The South Coast Half Marathon

Otherwise known as the race I forgot my trainers for… Yes this did actually happen. How, after so many years of running, can I manage such a feat? Hmm, well if you’ve been reading here for long you probably realise this is just another normal day in Anna La La Land.

I’d signed up this half marathon fairly late. It was going to be Kyle’s first half marathon and having pretty much gotten him into running I was keen to see how he’d do. Plus I hadn’t done a race in quite a while (I think the last one was the Jersey Half?). I wasn’t going to be racing it but it’s always nice to do a race once in a while – a catered long run if you will.

Unfortunately this race was in Seaford, which is past Brighton. So about two hours from me. As the race started at 9am this meant for a very early morning. The plan was to leave the house at 6.30am. As I had two hours in the car I didn’t stress about putting my compression socks and trainers on just yet and just threw on a pair of flip flops instead. Then we went on our merry way.

As we got to Chichester (about 40 minutes into our journey) I realised I hadn’t actually picked up my trainers. WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. HELL. Who does this?? When I tentatively dropped this bombshell to my parents they first reacted as all normal people would, “are you joking?” before sighing and turning the car around to go home again. They’re very chilled individuals and having known me for 30 years they’re aware of my significant flaws in intelligence. So there’s no point getting angry or stressing out. We did have to work out how likely it was that we could drive home and back again and still make the race. Regardless, I would be going to the race to support Kyle as I said I would but I was hoping I would actually get to run as well!

It was very sweaty bottoms I tell you. I had to do a mad dash into the house to grab my trainers and then mad dash back out again. Our ETA for the race was floating around 8.55-9am. This was going to be close. I decided that I would start the race up to 10 minutes late. It was chip timed so realistically it wouldn’t matter but it would be stressful – and would the organisers even allow this?

I text Kyle telling him the situation (he wasn’t entirely surprised, also used to my Anna’isms) and he said he’d grab my bib for me to save me time. As he arrived before me he gave me a good idea of the car park and how far it was from the start (not far at all). I arrived at 8.55am, my parents dropping me off next to the race area while they parked. I spotted Kyle and we both joined the portable loo queue, which wasn’t that long, and I put my bib on. WHEW. What a relief eh!

The realisation hit me that I’d have to run 13.1 miles in a second. Okaaaay. The weather was horrendous. It was SO windy and chucking it down with rain. I felt somewhat of a relief that I hadn’t had to stand in it for that long before I ran! But also sorry for Kyle and his family who did have to stand in it for a period of time.The course was right next to the sea and ran 2.5k up the prom and then 2.5k back. Four times. There was no shelter from the sea, wind or rain. It was going to be a fairly tough-going first half for Kyle! Relentless, Biblical weather. Right then, let’s go.As soon as we started I realised the wind was right behind us. This was a nice start of course because it felt like we were being gently pushed along. This was a bit dangerous though as it led us into a false sense of security and the danger of running too fast. Kyle and I were running together and I was so glad because this was going to be a tough one.With long stretches of flat, miserably wet concrete ahead of us and wind slapping us around, we tried to keep positive and not let the conditions bring us down. 2.5k went very quickly and we were soon turning around to head back again. Straight away the wind was in our faces. Now the real effort would begin. Spray from the sea was battering against us like mini knives on our faces and we could barely talk to each other because of the noise. We decided any conversation would need to happen in the other direction! I’ve never had issues with ears during a race, but the wind blowing straight into it was a nightmare.What was good about this course though was that for spectators it was brilliant. OK not in the terrible weather that day but in general. They would see us a number of times. Kyle’s family had come down to watch, as had¬†both my parents. My mum doesn’t usually come to races as she doesn’t like to leave the dogs alone for long stretches at the weekend but my dad hadn’t been feeling great so she came to join. With all the rain and wind, I’m sure she wished she was back at home though ūüėČKyle’s family did a fantastic job of taking lots of photos and everyone cheered us on, which was just lovely. Definitely the kind of support we needed that day!The second lap was uneventful but still consistently wet and windy. I said to Kyle that the third lap would be the worst because it would be in the thick of the miles but not close enough to see the end in sight. He was doing really well. He’s a strong runner and this was a tough day. We’d originally worried about it being too hot. We weren’t prepared for this! The triathlon that was supposed to be happening as well had to be cancelled due to the conditions too.Each lap we saw our respective supporters and that boosted us along. We made sure to heartily thank the marshals as well. They were absolute heroes standing in ponchos getting absolutely blown away. We were, to some degree, fine running and staying warm, but any supporters and marshals had to endure the conditions by just standing there. I honestly think that’s worse.My hair was getting seriously thrown around the place during this race. It was quite the hindrance to have a pony tail continually slap you in the face I tell you! Though we didn’t really need that much water during the race, when we did get a cup it was so hard to actually drink because the water would just fly out of it.

On the final lap away from the finish (so this is about 10 miles in) we were mentally preparing ourselves for the last 2.5k against the wind. As we turned back around for the finial time, the grind was fully on. Heads down, no talking, just pushing on. I led just slightly and hoped this would pull Kyle along. The final bit of a half marathon is no joke, especially when it’s your first one and wind is directly against you.As we came round the corner to get to the finish we heard both sets of family screaming madly at us and we both sprint finished to the end, Kyle just finishing next to me (he always has a great sprint finish). I heard the announcer say our names (“Anna Smith-Jones” *SIGH*) and then we collected our goodie bags and medal.My time was 1:48:05 (Kyle’s was 1:48:07). We were super chuffed. Kyle’s aim had been a sub 2 hour half (though I knew he’d do better. I thought, without the wind, he should be aiming for 1:45-46ish). Apparently I was third female as well which was quite cool. I got an extra goodie bag and a little trophy. A huge thank you to both sets of supporters (and the marshals of course) because honestly the weather was TERRIBLE and though we had to run in it, they had to stand in it which is 100 times worse. They were soaked and wind-swept, but still smiling and congratulating us. What legends.The goodie bag was great. There was a protein bar, High5 goodies and porridge. And in my extra goodie bag I got a 2kg bag of porridge (the race was sponsored b Mornflake) and lots more High5 stuff. Not too shabby at all! The funniest part was getting home and having to cut my hair bobble in order to free and wash my hair. Check out this absolutely ridiculous volume I acquired.A tough but fun half marathon. I’m glad it wasn’t ridiculous hot but it’s a shame we were (literally) held back a bit. And shout out to my mother for dropping my medal on the drive, so we got to watch it roll away down the road haha ūüėČ We did manage to retrieve it!

What’s the best thing you’ve gotten in a goodie bag?

How do you cope with bad hair after a race?

Yeovil parkrun – getting my Y

The parkrun Alphabet Challenge has genuinely been something I’ve loved doing. Like I’ve said many times before, ticking things off a list and “collecting” things is something I really enjoy (weird? Maybe. But I know I’m not alone in this). So I had three letters left‚Ķ Y, I, and Z (X doesn’t currently exist). So it was time to crack on with getting Y.

There aren’t many Y’s about in the UK sadly. As much as I’d love to have gone all the way to the beautiful city of York to do it as everyone suggested, it was just a bit too far for a quick day-trip. I’m trying to not spend stupid money doing this (bearing in mind that I have a small trip to Poland to do soon to get Z‚Ķ). Living in Southampton made York a slightly unrealistic quick day-trip option. Instead, I settled with going to Yeovil. This was still about two hours away so not exactly a quick trip and the very ‘lovely’ early morning leaving time of 6.30am.

Happily I didn’t have to go solo as Kyle joined me. I had previously warned him about my driving skills and navigational ability so it was no surprise to anyone when I missed a crucial turning and added 10 more miles to the journey making our ETA somewhat dangerously close to the start time. Remember, I never add contingency time. I live in Anna La La Land where everything is jolly and nothing goes wrong.We did actually arrive in OK timing (well, we got to the car park in good timing). There were marshals to direct us in to park which I’d never seen before at a parkrun. But I guess made sense as it was located at Montacute House, which was a National Trust location, and the parking was a bit all over the place.Anywho we parked, went to the loo (absolutely crucial for me and my tiny bladder) and walked to the starting area. It was right in front of the Montacute House and I started taking some photos as it was so pretty. Oneof the marshals gently told us perhaps we’d like to get ready rather than take photos and were we tourists? As we replied we heard “go!”. Blimey!! We were off already! We just hadn’t noticed the time fly by. We raced after the other runners, frantically starting our watches, and cracked on.Yeovil parkrun course is all on grass and the start is a bit of a free-for-all as you leg it off in a big group away from the house. Then it narrows up as you join a rough path, still on grass. There are a lot of sheep about so you do have to be mindful of them and the copious amounts of sheep poo everywhere. It was mostly out of the shade and as the sun was beating down already it proved to be quite a sweaty run.Kyle and I were able to overtake a fair number of people as we caught up with the pack and get ourselves into a comfortable position amongst the other runners. A herd of sheep ran across the path of the runners at one point which was quite amusing. And you had to watch your foot placings quite keenly because it was rough underneath, meaning ankles could turn quite easily. Basically it wasn’t a parkrun to switch off from and enjoy the views, you had to be aware of your surroundings.I felt like the first half dragged on and I felt quite unfit. But by mile two I got a second wind and found myself stretching on and starting to overtake more people as I gained speed. The course isn’t hilly but it’s fairly undulating, with little hills and dips, which gave for good downhill surges. There’s a final significant incline at the end and then it’s round the corner to the finish. I was happy to finish as second female with 22:42. Not too shabby!After quickly freshening up in the toilets (which were lovely by the way) and getting changed, we headed off for some breakfast. A friend at work had recommended the Cow and Apple in Yeovil itself so we headed there.We got a table outside and sat in the blazing sunshine sweating away. The food was good though. A good spot – and lots of people watching opportunities (there are some funny sorts out and about on a Saturday morning aren’t there!).From Yeovil we drove to Dorchester. It seemed silly to not make a day of it driving all that way and people had recommended Dorchester as a good place to mosey about. And it has a dinosaur museum! With my strange love of dinosaurs this seemed perfect. It was quite an amusing experience though. Clearly more geared towards children‚Ķthough it was a fun way to spend an hour or so. It was quite interactive in places and we both made the mistake of “smelling a t-rex’s breath”. URGH. It was VILE. It was a good giggle tho.We grabbed a quick rocky road snack to share (just OK, not the best I’ve ever had) and then headed off for pit-stop number three, the Sculpture by the Lakes, just outside of the main area of Dorchester in Pallington Lakes. We weren’t really sure what to expect but it had lots of really good reviews and the weather seemed ideal.It was VERY posh. Like you could tell straight away it was a “nice” place. Located in the back-garden (I use this term VERY loosely) of the artist’s house was this incredible set-up of lakes with beautiful sculptures located in different spots around and a posh caf√© (well restaurant really) to sit and enjoy food and drink at. We paid for two tickets (¬£10 each, not too bad considering you could stay all day and just enjoy the scenery and have a picnic if you fancied) and then wandered around the lake. It was beautiful and the sculptures were amazing. There were birds, words and sentences and fruit‚Ķ it was very diverse but all impressive. There were a number of people just laying about in the sun or having a picnic but you could tell this was not a place for, as my dad says, the great unwashed! And children and dogs were strictly not allowed.We spent a good amount of time walking around and sitting by the water before deciding that the call for food might be coming as our earlier fry-up wore off. Our next stop was Bournemouth where I knew an amazing burger spot was and had wanted to excuse to try it out for ages. I’d been following Monty’s Lounge on Instagram for ages‚Ķoh the food porn! Kyle told the waitress I was a bit of an obsessed customer and she laughed – she also gave us some extra special burger sauce as well so hey it helps to be keen in these scenarios! We both ordered the same‚Ķ chicken wings to start, a pulled pork topped burger with fries (I went for sweet potato) and a very tasty brownie with ice cream for pudding. A pretty damn tasty meal! I’m both sad and happy that this place is just that bit too far from me‚Ķ

Then we headed home. I was planning a long run the next day and was already dreading it. I’d have to get up early to beat the heat and after an early morning on¬†Saturday I was a bit miffed to lose another one. But if I laid in then I’d be running 15 miles (my planned run) in the heat at peak times. I walked Alfie when I got in and despaired at how cool it felt that evening. Why couldn’t it be like this tomorrow? As I walked around I actually found myself not feeling too tired‚Ķ what if I just went out for a few miles tonight and subtracted them from my run the next day to make things easier?

 

Before I could change my mind, I dropped Alfie back off at home, got back into my running gear and headed out. Ok first mile felt…OK. Asides from the fact that I was super full and could feel brownie bouncing around the place, I felt energised and comfortable running.

In my head I planned three miles but as the run went on I just felt better and better. I decided to just go with the flow and see how far I could go. It was now about 9pm and the weather was SO nice. It reminded me of the runs I’ve had during autumn, that blissful time of cool weather running. Yes I did feel a little sick and a little like I might be revisiting my dinner, but otherwise it was a FANTASTIC run. I ran down the seafront and just thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was one of those runs where you could go forever. A run that reminded you why you loved running.As I got back towards my house I added another mile on, embracing my enthusiasm, and totalled 12 miles in the end. I was ecstatic!A solid run at a solid pace feeling amazing, with the bonus of not being sick. Hurrah!

Have you ever done a long run quite soon after a big meal?

Do you enjoy going round museums?

Do you like to do day-trips to visit different places?

 

Now a member of the sub-20 5k club!

Leading up to the Brighton Marathon and the weeks after I’ve had a lot of solid, good running. I’ve felt strong, injury-free and I’m gaining some good speed. So on Saturday I decided to test out what I could do at parkrun.

I went to bed knowing I was going to go for it. I got a good night’s sleep and woke up at 7.50am… a lie in! I’d had a horrible dream about failing miserably at parkrun, not being able to run and just feeling like I was stuck in porridge. So I woke up feeling a bit apprehensive. I walked Alfie and then had an SIS Go Caffeine Shot (150mg of caffeine). I didn’t want a coffee because I didn’t want a lot of liquid inside me. I then drove five minutes down the road to park my car by the beach where I then ran 1.5 miles to the Lee-On-Solent parkrun start.¬†The weather was perfect. Cool and still.During my warm-up my legs felt good. I had a quick wee and then did some dynamic stretches in the 10 minutes I had to spare. To be honest, I was just nervous and needed something to¬†do. My lovely friend Rebecca spotted me and we chatted for a bit. I hadn’t told I was coming as it was a bit last minute. I also spotted the lovely Kerry, who I know through social media. So it was nice to have a natter beforehand to some friendly faces.Then we lined up. I got close to the front, knowing how busy Lee can be at the start. I felt very close to the front speedy guys but I knew I needed to give myself as good a chance as I could. If I failed at my time I wanted it to be down to me and not something external. I had my Bluetooth Jaybird headphones in and I was ready. As soon as we started my legs just went for it. I was scarily close to the front (I say front, I mean that there weren’t masses of people in front of me, but rather 15-20 people).

I looked at my watch and saw 5:45min/miles which made me panic. Jeeeeeeeze that’s fast for me. I knew though I just had to give everything straight from the go. Running a 5k is nothing like running a marathon. You only have three miles to play with so you can’t waste one of them warming up or building yourself into a sprint. It has to be bat out of hell fast and then hanging on for dear life for the rest of it before you crash.

Inevitably, obviously, my pace slowed to a more manageable pace – but still ridiculously fast for what I’d run previously (6:17!). I felt comfortable though, my breathing easy, my legs smooth. I smiled at the marshals and thanked them as I raced past. We came to the first hairpin turn to head back the way we’d come and I felt the wind slightly against me. That meant a tiny bit more effort was required. I knew I just needed to just get to the next turnaround and it would feel a bit easier (in theory). But that was ages away.

I still had to go over the slight mini slope up the promenade (but then the lovely down section after that) and then the God-awful shingles you have to run across for about 100m. It really takes it out of your legs running over pebbles, trying to find your footing and getting no real grip on the ground. But then I wasn’t far from the turnaround bit. Two females were ahead of me; the first way ahead and the second was ahead but not within a distance I could reel in unless she faded dramatically. But it helped me focus on something to keep her in my sights.

We turned and then the wind was off us (I say wind, it really wasn’t windy but it was that slight bit of extra energy I needed to maintain my pace). On the second mile my pace had dropped to 6:27. I knew I was OK though because I needed 6:26 per mile for a sub-20 and I had some time in the bank from the first mile. I also knew at this point after the turnaround I was safe. I could maintain the pace and I was heading back to the finish. Just keep running forward. No turns, just the pebbles and the slope again. The pebbles hugely sucked. It killed my pace momentarily but I kept pushing.

At this point I was gasping and spluttering. No waves, no smiles, just head down, keep running. As I got over the slope I could see the finish ahead. Nice mini downhill and then just a stretch to the funnel. I was literally making all the noises now. I remember someone cheering me and me replying “I hope this is what a PB sounds like!” and he laughed.And then I got to the finish. I looked at my watch and squealed. 19:39! I jumped about and cheered, telling the funnel marshals that I’d just got a PB and my first ever sub-20. One of the ladies said “and most definitely sub-20!”. I was so chuffed. I was also dead on my feet and so grateful I was no longer running. I sat down and stared at my watch. I did it! And my watch said “Fastest 5k record” and had 3.1 miles recorded. No short course! An actual 5k. I was beyond chuffed.At the same time, it did feel a bit empty. I was there on my own. No one to celebrate with. It was what it was though.¬†I ran back the 1.5 miles to my car. I saw Rebecca on the way back and cheered her on and mentioned about my PB. She was very pleased for me which was nice ūüôā She had a good run too. I got back to my car and decided to just chill for a bit looking at the sea and cooling down. It was very peaceful watching the gentle waves on the shore. I do love being so close to the sea.I spent some time trying to take a photo of my watch with the PB on it but because my main camera has broken (don’t even ask…) I was trying to use the selfie camera to do it. By the way this is a NIGHTMARE to take a normal photo with. As I was fumbling around an elderly couple walked past me. The man jokingly asked me if I’d won. I smiled and said, “yes I have…well, my own race anyway”. He asked me what I’d done and I explained about parkrun down the road and how I’d gotten a good time that morning. They both said congratulations. It was a nice moment.

A not so nice moment was almost losing my car keys due to an Anna’ism. So… I tend to leave my keys on the tire of my car (FYI, I won’t be anymore!) as I don’t want to run with them. Yes I know. Not safe. Stupidly risky, yadda yadda yadda. But remember, I’m Idiot Anna. So I went to grab the keys from the tire and I knocked them off. They fell behind the tire under the car. I bent to grab them and saw they were LITERALLY an inch away from a grate. Now had they fallen down the grate I’d have been actually screwed. Not only would they have fallen into the murky depths of a disgusting watery filled hole but as my car was on top of said grate my chances of retrieving them would have been slim to impossible. I do believe my PB glory was giving me a slight saving grace (this is lies, it was pure chance). I’ve never felt so lucky in my life. Lesson very much learnt. I mean, had my car ever gotten stolen I’d have probably learnt that lesson there as well. Hey ho.

Back to my run. Everything that morning had conspired to help me get my time. The weather, the course, how my legs had felt, a solid night’s sleep… it just worked out. My training has been good and people around me having confidence in me certainly helped. I feel like I’ve ticked off a significant goal that I’ve had going for ages. Since getting 20:06 (my previous PB) four years ago it’s been something out of reach for me. That said, I never put the effort in to get there again so I can really¬†only blame myself.

The next day I had another glorious lie-in and then headed out for a 15 mile run. I didn’t feel to excited about it if I’m honest. I was dreading it a little. It’s a long way to go and I was going solo. Originally my friend Martin was going to run with me but he called in sick on Saturday… so it was me, myself and I. I lined up a podcast and set off on a familiar long run route. It annoyingly includes quite a big hill that goes on and on at mile 3 but otherwise it’s fairly flat and goes along the seafront.It was sunny but not overly warm so I didn’t take water. I knew I had my dodgy tap at the half-way point so I wasn’t too worried. The miles seemed to crawl until I got to 6 miles and then I was into the run and enjoying it. Weird how it takes so long for me! Classic long distance runner I guess. I got to the tap, drank and splashed the water on myself before heading off. I decided to do my 13 miles route and then add on miles at the end. Mentally it felt easier heading back towards home then heading further out. The mental games we play, eh.

It did mean the final two miles were a bit windy and looping but it was nice to be so close to home (and it did mean I could swing past the dodgy tap again), so mentally I knew if I fancied just stopping I could. But of course I didn’t. 15 miles done!So this week I managed to hit 40 miles. I don’t usually do such high mileage. I’ll normally be around 30. But since adding in another run I’ve managed to climb it up gradually over the weeks. I’m really happy with where I am right now. I’m not going to increase it any higher for now. Hopefully leaving around 35-40 miles will allow my body to adjust and adapt. I desperately want to avoid getting injured. So far everything feels good but I know from a wealth of experience this is not a good indicator of what’s lurking round the corner! I just need to be sensible. But long may my strong running continue. I won’t let it go to my head though. I know I’m not invincible. I’ll have another post soon on my current running and my goals going forward…

How was your weekend?

How do you celebrate a PB?

What mental games do you sometimes play to get through runs?

A whole lot of food and not as much running

Well done to anyone who ran the London Marathon, the Southampton Half or Marathon and everything in between! After the crazy Brighton Marathon weekend, this weekend was set to be a lot more chilled. Less running, more chilling, but still good fun and good food.

Saturday I was back at Netley parkrun for the first time in ages. Though Netley isn’t as close as some other parkruns near to where I’m currently living (Lee is just down the road and Fareham is about 10 minutes away), it’s my “home” parkrun. It’s where a lot of my running club and running friends go and as parkrun (and running really) is such a social thing for me, I’m happy to go that bit further. This time I was able to take James as well and show him how we do it daaaaan Saaaath (down South).

Happily it was the summer course – so instead of six hills on the winter course there are just three. It’s still a fairly tricky course though because you go over the grass a lot and it was quite damp and slippy. But I wasn’t aiming for a speedy time so it didn’t bother me. It was a lovely warm morning and the sun was shining. It’s so nice when you get days like this, though it’s always going to be a more sweaty run.I got to meet my friend Mike’s ADORABLE new puppy as well, Luna. Oh my god she was cute. Her fur is so so soft. It was her first time at parkrun (not running, supporting) and she’s only just been allowed outside for walks, so as you can imagine she was quite excited. I look forward to Alfie meeting her! I only managed to snap this photo of her…¬†Anyway, it was nice to see lots of my running friends and catch up briefly. My friend, Mark, had recently had a knee operation so was easing slowly and sensibly back into running. His plan was to run 15 minutes and then walk the rest. He’s also one of the casualties of the change in GFA times for London, having got 3:04 at Chester in order to do London next year. I’m gutted for him.

Mark and I ran together. He’s a lot faster but as he’s coming back from the op my pace suited him and it was nice to run round together catching up. James was steaming ahead at the front – by some significant distance it must be said (I had anxieties on his behalf that he wouldn’t know where to go, despite knowing just how many flags are put out on the course having set it up many times myself.

The legendary Carlo (who raises so much money for charity running as the Cookie Monster and just being a general legend above next to James)

But still, part of my is very glad that I’ll never be in that situation where I’m leading the way and having to know exactly where to go rather than just follow those ahead!).My legs felt good post marathon (SOMEONE TOUCH WOOD IMMEDIATELY). Just a bit tired and heavy, but no niggles and no issues. Jesus, who even am I? It felt tough though running at a less than comfortable pace and I wondered just how the hell I managed the time I did at Brighton. Mark, precisely to the minute, stopped to walk and I carried on. I managed to get faster as the run continued and finished in 21:35 and second female.
James smashed it and came first (18:24). His first ever first position so he was chuffed. Six days after a marathon PB, not too shabby eh.New Brighton Marathon t-shirt – an actual female small that looks good and fits nicely. Happy days.

After Netley, we headed back to shower and eat breakfast before doing what any self-respecting seaside living Brit would do when there’s a tiny HINT of sunshine… head to the beach! We walked along from Hill Head down to Lee-On-Solent where we stopped for a lovely cup of tea and slice of cake in the Penguin Cafe. I don’t know why it’s called the Penguin Cafe but inside there are loads of penguin pictures and penguin themes. It’s random but lovely and friendly and the cakes and food well priced and delicious. How I’ve never actually been there in all the years I’ve lived on the coast I don’t know. But it was nice to pretend I was a tourist for a bit with James.It was hard though to choose just one piece of cake. The lure of chocolate won me over and I had a chunk of rocky road. Omg it was good. Big chunks of biscuit, cherries, marshmallows. Gooey, sticky, melty… heavenly. James had a slice of crunchy chocolate cake which was apparently delicious too (we rarely share food. This is a rule I’m very happy with).The towering many-layered lemon cake looked immense though so we both got a slice of that to take home of course. We decided though that as it was pretty much summer (let’s ignore the bit of rain we had on our walk…*cough*), ice cream had to be done too. I got a scoop of white chocolate brownie and a scoop of rocky road (obviously the chunk I’d just eaten wasn’t enough). Ahh exceptional.I’m such a sucker for anything white chocolate really. To think I used to not like it. I mean, what!?

OK now withhold your judgement here please… In the evening we headed to 7Bone Burger for dinner. In fairness we didn’t have lunch (just all the ice cream and cake…). But anyway, we both ordered the blue cheese and bacon burger and I had frickles (fried pickles) and we shared halloumi fries.¬†Daaaaamn it was good. I mean, yeah probably horrendously bad for you blah blah blah but I don’t do this every day (God I just couldn’t. I’d die). *Cough* we then headed to Sprinkles. In retrospect, this was unnecessary.I got the “Sticky Situation”, which is essentially a whole lot of cookie dough, ice cream, white chocolate and cream. I couldn’t finish it. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME. It was just too much sweetness. My body rebelled and said no. I enjoyed what I ate (which was probably 75%) but it really pushed me over the edge and I needed a little lie down and a quiet word with myself. Why do I do this to myself? No regrets though because I’d been craving one of these for ages.¬†I think I’ve had my fun though… time to get a bit less piggy. At the weekend I do enjoy my treats but this weekend was a little bit overboard.

The next morning we were up super early to get in a long run before the London Marathon coverage started on the TV. I say long run, but 10 miles doesn’t really sound “long” anymore since marathon training. That said, it did¬†feel long. A strange oxymoron really because during marathon training 10 miles would have been easy peasy.

It was lovely and cool when we set off. James had forgotten his Garmin so I was the one to keep an eye on the pace… hard going when one of you is a lot faster than the other and you feel a bit like you’re dragging them back when you say “slow down a bit”.

It was a lovely morning, not too hot but still sunny. In fact it was perfect temperatures to be honest (if only the London Marathon and the Southampton half/marathon had started as early as we had it might have been a bit easier as it really heated up later for them).Happily for us we didn’t get too hot. My legs felt good, still a little heavy and tired, but no niggles. In fact it was a nice run to just zone out and enjoy. We followed the Stubbington 10k route for about five miles and then ran along the coast from Hill Head to Lee-On-Solent and back round to Stubbington again. It was a nice quiet run.Then it was action stations to shower, have breakfast and watch the London Marathon. It was a good watch but I truly felt for the mass runners who had to endure such hot temperatures and sunshine. What troopers. We were so lucky with Brighton and how cool we had it. I’m almost certain I wouldn’t have done as well as I had if it had been as hot as London was.

Didn’t Mo do well, eh! Very pleased for him to have gotten third. But how cool is Kipchoge – smiling and looking cool as a cucumber as he smashed it out for first place. And in the interviews before and after he just sounded like such a nice guy. Really down to hill and humble. Mo did make me laugh a little in the press interview with the top three men…taking selfies and messing around. A little disrespectful to the interviewer but let’s be honest, he was probably quite chuffed with himself and deserves a bit of fun.

For lunch I made cottage pie with sweet potato mash and it turned out quite well I think! Not a particularly summer lunch granted…but it filled a hole.So another solid weekend with a bit less running but lots of food. And time to think about some new running goals I think…

How was your weekend?

Did you watch the London Marathon?

Is your home parkrun based on location or something else?

The last long run

So after being in Bristol and then Cheltenham on Friday night and Saturday I then drove to Birmingham.

The plan for the Sunday morning was to get around 9-10 miles before doing James’ running club’s local Grand Prix 5 miles. This race was one of several of the 5 mile series but I hadn’t done any of the others and this was the last one. It was just a nice way to break up a longer run and make things interesting.

As the Grand Prix didn’t start until 11 this gave us plenty of time to have an easy morning (James, a serial tea drinker, probably had about 19 teas in that time) and then head down to the race HQ to register, pay (a mere ¬£6!) and collect our bibs. As we were leaving our bag there to collect later and wouldn’t be back after our long run I needed to tuck my bib in my Flipbelt along with the pins rather than put the bib on beforehand and look like a numpty running the streets of Birmingham.

We set off at a nice easy pace (very easy for super fast James) and the miles ticked by. Running round Birmingham is becoming more familiar to me now I’ve run there a few times…though I’m still clueless really where we were (I’d say to James “we’ve definitely been here before haven’t we?” and he would be like “er no, Anna”. Right. Well it all looks the same to me…Anyway the route was good, the pace felt easy and before we knew it we were in the park where the race would be starting and where the junior 2k race was already underway. It’s a weird thing being in a completely different area in a different running club’s “territory”. I knew a couple of people from meeting them briefly before in my times in Birmingham (and the lovely Helen and Andy Lane who I know through Marathon Talk) but essentially I felt a bit like a foreigner! I mean I know this is the same at a lot of races in that respect, but when it’s a very small and running club focused race it felt very strange. Not bad strange, just different.The field was very small with 68 people running (a combination of it generally being a small event and other bigger events happening on the same day). James mentioned that there were prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd – actual cash prizes! You’d basically get your money back from the race entry which I thought was a fantastic idea for a smaller race. Anyway I lined up where I thought best and solidly decided the most sensible decision would be to go no faster than 7.50min/miles. This would be sensible considering I had run hard the day before and had the marathon the next week.

As the horn blew we were off and I was running 6.30min/mile pace. What an idiot. I quickly realised there was a very speedy female far ahead of me but only one other female just ahead. Hmmm interesting, interesting. I mean, realistically I should have slowed down and taking it easy but the Stupid Anna side of my brain (quite a large portion of my brain I suppose – and probably a very big factor in my constant injury cycle) decided to see if I could scrape a podium finish. I’d get my ¬£6 back! (And then straight away berated myself that I should have bought that ¬£6 Daim Cadbury’s Easter egg the day before‚Ķwhat a lost opportunity).

So I pushed on. I didn‚Äôt maintain the ridiculous 6.30min/mile pace of course but eased back into the more comfortable (though still sustained level of effort) of 7min/mile pace. I managed to catch up to the second female and overtake her. OK that was good. I was solidly on the podium even if she caught me back up later.The route basically ran on nice flat paths around a pretty lake. The marshals were lovely and friendly and gave good encouragement. I was fully on the “focus and keep going” mental repeat in my head. I had no music (no headphones allowed) so I distracted myself with giving myself milestones to get to (the kid’s play area, the bridge, the metal fences‚Ķthings like that) as it was three laps.Miles two and three were tough going. I felt like an idiot pushing the pace so much and spent the entire time worrying I was ruining Brighton and dicing with injury. But Stupid Anna couldn’t bare to drop the pace so dramatically to 8 min/mile and risk people overtaking me and thinking I’d gone out too fast (er, you had Anna). I’ve been very good recently to not let my ego dictate things like this but it’s hard when you’re in a new place and don’t want to look slow in front of new people (I’m well aware that this is a ridiculous argument. I deserve every niggle I pick up really).
My pace dropped to 7.15s but I felt comfortable and I could see two men ahead and decided to keep them I my sight. It’s always easier to run with people – like an invisible lasso helping to pull you along. Ehh five miles was a long way to go in what was basically my fast parkrun pace not so long ago so I needed every help I could get. I told myself repeatedly I could run all easy runs until the marathon and that helped somewhat.

Somehow though I managed to quicken it up on the last couple of miles. I kept the milestones in my head. Knowing I only have two miles to go helped – and basically one lap left of the lake. I managed to pass the two men ahead of me but then I was left with no one ahead to reel in or hold onto. It was tough going. Somehow I managed to hold on and finished strong in 35:05, a very solid performance for me!A solid but stupid performance is probably more accurate. My legs were¬†pooped. Easy days indeed ahead. James got himself another PB (of course he did…not a week goes by eh ;)) and I’d managed to get second female, so happy days all round.We jogged back to the HQ, which got the total mileage of the day up to 15 miles which I was happy with. The week before a marathon I like my long run to be around 13 miles. I know some people do a lot less but for me it helps with my confidence and feeling good in myself.

We got to the sports hall and I had a nice cup of tea with two apples to tide me over until I could get back to something more substantial. Another nice touch of these races is that you’re entered into the small raffle as well. Lots of Easter eggs, wine and chocolate on offer! James won himself a box of Lindt chocolate balls and I won my prize money of ¬£15! So I made myself a nice ¬£9 for the day hehe.The rest of the day including lots of refueling and chilling out.To top the weekend off we enjoyed fajitas and then a healthy slice of a white chocolate and raspberry cookie pie thing. Delicious!

Do you ever do stupid training when you know it’s probably not the best but you just can’t help yourself?

Does your running club have any races like this?

What’s your ideal longer run distance before a race?