Not all runs are created equal

Running is a tricky beast. And our bodies are fickle funny things.

You can have an amazing run where you want to go on forever, and then you can have a run where every mile is like dragging your tired bored through porridge. My runs lately have been a mix of this. But such is the nature of running eh!

I won’t lie, speed training has fully taken a back seat. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy going to track when I went but it’s a hassle. I mean I knew it would be but I was happy to make the effort. Now the initial excitement (if that’s the right word for it…) has worn off I’m a bit “meh” to it.

I think this mainly comes down to the fact that I’ve achieved quite a bit this year that I didn’t expect I would (5k, half and marathon PB’s). I’m not one of those people who OMG MUST GET A NEW PB EVERY RACE. Sure it’d be nice but realistically it’s not my driving force. I don’t feel I’ve failed if I don’t get near my PB in a marathon. I mean, I’d be a pretty big failure if that were the case. I just love running and love running marathons. Time is secondary to the enjoyment.

My self-worth and how I feel about running is not hinged on the time on my Garmin. I’m not saying that people are wrong for loving the thrill of PB-seeking each time or for striving to get faster and faster. I just don’t have that drive. I must get boring when people ask what time I’m aiming for in a marathon. My usual response is “3:45ish injury-free”. If I feel good on the day I might go faster. But if I get 3:44 or 3:29 it really doesn’t change how happy I feel at the end.

My gripe with track is that it means leaving work later and then losing an hour where I drive to Southampton, sit in my car for about 10-15 minutes (if I leave work any later I’ll hit traffic, so I have to have this contingency time) and then run the 1.5 miles to track (you have to be warmed up beforehand), do track and run back, drive back and oh hey it’s now 8.30pm and I haven’t had dinner or any evening. I guess there are some people out there that would see this as an obstacle to overcome, a worthwhile sacrifice for the greater good of training, progression and success. I just see it as a way to make me grumpy and hangry so early in the week.

I will still go occasionally but right now I’m doing that thing of choosing stuff that makes me happy rather than makes me dread one day in the week 😉 Life is too short to do shit you don’t enjoy for reasons that aren’t important to you. As well as this, my mate Joe would normally go to track and catching up with him was one of the bonuses for going but he’s currently injured so my motivation is at a real low.

But anywho, I get random bursts of motivation to run faster so I’m sure I’ll get back to it eventually. But right now, I’m just happy that I’m running consistently and injury-free (TOUCH WOOD).

But anyway, my recent runs have been a bit hit and miss. I had a fantastic social run Wednesday evening with my lovely friend Kim where we natter about everything and anything and saw a beautiful sunset on the beach.We ran 5 miles and it was lovely. We bumped into the Stubbington Green Runners doing their evening run which nice – everyone smiling and saying hi.Most of the runs I really enjoy won’t increase my speed and won’t help me beat my PB’s but I always finish smiling and remembering why I love running.

On Friday I ran with the Wiggle guys for the Wiggle Run Out (last Friday of the month we go running, cycling, walking or swimming in the afternoon). I actually lead it for the first time which from the outset yes, did seem a bit dubious. BUT no one died. No one got lost. I see that as a huge success 😉We ran round Farlington Marshes. The weather was great and it was nice to get out of the office for some fresh air and some chat with people I don’t get to see much in the office.But then on Saturday my run was less than stellar. I squeezed my long run in as I had plans on Sunday. I ran 8 miles to Lee-On-Solent parkrun, then parkrun, then four miles home again. And it felt like such a slog.
I mean I guess running 8.5 miles the day before hadn’t helped but jeeeeze it was tough.parkrun did make me laugh though as while we were running I got so confused. I kept looking at my watch and wondering how I’d suddenly gotten a lot slower. My watch said 9:08 but I didn’t feel like I was running at that effort. It felt far too tough for what should ordinarily feel a bit easier for me. And I was getting slower! 9:09 now… what was happening?

And then I realised… I was looking at the time. I have only recently configured my Garmin watch face to show the time as one of the fields as it annoyed me I couldn’t see it when running. Ahh what an idiot. I was actually running 7:45ish.I was happy to negative split and do a sprint finish at the end (such a decent stretch for it at Lee). I didn’t hang around too long as I had places to be so plodded my way home at what felt like such an awful slog. I realise my paces aren’t really a “plod” but it definitely felt that way!And when I finished I felt overwhelming tired. Like I could literally lie down and sleep straight away. I had to have a 45 minute nap later in the day! I imagine it’s because I haven’t really dropped my mileage down since the marathon and I’m still going full steam ahead. I’m on dodgy territory I know and should be cautious.Happily though I felt a lot better the next day after a solid night sleep and phenomenal Sunday lunch. Rest, nutrition and good company definitely help!So good. Roast beef and roast pork (with crackling)… Sunday lunch goals right there.

How’s your running going?

What motivates you?

What’s your favourite roast?

Post-Goodwood Marathon – what next?

So after the marathon last week I felt strangely really good. OK straight after I felt dreadful but the day after I was good.

I say strangely only because I’m so used to something feeling off or not right. I’m convinced I’m an injury prone runner (it would take a lot to stop feeling that way I think) but I guess I’ve found a happy balance of running, gym and general health that has kept me (*tough wood*) injury-free for most of this year. I’ve had a few calf niggles but actually nothing that has stopped me running consistently. I’m obviously really pleased about this! I just need to remain sensible in my training.

I didn’t go to the gym or run Monday and enjoyed a solid 9+ hours night sleep (having gone to bed so early and probably fallen asleep before nine o’clock). I was worried the god awful headache might have persisted but thankfully the awful pounding had disappeared. Had it not, I’d have taken the day off of work because there was no way I could have focused on a computer screen let alone concentrate on anything.Another irksome outcome of the marathon was that my right ankle was quite swollen. When I took my trainer and compression sock off after getting home it was a ridiculous size. I poked, prodded and moved about on it and it felt fine. I definitely hadn’t gone over on it during the race. I then remembered I had a bite on it the other day. The swelling was all around that. My mum mentioned that it might be due to the fact that I’d been wearing my compression sock all day and that probably hadn’t helped the bite situation. It looked terrible! Thankfully after a couple of days the swelling went down and I’m just left with a little bite mark now. But how weird, wouldn’t have had a clue that that could have happened. During the race itself I hadn’t noticed a thing.I was strangely glad to be going into work the next day it must be said. We had our sweepstakes Bake Off happening so I knew they’d definitely be cake. Happily the baker had brought in some crazy good rocky road (literally one of my favourite ‘cake’ things).

I also knew that another team were doing their own Bake Off competition and I’d already managed to muscle my way into trying their bakes too. In fact, when I got to my desk in the morning I was over the moon to find a brownie wrapped up and put under my mouse ready for me!So by 11 o ‘clock I had a chunk of rocky road, a brownie and a good slice of a five tiered chocolate cake to tide me over. Not to mention one of my colleagues had brought back Hershey’s chocolates from the States after his visit. I was well and truly making up for my calorie deficit from the day before 😉I don’t really believe in eating stupidly after a big race – at this point after 15 marathons my body is pretty used to running. But I do believe in enjoying yourself a little bit. I mean, to be fair, I hardly ever need an excuse to eat cake but I did feel like it was just that little bit less difficult in terms of sweet tolerance! I had a good appetite going on – the runger was STRONG.I was back running Tuesday. Nice and gentle I did 10k at lunch. I felt a bit tired but in general my legs felt fine. No niggles. Whoop whoop!So now with about six weeks until New York I’m not going to go ham on the training just yet. I’m enjoying running and it’s feeling good so I’m going to (hopefully) stay around 30-40 miles a week, though closer to 30 for the moment. I’m also loving the gym and doing regular circuit classes. It feels like my whole time working hard at the gym on my own for years has been training to then smash these circuit classes and see what I can do.I really do enjoy the classes. It helps to not have to think about what I’m going to do, and it’s nice to feel a bit competitive and try and work hard in a class. And they are HARD. I mean, to be fair, you get what you put in them so I always try to push myself on the weights I use, the number of reps I can get in and how hard I can push. And it’s nice have an instructor there to help with technique and form.

So yeah, things are going well. Lots of running, gym and of course cake!

Do you enjoy classes at the gym?

Have you been watching Bake Off?

What’s your favourite cake/baked item?

Running to Havant parkrun and double breakfast

This weekend gone was a busy but good one! Through work I’d gotten a place at the New Forest 10k for the Sunday, but as I’m currently marathon training I still needed to get a long run in so I decided to run to parkrun on the Saturday to make up to 16 miles.

I haven’t done Havant before and after checking how far away it was from my house it was an almost perfect 13.5 miles away. So I could run there and do the parkrun and get the 16 miles I was after. Kyle very helpfully offered to cheer me on and then drive me back afterwards. He’s sadly not running at the moment as he’s being super sensible and giving his leg some time to get over its annoying niggle. But it was nice to know he’d be there and as he’d done that parkrun before he was able to give me some pointers and inside knowledge on what the course was like.

My alarm was set for the delightful time of 6.20am and at about 6.50am I headed out into the rather chilly morning to begin my journey. Though I’d sensibly put the route on my Garmin the day before I forgot to start my run using the route…and only realised about a mile in. I didn’t want to stop and restart my watch so I decided to wing it. The majority of the route I knew but it was the last bit when I’d get into Havant that I was a bit hazy about but I could work that out later (the confidence I have in my ability to find my way is probably unwise I know).

My legs felt tired and heavy as I set off…having been asleep not that long ago! But it was nice to be out in the cool fresh air and see the sun rising. It was very peaceful. I listened to a podcast which embarrassingly actually made me laugh a lot out-loud as I was running (a review of the new Nun film… “quiet, quiet, NUN” is basically how the film goes apparently).The temperature was perfect for a long run. Started chilly and then I felt fine.The nice thing about these sorts of runs is that because you have a destination to get to it doesn’t feel like too much of a slog. You’re running with a purpose to get somewhere, rather than just a loop.I did have the dreaded Portsdown Hill to go up though, which I knew would be a bit of a grind. It lasted for a delightful two miles but the views at the top were worth it. You can see straight over to Portsmouth (some might say that’s not a great view but ehhh).I did have to take a lot of care though (selfie taking aside…) as there wasn’t a consistent pavement along the road and the cars do come quite quickly down. But thankfully they all gave me a lot of space and didn’t make me throw myself into the ditch.When I got to the top of Portsdown Hill it then became more of a gentle decline which was nice for the legs! As I ran down the other side to Havant I then had to start whipping my phone out for directions. There weren’t too many roads to turn down so it wasn’t a stretch on my ability to follow directions. I passed a little girl riding her bike in full princess regalia and her dad and her both clapped me on as I ran passed which was quite nice.

Then I finally arrived at Staunton Country Park, which is where Havant parkrun is located. As you get closer to a parkrun around Saturday morning more and more runners start appearing, which is always comforting when you’re trying to find your way! Just follow the Lycra.Kyle was already there which was nice. He’d also packed me a water which I fully appreciated! Lots of brownie points 😉
I had about ten minutes to stand and chat before making my way to the start. I really wasn’t looking forward to this. I was feeling quite tired and I knew this parkrun was a tough one. One mini loop, then two big loops with a steep decline and a fair amount of undulation all on rocky trail. Okaaaay.We got going and my legs loosened up again after the standing around and I instantly felt a wave of tiredness. Ahh three miles really wasn’t that long…but then actually, it was in reality to my now very tired legs.

Photo credit: Martyn Garvey

I got to the very steep decline (it even had a sign beforehand warning runners) and tried to just let myself go but it was a tough ask. Bit of crazy pounding on the legs and feet… eesh. Just have to relax into it and not try to brake too much.

The first big loop really was a grind. It was nice seeing Kyle as I finished the first loop but it felt like such a slog to think I had to do that loop again – including the decline. I felt very much on the struggle train in terms of my legs. The ground was quite uneven as well which wasn’t comfortably underfoot. The marshals were lovely though, cheering everyone on and smiling away.

Photo credit: Martyn Garvey

As we ran round the final bit I turned my foot over which gave a sharp pain in my ankle and made me yelp out-loud. I tentatively  continued running and it felt fine after a few steps. I’ve actually done this a few times in races and it’s never amounted to anything. I must have strong ankles. The only part of me not injury-prone clearly!I found my footing and managed to sprint to the finish. Ooooof that was tough. My time was 24:04 and I felt every single second of it!I finished and sat down, glad to finally stop and chill.
It was nice to get another parkrun ticked off, even if it was a challenging one. There aren’t many nearby anymore that I haven’t done… except the Medina one on the Isle of Wight but that’ll take a bit of organising in order to get a ferry across. I foresee a day-trip in the future…

Anyway, after finishing parkrun I quickly put on some jeans and two layers of jackets ready for my journey home… on the back of Kyle’s motorbike!I mean, the epitome of cool right there yes? I’ve actually never properly been on the back of a motorbike so this was quite the adventure. I was a teeeeeny bit scared when we hit the motorway I have to admit. It was such a crazy experience being in the “open” going so fast (well, not silly fast but fast enough!). Kyle’s a safe driver though and I relaxed as the journey carried on.

After showering and getting sorted it was then on for some much needed refuelling. We went to Josie’s in Bishops Waltham. Now I’d heard great things about this place (there’s actually one in Winchester and Petersfield as well). I probably got a little bit too excited (and my grumbling tummy got the better of me as usual) when I ordered a fry-up……And also persuaded Kyle to share some fried chicken maple pancakes with me.The chicken pancakes were in the ‘savoury’ section of the menu but they were far from it! They were very sweet. The chicken was delicious and crunchy and the thick pancakes were fluffy and dense. SO good but very very sweet.The fry-up, of course, was delicious too. A very happy Anna!

Thankfully we went on a lovely long walk afterwards to help digestion. We went along the Meon Valley Trail in Wickham which was really pretty (and a popular running and cycling route).It was a lovely afternoon and definitely needed after all the food! We actually did quite a bit of walking that day as we headed down the beach to walk the dogs as well.Gotta get out while the weather is still nice!

That evening we went out for more food (I know, I know). My parents had invited us to our favourite local pub, The Osborne View, so we headed for dinner there.I had the chicken wings to start (let’s ignore they were a sharing starter)But balanced this with a lovely chicken and feta salad. All in the name of balance, eh?A solid day’s running, walking and eating! I was feeling good for the New Forest 10k the next day. On to that in another post!

Do you prefer savoury or sweet breakfasts?

Do you run to parkrun?

Have you ever ridden on a motorbike?

Running 18 solo miles

So I’m about a week and a half away from my 15th marathon. I won’t lie, I’m nervous. I’m always nervous about marathons.

It doesn’t matter how many I’ve done, I still have the fears. The worry of injury (my first Bournemouth Marathon), the worry of the monotony and the mental torture of the miles dragging on (hello Dubai Marathon) and the worry I won’t finish (thankfully, yet to happen). But saying all of that, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be OK. My training has gone well. I’ve bagged two solid 18 milers. I don’t have any niggles. I’m in good shape. But the marathon is a tricky beast, you never know what will happen on the day.

Speaking of the 18 miler then… I ran my second one on Sunday. Normally I’d dread a run like this. My last 18 miler (the week before) had been run with two of my mates and had flown by. This time I was tackling the beast on my own. Sure there were people who I could have organised to run with but most of them prefer to go out really early and as I get up stupidly early during the week, I quite fancied a lie-in. And having no pressures to get out and run when I wanted to.

Also, I’m a firm believer in doing some long runs solo. It’s not just the physical training that’s important for marathons but the mental training too. It’s a long way to go and it’s not just your body that’s going to feel tired. Your brain is going to be struggling. The demons are going to start creeping out of the woodwork and whispering things like “slow down”, “just stop” or “you’re not going to finish this”.

You need to have some solo time to work out how you can conquer those voices and overcome the psychological side of running a long way. If you’re always running with your friends then you might not encounter these problems until race day and then be screwed how to overcome it. Basically I always think it’s good to get rubbish runs done during training so you can work out how to deal with those issues. So on race day you’re prepared and can think back to those runs and remember YOU CAN DO IT. (I have some more long run tips HERE).

Anyway, strangely I was feeling good about the 18 miler. Maybe because I haven’t done a long run on my own for ages and I had a good route planned. It was my usual route I do on a Sunday but I’d added a bit extra around Stokes Bay and I had good memories of running there before. It helps to make your route feel as positive as possible. Small things like this definitely help!

I headed out nice and slowly. No point in starting fast and exhausting myself or trying to maintain a silly speed. I had my podcast going and the sun was shining. I knew I’d get hot later so I had my “safety” £1 so I could buy a drink later on. I also had several options of shops I could use on the route and a couple of “dodgy taps” I could use as well so I didn’t feel I needed to bring water with me.

I find that using the same route I always use helps the miles fly by quite nicely. I know those miles so well. There’s a tough hill for 2-3 miles but that’s pretty much the only hill. Then it’s plain sailing all the way to to coast. I saw a lot of cyclists flying past me and exchanged lots of good mornings which is always nice.I relaxed into my pace and found it all very effortless. Runs like this are the dream. No niggles, everything flowing and feeling smooth… Happy days. I stopped for a quick drink at my familiar dodgy tap and then had a quick wee. During long runs I’m not bothered at all about taking the time to do these things. Anything to make life more comfortable! I ran along the coast and hit a bit of a headwind which was a bit annoying but I knew when I turned back to go the other way it’d be a nice relief on the final miles.I stopped at around 10 miles to grab a drink from another tap and then did a little photo on the promenade. It was just so picturesque and I find these sorts of things quite fun. I so love living near the sea.Then I continued on my way. As I got towards 15 miles I decided I’d probably need to buy a drink for the final miles. I probably could have lasted but the pound was burning in my pocket and the need for water playing on my mind.

I stopped at a Co-Op, grabbed a 56p bottle of water and joined a large queue. This was quite frustrating. I just wanted to get back on with my run. I showed the lady behind the till the bottle and put the pound coin on the counter and asked if I could just go. I was paying almost twice the cost so didn’t think it would be an issue but she, quite stroppily, said “no I need to scan it”.

I went back to the queue quite frustrated. It really wouldn’t have taken much for her to let me leave the coin would it? She could see what I’d got! I didn’t even want change! I stood for a minute or so longer and then decided to let my hotheadedness get the better of me. I went over to the bottles, took another one of the same that I had, then went back and put both the bottle and the coin on the counter and said “that’s what I’ve got” and then left the shop.I don’t think I’ve ever ran so fast mid-long run! I was genuinely scared she’d run after me or someone would stop me. I realise now this sounds ridiculous but I’m quite the rule follower so this was fairly “out there” for me. Just call me Good Girl Anna. Anyway, obviously no one followed me but I managed to maintain a faster speed all the way to the end. The final mile was TOUGH but I felt fully in the zone and was loving it. Thank you grumpy Co-Op lady!

I finished feeling tried, yes, but strong and happy. A solid solo 18 miler! Hurrah!

Now just a 16 miler as my last long run and then the marathon!

Do you ever stop to buy anything mid-run?

Do you prefer to run with others or on your own?

What makes a good long run?

Never grow up

I honestly think I’m most happy when I’m training for a marathon. There’s just something about being in good enough shape to run a long way that makes me very happy. Pre-fuelling and refuelling is obviously a great part of the equation too…

Friday was another Wiggle Run day which is always good fun. I’d signed up for the 8.5 mile run with a few other guys and it flew by. It was nice to run with some new people and people who I don’t get to chat too much to during work-time. It was also nice to run with a guy who had done the same gym class as me that morning – so we were both feeling the jump squats and burpees!We ran down Hillsea Lines and then onto Farlington Marshes, which is always quite a scenic run, before heading back again. We followed part of the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon route which felt nice and familiar. I’ve signed up for that race again this year because I enjoyed it so much last year.The brand Lab Series were in as well so we got to try lots of their products (and sweets).I got myself a facial after the run! I did apologise profusely to the guy doing it about how sweaty my face was but he politely said it was fine.
And to end Friday nicely we went for a nice meal to the Meat and Barrel in Southsea for a work friend’s leaving do.I had half a chicken and stupid amounts of frickles and halloumi fries for my main.
Halloumi fries are honestly the business. The person who invented them need some sort of award. And frickles…god I love frickles.I followed this with a doughnut burger. It was good but a little disappointing. It was basically just a glazed doughnut split in two with a blob of ice cream and some strawberries, raspberry sauce, cream and sprinkling of chocolate flakes. It was just okay.I guess I have quite high (greedy) standards for puddings.The next day Kyle and I headed to Netley parkrun again. We were SO close to being late. It’s not like I haven’t been to Netley parkrun over 100 times to know how long it takes to get there. Jeeze I was stressed. But we managed to arrive literally within minutes of the start.

I ran with Kyle again (to be honest, I wouldn’t have run any faster on my own as my legs were feeling fairly heavy) and we tried to keep the pace slower but ehhh we really didn’t do well. We both got carried away and pushed the pace a bit more than we probably should have.I continually prove to myself that I’m rubbish at trying to run an easy pace – well, especially during shorter runs. It’s something I need to work at. I finished 21:37. I peeled off a little from Kyle towards the end but he sprinted back to finish just behind me at the end.We then helped clear up and went for a coffee with the gang. It had been one of our friend’s birthday the week before so the lovely Carol made a deliciously tasty Dorset apple cake. I had two slices. No one was surprised.Then Kyle and I headed back for a quick shower and then we headed to the Hamble Food Festival for a mosey round. I love a food festival.I rarely ever go to Hamble. It’s a lovely quaint part of Southampton. I’ve run around it a few times but never spent that long there. It was a lovely place and very scenic next to the water. We wandered around the different stalls in the sunshine loving life. There were food stalls cooking local sausages, a Jerk chicken stand, cheeses, quiches, bread, meat, Prosecco, gin…and of course cake.I won’t lie. I was most excited about the face painting. Yes the cakes looked amazing but we were planning on going elsewhere for lunch and I had had two slices of cake for breakfast… I tried to hold myself back a bit!

I’m basically a big child at heart and love face painting and I will unashamedly say that we waited for a solid 15 minutes so I could get my face done. It did give me good thinking time though because I was umm’ing and arr’ing between getting a dinosaur or a glitter design. Glitter won out as I thought that might look better at lunch later…I told the lady I didn’t want pink though. I have some standards 😉It was quite a cool design next to one eye of basically lots of glitter and sparkles. It was hard though trying to remember it was on my face and not keep knocking it and dropping glitter all over myself!

We also spotted the gold post box commemorating Dani King for wining the cycling track women’s team pursuit in the 2012 Olympics.Very cool indeed.

Then, as the two cakes wore off (and Kyle’s fudge brownie that he’d had at one of the stalls), hunger started calling, we headed into Southampton a bit further to go to Baffi Pizzeria for lunch (though it was past 2pm now…).I’ve been following Baffi Pizza on Instagram for a bit now (thank you @AnnaTheCake88) and Saturday seemed the perfect day to test it out. The pizzas are exactly how I prefer them: thin and crispy. I’m not a huge deep pan fan (though to be fair, I’d still eat it if it was there). These were Neapolitan-style and cooked in a fire wood oven.It was really hard to choose a flavour of the menu! The waitress was lovely and gave us some good recommendations and in the end we decided we’d each order one and half it so we could both try both flavours. Handily the waitress told the chef this and he halved it for us, which lessened my anxiety about sharing food A LOT 😉
We went for No. 3 (prosciutto crudo, ricotta, rocket, mozarella and parmesan) and No. 5 (prosciutto cotto, mushrooms, artichokes, olives and Parmesan). They were both SO good. We were both really happy with the choices.

And because it was so close by… we went to Sprinkles for pudding.Now I never used to be a big waffle fan but Kyle has turned me around on this. Damn him. It also helps that I’ve had the dessert in the jar from Sprinkles FAR too many times. This was delicious. It was a waffle with brownie chunks and melted chocolate with vanilla gelato. It was also supposed to come with banana and nuts but I subbed that for M&M’s. Can’t have it looking vaguely healthy after all… Afterwards we both felt the wrong side of full. Too much… I think I pretty much ate a sharing bag of M&M’s with that pudding!

Eating copious amounts of sugar and getting my face painted… well I’d say that was a good couple of days! I’ll recap my long run in another post…

Do you like getting your face painted?

Are you a sweet or savoury person?

Have you ever had a facial?