Reading Half training day and lots of cake

This weekend was quite busy with me being in both Reading and then Brighton. I was in Reading for the Reading Half Marathon Training Session.

I’ve never done an event like this so I was quite excited about what it would entail, even if it did mean missing my usual parkrun 😉 It was nice to mix things up a bit. On Saturday morning I had a quick breakfast and got myself going at 8.30am. Surprisingly for me I arrived bang on time  for 9.30am – in fact, earlier than other people! Normally I’m late!IMG_2597I finally got to meet the lovely Tess (who writes the great blog The Fitbits) who I know through social media. She’s just as lovely in person as she is online – and, I hope she doesn’t mind me saying this, she is TINY but full of energy!

The session involved lots of different bits. We got to meet the Reading Half Marathon Run Director, Judith Manson, who was lovely and friendly and got us all excited about the upcoming event (18th March – there are still places available FYI, as well as a competition to win a place HERE).

Then we had a workout with the Townsend Twins, Francesca and Chloe, who will be doing the warm-up before the half marathon on the day. IMG_2568They took us through a solid body-weight workout involving squats, single leg deadlifts and lunges etc. followed by a core-focused workout. They gave us options to make it easier or harder which was nice as there was a variety of skill level within the room. They had a great energy and kept us going.D7B7CB84-E4D8-4528-92E8-FCAB2829CE66Then Ali Galbraith took us through a discussion on pacing.IMG_2574He gave us some good tips on how to pace our ideal race. Some of his points included:

  • Having a good knowledge of the course so you would know when the tricky sections were like any hills so you wouldn’t panic when your pace decreased and where you could pick it up later.
  • Not going off too fast at the start (such an underrated tip – this is my biggest tip to anyone when doing a half or a full marathon. It is SO easy to get over-excited at the beginning and then burn out).
  • Practising your goal pace during your training.

And other top tips. Most of it was familiar to me but the tip that stood out was having a good knowledge of the course.D0B739E2-1DE7-4711-A245-3FE21DF0E41CFor some strange reason I don’t like to look at course maps too much because it’s almost like I don’t want to ruing the surprise for myself… which is ridiculous. Too often I have very little awareness of what’s coming up in the race. So I took this point away with me to change.IMG_2606Then we headed out for a 5k run. What I really liked about this (and the workout before) was that the warm-ups weren’t the old school static stretches. It was all dynamic movements to get the muscles warmed up, things like leg swings, squats and lunges. Far, far better! There’s no point stretching cold muscles.IMG_2593The run itself was good. We split off into groups due to everyone differing in paces. The group I was in had a pace of 8.30-9 minutes per mile which was led by Ali. The run was around the local area and took in the first mile of the Reading Half Marathon, so we could get a feel of what race day would be like (though I have run Reading twice before, but not the new course).IMG_2596Then we headed around the Madejski Stadium before heading back. It was a lovely crisp cold morning which we all agreed would be perfect weather for the race day. My calf felt a little uncomfortable but nothing major.Reading runThen we all met up back at the conference centre the event was held in and had our final session which was with Jim from the Berkshire Physio. They would be at the Half Marathon too – so if you need any advice or post-race massage, they’re your guys!IMG_2599Jim was super knowledgeable and pretty much everything he said he backed up with research. He talked about RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) as a treatment for an injury and also gave us some great stretches and strength exercises to keep us injury-free. One of the best exercises he gave us was called the “slump” and involved “neural flossing” of the Sciatic nerve. Instead of stretching your hamstrings with the standard static stretch, he recommended this exercise. Basically you sit on a table and slump your back to relax your spin with your chin to your chest, then you straight one leg and then bring it back down again. You continue to do this, and should feel things loosen from your leg to your back if you’re really tight. Apparently this is “flossing” your Sciatic nerve and helping to reduce tension and tightness. Obviously my explanation is a bit pants, so I recommend you google it if you’re interestedIMG_2570The event was well run and a good session. It was nice to meet fellow runners and to chat about training and things like that. I met the lovely Tamsyn from the blog Fat Girl to Ironman and Katie and Kate from the blog These Girls Do. So a fantastic bunch! I’m really looking forward to the Reading Half now 🙂

Then I hopped back in the car around 1.30pm and headed to Brighton. I hadn’t really planned lunch and didn’t really want to stop for anything proper as I just wanted to get there so I pushed on through. I did however eat four apples to keep me going. I’m not AnnaTheApple for no reason 😉

I got to Brighton and met up with my lovely friend, Charlotte. I was staying over for the night ready for a baby shower celebration the next day with my uni friends. I managed to persuade her into ordering an early dinner from Deliveroo as I was past the point of hunger and dangerously close to hanger. We ordered from a Turkish place called Almoosh Snack which we did the last time I stayed. I went for the mixed grill (which was HUGE but absolutely perfect for my hunger levels) and Charlotte ordered a large halloumi wrap and tabbouleh salad.IMG_2602My mixed grill was as I remembered it (lots of chicken wings, lamb mince koftas etc. on a bed of rice) but Charlotte’s was literally just slices of fried halloumi and her salad. It was definitely not a large wrap – and certainly missing the garlic sauce and pickles described on the menu! I rang up to complain and the man did apologise and said Deliveroo must have given us the starter version. He didn’t really offer a solution though… I’m still going to look into this further as it was a disappointing. Charlotte had to add a bagel to make it into an actual meal. Hmmm. Despite this, we had a lovely evening watching Hidden Figures (so good) and lots of First Dates (such addictive trashy TV).IMG_2609The next day I had a fabulous lie-in and then headed out into the bitter cold for a 4 mile run. I had intended on going a bit further (maybe 6 miles) but the calf was just not happy. I’d warmed it up and done some exercises before going out but it was no Bueno. It just felt so uncomfortable every time my foot hit the ground. IMG_2608The run location was lovely – the weather cold and windy but bright and the promenade was just full of fellow runners and a beautiful view of the sea. But I headed back and called it a day. 4 milesAfterwards there was a dull but non-specific ache in the calf. Hummm. Yeah I probably shouldn’t have run after running the day before. I never learn.

Our other friends soon arrived and we all headed to Metrodeco, a very quirky and friendly café in Brighton, for afternoon tea. We didn’t do any crazy crazy baby shower games but we did have a fun game where we couldn’t say “baby” and had pins that we’d try to win off of people when we noticed someone saying it. Very good fun! And probably safe to say I lost…IMG_2623The afternoon tea was amazing. There were open sandwiches of ham, salmon, creme cheese and brie. A large scotch egg sliced up, two mini fruit scones, a chocolate brownie, a mini red velvet cupcake and a selection of fruit tarts.IMG_2625We also had unlimited tea from a very large selection. I chose the Puer Tea, simply because I’d heard Victoria Beckham drank it because it was healthy (haha I’m ridiculous I know) but actually it was delicious and complimented all the sweet foods perfectly. It was like a refreshing and gentle black tea. We could change our teas whenever we fancied but I stuck with that one.IMG_2626The whole afternoon tea was so good! We could ask for more creme (clotted of course) and jam and the service was just super friendly and helpful. And, as usual, I played the human dustbin and helped where people needed it 😉 It’s become worryingly easy how my stomach can put this stuff away!

Then we played some more games (quizzes, no horrible baby shower games involving nappies!), the mother-to-be opened presents and then we headed off home. A lovely weekend with lovely people 🙂

Have you ever tried Puer tea?

Do you enjoy the games usually played at baby showers?

Are you running any half marathons this year?

The Gosport Half Marathon 2017

The Gosport Half Marathon… the elusive half marathon that I’ve entered no less than four times but have never run due to being injured. I entered it for the fifth time and hoped for the best.

Sunday arrived and I was, shock horror, fit and ready to go. And not only this but the weather was perfect. Still and dry. Cold, yes, but no wind. And as the half marathon goes up and down the coast of Lee-On-Solent, this was an absolute dream. Despite being sad I’ve never run this race before, there have been years when I’ve looked out the window at the roaring wind and rain and thought, “meh maybe I’m not missing out after all”.

My plan was not to aim for any sort of PB or fast run. I was instead going to add four miles beforehand to make it into 17 miles and run the race with a lovely friend of mine, Martin, who was aiming for a PB. His PB was around 1:44 so that would mean just under 8 minute miles which I felt like was a solid long run speed for me.

Despite the start of the race being up the road from me it was just that bit too far to run straight from home. Instead I was very grateful to get a lift from my lovely dad to drop me one mile from home so I could run exactly four miles to the race. The things fathers do for their daughters eh!

Happily the race didn’t start until 10am which meant I could wake up at the delightful time of 8.15am and leave the house just before 9am. This would give me a comfortable window to get to the race HQ (incidentally my old 6th form college, Bay House), pick up my bib and not have to stand around getting cold. Hurrah! I forwent breakfast as I wanted the extra sleep and do most of my long runs fasted anyway. Plus if you saw my last post and what I ate, you can probably see I was well fuelled.

So my dad dropped me off a mile up the road (bless his heart) and waved me off. He was going to support me but had time to go home and have breakfast before he needed to venture out (the race was, as I said, just up the road). I’d decided against wearing double layers, despite Alexa telling me it was 0 degrees C outside (good old Alexa). Instead I wore my running club vest, arm-warmers and gloves (funnily enough the last time I wore my arm warmers was also at another half marathon where Martin and I ran together. He said he hoped they were lucky as Southampton was where his original PB was from).

For my four miles, I aimed to keep the speed down. I listened to a podcast as I ran but found myself naturally getting faster (probably not helped by the fact that I was cold for two miles of the run and just wanted to get warmer!). I was also feeling anxious about getting to the race on time and worrying that I’d left it too late to pick my bib up. I hadn’t, but it’s always nerve wracking when you run to a race (or parkrun! A few times I’ve been late…).As I got about a mile away from Bay House I saw the road closures being put out, marshals getting ready and then the steady stream of runners heading to the HQ. I arrived just after 9.30am so I had more than enough time. And actually bumped straight into Martin and some fellow Hedgies as I hit 4 miles. Perfect timing.We headed into the Bay House grounds (which always reminds me of Harry Potter – it’s a lovely building) and collected our bibs super fast and easily. It was well organised and the volunteers all lovely and friendly. Hilariously Martin’s dog, Harvey, did the biggest, steamiest poo right in the middle of the playground amongst all the runners. Martin’s wife, Helen, was mortified. I mean, of all the places, right? It was quite amusing though.As Martin headed to the bag-drop (I had nothing with me, the luxury of running to an event) I headed to the loo. The queues though were massive for both of the more obvious loos. Side note: it was SO weird being back at Bay House. The last time I was there was collecting my A-Level results (*cough* 2006? Jeeeesus). Like a walk in the past! Anyway, I overhead two ladies commenting that they were so glad they’d found the loos in the changing room and I made a quick bee-line there to find no queues! Awesome.Then Martin and me reconvened and we headed to the start. Unfortunately there was around 15-20 minute delay. The lovely warmth I’d acquired from running to the start had disappeared and I began to get a bit cold. Apparently it was due to some traffic light issues and road closures… can’t be helped I guess. And then we were off.The Gosport Half Marathon is very flat and all on tarmac. There are a couple of inclines, but really nothing major. The only annoyance of this race is that if it’s windy there really isn’t any shelter. And the fact that it’s a two looper.

Gosport Half courseSource

The route runs along the coastline of Lee-On-Solent (where Lee-On-Solent parkrun happens) and I know it very well as it’s where a lot of my long runs happen. To run up and down twice was going to be mentally tough. I was very happy indeed to be running with Martin because the race doesn’t allow any sort of head/earphones at all. So Martin and me started around 8 min/miles quite comfortably chatting away.My dad was on the course as well and was planning on moving to another location, so would see us four times (because of the loops). Pretty good! Martin’s lovely wife and adorable pooch was also going to be on the course as well, amongst lots of local supporters (and the legend that is Rebecca – the Lee-On-Solent RD, otherwise known as the nicest woman on the planet).The first stretch passed through the Lee café/shop area where there was lots of support and cheering and then headed down to Hill Head where my dad and me often go to walk our dogs. We then turned around and headed back – but this time along the promenade rather than the road.There were nice parts where you could see people coming the other way so you were able to shout over to people and cheer them on. There were lots of local runners and Hedgies doing it so there was always someone to wave to and cheer on. There was a great samba band which was cool as well. There were a number of water stations (I think at least two stations but we obviously went through them each twice due to the loop. They had those squeezy bladder things which took a bit of sorcery to get into (though far more safe underfoot as they just give way straight away).
We saw my dad several times on the course which was lovely. He’d told me at what miles he’d be at and he literally stood on the road markings for those miles. A man of his word. He cheered us on and took some photos. The perfect supporter 😉
At around 7 miles we reached back to where we’d started and we turned around to do the loop again. We were still chatting away and in a good place. Martin seemed to be alright and I was feeling quite good, despite the four miles beforehand. As we got closer to the turnaround bit near Hill Head (around 9-10 miles) I noticed Martin not talking as much. He told me to carry on chatting but not to expect much of a reply. He was struggling a little – nothing major but just needed to “regroup” and focus. I did what I do best: talk about fluff and nonsense and hoped he was OK.As we got back on the prom we started slowing down a bit. We crept near 9 min/miles. I wondered how this was going to go. Martin told me to go on without him and I told him not to be so silly. I wasn’t running the half for a time and wasn’t going to leave him behind. The tricky miles were 11-12 where our speed dropped.The hard part about this half is that you can see where you’ve got to run to, and it looked really far away. Mentally this is tough. Even though we had “less than a parkrun to go”, the distance still loomed out ahead of us, hugging the coastline.As we got to just one mile away Martin got back in the game and our pace bumped back up towards 8 min/miles. I ran ahead of him and kept checking behind to make sure I didn’t run too far away. I wanted him to use me as a target and almost like a pull to keep him going. After we’d seen my dad at mile 11 he shouted that he’d see me at the finish. Then as we got closer to the finish I saw him drive past us and then wait in the queue of traffic waiting to be let through due to the road closures. He beeped and shouted out the window which was fun. I jokingly said to Martin something along the lines of “BMW drivers, eh!” hehe. The crowds and excitement built nicely as we got closer to the finish and this spurred us on. We managed to finish strongly, just two minutes off his PB (my time was 1:46:40). I’m proud of Martin because despite wobbling a little, he came back strong, and considering he hadn’t been training for a half PB he did fantastically!
I really enjoyed this race. It was a fantastic course, well organised and the weather certainly helped. Though the conditions were ideal, I’m glad I didn’t attempt racing it. I’m not really in that frame of mind at the moment and I’m much more preferring a social long run. To be honest, I got a solid 17 miles in around 8 minute miles so I can’t complain at all! And I felt good and didn’t get injured, so happy days!Also, can we talk about just how good the goodie bag was? Not only did we get a very cool and colourful medal but we got a proper material bag, a juice drink, a banana, Mini Cheddars, a Lion Bar, a cereal bar AND a homemade chunk of cake! I was a little dismayed at first not to find water but actually there was a huge water stand right at the finish where you could grab a few cups. It must be said though, I did actually give the contents of the bag to the food bank when I went to Tesco a bit later (obviously not the homemade cake 😉). They’re not really the sort of things I’d snack on but I hate wasting food.

So the demons are GONE. Gosport Half Marathon done and dusted. Another race failure scrubbed out. Long may this good running continue…

What do you like to see in a goodie bag?

Have you ever run to a race?

Bottles, cups or squeezy water things for a race?

**Thank you Michelle, Hammy and Martin Lewis for the great photos (and my dad of course)**

All the food and the Solent Half Marathon

Aside from all the packing madness, last weekend was really fun. Anything involving seeing good friends, eating ribs and having a solid race and long run is a big tick in my book!

So after parkrun on Saturday morning (and more packing), I met up with a good friend of mine for a catch-up and some tasty food. I told her to bring her appetite as the place we were going was not for tiny stomachs. I picked her up from the Southampton Central train station (as she was coming from Basingstoke) and we headed to Sadlers. If you’re ever in Southampton and you’re a meat-loving fan, you really must check this place out. Actually to be fair, they do a fantastic vegetarian menu as well – lots of options!I always mean to try new things but then I know how good the ribs are at Sadlers and can’t help but stick with them. They’re honestly some of the best ribs I’ve ever had. They had two options: medium (800g) or large (1.5kg). I asked the advice of the waiter (even though I knew what I’d go for regardless) and when I told him I was a “whole chicken Nando’s kinda girl” he agreed that ordering the large would be best. And I’m so glad I did (though I am slightly wondering if they were indeed 1.5kg worth of ribs…I remember last time ordering the ribs and really struggling whereas this time I was fine). The cornbread was really good for mopping up the BBQ sauce but the chips got left behind. No room at the inn!

My friend ordered the St. Elmo’s Fire, which was super spicy. She’s literally the spice queen (she’s been known to send plates back when they’ve not been spicy enough and asked for more chili!) and she said it was good.We then decided that pudding was in order. Luckily our pudding of choice was a mile’s walk away, which gave our stomach’s a bit of time to recover. Because we definitely needed to make space for a trip to Sprinkles Gelato! The last time I went to Sprinkles I’d had major food envy as I’d made a poor choice on what to have. this time I knew exactly what to get: a Sticky Situation.
This was chocolate and vanilla gelato mixed with milk and white chocolate buttons, cookie dough and melted milk and white chocolate topped with cream. Oh god it was amazing. But no I didn’t manage to finish it. It was just too much sugar. I started to feel a bit sick as I got to the bottom… big chunks of chocolate and cookie dough sadly remained uneaten (I mourn this now). But it was totally worth it. I’d always prefer being defeated by a pudding than finishing it easily and wanting more (greedy person syndrome).My friend ordered a kind of make-your-own dessert jar which included a random mix of gelato (Pina Collada, raspberry cheesecake and Ferrero Rocher! Everything she fancied basically) and a side of banana. She loved it too. And then we parted ways, full to the brim but having had a lovely afternoon. I was then fully fuelled to tackle more packing and cleaning when I got home. I didn’t need anything else to eat that day for definite!

The next morning I woke up early to head off to the Solent Half Marathon. My plan was to run three miles beforehand and then the half itself to make a total of 16 miles, which would be a good training run for the Bournemouth Marathon in a few weeks. I skipped breakfast as I was still quite full and do most of my long runs fasted anyway (well, as fasted as you can be with having eaten that much the day before) and drove to meet with four other ladies from my club to convoy together to the race. We had a nice turn out for our club and there was a very friendly atmosphere.After collecting our bibs, my friend Kate and I headed out for our pre-race run. She wanted two miles while I wanted three so we ran a mile out and back and then I ran another 0.5 mile out and back to make it up. I could already feel that it was going to be a warm one.

I’ve run the Solent Half Marathon a few years ago so vaguely remembered the course being fairly undulating. As I was just planning on running it as a training run I decided to wear my Aftershokz to listen to a podcast to keep my speed under control and my mind occupied. Basically I was treating it as a long run. It’s funny because this is exactly what I did the last time I ran it too, doing three miles extra. However the marathon I was training for (my first marathon I’d signed up to – the Portsmouth Coastal) I never actually got to as I got injured.The race is fairly low-key and the roads aren’t closed. There were a few spectators but the marshals were super friendly and happy which made up for the quieter parts. We started off and I tried not to get caught up in the beginning surge. I let my running friends zoom ahead while I found a comfortable pace and zoned out.The race goes through some lovely countryside roads and passes through the New Forest so there’s lots of greenery to help take your mind off the boring road (it’s all on road). I was glad to have my headphones, but I was paranoid that people would be judging me or that a marshal would disqualify me. The race rules said that “in ear” headphones would lead to disqualification (and this is a race that did actually disqualify people – I remember when I ran it last time I saw them listed in the results as DQ) but the Aftershokz are out of the ear headphones as they work on bone conduction – and are UK Athletics approved. But I still worried. I hate how people judge people for using headphones, like it’s not proper running or something. But hey ho.At one point I found myself overtaking a guy, only for him to then overtake me and then slow down, so then I’d overtake him again, and he’d overtake again… this happened like three times! It was a little frustrating. I wasn’t increasing my pace at all.It was a very warm race so I made sure to stop at each drinks station (there were only three as it was a smaller race) and walked with my water to ensure I drank it all rather than throwing it down myself. I took a few photos – especially when we got past the coast as it was very pretty.I decided that at mile 10 I’d switch to music and try to push the pace a bit. I was enjoying drifting in and out of the my podcast but I wanted to liven things up a bit towards the end. Unfortunately there are some nasty inclines at this point too but I luckily I had enough strength in my legs to get me through. It was really encouraging to pick people off and pass them as I sped up. It was a good way to keep myself going, “one more person” or “just that person ahead”.
It got a lot harder on the final mile, which was my fastest, but I managed to hold on until the end. What was good was that the end of the race followed my warm-up run so I knew exactly how far it was until the end so could work out what speed I could hold until the end. Very handy. I came in at exactly 1:44. I will happily take that time! We got a lovely singlet as well (female extra small woohoo!) which makes a change from a medal or a buff. The finish was great as there were people dressed as Mini Mouse and Elmo. Very fun! I made sure to get a photo of course…It’s funny because though I ate so much the day before I was quite hungry when I finished (I actually remember feeling hungry during the race as well, which never used to happen to me!). Normally after long runs I don’t fancy food but actually recently I’m ready to eat almost straight away. I remember feeling this way after the London Marathon this year too. I guess not having had dinner or breakfast wasn’t entirely wise! But at the time I wasn’t hungry.

I practically hoovered up my porridge as soon as I got back – I was famished! And lunch wasn’t too many hours after either. The calorie balance was definitely addressed; carrot cake from my dwindling freezer stash can help that!

I’m really pleased with how the race went, but it’s given me a few thoughts on what pace I should aim for the marathon, especially if the temperature is similar. Perhaps closer to the 8.30s than the 8s per mile I think!

Do you like to eat food straight after exercising?

Do you stick with safe options you know you’ll enjoy at restaurants or branch out for a change?

Do you use headphones during runs or races?

Reigate Half Marathon recap

I was both excited and anxious about the Reigate Half Marathon. I was excited because I it was a switch-up from the usual long run grind I’ve been doing week after week, but I was anxious because my runs lately haven’t felt amazing.img_5066I had a terrible run on the Thursday evening before that made me seriously doubt the sub 1:40 goal I had in my mind. Running at 8 minute miles for 6 miles that evening was a struggle. It was a really warm evening so this probably had an effect but it mentally knocked me. The parkrun on Saturday helped relieve some of my nerves but I still didn’t like going into a race without a real plan of attack.

Reigate is about an hour and a half away from my parent’s house, where I was staying the night before. My dad had kindly offered to drive me and support me and we planned to make it into a fun day with Nando’s afterwards. We left at 7am and I had my porridge and black coffee en route.

We were actually a little close to the mark of timings as we arrived and parked at 8.45am (the race began at 9.15am). Parking was easy to find and there were loads of car parks – and only £3! We then walked the short distance and got momentarily distracted by a very cool looking McLaren car. This was the lead vehicle! (Though my dad pointed out what a terrible journey that would be for the driver going less than 10mph for just over an hour).img_5062We arrived at 9am at the race village. It was quite chilly that morning so I was glad to have on my new Brooks leggings over my shorts and the Brooks long-sleeved top but I started panicking as I realised how little time I had to get into my running gear (take leggings off, put compression socks on and attach bib to top).reigate-half-marathon-race-villageIt was fairly overcast for which I was grateful for. A nice cool run, I was hoping. The race village was really quite impressive and set in the lovely Priory Park.

I quickly got myself in gear and said goodbye to my dad, who was on a mission to find some good spots to stand and cheer at over the course.img_5069Now it was 9:05am and I wasn’t even in the right wave yet, argghh. I quickly squirrelled my way through people past the different Xempo paces (saw Susie Chan pacing 2 hours, she was very friendly) and then spotted my friend, Matt who was pacing 1:45. It was a very quick hello as I was still needing to get a bit further forward.img_5078I also managed to fan girl a bit about Kelly Holmes being on stage literally right next to us.img_5075She was giving lots of encouragements and advice (and had done the warm-up, of which I’d missed of course).

And breathe. I was in the right spot, my phone was tucked into my armband holder and my music was ready to play (my playlist was basically three albums I’m enjoying at the moment, picked purely for enjoyment rather than to get me to run fast as I wasn’t sure if I would be running fast but didn’t want to listen to nothing or a podcast).

The race started with a rather long incline that I wasn’t expecting. I suppose it helped stop me begin like a bat out of hell (which I do so often and shoot myself in the foot). After the incline (not really a hill, but definitely an incline) there was a nice decline and then I settled into a solid rhythm. I saw my dad within the first mile and he said he’d see me at mile 10.

And then realised I needed to pee. I HADN’T HAD MY PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY WEE. And it definitely wasn’t a psychological one either. I knew I’d left drinking my coffee too late. I tried not to think about it but realised I was inadvertently looking at bushes considering my options. I decided to forget it but if a loo appeared then I’d stop. Happily at the first water station (mile 3?) there were a row of loos and I dashed inside.

Honestly, I’m amazed at how fast I was in and out of there. I spotted the girl I was running next to up the road (bright pink shorts) and aimed to get back there – not by sprinting but by running probably 15 seconds faster than I had been. I just fixated on those pink shorts (not in a weird way…) and got back to my original area of people.

At this point I was consistently running around 7.30min/miles. It felt fishy. This was a pace I’d been running at parkrun lately (my best times being around 22 minutes at the moment). And yet 7.30s were feeling comfortable (not a breeze, but comfortable). I was
wearing my Fitbit (I wear both my Fitbit and my Garmin when I run) and checked my heart rate. It was 170 which I didn’t think was too bad. I decided to keep at the pace I was at as it felt fine but I’d monitor my heart rate. If it went up I’d slow down.splits

Actually I did have to keep slowing myself down a few times, reminding myself I had a long way to go. In the back of my mind I wondered if the pace I was at was too fast and that I’d pay for it later but I thought, “what the hell, just embrace it”.

The course runs through beautiful country roads. There are a few undulations, but after every incline there was always a decline. Along the way clusters of people were
standing on the sides cheering or handing out jelly babies and it felt very friendly. The marshals were all lovely and it just felt like a nice race, you know? A lovely run through the countryside ticking off the miles.

The sun did come out though and this made things all a bit sweaty but it wasn’t humid or overbearing. It also wasn’t crowded but there were enough people that you were usually running alongside two or three people at all times.splits2It was nice knowing my dad was at mile 10 so it broke the race up nicely.img_5103It’s always nice knowing where your supporters are roughly going to be as it meant from mile nine I could start looking around and this took my mind of running.img_5108I spotted him literally under the mile 10 sign and we smiled and waved and I shouted, “just a parkrun to go!”.img_5102I then switched my music to my parkrun/speed-workout playlist as I was ready to go-go-go. Sadly the course wasn’t quite optimal to put the hammer down as some rolling inclines increased in frequency and the most horrific hill appeared at mile 12.reigate-half-elevationIt was a BEAST. A few people walked it and fared the same as me running it (I say “running”, the motions were there but the speed was not). Then there was another equally sharp hill afterwards. A lovely marshal shouted “it’s a short one!” which really helped to know. Then a sign saying “Caution Steep Decline” appeared and it was like party-time for my legs to speed up and goooo!splits3(Well, in my head I was going speedy!) I kept pushing and finally reached the race village area and knew it would be over soon. A marshal shouted at me that I was in the top ten females and that pushed me on faster. I smiled all the way to the finish and was greeted by lots of people cheering and shouting us in. It was a fantastic finish line.img_5081My time was 1:37:45; I was not in fact in the top ten females ( was 14th (or possible 13th if Matthew made a mistake…) as it’s chip-timed of course so I might have been top ten gun time but not chip time – hey, I’ll take 14/13th position! I was SO pleased. Yes I’m like three minutes off my PB and over a minute off Weymouth Half earlier in the year but  honestly I was so chuffed. I felt in control of the race (besides the hill) and comfortable. I wasn’t dying at the end either. It really has given me a HUGE boost of confidence exactly when I needed it. I was floating along happily, getting my medal, water, banana and perfectly fitting technical t-shirt.img_5089Happy days indeed!reigateBy now it was very warm though! It gave me a good excuse to show off my lovely Brooks sports bra which by the way is fantastic. Do you know why? Because you can undo it from the back exactly like a normal bra. This means no sweaty-almost-getting-stuck-horrific sports bra removal process. It’s just a quick unclasp and boom, done. It’s also very comfy and supportive (though I’m hardly the most blessed in this department to be the best judge).

I also nipped into the massage tent and a truly fabulous 10 minute FREE massage as well.img_5090I was still sweating as I laid on the bed which was, erm, pleasant.

My dad and me had a wander round the village and saw loads of amazing food tents offering loads of different foods, like Indian cuisine, burgers, Italian food, etc.reigate-half-race-villageIt was a great atmosphere. I also bumped into fellow blogger,Beki (aka Miss Wheezy). She’d run the 10k earlier. We had a nice little natter and it was lovely to meet her in person!img_5097Then my dad and me headed off to refuel, Nando’s-style.img_5115Standard whole chicken with a side salad and endless Diet Coke. I was heaven.

I thoroughly enjoyed this race. It was well organised and good fun. It had the feels of a big half, like Reading, but with a better and more picturesque course (and not as crowded). I went away with a smile on my face.img_5119And what was lovely was that the design of the medal had been done by a clearly very talented five year old boy. Lovely touch!

What makes a race a good one for you?

How do you know a race is going well for you?

Do you like to travel out for races or prefer to stick to nearby ones? I love going to different and far-away places for races as I get to see other parts of the UK (and the world!).

**Full Disclaimer: I was given a free entry into the race as well as further products to help with my training and racing. All opinions are my own honest ones. I fully recommend this race and would happily enter it myself another year**

How to survive a long run

One of the main differences between marathon/half marathon training and training for a shorter distance, such as a 10k, is the long run. For half marathon training this is usually 10-12 miles. For the marathon, it’s 18-24 miles.

You don’t normally run the entire distance mainly because the recovery time usually outweighs the necessity. You don’t want to blitz the next week’s training because you’re still getting over the long run. If you’re quite a seasoned runner who’s run a few half marathons, or indeed full marathons, then when training for a half marathon this isn’t as risky. But certainly you wouldn’t usually go over 24 miles when training for a marathon. Personally if I get to 18 miles I’m quite happy.

There is the genuine fear that you don’t know if you’ll be able to “make it” in the actual race, but usually, as long as your training has been reasonably good, this is unfounded because on race day you’re tapered, fuelled and have weeks of training behind you. Plus you’ll have the adrenaline and crowd that will help push you along.

But during those weeks leading up to the race day, those long runs can feel really tough. You’re reaching distances you might not have reached before, or haven’t been around for weeks. Your body isn’t used to it. You’re not as fresh because you’re deep into training and the mental fatigue of, “here we go again” is strong.

*Waves* that’s where I’m at. Mental fatigue. Dreading the long runs. De-motivated. Tired.

IMG_4268The struggle is real (God I hate that phrase)

I’ve learnt from experience though that this is all part and parcel of the marathon (and half marathon) game. Even if I wasn’t doing Chester, I’d still be training for the Reigate Half and the long runs would still be hanging around each weekend, waiting to be ticked off my training plan. So how do you survive the long run?

It’s all about preparation and mental trickery. Preparation is fairly simple (for those of us who don’t have children, of course). Get enough sleep, eat enough good food, drink enough water before, during and after. OK a lot more goes into it than that quick sentence but for this post I want to focus on the mental trickery. It might not work for you, but here’s what works for me:

Using the same route

For each long run I pretty much have the exact same eight mile base. From there I can turn around and go home (10-12 miles) or carry on (15 miles plus). This might sound counterintuitive, but I often find that by running this same route each week can really help make things fly by.

I guess this is because I’m so used to the route that my brain just switches off. I don’t have to think about where I’m going, how to get the miles or do any mental calculations. I just go through the motions. The route is so familiar to me that my brain doesn’t really process it anymore and I can zone out.

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Switching up your route

And entirely different to the first point, perhaps choosing a completely new and different route will help you get through. If the same old route just seems so boring to do again, perhaps you need a change of scenery. Choose a route that has interesting features and things to look at. This doesn’t necessarily mean beautiful views or nature though. For example, there’s one road I love to run down because the houses are huge. I love being nosy and looking at them and just marvelling at how much they must cost. This takes my mind of the run entirely. But make sure you have your route planned out so you can just follow it without having to think, “where can I go now to make up the miles I need?” as this can be frustrating and exhausting when running.

Keep close to home

I find that if I choose a route that goes so far away from home it feels so much longer, whereas if I do a winding route closer to home it doesn’t feel as bad. It’s like psychologically I know at any point I can just go home. If I’m miles and miles away from home it feels like such a journey to get back. The distance literally stretching out ahead of me.

Special long run playlists or podcasts

I have a special “Running Playlist” on my phone. I won’t listen to any of the songs on that list other than when I’m running. If one of those songs comes on the radio, I turn it off. Yes, it’s that strict. I find I’ve associated ‘magical running powers’ to these songs that I don’t want to waste on a non-running scenario. Though this sounds like fluff science, it’s not. Association is a powerful psychological tool. I’ve associated speed and hard efforts with those songs that I don’t want to mess with.

I also only ever listen to the BBC 5 Live Film Review podcast when I’m on a long run. I won’t play that podcast any other time. It’s one of my favourite podcasts to listen to and I look forward to each episode. So by using that happy association it helps me get over the dread of the long run. Instead of thinking “urgh I have 15 miles to run” I can swing it around and think “but at least I get to listen to the new podcast”.

Milestones

Give yourself some milestones to look forward to and break the monotony that’s going on. I don’t use gels when I’m training, but during a marathon I’ll look forward to mile eight because that’s when I get to have a gel. It’s not exactly party-time but it’s something different from what’s been happening. Choose a gel (or whatever fuel source you might be using) that you actually enjoy. There’s a Salted Caramel flavoured Mulebar gel which literally rocks my world (similarly a Clif one too) and it’s like liquid caramel. That can really improve my mood when times are tough.

MuleBarGels

Add a parkrun or race

Merging a long run with a race or a parkrun can definitely help as well. It breaks up the long run nicely. I did this last year for the Southampton Half where I ran 5 miles beforehand, the Netley 10k where I ran 12 miles beforehand and the Winchester parkrun where I ran 15 miles beforehand. Instead of thinking, right time to knock out X number of miles it reframes the run to two separate events. It also means you can enjoy running with other people or, in a race scenario, have a catered long run with the drink stations (and a medal at the end!).

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As I mentioned in my last post, I’m really feeling the long run drudgery. I have 18 miles to conquer this weekend and I decided instead of cracking that out myself, I’m going to run 15 miles Saturday morning and then do Fareham parkrun. It means I’ll be forced to get up early (parkrun starts at 9am) so I’ll beat the heat and the rest of the weekend (hello Bank Holiday!) is stress-free and I can relax. I already feel so much better about the run!

Likewise, adding in a race to my diary in the near horizon has meant I have a mini-goal to head to as well. Doing the Reigate Half will keep me on my toes and break the normality up. Eating the right food the night before, getting up early and eating breakfast then heading to the race start. It’s all part of the fun and adventure that you don’t always get with “just another long run”.

How do you survive hard workouts?

What distances do you get up to when training for either a half marathon or a marathon?

Do you use the same routes to run or like different ones each week?

I also have some more long run help HERE.