridge and we were into the Bronx, where I’d been told the support would thin out. I don’t feel like that was less support but I wondered just how more bridges to go and as we headed back to Manhattan I saw a sign that said “This is the last bridge!” and was SO grateful.

I remembered Charlie saying that mile 23 was the tough one. We’d run a bit of it the day before and it was literally all incline. It was a tough ask at this point. My legs still felt good, I was still buzzing but now my smile was occasionally a grimace as I knuckled down.

I started doing maths in my head for what time I thought I could get. Now I was wondering if a sub 3:25 would be on the cards. I was well over the mile markers possibly due to satellites or general drifting around the course so I made sure to try and work it out from an actual marker and not my watch. I was working out the eight times table in my head as I thought that was the easiest and most conservative.Charlie and Anna saw me (though I genuinely can’t remember seeing them) and they snapped two fantastic photos  which were better than any of the official ones.I was clearly in the zone! We got properly into Central Park and a man shouted to me “Hey Anna! Welcome to the Park!” and it was a really lovely moment. So random, but really lovely.And now I was on the struggle bus. Every 0.1 was a grind. I was holding on for dear life, pushing up the inclines and trying to fly down any declines. I knew the final 5k was going to be tough and it was. But though physically it was hard, I was still happy. Yes, happy that the finish was soon but also because the crowds were just amazing and I was smashing it. The finis line was after a grueling final uphill and I (gratefully) crossed the line 3:21:29, 3713/52697 overall, 116/3544 in my age group, 205/1812 Brit. Pretty cool! I was over the moon and honestly quite shocked how I’d managed to do that – and how I’d found it a lot easier than the previous Goodwood Marathon which was around 5 minutes slower. It just shows what a fantastic course and cheering crowd can do!I shuffled through the finish area and the sunshine and felt wonderful. My dad rung me straight away – he must have got notified I’d finished. I chatted to him very briefly as I realised I only had under 20% battery left and still needed to navigate my way back. I wanted to speak to Kyle but kept it sensible by using WhatsApp rather than drain any more battery.

Charlie had given me the AirBnb key as it was likely I’d be the first to finish. I hadn’t really planned what i was going to do after the race… but I knew Steph was going to head and find an apparently very popular pie straight after.She had luckily managed to get into Wave 1 so had started ahead of me and though she was taking the race as a training run (I think she did 3:50ish) finished around the same time as me. Very handy! Especially as I really didn’t know how to get back. I was going to walk using my phone to navigate but at this point I don’t think it was going to last.So I headed to pick up my amazing poncho and goodie bag. The poncho…well I can’t even explain how decent it is!It’s huge, waterproof, with a fleecy lining and a hood. I won’t be throwing this away anytime soon. It was part of my package (I bought my place and flights for the marathon with 209 events – I fully recommend them) but  believe you do have to pay extra to get it.

I met up with Steph (thank god!) and she took me to the amazing Milk Bar for some post marathon treats. Steph is very much into her food like I am so she a good person to be around at this point 😉

The Milk Bar was tricky to find and tiny. Once inside though, we had to wait in a quite a long queue – clearly a popular spot!Steph assured me the thing to order was the Crack Pie (real name), which I was totally game for.And I also bought some Birthday Cake Truffles.We then shuffled to the Subway to head home. Countless random people congratulated us – it was brilliant. In fact, we passed the Trump building where people were protesting outside and watched a very heated and sweary shouting match between a protester and a passerby. As we walked past the protester immediately softened his voice and said “Congratulations, girls!” it was quite amusing.

A this point neither of us had sat down since the Staten Island ferry – remember, we didn’t even sit on the bus! My legs were dunzo. I was exhausted. I almost cried when we got onto the metro and saw a rather shifty and possibly high/drunk guy sit sprawled out on the only two seats left on the train.

A wonderful woman noticed and promptly berated the man to stand up and let us sit down, “These girls have just run the MARATHON”. He quickly hopped up and we were able to sit down. I was so grateful to that lady!

We FINALLY got back to the AirBnb and the two of us happily sat and scoffed our pies and a numerous number of grapes (so refreshing). I had a glorious shower and then enjoyed seeing each of the other girls come in and swapping marathon stories with them. Everyone had had a good (albeit tough of course) race. Hurrah!

That evening we went out for Mexican food at Tolouche and celebrated happily together. I’ve never seen guacamole be demolished as quickly as it was though! The tortilla chips were hot and the guac was INSANELY good.For my main, I went for some sort of pulled short rib thing on a tortilla. It hit the spot.Of course we all wore our medals! Though I would have liked to have had a giant pudding of some sort I sensibly followed suite of the majority ruling (post marathon tummy is a delicate thing). We were all grateful to head to bed early that night – Anna and Charlie as well, they’d walked and cheered for silly lengths of time!Genuinely, the New York Marathon is my favourite marathon yet. I felt amazing both physically and mentally. I literally LOVED it. Yes there were tough moments but I remember distinctly thinking several times “I love this” as I was running. Having no time goals or pressures definitely helped. The crowds HUGELY helped. The sights and the sheer amazingness of New York helped. My only sadness is my family and Kyle were so far away, but I had some great new friends who helped make it very special.Next up… Portsmouth Coastal Marathon in December!

Have you ever run the New York Marathon?

What’s your favourite race?

What food do you like post-race?

**Check out Charlie’s blog for details about future running-related trips she’s organising!**

New York Marathon 2018 – part 1

The New York Marathon, my fifth Major and my 16th marathon. I had no real goals, no expectations… I felt strangely relaxed but excited. I knew it would be hard-work (marathons are never easy) and I knew the course would be tough. But I was fit, healthy, well fed and ready to go.Out of the girls, Cortney, Elaine, Emma, Steph and I were running, while Charlie and Anna would be supporting from the sidelines cheering us on. We decided that, even though we had different start times and ferry times, to all get an Uber together and just go to the start together as that would be far more fun than on our own.So the Uber picked us up at 6am and we headed to Staten Island Ferry. Most of the girls had already eaten breakfast/snack but Emma and I had taken ours with us. I like to have my porridge about 2-1.5 hours before the start and as I wasn’t starting until 9.50am I decided to wait. Even if this did mean my porridge would be a little bit like concrete by the time I’d get to eat it…As cheesy as it sounded we played Taylor Swift ‘Welcome to New York’ in the Uber and danced along together. It was the song of the trip and helped calm our nerves and make us laugh. Then we hopped out of the car and headed to the ferry.The place was teaming with runners! Not that you could really tell – everyone looked like a homeless person or someone from the 80’s with what they were wearing. Over-sized jumpers, old-school coats, ponchos, dressing gowns. It was all going on. I had one of Charlie’s old tops and my mum’s old jumper on. It was nice to smell my mum at this point – I know that sounds a bit weird, but it was comforting.We waited for the next ferry then got on with hundreds of other runners. It was buzzing.We then enjoyed a 20 minute journey, with beautiful views of the sky-line and the Statue of Liberty. It was fantastic. The atmosphere on the boat was one of excitement and nerves.Then from the ferry we waited to use the loos in the ferry terminal (might as well use a proper loo where you can!) and then got into a seemingly never ending and non-moving queue for the buses. The queue took forever. At 8ish I decided to eat my porridge. It was still a little warm but not the best. Needs must though!Eventually we got onto the bus, being assured it was just a 10 minute journey. Steph and I were happy to stand as the seats were all taken. Had we have known we would be standing for a long time we might not have been so willing. The bus took far longer than it should have. At least 30 minutes! At this point I was a little bit worried. It was coming up to 9am now. Fears of hanging around the race village for hours on end in the cold very much disappeared.

As we got off the bus (FINALLY) we were then searched by police (who were super friendly). Security was a high priority here.Steph and I then hightailed it to our start areas as we were now under an hour away from the start (the other girls were starting a bit later). We waited in a loo queue and then, as we were in separate colour corrals, parted ways.I was now solo. Unfortunately when I got to my corral I was told it was closed. I was too late! I’d have to wait until the next wave… I felt a little bit annoyed because it wasn’t my fault. I probably wouldn’t have queued for the loo had I known I would miss my wave but ehhh it was chip timed so it wasn’t catastrophic.Though it did mean that when my wave opened I was almost front of the queue, and was able to jump in a loo at supersonic speed for a final Psychological Safety Wee and somehow managed to shuffle all the way to the front of the wave. I tossed my two jumpers into the pile for charity and felt chilly but not too cold.After hearing Wave 1 set off, we were then let out to the actual start area just before the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge (the first bridge, of three I believe). I’d read in a few recaps that going over the bridge was a better route than being under the bridge (horror stories of people peeing above) so I was a bit disappointed to see where my corral was going was under… until I spotted a small gap in the barriers which I squeezed through to allow me to go to the “upper” route. Sneaky sneaky.We waited in the now glorious cold sunshine and I felt happy. A very lively and happy photographer was jumping around the place shouting (nicely I may add) at different people “show me your bib – I got you!” before turning to someone else. When he snapped my photo he shouted “ohh yeaaah I got Anna’s digits! Everyone, I got Anna’s digits!” and everyone around cheered and laughed. It was less creepy than it sounds I assure you. It made me laugh and relaxed my tension of JUST WANTING TO START.

Then the canon BOOMED (terrifying me as it shook the entire ground) and we were off! As I was fairly near the front and the other wave before us was long gone I was strangely seeing a very empty long road ahead of me, sparsely dotted with super fast runners streaming ahead. It was so bizarre. Such a huge marathon and to have that view was crazy.More and more people zoomed past me (steady, Anna, steady) and the uphill climb of the bridge began. But I was loving it. The views! The clear blue sky, the New York skyline in the distance, the glittering water, the excitement around me – it was electric. I had a huge cheesy grin plastered on my face and distinctly remember thinking “this is fantastic! Even if I crash and burn later, this marathon is FANTASTIC”. That moment alone would make everything worth it.The first two miles flew by as we went up the bridge and then back down. Mile one was 8.23 and mile two 7.26 but I wasn’t really sure what to think. I felt very strong and relaxed. It felt very natural and easy (of course it would, it’s the first two miles…).

As we got off the bridge we headed into Brooklyn. There were lots of people hanging out of windows, standing outside their houses and cheering from the sidelines.

I felt buzzed. Absolutely loving life and like I’d taken this special drug called The New York Marathon. I waved, I cheered, I smiled. I people-watched other runners and saw so many different nationalities. I saw a Polish woman (she was wearing white and red with Polska written on her back) get greeted by another Polish runner whom (from the way she reacted) she clearly didn’t know but they seemed to chatter on until she headed off. It was great to see.I became aware that I needed a wee. I decided to promise myself I’d have a wee around mile 15 (at the next available loo). I knew I wasn’t desperate but I knew it was going to annoy me and become a preoccupation in my mind.

I noticed someone’s sign on the sideline say “Go to your happy place” and I smiled and thought “this is it. THIS is my happy place”. I know that’s beyond cheesy but I just felt so bloody fantastic. I was running far faster than I’d intended but I was drinking in the crowd’s enthusiasm and my mind wasn’t even thinking about running or miles.The streets at this point were relatively flat and from miles 3-8 were basically a straight line. You could see out ahead of you, but instead of this giving me anxieties of the distance to come I just found it incredible. I was aware of the danger I was in – being buzzed right at the start, getting carried away on the flat roads and going too fast. But I reassured myself it would be fine. I had more bridges to come and Central Park so it’d all even out in the end.

I got to 10 mile surprisingly quickly. My pace had now been far faster than my expectations. It felt far easier than the Goodwood Marathon where it seemed it was a bit more of a concerted effort to maintain around 8 min/miles. I saw a line of portable loos available and decided to just go for it. I was in and out in super fast time, literally 20 seconds. I’d rather take that time than spend the rest of the race smelling of my own wee (yes, people do actually wee themselves rather than going to the loo because God forbid they might miss a PB. NOT worth it to me!).The crowds were still fantastic. The signs were brilliant (“You’re running better than the Government”, “Keep going random stranger!”). There were so many. I was smiling the entire time and made sure to wave at the supporters – which in turn would encourage them to shout support to me or cheer. I loved how the New York people said my name, “Go Enna” is the only way I can type that to explain.I got to half-way and was surprised at how good I was. I had brief visions of my dad and Kyle (who were at home tracking me on the app) wondering if I was running too fast too soon. Maybe I was but I felt strong and good.

There’s a small bridge after half-way (the Pulaski Bridge) which was brief and not too tricky. Then one of the hardest parts of the race by far was mile 16 as you go over the Queensboro Bridge. I knew they’d be tough bridges but I was so glad not to have known beforehand that this bridge went on for over a mile. It was like going down a long and uphill tunnel. It was enclosed, it was quiet and it was hard hard work. My pace dropped right down. But so did everyone else’s – I wasn’t being left behind. I was still surrounded by the same people.It was a good opportunity for me to listen to my music and find motivation inside to keep going. Before this point the crowd and the sheer thrill of New York had kept me going. Now I was enclosed in a god-awful bridge away from any happy people and was feeling the struggle. That said, I did look over at the views and still couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be running in such a beautiful and awesome place.As we finally got out of the bridge we turned round the corner and suddenly the crowds were back. The roar of cheering just blew the last mile away – I was back in the game!

I’m going to leave it there because this is already ridiculously long…

Have you ever run the New York Marathon?

What is a must for you on race morning?

How early do you eat before a race?

New York, New York

New York, where do I even start? I’ll be doing the marathon recap soon, but for now I’ll just recap the days before, because they were pretty cool too.

So this trip was organised by the lovely Charlie (aka @TheRunnerBeans of blog and Insta fame). I’d briefly met her before and she seemed lovely but I’d not met the other girls who were going to be on the trip too. We’d “met” through social media and chatted via there but I hadn’t actually met them. We created a WhatsApp group and chatted there a bit more, but there was still a little bit of nervousness… would they like me? Would I get on with them? Was I cool enough? I needn’t have worried about whether the girls would be nice or not – Charlie, Anna, Elaine, Cortney, Steph and Emma were all just so lovely.On Friday morning my lovely dad drove me to the airport where I met with Emma, the only one who was one the same flight as me. I was SO pleased to have someone on the same flight who also needed to get to the same place on the other side as me because, let’s be honest, I’m a complete numpty and would probably get very lost on my own. Especially as I was trying to save some money and not just get a taxi from the airport to the AirBnb. And Emma was the nicest person – I’m so glad we met! 😀The flight was long (ehhh 8 hours) but we managed to zip so quickly through security in JFK and grab our bags super fast. This is almost unheard of for flights into the States – it usually takes forever! We then rushed to get the right train to the subway so we could get to the marathon expo that evening before it shut. We were very much pushing it as it was now 6pm and the last entry into the expo was 7pm! By the time we got to Penn Station we literally had to run (with our suitcases!) down the streets (in the rain!) to get there. It was epic – the only way to describe it. We got to the expo minutes before 7pm, saw Charlie who was meeting us there and dropped our suitcases with her while we raced in.We picked up our bibs and then picked up our finisher’s t-shirt (women sizes hurrah!). We could do the expo on Saturday (the next day) but we really wanted to make sure we got our bibs and that bit sorted in case any plans changed the next day or it was a faff to get back to.The expo was very quiet though so it was super fast to do everything we needed. We wandered round the merch area and I bought myself a vest. To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the selection. I’m not a huge New Balance fan and the stuff wasn’t really my sort of thing. I’m really pleased with the vest but nothing else appealed. The expo itself was pretty cool though in this giant glass building.There were lots of stalls but we decided to head back out to Charlie as she was waiting and we were going to head to dinner with the other girls. It was very late to us at this point (New York was four hours apart at this point – the daylight savings would happen Sunday morning) but we were running on adrenaline and excitement. We met the other girls at 5 Napkin Burger, which was very cool indeed.I ordered chicken wings (had to be done!) and sweet potato fries and enjoyed finally chatting to the other girls, who had arrived at different times. The chicken wings were delicious of course.And then we headed to the Airbnb and could finally CHILL. It had been a very long day! The Airbnb was INCREDIBLE. It was a proper townhouse affair, with three stories and four bedrooms. It was really quite big. The downstairs was an open plan living room, dining room and kitchen, so it felt very social.

Charlie had given us all a little goodie bag of treats as well, which was just so lovely. We had a t-shirt with New York and the skyline stitched onto it, a hairband with New York Marathon 2018 written on it, a Nuun water bottle and some Nuun, some peanut butter M&M’s and some trail mix (something we don’t really get in the UK).It was a lovely welcome! Then we headed to bed and I fell asleep very quickly! Though we’d planned to have a lovely lie-in in the morning, jet lag had other ideas and most of us woke up very early. We had a quick little walk to the very local Dunkin Donuts and got a coffee and some of the mini bite-size doughnuts (I want to say munchkins?). Then we all got ready for a shake-out run that would take us to brunch.Anna, Charlie’s friend, is an amazing photographer and does lots of Charlie’s photos for her and was planning on taking photos for us during our trip. It was really quite cool. We’d get some get photos of us running in New York that weren’t blurred or just selfies, it was fantastic!I did feel a little self-conscious, but Anna was great and how could the photos not be good with the scenery being as beautiful as it was with the autumnal colours!We ran to Central Park which was, as you can imagine, just so beautiful and so packed full of other runners! If you weren’t a runner you’d really want to be after being surrounded by so many of them!In the end I ran about 5.5 miles, which was more than I probably would have done on my own and the day before a marathon but it was a gentle pace and my legs enjoyed the stretching out after all the travel. And then we arrived at brunch at P.J Clarke’s. Charlie had previously sent out an invite to any runners who wanted to join and I think there were about 30 of us in total! It was mental. But everyone was so nice and super excited about the marathon the next day.

I love in the above photo how I’m not even caring about the photo, I’m more interested in the menu

For brunch I had toast, ham, poached eggs, tomato and Emma’s unwanted sausages (always surround yourself with people who are willing to share of give up their food ;-)).Charlie and Zoe (@MilesFitter) had done a fantastic job of arranging the brunch and we even got hats to commemorate the occasion.Emma, Elaine and I headed off after brunch to go and do some sight-seeing and to go back to the Expo for another longer mosey about. We didn’t go back to get changed first as we couldn’t be bothered and it wasn’t that cold – well, in the sun it was lovely! So first stop was Levain Bakery for some of the best cookies in New York (or so we had been told…).They sold lots of cakes but the cookie flavours were choc chip and walnut, peanut butter, double choc chip and oat and rasin. Well I was in a quandary of what to order as I wasn’t sure about the addition of walnuts into a cookie… and none of the others really took my fancy. I asked the guy behind the counter and he fully recommended the choc chip and walnut as that’s what they’re famous for apparently. I decided to also order the oat and raisin because that’s always a good one, if a little boring sometimes.I ate the choc chip one then and there – WARM. Oh my god I actually cannot explain just how fantastic this cookie was. It was so melty and gooey in the middle with a firm and crispy outer shell. So soft, so warm, so tasty. It was huge, but that’s the only way I like baked goods so that worked out nicely 😉 It took all the power in the world not to run back to the counter and order 15 more. I decided to save my oat and raisin for later…the will power I showed honestly astounds me.

We had a quick little mosey around Trader Joe’s (bought myself some of their incredible Everything But the Bagel seasoning). I do love looking round foreign super markets! And then we headed off to Time Square.I mean, obviously we just had to be a little touristy and because I’d suddenly, in the last few months, become quite the M&M fan and they have the huge M&M World there. Strangely I’m not a fan of the original M&M’s but the peanut ones, the crispy ones, the caramel ones… basically all the non-original ones I love. And it’s something a bit weird and special between Kyle and me so I thought I’d treat us to some to share (I must share, I must share, I must share…).Well, I got so excited in the M&M pick ‘n’ mix bit (OMG ALL THE FLAVOURS!!) I ended up spending $26.10! Though I have to say, I was only disappointed that it hadn’t come to $26.20… Needless to say I had quite a bag of M&M’s to take away with me (let’s pretend I didn’t go to Target later and buy some Halloween themed M&M’s as well…). ANYWAY.Then we headed to the Expo again where we could spend a bit more time looking around the different stalls (all the tasters… mmmm). I got a cool waterproof cover for my phone at the Strava stand and bought myself a GU gel. I love the GU gels – so thick and tasty. The flavours are incredible. My favourites are the maple bacon (yes yes I know, weird) and the salted caramel. Literally heavenly. This time I went for the birthday cake flavour (we just don’t have birthday cake flavours in the UK so it had to be done!). I was really intrigued to see that you could buy big containers full of GU as well that you could partition into re-usable plastic pouches. What a great idea! Though it did sound a little messy to me..I checked out the AMAZING Six Star Medal as well. Oh I can’t wait to get mine next year (if all goes well!) after Chicago. It’s just so exciting to me. I then added my words of wisdom to the wall of post-it notes (Steve Way’s classic “Don’t be shit”).Then we headed back to finally shower and think about dinner. We all decided to just chill and get dinner in rather than venture out again. I tried to use UberEats but failed so found myself a nearby Mexican and decided to go for that (God I love Mexican food) while everyone else either got something taken away from a local pizza place (Patsy’s Pizzeria) or were making their own dinner (the luxury of an AirBnb!).I enjoyed a salad topped with chicken, pork, avocado, sour cream, rice, tortilla chips and guacamole. It was delicious! I followed that with the oat and raisin cookie (which I microwaved to get warm again). Omg so good. Not quite as good as the one I’d had earlier but still delicious.I actually wasn’t feeling that nervous about the marathon the next day which was WEIRD. I was excited and looking forward to it. I really had no plans how I’d run. If I wanted to go fast, I would, If I wanted to plod along and enjoy everything, I would. It felt very eerie being as calm as I was. But it felt good. At the end of the day, I’d done this before (15 times!) and all I could do was my best. Whatever that might be.I hadn’t had a niggle in ages, I felt in good shape, I’d had a solid amount of decent food and I’d be running round somewhere new, beautiful and amazing. I’d say I was pretty nicely set-up to have a good run.

Have you ever been to New York?

Are you an M&M fan? What’s your favourite flavour?

Do you prefer an AirBnb or a hotel?