18 miles – feeling tough

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just finished the Widley hill

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

But we got to Havant with 10 minutes to spare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My post run porridge and tea, so good

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your cravings post long run?

Have you had a disappointing meal recently?

My 200th parkrun and NO CAKE?!

I love a weekend like this, packed full of running, lovely people and  good food. Shocking for me I know.

Kyle and I headed to Netley for parkrun on Saturday morning. It was going to be my 200th! I wanted to spend it at my home parkrun where I knew I’d see lots of lovely familiar faces and have a coffee afterwards. My intention was to bring cakes to celebrate but then decided against it due to a mixture of a) not being able to bake because I’m horrendous at it, b) not wanting to buy crappy ones from the supermarket, and c) I worried that the weather would be awful and no one would want any because they’d be too busy dashing off home to get warm.

Well, when we turned up the sun was shining and the skies were blue. My lack of cakes did not get unnoticed and I got quite a few comments. Apparently I’m the least likely person to not bring cakes for a milestone. Whoops. I saw my friend, Joe, briefly – he was very busy being the run director. But he did shout out my 200th in the pre-run bit which was nice (YES I KNOW IT’S NOT AN OFFICIAL MILESTONE).

My plan was to push my legs a little but not go as fast as Southsea parkrun the week before. As soon as I started running I could tell things were going to be harder. I’d done a legs day at the gym on Friday and consequently my they felt heavy and clunky. Netley’s winter course has two hills and you do the lap three times, so it’s quite a tough run. The wind was very strong but thankfully it wasn’t dead against us, and actually when we had to go up one of the hills it helped push us up. So not too bad at all.

Photo Credit: Andrew Thorne

Kyle and I ran together and we managed to overtake the local celeb and Olympic athlete, Iwan Thomas. He nicely shouted “well done” to us but then exclaimed “oh blimey, mate, those shorts are a bit short! I think I need to burn my eyes out now”. This was directed at Kyle, not me, which was immensely funny. Giggling definitely helps you forget the pain of trying to run fast!

Photo Credit: Andrew Thorne

As we got up the final hill my legs were burning but I could feel Kyle on my heels and though we weren’t really racing I didn’t want him to overtake me at the last bit. So our sprint finish looks quite epic!

Photo Credit: Ben Vanes

Though to be honest, Kyle looks quite relaxed!

Photo Credit: Ben Vanes

I finished in 21:25, Kyle one second behind (the gentleman). This is good progress for me, considering I didn’t want to go faster than Southsea, because the course is a lot harder at Netley. I mean it definitely FELT harder I will say!

After a lovely coffee and catch-up with some of the other guys, we headed back to shower and get sorted.

That evening we headed to one of our favourite restaurants, Red Dog Saloon. Their menu had recently changed so we decided to check it out. For starters we had chicken wings (Buffalo sauce with blue cheese dip, so good).

And then for the main I had St. Louis ribs, smoked sausage and a few more chicken wings. I honestly think chicken wings are one of my top five foods. I managed to persuade the waitor to give me three chicken wings on the side instead of a usual side (chips, onion rings etc.). He very kindly sorted this for me!

Kyle had Southern fried chicken. We were happy! When we like somewhere we struggle not to keep going back, as you’ll see in a bit…

We then headed to a friend’s 30th birthday party. I managed to scavenge a free pudding from the birthday man, Ed, himself. I was devastated when I tried to order pudding and found the kitchen was closed, but Ed told me he wasn’t eating his so I could have it. I was super grateful, but also now extremely full after also eating a birthday cupcake AND a brownie. Ooooof.

We got up the next morning and I headed out for a quick pre-long run run. I wanted to get about 16 miles in but Kyle didn’t fancy running that long so we worked out if I ran 3ish miles beforehand and then we ran to Southsea together that should be perfect.

The first 3.3 miles were quite hilly around Clanfield and it was spitting a little but otherwise it went quickly. I then “picked up” Kyle and we headed on the road to Southsea. I’ve run a lot of this route before when I ran to Fareham from Kyle’s, but as we got to Cosham we then had to veer off towards Portsmouth.

It’s quite a hilly route – one particularly hill in Widley was one of those grit teeth head down kind of hills but otherwise it was fine. It was nice to run with Kyle and chat and relax into it. Though the wind seemed to be against us the entire way. I had to briefly stop at a petrol station to buy a water, which I almost downed the entirety of standing in the queue! Must have been all that salty food from the night before.

We eventually got to Southsea where we finished the run at the Parade Tearooms, ready to meet Kyle’s mum and brother, Zack, for brunch (well, more like lunch as it was now past midday!). 16 miles for me, 12.5 miles for Kyle. Solid running! Kyle’s longest run since the marathon in December so he smashed it. Though he was a little pooped afterwards (I mean, so was I of course!).

We’d been to the Parade Tearooms last weekend and obviously loved it so much we wanted to go back. My stomach wasn’t really knowing what it fancied and wasn’t hungry at all as we stood waiting for a table (it’s very popular at the weekend). But I knew I would be hungry soon so I never make the mistake to reject food!

I decided on the Jayne Salad again because it was so epic and I thought that the combination of good nutritious salad, carbs and protein would be ideal post run. I also ordered a pot of tea, which is something I crave after a winter long run.

The salad did not disappoint. If anything it was larger than last time – if that’s even possible! I also ordered the chicken to go with it (an added extra) which they’d forgotten. To be fair, it didn’t look like ANYTHING more could be added to the ginormous portion, but out came a separate little bowl with the forgotten chicken. Unbelievable.

And yes, I did polish it all off. It took me some time but I powered through it like the warrior I am 😉

My stomach was pretty jam packed full of salad and I wasn’t really fancying cake (SHOCKING I KNOW). I decided to employ some self-control and avoid the cake while I wasn’t in the mood (though I did regret this later in the day). After last night’s epic feast of food, sometimes you need a little bit of health (and a break for my bank account)!

So a solid weekend. I’m feeling in the groove of marathon training again!

What do you crave after a long run?

How many parkruns have you done?

Do you bring cakes for your different parkrun milestones?

Southsea parkrun, my kinda salad and back to long running

This weekend, though not entirely as I had planned, was a good one!

Friday night I stayed at Kyle’s and we decided to give Southsea parkrun a spin as Kyle had never done it before and there was a tearoom nearby we had been meaning to go to for ages.

It was, as I’m sure the rest of the UK was aware, very cold Saturday morning. But happily very sunny and not that windy – not bad conditions for a coastal parkrun. We decided to park about a mile away so we could have a gentle warm-up beforehand. Not that it warmed us up much at all! By the time we arrived at the start we were still cold.

We stood at the start and listening to the pre-run briefing and heard what we already were aware of, having just run down the promenade. There were large patches of ice, both visible and black, around the start section (and consequentially the finish area as it’s a 1.5 mile out and back straight route). The event director implored everyone to do a “Michael Jackson Thriller style walk” at the start to avoid any slips and the marshals were stood on the main ice puddles to help.

My leg had felt good all week and I decided to see where I was at fitness-wise. I wasn’t going for a full on “ruin myself” style of run but I did want to push the pace a bit. Kyle was less keen to do a fast run so we decided to run separately. I had my Aftershokz ready and was feeling good.

We started and ran carefully through the icy bits – as everyone did – and then as we got to the clearer sections started to push the pace. I felt very much in control and happy at 7.15min/miles. I remember thinking how much I was enjoying the run. My legs felt strong, my breathing relaxed and the sun was shining. Asides from my hands being cold (I had to wear my thinner Nike gloves rather than my thick eGloves, which someone had recently nicked – story for another day), I was feeling good.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get my headphones to play my music but actually I really didn’t mind. I was happy to just listen to my breathing and the noises around me more clearly. We got to the turn around (1.5 miles) and this felt very quick to me. I was feeling goooood. It was nice to acknowledge that fact mid-run – rather than feel like “omg this is fast I want to die” kind of feelings I usually get during 5ks or 10ks.

At the turnaround I knew I could then look out for Kyle, who I assumed was taking it a bit easier so would be coming the other way. However as I continued to run the opposite way I couldn’t see him. As I got further down the line of people coming the other way and he still didn’t appear I realised he must be very close behind me. I tried to look behind me but couldn’t see him. It did help spur me on as I didn’t want him to overtake me (though in reality I wouldn’t have minded and this is a highly likely thing to happen in the future as he’s getting stronger and stronger).

I ran with another guy for a bit until, as I felt my speed increase, I managed to push on ahead. I also passed two females. I thought there was another one ahead so I tried not to get too excited and lose my focus (and controlled breathing). I haven’t been a first female in a while. I finished strong with 21:29, my fastest parkrun since October! Turns out I was first female as well, which was a nice bonus. And a royal flush negative split!

Kyle finished 21:34, very close behind me. A solid run for the two of us. We then jogged gently back to the car. And though there was a huge temptation to go to the Tenth Hole for brunch (as we were parked just outside) we drove the two miles or so down the road to the Parade Tearooms. Though the Tenth Hole is brilliant (those cakes!), I’ve been there quite a few times and we really wanted to try this other tearoom.

I pride myself in doing my research before I go somewhere for food and I’m so glad I did. Though I was tempted by the usual full English breakfast (which Kyle went for – with extra toast) I instead went for the Jayne Salad. Yes, a salad. Yes, a salad on a cold morning. But hear me out. This was no ordinary salad. I joked to Kyle saying this shouldn’t be called the Jayne Salad it should be called the ANNA Salad. The portion size was right up my street!

Piled high (to the point it was actually tricky to eat) with salad, roasted baby potatoes, coleslaw, chicken, bacon, cheese, beetroot… it was GINORMOUS. And exactly the kind of salad I would make if I was making it myself.

It took me ages to eat and I can happily say I was stuffed by the end (yes I ate it all – I read a review on Trip Advisor that someone took half home. Wow, way to go Anna you pig).

Kyle thoroughly enjoyed his fry up – quality over quantity (whereas the Harvester breakfast is very much quantity over quality). And of course we had to take two slices of cake (well, traybake) home with us.

I genuinely stood in the queue having a mare of a time trying to decide what to order. The tiffin? The salted caramel shortbread? The “junk yard” cheesecake? The Crunchie cheesecake? The fudge cake? The Bakewell slice? I almost had a breakdown.

In the end I went for the tiffin. A giant triangle slab. Kyle went for an equally large slice of the salted caramel pretzel shortbread. We took them home to give our stomachs time.

I won’t lie. All I needed was the time it took to bathe and get dressed for me to be ready to eat the tiffin in one with a cup of tea. Hollow legs… human dustbin… greedy. All of the above. It was DELICIOUS. Caramelly, chocolaty, full of raisins and biscuit… so flipping good.

That evening I was supposed to go to my friend’s hen party and see Dreamboyz (like Chippendales I believe…) but my mum needed me to stay in and help her as her left hand is basically useless after her accident (she’s left handed) and my dad wasn’t going to be in. It was a shame to miss the hen do but I appreciated a quiet evening in with my mum instead.

At least it meant I got a solid night’s sleep and could crack on with my long run in the morning without feeling hung over. A silver lining at least! I headed out with the intention to run 10 miles but as I got going I realised I felt good and if it continued that way I’d do 12. I’m lucky to have good routes around me that I can shortern or lengthen my route as I go.

As I got on to the seafront promenade at Hill Head, away with the fairies listening to a podcast, I didn’t see the four very familiar dogs and my parents suddenly appear in front of me. Alfie went a bit mental suddenly seeing me, bless him. I stopped and chatted briefly before heading on – Alfie tried to join but my parents managed to wrestle him away.

So the 12 miles went really well. My leg felt fine. Only my endurance struggled I think, but that’ll come back in time. The weather was perfect. Cold but still. I felt very happy and (god I hate this word) blessed to be running again.

How was your weekend?

Do you ever order a salad?

What’s your favourite tray bake?

Not quite to plan and the BBC Good Food Show

This weekend wasn’t quite the weekend that was planned. Kyle and I had taken Friday off of work and were looking forward to doing a long run that morning and then heading to London in the afternoon for a fancy blogger awards thing in the evening.

Unfortunately what actually happened was Kyle became unwell Thursday, I long run’ed on my own and we missed going to London. But these things happen. It’s a shame we missed going to London but at the end of the day, we can always go there another time. I can save the dress I was planning on wearing for our Wiggle Christmas party and we had a very chilled and relaxed Thursday night in (I had a take-away kebab so I was very much winning in my book).

So Friday morning, Kyle sensibly decided he wasn’t going to run and I headed off solo to run from his house to Fareham. The plan had originally been to run 18 miles, but now I was running on my own that sounded really daunting and I was less motivated to do it alone. I knew that to run to Fareham was pretty much 13-14 miles so if I fancied adding any more miles on I could, which made the run mentally a bit easier.

Luckily the route from Kyle’s was a very simple one – literally down one road. It was fairly undulating though but generally going downhill overall. I listened to a podcast and as I started running noticed my legs felt quite good. Though my brain felt a bit “meh” about running. I’d have liked to have had the company but I knew I just needed to get this done.

It was also broken up nicely because the first eight miles were completely unknown. At eight miles though I arrived at work (funnily enough the half-way between Kyle and my house is actually work) and from there I knew the way to Fareham. From 10 miles on though I was struggling mentally so switched to some music so I could switch my brain off. It was nice and flat now, but there was a nasty headwind.

Eventually at about 13 miles I arrived at Fareham. I decided to get to the train station – basically running through the centre – and that got me to 14. At this point I was feeling better and decided to do a loop off and that would get me 17 miles.Kyle and his mum were meeting me to pick me up. We had originally planned on having some brunch together but I thought it best just to head back and have some porridge back at Kyle’s as he was still unwell. After grabbing a drink from Subway (then leaving my phone there and having to race back to fetch it – whew!) we headed back.

We decided to miss going to London and just have a day chilling with Friends and another takeaway for me (well if I must… ;-)) I’m sad we didn’t get to go but equally I was happy to have a nice relaxing day. Kyle, bless him, would have gone had I really wanted to but he really wasn’t well and I really wasn’t that fussed with missing it.

Saturday I did a gentle (albeit) hilly 5k around Kyle’s – there are no flat areas in Clanfield it seems! And then headed home for back to reality chores and life. I also had a very exciting trip planned for the Sunday… going to the Birmingham Good Food Show!

Kyle was meant to join my dad and I but sadly he was still ill and eating basically nothing so realistically a two hour plus drive and then wandering around food stalls probably wasn’t what the doctor ordered. So my dad and I went alone.It was held in the NEC in Birmingham and the number of stalls was CRAZY. My dad and I are very similar in that we both love food, love cooking and also get overly excited about things like this. So in our haste to get into the actual show we forgot to make a mental note of where the car was… that’s Future Anna and Dad problems, pfffft!And when we got into the hall we were surrounded by so many different things being sold from kitchen-wear (knives, pots and pans etc.) to cheese, chutneys, cakes, meat, crisps, fruit… I mean seriously, so much!
And the best bit? All the tasters! I tried so many different things. It was so much fun. It was really busy which was the only downside – meaning it was tough to navigate round the stalls at times. And it seemed every other person had a little crate with wheels (reminding us a bit of the apprentice when people are going off to buy the different bits and bobs they needed) so your toes were never safe from being rolled over.

I bought a white chocolate praline filled cake pop from one stand and amazingly managed to wait until I got home before I ate it. Omg SO good. SO so good.I also bought myself one of those German marshmallow teacake things (I say German only because the last time I saw one was in Germany – they seem to be quite popular in the Christmas markets there).I went for a white chocolate covered one and it was very tasty! That I ate that immediately.Eventually just before midday (we’d arrive just after 10am) we decided to actually have a proper lunch. We chose a Greek chicken salad from the Street Kitchen company and managed to sit down and enjoy a very tasty meal. The flat bread was divine! As was the feta sauce.We were wise to eat early as later on this same area was rammed with big queues. Whew! Then I became far more selective on the tasters I went for as I was now ice and full and my initial excitement had died down to a more manageable level.What was very bizarre was the large number of people choosing to eat at the cafe that was ALWAYS at the venue. Why would you have a canteen-style lunch somewhere that was available year round when you have hundreds of stalls available to you to try interesting and local cuisines?? Very odd.

I was amazed to see a stand purely for apples (Kanzi apples) and they were handing out slices. My kinda stand!They were selling two packs of four apples for £1 – what a bargain. After telling the man how much I loved apples he gave me a third for free! Woohoo! And they are VERY tasty apples.

Then we headed to watch James Martin do a live cooking show (we had tickets for this alongside our regular entry ticket – we also had fantastic seats!). I didn’t know too much about him but my dad was a fan and I was ready to sit down. Let me tell you, he was fantastic. The cooking alone was brilliant but his personality and humour was hilarious. He cooked a creamy tomato soup with bacon waffles to start, tomahawk steak with lobster mac and cheese and followed it with banana pecan French toast.Of course we could only smell how good it was but it looked AMAZING. He made several jokes about how he wasn’t into the healthy cooking and that while Joe Wicks’ style might be “Lean in 15” his style of cooking was more “Fat in 5”. He had no airs and graces, he was very down to earth and cheeky. I’m now a big fan.

My dad and I then merrily headed to the car park where we then spent a solid 20 minutes looking for the car. Geniuses.

Have you ever been to a food show?

Do you have any favourite chefs?

Do you get ill often?

Gosport Half Marathon 2018

I was all of a quandary for the Gosport Half Marathon this year.

Last year I ran it with my friend Martin, trying to help him PB and had really good fun. I mean, I guess he wasn’t having quite as much fun as I was as he was going for a PB time whereas I was using it as a long run but I hope it was a good day regardless for him. I did try and get Kyle a place last minute but that failed so he gamely said he’d support instead.

This year I was coming off the back of some solid marathon training and some speedy 10k training runs… so I could be in with a shot for a good time. A PB? Hmmm unlikely. I’m realistic enough to know I’m not in that sort of shape (1:31:06! I still don’t believe it). That said, a good solid full-on effort could possibly get me 1:33-34 if I was really pushing it and the weather was kind to me.

But I was in a quandary. Firstly, the weather really does make a huge amount of difference for this race. The course runs twice up and down the coast – literally next to the sea. It’s a route I regularly run for my long runs so I’m well aware of how the coastal wind can really punish or help you. As you run up AND down, it can be a game-changer. If the weather played ball, it could be a great opportunity to give it some welly as the course is very flat, but my problem was that I wouldn’t really know for certain until the day.

Secondly, I was feeling myself wussing out (as I always do) and decided to potentially shoot myself in the foot and make it into a long run regardless by running four(ish) miles to the race start in the morning. In my head this was a solid warm-up, (though realistically too long a warm-up necessary for a half marathon). Basically I was covering my bases if the run went badly then at least I’d gotten in a 17 mile run – miles in the bank, as it were.

The morning of (still undecided on how I would run) I woke up feeling very sick. This is the second time in a few weeks this has happened to me. I’m generally quite a healthy person and rarely get ill. I pride myself on my stomach of steel. I couldn’t think of a single thing I’d eaten that would have caused me an issue. The only thing that I could connect the two mornings where I felt sick was the fact that the day before I drank a can of Monster energy drink. I don’t normally drink energy drinks but I’ve found myself quite enjoying the taste (and after doing a bit of research found they wasn’t actually that much more caffeine than my regular Starbucks coffee). However, I don’t think they agree with me because the only two times I’ve drunk them has made me feel incredibly sick the next day. That’s the only thing I can think of. It might not be, but who knows? (No, I’m not pregnant – big lols to that).

Anyway, whatever the reason, I felt sick and it woke me up an hour before my alarm. When my alarm eventually did go off (I lay dozing in bed fretting and not particularly having a good time with my tummy) the major nausea had passed and I thought I might as well attempt the four mile run there and if it went badly I’d can the race.So off I went. I hadn’t had breakfast or coffee, just a bit of water. Normally if I was aiming for a PB I would have had both (can you tell I’m getting in the excuses early? ;-)) The 4.6 miles (whoops longer than I thought) actually went surprisingly well. My stomach felt fine and by the time I reached the final bit I found myself running 7.30 min/miles and not feeling it too much of a strain. The wind was a leeeetle breezy along the coast but nothing catastrophic.

I knew I wouldn’t have a stellar speedy race – the lead-up and sickness just hadn’t set me up for it and my mindset was of “ehhh I’m just not feeling it”. But I also didn’t want to waste an opportunity of decent weather and a good course. I decided to compromise with myself and aim for 7.30min/miles and no slower. That would be a solid tempo run – and with the 4.6 miles at the start, a good long run. The temptation to run with my friend Mike (who was aiming for 8 min/miles) was strong but I knew I needed to woman-up. I was in good shape, it would be a solid training run.

So I collected my bib and headed to the start with some of the other Hedgies. It wasn’t that cold (well I wasn’t anyway considering I’d done the run before) and it was lovely and sunny. As we started, I made sure to head off quickly to avoid the temptation of ditching my plan and running slower.Because I’d started a fair way back it was really tricky at the start to weave in and out of people. And then when we got onto the road it was just packed. Only one side of the road was cordoned off and this made it tricky to get properly going.

The race has a strict no headphones policy (even stating no bone conducting headphones) as it is only partial road closures. That’s fair enough. I obviously didn’t wear any so let my mind wander and listen in to other people’s conversations.I stuck to my aim of keeping around 7.30min/miles or under. To be honest it was a little dull…I’ve run up and down this exact road so many times as it’s literally where I do all my long runs, but in that respect it did make the miles disappear quickly.

At Lee-On-Solent, near where the parkrun is held, I saw my top support crew: my parents, Kyle, my sister (!!), her partner Mike and my two nieces Megan and Ellie. They whooped and cheered and I was boosted along. This is actually the first race my sister has ever come to support me at so it really was a lovely moment (she works a lot of weekends and has two kids to look after so I’ll let her off). I also saw the lovely Rebecca who cheered me on – always so cheerful!

I ran past the water station. They were using plastic pouches which I think is great in terms of dropping on the floor you won’t trip over them like bottles. However, the use of so much plastic is still bad. So much waste. However, to be fair to the organisers they did mention this on their website that they were conscious that the use of plastic wasn’t ideal but because of the wind they’re unable to use paper cups as they just fly all over the place. Tricky.At around 4 miles you get to Hill Head and turn around. There were lots of marshals and supporters cheering which was nice. I saw lots of familiar, friendly faces. (Thanks to James for the above photo. And Martin Lewis for the below photo).Then it was back up the coast to head back to where we came from. The only difference was now we were on the promenade bit rather than the above pavement next to the road. I saw my support crew again who really pushed me along. I was managing to maintain my sub 7.30min/mile pace but it wasn’t easy. It was a sustained effort. And urrrgh to do this all again, it felt very taxing on my brain.The nice part is as you run back to the start you have the faster runners coming back and you can watch them and cheer them on – and sometimes get cheers back from people who know you which is nice. I got back to the start and did the turn around. Right, just one more time!The wind was pushing us on in this direction (I wouldn’t have said it was that windy but you could feel it – and certainly feel it against you on the way back). I tried to smile when I saw people I knew but it was an effort. I definitely did not feel that amazing joy I felt during New York, and it just further reminded me of how much I love marathons and how much I dislike all other distances 😉 The pressure to go faster makes it tough (yes, the pressure that I put on myself!)Kyle mentioned later that when he saw me I looked like I was having a tough time. I was. It felt hard. Though looking at my paces this would make sense.And though I felt like I was getting slower and slower I actually wasn’t doing too badly. It felt like everyone was overtaking me but realistically I wasn’t dropping behind. I guess everyone around me was just doing a lot better! Though mile 12 was definitely a GRIND.I managed to pick it up towards the end and the final long sprint was tortuous but speedy (for me). What a relief to finish! I stumbled along and was handed a goodie bag, a chunk of cake (wheeeee!), my medal and a cold drink of water. Much better.What a difference of a race from last year! Happy smiling and loving life last year (though not racing) with a time of 1:46:40 compared to this year attempting to race in a sustained effort sort of way and getting 1:36:10 – 10 minutes quicker but probably 10 times less fun 😉What was nice was having my mum, dad, sister, her partner, my nieces and Kyle there to support me. It really was lovely. It’s such a local race to me and running a race round the roads I normally do my long runs is quite bizarre. It’s a little dull, yes, but it’s a good course with good support. Lots of my running club do it as well which makes for a friendly and fun run too. And of course there is good cake 😉

I’m glad I didn’t wuss out completely but I’m also glad I did the miles beforehand. I feel like I got a really good (but tough) long run in. I don’t often use a long run as a proper training run (to be fair, I don’t often do training runs…). Happy days.

Do you like to run to races?

Would you do a race round where you normally run?