The Goodwood Marathon

On Sunday I ran the Goodwood Marathon. I’m not entirely sure why I thought a lapped marathon would be a good idea but at the time I actually thought it was eight laps not 11 until I got an email closer to the time (standard Anna).

Ah OK, that sounded quite a bit worse. But it was meant to be flat and the idea of counting to 11 rather than 26 sounded sounded marginally better in my head. Running around a cool race track…it was flat… it was at a good time of year and about seven weeks before the New York Marathon so ehhh what’s the worst that could happen asides from getting a bit dizzy and bored?The marathon was at the Goodwood Motor Race Track in Chichester. It started at 9am (and then the 20 miler, half marathon, 10k and 5k started later afterwards in cascading times).

My training had gone really well. I’d gotten a good number of solid long runs in, no niggles, some speedy parkruns and speedwork. Well, it all looked pretty good physically. Mentally though I wasn’t in the mindset to attempt a PB run. I’d done that at Brighton and I was quite happy to leave it there. Marathons for me are not about smashing PB’s each time. But I did want to aim for a faster time than I normally would… maybe creep under 3:30?

Another delightful plot twist was that my time of the month had sprung up on me. I’ve done 14 marathons and this has yet to happen – quite lucky I realise. But not today. Without going TMI, I’m very lucky in how things go for me and it’s never really an issue. I can still run and be fine and don’t get bad cramps or headaches, so I wasn’t worried.I had my parents and Kyle were coming to cheer me on which made everything seem a whole lot better. They’d get to cheer me on ELEVEN times (surely they’d get sick of me!). And my friend Mike and Kev were doing it too (amongst other lovely runners I know through social media).So it didn’t look to be a bad day at all. We left the house at 7.30am and drove our way there without issue (and with my trainers firmly on my feet…). I ate my usual porridge and had a black coffee.We arrived and I immediately needed to go to the loo, as you do. There were portable loos in the car park (which was free!) so I went there. MISTAKE. It absolutely stunk. Like properly stunk. It was pretty grim. But as a runner when you see a loo without a big queue at a race YOU GO. Little did I know there were actually very lovely proper toilets in the race village. Ah well.I picked up my bib, got some free GU gels (my favourite brand) and then got a photo with The Stig who was milling about. He did say he wasn’t allowed to talk but we had a nice chat 😉One more quick wee and then I headed off to the ‘warm-up’ area near the track after saying goodbye to my parents and Kyle. My dad was in Full Supporter Mode and I could see him training Kyle up (while my mum, bless her, just took in the scenery and enjoyed the buzz).The warm-up seemed similar to a HIIT class so I did my own mini dynamic warm-up (aka a random squat, a lunge and a token arm swing). And then they started calling out marathon finishing times so we could be sort of order as we stood at the start. Considering there were only about 100 people running the marathon I didn’t think this was entirely necessary but OK. I didn’t really want to declare what time I was going for so early on (mainly because I wasn’t sure) but when they said 3:30 I thought that I might as well aim high (or low?).I don’t think I’ve ever been so close to the start of a marathon. It made me feel very nervous! I could see Kyle, my mum and dad on the balcony bit above me and they were waving and cheering which was nice. This was a very chilled marathon. None of the hype and buzz of the a Major or a big city marathon, it was a nice change.So we got going. The first part of the marathon was a short out and back bit to make sure the correct distance was hit. I sort of forgot about this and only remembered as we literally got to the cone turnaround bit and then headed back the other way. Ahh there was wind. I knew there would probably be some due to the exposed nature of the course and to be fair it wasn’t so bad but just something that would affect me on the course at certain points, over and over.

So there we were, beginning our first lap of 11. The front runners zoomed off into the distance and the rest of us sort of fell into our natural positioning within the race. There were two females ahead of me who straight away ran off ahead, one significantly so. A tiny part of my mind wondered if I should try and keep up… it was a small field, I could place at a marathon if things went well. But the lead female was really going out strong and I wasn’t and nor did I want to.Instead I found myself behind a small group of men and decided to just tuck in behind them. I definitely helped because I was slightly sheltered from the wind and I could turn my brain off and mindlessly listen in to their conversations. In most marathons I try not to listen to any music or podcasts on the first 10 miles so I knew I had a few laps of potential boredom to get through so anything helped.I did feel a bit cheeky essentially slip-streaming from these guys but I did offer to run in front as well to take a turn but they seemed happy enough. They were mostly keeping to a consistent 8ish minute miling and as this was my aim it worked perfectly. I stuck with them for two laps. The first lap went quickly. Annoyingly because of the first out and back I couldn’t accurately work out the distance of the lap. Kyle and my dad had also told me beforehand (maths whizzes that they are) that if I’d wanted a 3:30 time I needed to do 19 minute laps. Well now I was flummoxed completely – how could I work that out! (Incidentally, from Strava, I found out later that each lap was 2.3 miles).The first couple of laps flew by. Each time I heard and saw my parents and Kyle cheer madly at me as I ran past. This was such a boost! It was something really good to look forward to at the end of another lap.On the second lap I knew I needed a wee. I tried to pretend I didn’t but like trying not to think about a white elephant… all I could think about was needing a wee. As we ran another lap I looked out for any loos on the course. Other than the main block of toilets within the main area away from the track, there weren’t any. The course was very open as well and there weren’t any bushes or obvious hiding spots to sneak off to. Hummmm. So either I could waste time running off from the course and going to the loos a fair distance away or I could risk someone seeing my bum. Decisions decisions.

As I continued the next lap I spotted a man dash off from the course on one of the bends and noticed a slight curve round the corner. He could wee without anyone really seeing unless they really tried to have a gawp as they ran past.At this point the 20 miler runners had begun their race so there were now a few more people on the course. I realised this was the best time because there would be far less people on the course to potentially catch me having a wee. So on the next lap I sped up as I got towards the chosen location. As I overtook two 20 miler runners they cheered me on saying I was running strong. I replied “I’m going to have a wee up here, please don’t look behind you as you run past!” they laughed and agreed not too.

Whew! No one saw, I was able to now relax. Though I did run straight across the gravel to get back onto the track (the bit that helps slow cars down if they veer off the course) which was terrible to run on! Another girl shouted to me as I rejoined the race that she was pleased I’d highlighted a good wee spot for her. I was happy to help 🙂I’d lost my friendly gang of guys now there were more runners about it was less sparse on the course. I caught up with the two runners who I’d warned about my weeing adventures and chatted to them for a bit. They were training for the Abingdon Marathon (so this was a nice catered long run). After chatting for a bit I felt a bit wary keeping up with them and decided to let them go ahead. Even though they weren’t running that much faster than I wanted it felt like hard-work and I just wanted to run at my own speed – mentally it felt easier, though awkwardly I was just behind them.I passed through the supporters again and once again felt buoyed by their cheers. There was a drinks and aid station at the start of each lap which was great. I did think paper cups would probably have been a better option though than bottles. Such a waste of plastic considering people were literally taking a sip and then chucking it, and how many bottles would be wasted after so many laps and so many runners… Surely on a lapped course this could be done so much better?They were also offering GU gels on every lap. I hadn’t brought any of my own gels as they knew this beforehand and personally love these gels. Previously I’d take a gel at mile 8, mile 13 and mile 18 but I was feeling pretty good and decided to leave taking a gel until later. As I ran past I heard one of the marshals shout “salted caramel flavour” and I almost did a full turnaround. It’s literally the BEST flavour. SO GOOD. I could put it on ice cream to be honest. But I didn’t need one then. As I’d run past and done a double-take one of the volunteers noticed and yelled as I ran past “I’ve got you some for the next lap!”.The course was fairly flat asides from two gentle short inclines. You wouldn’t really notice them if you did them once. But after a fair number of times you really do.

The first few times round the track were interesting – there were planes landing and taking off in the middle which was exciting, but again became dull due to the repetitive nature of the course. I started noticing things like a dropped jelly baby on the floor that I would look for on the next lap… a marking on the track… fun signs around the course. Anything to keep entertained.As I went past the aid station again the volunteer who’d seen me before brandished a salted caramel GU at me and yelled “I remembered! I got you covered!” and I was able to grab it off him. I tucked it into my Flipbelt ready for when I’d need it.

I still felt good running. Consistently running around 7:50s and getting into the “dark miles” of the marathon…I listened to a podcast for a bit and then switched to a playlist that had songs I was recently enjoying, but not songs that would make me suddenly sprint.

The half marathoners were on the course and the 10k’ers were about to start. Chris Evans (from BBC Radio 2) was doing the half and despite apparently lapping him twice I didn’t see him. I was annoyed about this!At about mile 19 I finally took the gel. It was delicious. Thick, sticky, gooey and sweet. Maybe you hate gels, but this one really rocks my world. I then started drinking water on every lap. It was hot, despite not being too sunny, and I knew I needed to hydrate. I wondered about leaving a bottle somewhere that I could pick up again later but the bottles were all the same so it was impossible. But I did actually notice a few savvy people had put their own bottles and some gels in the middle of the track so they could pick it up each lap. Fantastic idea!I managed to claw back the first female as she was fading and I was maintaining my pace. I’d past the other female near the beginning. I was now first female!

The hardest lap for me was the 3rd from the end. It was mentally very hard to think “another three laps to go”. I just wanted to get to the 2nd lap where I could basically think “just one more to go”. A Hedgie who was doing the half sailed past me, running strong, and wished me well – he was finishing (stellar fast time!).

I knew my watch was out (there were a few complaints around the course) so I knew I wasn’t counting down until 26.2 miles, but I was just thinking about the laps now. Finally I got to the second lap.My whole body was aching. It was really tough. My stomach was really cramping – something I’ve never had while I ran before. Weirdly though I started to focus on those cramps rather than my legs being tired or achy… it made sense in my head! Ooof I just wanted to finish now. It was such a hard grind. I couldn’t speed up much, I was on the edge.Final lap. Thank god. Just once around the track. I could do this.As I came round the bend, into the wind, towards the funnel where racers who were finishing split from the others, a volunteer asked if I was a half marathoner finishing – “no the marathon!” I said.
He cheered me on as I put my head down and sprinted (relative term there) to the finish line.My dad got some great photos of the end – proper focused looking running! I actually have a ridiculously number of photos from this race as my dad was very good at taking lots as I ran past ELEVEN times.I finished in 3:26:53, first female, 11th place – just behind Vassos. My 3rd fastest marathon.I finished and immediately felt dreadful. My stomach was cramping so much. I was not in a good place.Bless my dad for catching this on camera… Initially they were worried I was injured but I reassured them that nope, just one of those things. I was really drained. I couldn’t believe how drained I felt.

 

It was nice to hear about what my parents and Kyle had gotten up to while I was running. The marathon was really good at updating their website for runners’ time as they’re actually running because of the chips. It meant they could see how well I was doing per lap and predict how it was going to go (my dad loves stuff like that).And of course they were well fed 😉

Their support during the race though was so good. I don’t think I could have done such a dull marathon had I not had them cheering me on to look forward to each lap. I can’t imagine it would have been that exciting for them either so I’m hugely grateful.The rest of the day was pretty awful for me. I had the worst headache I’ve ever had and spent the afternoon not feeling great at all. In the end I just had to go to bed at about 7.30pm and lie in a dark room. My head was pounding. I rarely get headaches so this was a complete shock to me. It was honestly the worst I’ve felt in a long long time. Thankfully though I woke up the next day after a solid night’s sleep feeling SO much better. My legs were tired but everything felt OK. Thank god.Right I’ll leave it there… this is already so long!

Have you ever done a lapped race?

Do you get headaches often?

What’s your favourite gel?

Unpopular opinions and things I’m loving lately

Well this is really a random post! It’s a mix of things I’m loving at the moment and some unpopular opinions.

The unpopular opinions idea came from a post from Hungry Runner Girl and I thought it would be a fun post to do as well. I’ll throw my hands up and say it’s mainly food related but that should hardly surprise you 😉

  • I really don’t get Nutella. Yep starting with a big one. I mean, I like chocolate and I like hazelnuts. But together? As a weird thick paste you put on bread and crepes? Nope. Doesn’t do anything for me.
  • I also don’t get the craze for peanut butter (or any nut butters really). It could be because I don’t often have bread or toast. But I don’t see the appeal even on it’s own. It’s alright but I wouldn’t go out of my way to find any or eat it. I quite like a peanut butter chocolate flavour combo with cookies and ice cream but as a fun change rather than something I’d crave.
  • Toppings on porridge. In fact, I could say a whole lot about porridge and what people do to it. Cold overnight oats? Nope, no, nooo. The most exciting I do is putting protein powder in it.

  • Not one for the veggies… I really like eating my chicken with the skin on, and in general I’m a big fan of meat on the bone. I think it’s because I’m a mini T-Rex.

  • And one non-food related one. I’d rather get up at 5am to workout in the gym than do it in the evening. I can be motivated to run whenever, but going to the gym? Nope.

And onto things I’m loving lately…

This is fairly random but it made me laugh. Have you ever wondered what animal you’d be if you were to be one? On my two holidays I was called two different animals. The first was a hyena. This goes back to the eating meat from the bone (see above).I’m pretty good at getting as much meat as I can off it. It’s a well-honed skill. I like to think that back in the day (you know, a few million years ago) I’d have survived for a good amount of time as a neanderthal with that kind of ability.

In Tokyo I then got called a squirrel. This is because I have a fear of food running out and so to combat this I constantly carry snacks round with me. On the flight I had three different packets of crisps, two apples, a mini bag of pretzels and some turkey jerky. I didn’t eat them all but I felt happier knowing they were there.

This doughnut. Now I’m not a huge doughnut fan. I’m more of a cake-lover. However when I was in Southampton West Quay shopping centre I saw a “make your own doughnut” stand. Basically you could choose your own toppings…as many as you liked! For £1.50! I walked over to have a look – just a LOOK – and found myself with my purse in my hands perusing the menu before I knew what I was doing.I got a white chocolate covered doughnut with caramel sauce and caramel shrapnel.Caramel shrapnel? What a wonderful way to describe little droplets of sugary heaven. I won’t lie. I got it all over me in the middle of the busy shopping centre and I did not care.

Odd but tasty gels. My lovely friend, Mat (AKA triathlon legend) sent me some gels a while ago and I was FINALLY able to try them out during the marathon. Well, one of them anyway! Maple Bacon flavoured GU. Yes really.I have quite a strong stomach and have never had an issue with gels before so I was confident to just try it for the first time during the race (I live life on the edge…). It was really good. I love the flavour of maple bacon anyway (Kettlebites I’m looking at you) so this wasn’t too weird for me. Sweet and salty yumminess! (FYI: I believe he bought them from Amazon).

Tokyo goodies: When I finished the Tokyo Marathon (I’ll stop talking about this one day), we were first given a towel as we walked from the finish line. I was like “oh cool…but we still get a medal, right??” Thankfully we did, but getting a towel as well was pretty cool.I’ve only ever received a mini gym towel (and that was in place of a medal) but this is pretty damn good. Get me to a swimming pool/beach/plumbing disaster immediately!

I also got a technical t-shirt which (hallelujah!) actually fits.As I’m a fairly micro person I always opt for extra-small if it’s available as an option and this fits like a glove. I suppose it helps that Japanese women in general are quite small.

ASICS running gear from Millet Sports: Millet Sports kindly sent me a pair of ASICS leggings and ASICS running jacket to review.Firstly, apologies for the most ridiculously cheesy pose in this picture. Catalogue pose eat your heart out.

The jacket is brilliant. It’s quite thick, so perfect for when it’s really cold outside (like those ridiculously cold mornings or evenings we’ve been having). It has the fabulous thumb holes as well as a couple of nice pockets. It’s waterproof, breathable and has reflective dots over it so great for visibility when running in the dark. I just love the colour as well.It matches my new trainers!

The leggings are full length made from a breatheable stretch material, with a short zip at the ankles to give a bit of ventilation (I personally wouldn’t when running as it would flap, but I imagine after a run it’s lovely to have a bit of air). There’s a drawstring around the waist so there’s no worries about them slipping down mid-run as well. Though they’re not baggy they are less tight than other leggings I have, like ones from Fabletics or Lululemon which literally suck you all in. This makes running in them a lot more comfortable.

There’s also a back pocket slightly to the side which I like as sometimes a back pocket can annoy me with the zip, whereas slightly to one side is a bit more comfortable.

A great winter running outfit. Check out Millet Sports for more running gear!

What would be your ideal doughnut topping?

What animal would you be and why?

What’s your unpopular opinion?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the leggings and jacket for free in return for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Good things making me happy

Apart from the dark mornings and evenings, the cold and rain, things are quite happy in my neck of the woods! It’s always nice to take stock of a few things that are making me a happy Anna.

The ‘C’ word: What is this madness? Christmas stuff already out in supermarkets. This photo was actually take two or three weeks ago as well.img_4888Christmas cakes, mince pies, stollen… yep. It’s October. That said, I love all things Christmas, especially food-related items) so I’m happy with this state of affairs. More mince pies in my life can only be a good thing.

Tesco encouraging kids to eat more fruit: They’re offering a free piece of fruit to children coming into the supermarket. img_3917So they can chomp on something healthy as they walk round with their parents. What a great idea! Nice one, Tesco. We’ll let you off for your Christmas products 😉

New shoes: I bought some new shoes. They were really cheap as they’re of an older seasons but I really needed a pair of simple comfy shoes I could easily slip into and wear for quick errands or walking Alfie. img_5954I tend to have a lot of trainers, pumps, boots and then my gym shoes (Vans & Converses – ideal because they have flat soles for squatting and deadlifting which help me be more “in tune” with the ground and lifting) but nothing that I’d be happy to get a bit mucky. I had a previous pair of Skechers and I wore them to the ground. These were only £25 which I thought was a steal.

Unusual gel flavours: A lovely friend of mine (a triathlon legend it must be said – his training cycles make mine look very amateur indeed) sent me some gels as a good luck present for my marathon (though with strict instruction NOT to use them during the marathon if I hadn’t tried them first).img_5972Maple Bacon flavoured gels!! I know some (many?) of you will be thinking “that’s so gross” but I’m genuinely looking forward to trying them out. I quite like the GU gels (I still remember that salted caramel one I had once…so good. And the lemon flavoured one that tasted like a zesty pudding) so I expect good things 😉

Protein Porridge: I got a packet of this Mornflake Go! High Portein Porridge in my goodie bag from the Chester Marathon. Normally I will never use porridge packets because they always contain some form of sugar or flavouring and I can’t stand sweet porridge. For me the only sweetness I like is from the milk, so it’s very subtle.fullsizerenderBut this was different. It’s a pack of oats containing soya protein isolate and (other than a stabiliser) that’s it. No sugar, no fruit, no seeds…just oats and protein. One packet though wouldn’t be enough for me for breakfast as it was around 130 calories. So I used two with almond milk and it tasted almost identical to my normal porridge.img_5953Basically the same texture and it was really filling. I’m still regularly having scrambled eggs (with cheese, kale and olives – love it) for breakfast but I miss my porridge. The reason I swapped was because the porridge was quite low in protein but this is a great compromise. Though it is more expensive, so I’m looking into getting some unflavoured protein powder and playing around with that.

Woofins: These are adorable…even if I was disappointed when I first saw them as I thought “oooh cake” and then realised they’re actually for dogs.img_5987

Alfie isn’t a huge treat lover or chewer. For example, if I give him a dentist stick to chew on he puts it in his mouth then wanders around whimpering until I take it off him and cut it into four pieces for him (what a princess…). Although he will easily eat them normally when he’s around my parent’s dogs – but I think this is due to the fear that if he doesn’t they’ll eat it for him. Anyway, I digress, he wolfed down this mini cake – he loved it!

New car: OK it’s pretty much identical to my old car, just new.img_5968I love the Fiat 500 and wanted to stay with them. Unfortunately I did want a different colour (I quite like the mint) but they didn’t have it in stock for when I wanted it so I had red again. As someone who is rubbish with adulting, having a brand new car with no MOT or service to worry about for a while is a huge weight off my mind (especially as I was late with my last service by about 10,000 miles as I got confused <– story of my life).

But things making me nervous: A 10k obstacle course race (Chepstow Stampede) with my friends, Kate and Jamie, that’s happening Saturday. I did that obstacle course in Spain but I don’t think it can quite compare to a muddy obstacle course race in Britain during a rather wet autumn. I’m stressing a bit with what to wear as I don’t really have anything I’d happy to never see again if it got ruined… and I’m scared about being really cold and wet. But other than that, it should be a laugh. We’ll see…

Have you ever done an obstacle course race?

What kind of car do you have?

What non-workout shoes do you normally wear?

Chester Marathon 2016

If there’s one thing I know about marathons it’s that it never gets easier. I suppose after the first one you’ve completed there is a sense of reassurance that you can actually do the distance and not combust after mile 18, but it is never easy. And, at least for me, I’m never going into without feeling nervous and terrified.

On the morning of the marathon I got up at 6am, got dressed, had a quick black coffee and made my porridge to take with me in the car.img_5541My parents were driving me there and then supporting me. So at 6.30am we piled into the car and headed to Chester, which was about 1.5 hours away from where we were staying in the cottage. Thankfully a quick petrol station stop allowed the necessary pre-race toilet requirement to be achieved (whew – runners, you know what I mean!) and we arrived at Chester at 8am, the time that the Chester Racecourse car park closes. This didn’t matter as my parents were just dropping me off and then heading off to find breakfast and mile 15ish to wait for me. However, we were very lucky as the road closures were literally happening around us at that point (we didn’t realise the roads to and from the racecourse would be closed. Normal well-organised people might, but us chancers? Noooo).img_5543The temperature was very nippy and I was thankful for having a charity shop purchased fleece to keep me warm.img_5544The race village was quite cool being in the racecourse. There were several tented areas full of things to buy and the bag drop area but I headed out to the main grass area to get into the loo queue because really what else can you do when you have about 45 minutes to kill before a race?chester-marathon-race-villageThe grass was wet and my trainers were annoyingly getting a bit soggy. I noticed several people had blue plastic shoe covers on their trainers to keep them dry and wondered where they got them from. But I wasn’t bothered enough to hunt them out for myself. A loo visit was more important! There didn’t seem to be a huge number of mobile loos it must be said but I was able to go twice so I can’t complain! No bad loo experiences so that’s always a plus!

Eventually we were called to the start. I felt really nervous. For me, a marathon is never a proper marathon unless I have some sort of ailment to worry about beforehand and in true Anna-style I was worried about my calf. It had been feeling very tight and a bit, dare I say, niggly during the week. I felt it a bit at parkrun the day before…In normal circumstances a week off would have probably put it to bed but not possible when race day is that week! But anyway we started and it just felt a bit tight so I tried to ignore it.

The first mile is run partly on grass as you come out of the racecourse and then onto the roads of Chester. There were quite a few clusters of small crowds and local running clubs who cheered us on. It was a lovely atmosphere. I remember distinctly how easy that first mile felt and thinking how it would later contrast with the final mile…

I hadn’t really got a strict pace plan. I decided to see what felt comfortable and go with that – as long as it wasn’t under 8min/miles as that would be silly considering my training. I stuck pretty consistently to 8-8:10min/miles and felt very relaxed, if not a little bored after we came out of the main city (which happened fairly quickly). Don’t get me wrong though, the Chester Marathon course is beautiful. So scenic. The first bit through the city was cool because of all the old walls, the Tudor-style buildings and the Chester Cathedral that you run past.img_5590

Taken later in the day

To take my mind of the monotony I listened in to other’s conversations around me and checked out what people were wearing. One man amusingly had some sort of race finisher’s t-shirt that for some reason, amongst all the other writing, had the word “Male” printed largely at the bottom. I wondered why!?

As we got deeper into the countryside I decided I just had to take a photo. I was wearing my Flipbelt so my phone (and my gels) were easy to get out.img_5552It was just perfect. Or at least it would have been had the sun not been shining directly in our eyes for about 90% of the first 10 miles! I envied those who were wearing sunglasses.img_5551

But that blue sky! The temperature was still fairly cool, especially in the shade, so it really was perfect running temperature. The course was not entirely flat, with a few undulations here and there but nothing major.10kSo the first 10k went by fairly uneventfully. I chatted to a guy who was running the same pace as me (his 14th marathon) and we had roughly the same time goals, though he was more keen to get closer to 3:30 whereas I was more generally 3:30-3:45. I know it sounds a bit off but I didn’t really want to chat too much. I was happy to just sink inside my brain and not think for a bit rather than make conversation but we stayed in the same pace range and it was nice to have his company there even if we didn’t chat a huge amount.10-miles

We ran over a mat at 10k so I knew my parents would know how I was doing on the tracker thing. My first main milestone was 8 miles as this was when I was to have my first gel. My watch was already out from the mile markers annoyingly so I made sure to wait until the actual 8 mile mark rather than my watch (because I’m neurotic like that). The gel was an SIS Red Berry with caffeine flavoured one which I hadn’t had before. I’ve had SIS gels before but not this particular flavour. I’ve never had an issue with gels before and I’ve tried quite a few and thankfully this was fine. Though the flavour was DISGUSTING. So pleased I have an entire pack of them at home…

At 10 miles I was grateful to final allow myself to listen to a podcast (the BBC 5 Live Film Review). The pace was still consistently around 8 min/miles and though the country side was beautiful I was a bit bored. The podcast really helped though as I lost myself in that until 13 miles, when I had my next gel. Oh the excitement! 😉16-miles

After my gel (one I’d picked up from an aid station – a High5 IsoGel – very liquidy) I started to look forward to seeing my parents. As I got to 13 miles I realised my parents wouldn’t be at 15 as it was a weird part of the course that goes off and does a big square before turning back towards the city at mile 15. So mile 13 and 15 are practically next to each other if that makes sense.chester-marathon-course

At this point you can see the super speedy people running back towards you as they’ve already done the square – I saw the sub-3 pacer storming along and realised that the square would take about 30-40 minutes. It was nice to see the other runners coming towards you so that amused me for a while.

As I got to 16 miles, around a small village called Holt, I spotted a crowd of people and scanned them to see if my parents were there. They were! I was so pleased to see them!img_5575

I went a bit crazy cheering and waving much to the delight of the spectators. I think they must have thought I was mental!img_5576Then I was off again. My next milestone was 18 miles for my final gel. This time it was a Honey Stinger Acai and Pomegranate flavoured one which was a bit thicker but so tasty; fruity and sweet.21-miles

There were so nasty short inclines around this point that were actually quite tough.chester-marathon-elevation

I tried to ignore how tired my legs were and just get them done. The nice decline afterwards wasn’t entirely welcome either because that still works the muscles pounding downhill!img_5554As I got to mile 20 I wondered if I had anything in me to boost up the speed for the last 10k. I didn’t feel I did and wondered if this was the difference between doing speed work during marathon training and not…But I decided to put on my “let’s get going” playlist and see what happened.

Well, it certainly helped boost me along! I thought to myself, just get to 23 miles and then it’s just a parkrun. It definitely helped. When I finally reached 23 miles I was smiling and feeling good and shouted to a marshal it was just a parkrun to go and he laughed and said I looked too happy.26-milesThere was a nasty hill around 23-24 miles but I could smell the finish line and just pushed on. I started overtaking people and several people cheered me on, one guy yelled with a lovely Northern accent, “You go, girl!”. I don’t know what happened but suddenly I was flying. The crowds of supporters got bigger and I kept a smile on my face and they cheered me through. I just kept passing people and it was such a buzz. We ran alongside the River Dee and loads of people were having lunch or coffee in little cafes alongside the river or standing and cheering and it really helped keep my momentum going. One more mile, the quicker I do it the quicker I can stop. The finish was in sight, we were now back on the grass of the race course and I just needed to get to the end. And I was done!

I checked my watch and couldn’t believe it: 3:28:22. Sub 3:30! My A Goal! I also couldn’t believe how I managed to pull out a sub 7 minute last mile. Over a minute faster than my first mile and about 100 times harder!img_3207I got my medal, a foil blanket, a technical t-shirt (very nice) and a goodie bag and then spotted my parents who were waving madly to me. Ahh so nice to see them so quickly after finishing!img_5566I was on cloud nine 🙂

My calf was a bit grumpy, I won’t lie, but otherwise I was feeling fantastic. The sun was shining and I was over the moon with how consistently I ran and how much speed I was able to pick up in the last 10k. It just felt fantastic running past all those people and hearing the crowds. I’ll never forget it.

Right, I’ll leave it there as this post is already far too long. Chester Marathon is a fantastic marathon and I’m so glad I did it. It was well organised, well supported, scenic and just a joy to run. Top marks!img_5592Have you ever done Chester Marathon before?

What kind of course do you prefer: countryside, city, etc.?

How many gels (if any) do you take during a marathon and what’s your favourite?

The Nitty Gritties – Gear

I thought I’d do another marathon training post, this time focused on gear you might need whether in training or for the actual race.

To catch up on previous posts in this series you can find them here:

Also if you want to request a topic, let me know!

Loads of non-runners I speak to (yes, I do socialise with them occasionally Winking smile ) just think that all you need for running are trainers. And any old trainers at that. Runners, however, are wryly well aware that you need a lot more than that. And “just” trainers can cost quite a chunk of money anyway. But what do you really need for running a marathon? Is it any different to just normal running or running something like a 10k?

Hydration

Well, it really depends firstly on which marathon you’re doing. If it’s a big marathon, like London, Manchester or Berlin for example (to name but a few), then water and carbohydrate water (like PowerAde or Lucozade) are going to be readily available. In the Paris marathon there was water and PowerAde every 5km. At London I think it’s every mile. You really don’t need to carry water with you – unless you want to.

Bare in mind it can be stressful and difficult to get to the water stations in busy marathons. If you’re concerned that you will need water regularly and don’t want to keep making a dive into the water area (it can be a crazy area where people randomly slow down, stop or change direction without warning) then carrying your own might be a good idea. Personally I don’t tend to drink a lot during races unless it’s very warm so for Boston I won’t carry anything as I know I can grab some if I need it and risk the mayhem.

Hydration preparation

For my trail marathon last year at Cheddar Gorge it was a really small race (less than 100 people) and there were only three aid stations if I remember rightly. It took place in mid-August so I knew I’d need to carry water with me. I used my iFitness Hydration Belt and at the aid stations and made sure I topped up the bottles as well.

Fuel

Similar to hydration, some marathons will offer gels or food at the aid stations. Check where the fuel will be, what it will be and how many of them will be available during the race. If you want to use gels and your marathon is offering them, test out those gels in training. Never try them for the first time during the race – they might not agree with your stomach. The Cheddar Gorge marathon offered sweets, biscuits and fruit – but I’d never trained with that sort of thing so I took my own fuel with me.

MuleBarGels

My stomach’s generally quite good with gels so I don’t really have an issue with different ones, though I know I prefer it if they have caffeine in them. For me, I tend to have a breakfast of porridge, a black coffee and then three gels (at least one of those being a caffeine one) during the race. But you don’t have to use gels. You could try things like chopped up cereal bars, dried fruit, salted cooked potato chunks (an ultra marathon favourite apparently), jam, and even baby food (like fruit purees). Basically what you ideally want is an easy source of carbs so your body can use it quickly. Just make sure you trial it during one of your long runs.

But you don’t have to use any sort of fuel during the marathon if you don’t want to. If you know you can last an entire marathon without fuel then there’s nothing to say that you have to have anything! Some people can last on a good meal the night before and a good carb-based breakfast on the day of the race. Though if you’re new to marathon training I’d probably advise against this.

Running belts/bags

If you do decide to take fuel or hydration with you you need to find a way to carry it with you. I actually don’t mind holding gels in my hand and I’ve also been quite lucky to have had my dad at three of my marathons handing me gels (he told me where he’d be at what mile). Obviously at a very busy marathon like London this would be nearly impossible.

IMG_5023I love this photo as it literally shows my dad handing me a gel at the Bournemouth marathon

Some people use belts that you can attach gels to or running belts like the Flipbelt. Again, you just need to get used to wearing something like that for a long period of time. Some belts bounce or ride up, or even chafe. Be careful with your selection. I recommend the Flipbelt – minimal riding up issues and no bouncing. It can also hold a phone, gels and keys.

For liquids, you could consider whether you want a full-on rucksack like a Camelbak or a belt like I’ve shown above. Or whether you fancy carrying a bottle for the race (I don’t recommend this, it could give you an imbalance while you run – and 26.2 miles is a long way to hold a bottle for!)

MP3 Players

Does your marathon allow MP3 players? Some smaller marathons could disqualify you for wearing headphones because it’s a safety hazard if the roads haven’t been closed. The worst thing that could happen is you get a DQ at your marathon for something as silly as wearing headphones, so do check! If your marathon doesn’t allow headphones then make sure you’ve done a lot of training without music or podcasts. If you depend on that sort of stimulus it could be a shock to suddenly have to entertain yourself for several hours.

My current preferred method for a marathon is have nothing for the first 10 miles as the atmosphere is all go-go-go and the crowds cheer you along, then for the next 10 miles I’ll put on a podcast as I find these the hardest miles. The atmosphere has died down a bit and mentally it’s the toughest part for me as I’ve still got so far to go but have run a fair way already. Listening to a podcast helps take my mind off of things.

Then for the final 10k I’ll switch to some high tempo music and go for it. I don’t have it on really loud as I like to have the atmosphere of the crowds and other runners but just loud enough so I can feed off of it. I also make sure that the “Final 10k marathon playlist” is a playlist I never touch any other time. I won’t listen to any of those songs at any other point so to maximise their effectiveness and magic.

Tissues, tablets, plasters

Small but some may say potentially essential items. Tissues are a very handy item for the obvious nasal-related reasons. But also if there are portable loos on the course they may not always be adequately stocked with loo roll…

Ibuprofen tablets might be handy to have just in case. Worst-case scenario, a niggle crops up. My advice is to evaluate whether it’s going to become something so much worse or something you could potentially run through. I’m not advocating running using painkillers, but we all know that if we’ve trained for a marathon for 12 or more weeks we’re bloody well going to try and finish it. Come what may.

Plasters in case a blister occurs and you really need to sort it out. The likelihood of actually stopping, taking off your sock and trainer to sort it out is probably slim but a plaster weighs next to nothing and for me it’s more to settle my mind than actual use.

And like everything, the most important thing is to try nothing new on race day. Test things out, have a dress rehearsal at a half marathon race or a long training run. And set things out the night before so in the morning you’re not stressed running around the place trying to find what you need.

What gear do you usually take with you during a marathon?

Do you use gels? Which ones and how many?

Do you listen to anything during a marathon or race?