New York, New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever been to New York?

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

Do you prefer an AirBnb or a hotel?

London Marathon 2017

So I’ve written this from my sick bed. I survived the London Marathon and then got taken down by a virus for three days. I had to have time off work and recover from the illness while also recovering from the marathon. Fun fun fun.

But anyway I’m feeling a lot better now, so onto the marathon recap! I’ll recap the Expo and the pre-marathon days in another post, but this will solely focus on the day of the race itself.My alarm was set for the ridiculous time of 4am. My dad and I had to drive into Southampton to meet the coach at 5.30am. I could have gotten up a bit later because I was taking breakfast with me to eat on the way and wasn’t having a shower (does anyone on the day of a marathon?) but I wanted to get in a coffee straight away to encourage, well, a happy comfortable marathon, if you get my meaning! 😉We got to the coach a teeny bit late – entirely my fault for not knowing precisely where we were meeting. Obviously I’d left it to the last possible moment to realise this. Standard Anna Behaviour. But we arrived and weren’t the last so that was OK.

The coach was AMAZING. There were only like 12 of us on it so we could spread out, there was a toilet, USB ports and super comfortable seats. I did try and sleep but to be honest I was too nervous. I looked over my dad’s plan for the day.Bless him, he’d printed out possible times I’d be passing through the areas he was going to head to, mile by mile breakdowns and the course route. Very organised!We arrived at Blackheath around 8am and then walked to the start areas. It was quite chilly and overcast so I was glad to have one of my dad’s jumpers on that I could throw away at the start. There were loads of coaches and runners everywhere and you could just feel the nervous energy flowing about the place. It was amusing to see all the police officers having coffee and breakfast though before the real mayhem began.I got to the Green Start easily. All the starts were well sign-posted and there were coloured air balloons in the sky per area so you could easily head in the right direction. I said goodbye to my dad and my running club and parkrun friend Aurelio who’d be spectating with my dad.I was early enough in the starting area to get into the toilet queue and only have about 20 minutes to wait which was good (when it was about 30 minutes to the start the queues were RIDICULOUS. I think people were just queuing for something to do). I also saw my lovely friend, Sarah, who works from Xempo and I’d met at the MarathonTalk Runcamp weekend. Her, her husband and friend were all dressed as monks and the Archbishop and were aiming to break the World Record (a sub 3:30 marathon) – FYI, they did!! AMAZING TIME and in fancy dress!

Then I spotted the “Celebrity Area” and like a creeper I loitered near the barriers to try and spot anyone interesting.They had their own tent and a fenced off area but they came out to sign autographs and get photos so it was quite fun to spot the different people. Though a lot of them I had no idea who they were! (Not sure what Chrissie Wellington is doing!).The main celeb I really wanted to see was Adele from the BBC Radio One Early Morning Breakfast Show. I listen to her show in the mornings when I go to the gym (from 5am) and I’ve Tweeted her a few times and text in the show. As sad as it sounds, I was really chuffed she gave me a shout out on the show to wish me luck for the marathon. It’s her first marathon and she was never a runner before training so I was interested to see how she did. ANYWAY, I saw her and said hello, SO awkwardly, and was like “it’s Anna…AnnaTheApple” and she was like “Anna! Hello!” and then hugged me. It was lovely. I know it’s such a pathetically small thing, but it really made my day.I didn’t get a photo but a hug was more than enough! Then I head to my wave. Everything seemed very organised and easy to find, but it was ridiculously crowded.After some hanging around, we started moving forward. It didn’t take that long to reach the start and then we were off.As seems to be common theme for me, I realised I needed a wee. It wasn’t a critical situation but it was just annoying. I settled in to the best rhythm I could given how busy it was. I mean, I’ve been to busy and popular races but this was another level. There was just no space around me. It was good I wasn’t wanting to hit any sort of specific paces or wanting to go faster because I literally couldn’t. To be honest, I was quite chilled. My pace felt comfortable and I just spent my time looking at other people, seeing all the crowds and just zoning out. I did some legging-spotting as well as you do 😉 Always a great way to pass some time!My first milestone to get to was Cutty Sark, around 10k. My dad and Aurelio were going to be there so I was excited to potentially see them. I got to Cutty Sark and realised that wasn’t going to happen. The crowds were like four people deep. I scanned and scanned but just couldn’t spot them. My eyes were so fixed on the crowds that I didn’t see the water bottle on the floor and I turned my ankle on it. I felt a sharp jab of pain and hobbled a bit and then started running again and MIRACULOUSLY it was fine, though a little sore. But it did make me suddenly think “right, eyes on the road”! I was a little deflated having not seen my dad. Not because I needed to see him to boost me along, but because I know how much effort he’d have put into getting there. It’s stressful being a spectator and he prides himself in getting to good spots. But London is clearly just another level.So I carried on to my next milestone, mile eight, where I had my first gel (SIS Blackberry flavour with caffeine). It was now at the point that I really did need to stop for a wee. I’d passed a few portable loos but I’d seen people queuing so I decided to wait until I spotted a free one. At around mile 10 I spotted one and jumped into it. Then I was back out and running again as fast as possible. I probably lost 30 seconds? No issue.

I have to say I can’t really remember anything significant, other than Cutty Sark, from mile 1-10. I find those miles fairly dull in a marathon anyway. You’re just getting into the flow of things, you’re not that tired yet and I was running within myself so it was just plodding along really. The crowds were fantastic but once you’ve seen one London road…

Getting to mile 10 was nice because it meant I could switch my podcast on and listen to that (I don’t allow myself to do this until mile 10 so I don’t get bored of it too quickly). For me when I’m not really pushing for a time, a marathon is a waiting game. It’s a mental game of not pushing too hard and holding on for the harder miles that will inevitably come later.

The sun started to come out so I made sure I headed to most of the water stations to grab a water. They were on both sides of the roads and weren’t too chaotic. I quite liked that they were bottles (though they were treacherous underfoot) as it meant I could carry it with me for a bit. It also helped that I wasn’t dependent on getting to a water station to take my other two thicker gels (GUs) later. My lips were ridiculously dry though and I wished I’d put some lip balm on them. I looked longingly at the Vaseline that the St John’s ambulance people had on their gloved hands but I wasn’t sure I’d want a bit glob. I saw one guy grab some and then have to wipe his hands on a lamp post (it looked very odd until I realised what he was doing!).

It became quickly apparent though that I couldn’t really hear my podcast that well as I was using the Aftershokz headphones which don’t sit in your ears, so it meant when the crowds cheered (i.e. most of the time) I couldn’t hear what was being said. However, it was nice to have the comforting voices of the podcast anyway that I could dip in and out of as I was running.Going across Tower Bridge was incredible. INCREDIBLE. I didn’t think I’d find it that amazing. Everyone talks about how good it is and I was a bit like, “yeah yeah”. But honestly, I got goose bumps. It was fantastic. I had to take my phone out to snap a few pictures of course 😉The views across the bridge were amazing too. After that I knew it was supposed to get quiet as we headed towards the Isle of Dogs. Apparently this is a tricky area. But the crowds were still thick as anything. I almost wanted to have no crowds for a bit. It was quite mentally overwhelming. In other marathons there are times when there aren’t any crowds and you can kind of just put your head down and plod on. Then when the crowds appear again it’s like a big boost, but the boost effect was wearing out now. I was also sad because I’d apparently missed seeing my dad again. He was going to be around mile 13. I wondered what kind of day he was having while I was running and hoped he wasn’t feeling stressed.I just wanted to get to mile 18. It always feels like such an achievement to get to that mile. I ran through Canary Wharf before this point, though I only realised this from seeing a sign. The views of the skyscrapers started to appear around me which was cool. I still felt pretty good. I’d say the only struggle I was having was mentally feeling tired of running. I questioned why I was running yet another marathon. I felt in myself that I needed a break. I love marathons but running this one so close to Tokyo was wearing my brain down a bit.

I remember hitting 17 miles and feeling a stab of hunger. HUNGER. I don’t think I’ve ever felt hungry during a race before. It was weird. I’d had a normal breakfast a few hours before the race so I thought it really weird. I was actually looking forward to taking my gel at mile 18 for the extra calories!As soon as I got to mile 20 I felt like I was in the clear. I know that might sound cocky but I still felt comfortable, like I had energy and my legs felt alright. So I switched my podcast to music and got into the zone for the last 10k. In my head I kept thinking “just two more parkruns”. Now the crowds were even thicker and louder. I looked at my watch and worked out that even if it took me an hour to do the last 10k I’d be within the 3:45 target I’d vaguely set myself. I was in a happy place.At this point I started scanning the crowds to see if I could spot anyone I knew. There were several people from Instagram, Twitter and my running club that I knew would be spectating around these points so it really kept me occupies to look out for them. When I did spot someone it really boosted me when they cheered me on. It was very much appreciated. I got uber excited when I saw someone from my club, as it was just so nice to see a friendly face. London had felt a little lonely so far.I was now feeling very marathon weary. My legs still felt OK but my mind was done. I just wanted to get to the “last parkrun”. I remember looking at my watch with the actual time of day on it and remembering that I said to my dad I’d see him before 2pm if all went well and it was now after 1pm and I felt very close to being finished. At some point I heard around mile 21 my dad shout to me and I turned to see him and Aurelio in the crowd. Ahhh it was so good to see them! I was so pleased we’d both seen each other at some point during the race!

I’m not sure where the photo below came from but thank you to whoever took it!
Then suddenly Big Ben was in front of me to the right and it was like, “wow!”.  It was just one of those “this is why I run marathons” moment. Then we turned the corner and I could almost SMELL the finish, despite still being almost a mile away.Then signs appeared counting down the metres to the end. 800m…600m… but it seemed to take FOREVER to run the 200m between. I kept trying to smile but it was now quite tough and I’m sure I was grimacing more than smiling.

Then we ran under a sign that said “385 yards to go” and you saw Buckingham Palace and turned the corner to run the final iconic road down to the finish along The Mall.SUCH a fantastic finish. I couldn’t quite believe it. I saw the time ticking and realised I could squeak in under 3:35 which would technically be a Boston Qualifier (and another Good For Age).And then I was done! 3:34:01. I am so chuffed with that time as I felt like I was fairly comfortable running (as comfortable as you can be really in a marathon). I think my main issue was mental weariness. I know I need to take a break now from excessive long runs and marathons. It was, dare I say, a bit of a mental grind. So different to Tokyo where I didn’t feel such a mental struggle – mainly because I was running with good company. This felt a lot more lonely and tough going.I collected my medal almost straight away (Tokyo could learn a thing or two about this…), my goodie bag with the technical t-shirt in it (X-Small – awesome!). I took a few selfies and then followed everyone in the standard marathon march (i.e. slow shuffle) to the meeting area.I met up with my dad and Aurelio fairly quickly. They’d had a mare trying to get to all the different places but we both agreed it was nice to have seen each other at least once! And my dad got a good amount of steps in walking about the place, so it was good for him and he felt proud of himself.I was now starving. The TINY apple in the goodie bag disappeared very quickly. Aurelio headed off to support some of the others that he was supporting and my dad and me headed off to find somewhere for lunch. We chose the Byron Burger as frankly it was close, it didn’t look heaving with people and the menu looked nice!It was so good to get some food in me. My dad and I shared some buffalo chicken wings. So tasty but my poor dry and cracked lips were destroyed by the spicy sauce. It was definitely a hardship to eat them! I then had a Cobb salad with some sweet potato fries. Honestly it was just what I fancied (mmm bacon and blue cheese…). I went from being very hungry to very full very quickly. I didn’t fancy pudding at all (weird marathon stomach) so we headed off for a bit of a wonder. We had a lot of time to kill before 5.30pm when the coach would leave!And then we got the coach and headed home! Another Major ticked off the list, just two more to go: New York and Chicago…

Have you ever done the London Marathon?

Did you watch it on the TV?

Have you ever felt hungry during a race?