Southampton Marathon 2022

The lead-up to the Southampton Marathon was far from ideal.

We’d had a week of poor sleep as poor Isaac had gotten a cold from nursery and I therefore now had a cold too.

I can’t believe how quickly Isaac became ill after literally his first couple of days in nursery! I had been warned that illnesses would crop up quickly after he’d start but I didn’t realise it would literally be the day after. Poor little man was so snotty and had such a cough. We tested negative for COVID so that was good!

We’ve also recently stopped Isaac going to the Nana’s each week overnight. We made this decision because what with him going to nursery twice a week and then seeing both Nanas on the other two days, it felt like our Isaac time had diminished so much. As much as I loved having that night of sleep and lie-in the next day, it felt wrong him going away somewhere else again in the week.

So this all entailed me not feeling particularly fresh. But I had no time goals or great expectations for the marathon so I thought I might as well see what happens.

Kyle drove Isaac and I to Southampton while I ate my three pieces of toast.

We parked and walked over to the race village where we met Kyle’s mum, his sister, his brother and his brother’s girlfriend – the support crew! My parents were sadly suffering from a sickness bug so couldn’t come.

After a quick wee, I headed to the start. It was a bit nippy and windy but otherwise a lovely sunny morning.

It felt very odd to be in such proximity with so many people and someone joked had COVID even happened. This is the first time I’ve been in such a crowd – the other races I’ve done haven’t been quite as busy or packed at the start.

And then we were off! It felt really exciting and I couldn’t help but have a big grin on my face. The crowds of supporters really upped the atmosphere and I felt so buzzed. I let the bustle of runners carry me along and the first mile flew by in a blur. There were loads of people around me and I just remember thinking how much I love a big race, especially a big marathon.

Then we got to Itchen Bridge, the first of the major hills. It’s such a long grind up that bridge but the support along it was great. The wind was against us as well so it was hard going. I decided to take my mind off it by simply counting to 100. Amazingly this really worked! As I got to 100 I’d reached the top and was then heading back down, which was obviously far easier.

From Itchen Bridge you do a little loop down by the water and I saw some of my running club friends which was lovely. And then it was back towards Itchen Bridge again for the 2nd of the four times I’d have to run over it. I counted again as I ran over it and it worked nicely once more.

As I ran down the other side I spotted my lovely supporters and they gave me a big cheer which boosted me along. As I continued on, I knew my next major milestone would be the football stadium so I looked forward to that.

Running through the stadium was fun. It was spongy underfoot as they’d put some kind of turf down to protect the ground and I felt very springy as I ran across. My pace was still quite consistent and I felt pretty good.

Then we were off towards Bitterne. I remembered parts of this from the two times I’d run the half but knew that the route had changed a little. In the back of my mind I was praying that the big hill around mile 11 wouldn’t be there…

We ran along the river and again it was just so lovely how many people were out supporting. Loads of people giving out Jelly Babies, water and even offering to spray you with a hose as we passed houses.

I didn’t feel too hot at this point but I’d started to take on more water. A few sips here and there at each aid station. The drinks were these weird plastic bag things that required a bit of navigation to get to work and you were in danger of being aggressively squirted if you weren’t careful!

Sadly there were more hills to come even before the potential mile 11 hill. As we climbed a particularly long incline I heard a pacer say that there was only one more hill after this one. Ah OK then yes mile 11 hill was likely still to come!

The hills on the course were quite tough, I won’t lie. And mile 11 was no different. I just used my counting technique which helped. It also helped not really minding too much about pace. I would of course slow down going up the hill but I found I made it up on the downhill so it all evened out.

As we got nearer and nearer towards the finish, running along part of the Southampton parkrun, the crowds were getting more excited. They were yelling at us that we were almost there and not long now. Of course this was true for the half marthoners, but not for the marathoners! We still had to do this all again.

A slightly depressing part of the course was that the marathoners had to run literally down the finish line and then right before we went over the line we turned left to go again for another lap. It was a little bit frustrating!

Now we were on to the second lap and I knew exactly what was to come. I quite like this about a two lapper. The first lap is all about taking it all in, and the second lap you’re just ticking off the sights you’ve seen before.

But now the course was far more empty. No more half marathoners crowding the field. The supporters were few and far between now as the bulk of the race was over. It suddenly became a little bit like a ghost town at times.

I saw Kyle and Co. again which was lovely and they peppered me on nicely.

What was nice though was that the supporters and marshals that were there all cheered you on pretty much individually. I got a lot of “Go Anna!” which was really nice and encouraging.

Itchen Bridge the 3rd and 4th time came and went, though a lot harder this time. No longer did my count to 100 get me up the hill, it was more like 160. And now there was limited shade from the wind as the field was so empty.

But do you know what? I was still having a great time. I was far more hot now and each time I went past a water station I grabbed a water and kept it with me so I could sip as I went. I definitely needed it now! I was also so pleased I’d worn my sunglasses.

I got to mile 18 and remember distinctly thinking “ahh I love marathons”. I know that might sound a bit twee but honestly I do love them. Yes they’re so hard, long and boring at times but I was just in my little zone ticking off the miles enjoying myself. I had my headphones with me to listen to some music but I didn’t actually fancy it at all. I was quite happy with my own thoughts and the sounds from outside.

As I got to around three miles to go I decided to push on a little bit harder. I actually caught up with a guy I’ve known for a while and we swapped hellos. Then we just sorted of stayed in step with each other.

We didn’t chat – we were both too tired and in our own little worlds. But when he edged further on I pushed myself to keep up, and likewise for him. So in the end I we were really pushing the pace to the end. Far quicker than I think I would have had I been on my own that’s for certain!

The finish line sprint was amazing. The crowds were really thick here (including my family) and everyone was bashing on the barriers and cheering so the atmosphere was electric and ridiculously loud.

I properly sprinted to the end – faster than I’ve probably done for the majority of my marathons! But I was loving it.

My time was 3:30:08, which I am SO pleased about considering I had no time goals in mind. It was a lot faster than I’d intended.

Am I sad I didn’t dip under 3:30? Of course 😉 But no, seriously, I’m so happy and honestly don’t think I could have given anymore in that sprint.

Then I met up with my family and enjoyed a lovely roast dinner later in the day.

I am honestly so happy with how the Southampton Marathon went and really only have happy memories from the day. I just ran at such a consistent pace and never felt like I was over-reaching (until perhaps the last couple of miles which were definitely a hard push!). it just further reminded me of how much I love a pressure-free marathon.

In short, hilly, hot, windy but thoroughly enjoyable!

Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 2021

Sooo it’s been a while since I last blogged!

I wont lie, the desire to blog has been very low. Time is very precious right now and when I have a few moments to spare I don’t really fancy blogging. I do a lot of updates on Instagram but it’s just not the same as having a bit of a ramble on here. And what better time to have a little ramble than post marathon! My favourite blogs to write are race recaps and I love to keep the memories of the race, while they’re fresh, alive on here (even if no one cares or no one reads!).

I came back to running after 12 weeks of giving birth to Isaac and I did it sensibly, but I also did it with the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon in the back of my mind too. From starting running to that race it was about 12 weeks… which could be doable for an “easier” paced marathon. A marathon that I really enjoy for its festive and fun atmosphere, it’s literally on my doorstep, just before Christmas and one that isn’t about PB attempts (at least for me).

My comeback to running went well – nothing felt off, my pelvic floor held out and I slowly built up the miles. I hope one day to write a bit more about this journey but for now the Sparks Notes is that I built the long runs up, did supplementary strength training to keep my body strong and just ran consistently 3-4 times a week.

I’d managed to (gently) coerce my good friend, Mike, to run the marathon too. We’ve run another marathon together before – the New Forest marathon – when I tried to help him get a sub-4 hour.  This time though it wasn’t about me pacing him, just about us running together enjoying the race and each other’s company. I wasn’t aiming for any sort of fast time and Mike just wanted to get round, which sounded perfect as that would roughly be around an “easier” pace for me considering the long runs I’d managed to do beforehand.

I had a Papa Johns pizza and some chicken wings (sage and onion festive flavoured – they were incredible!) the night before. And my usual porridge in the morning. Kyle’s lovely mum had Isaac the night before so we could get a good night’s sleep before the race, which was just so helpful! He’s waking 2-3 times a night still… So Sarah came over in the morning with Isaac and to drive down with us to the start.

It was so so lovely. Kyle’s mum, sister and brother were coming to support Mike and I as well as my parents. It was really lovely of them and it meant so much to us to have those cheers throughout the race. I’m very lucky to be part of a family who are so supportive.

Yes it wasn’t a goal race but it was my first race post baby. The Portsmouth Coastal isn’t a big race in terms of numbers (less than 1,000?) and while the marshalls are incredible there isn’t a huge amount of consistent support round the course. So knowing we’d see my family 4 times around the course was such a boost.

I met Mike down at the start area about ten minutes before the start. I had a quick pre-race pee and then we were off. The weather was fantastic. No noticeable wind. Not too cold. No rain. It was perfect.

For the first seven miles (before we first saw my family) Mike and I had a nice relaxed start, chatting away and catching up on life. The miles flew by! We also saw a few people we knew from Hedge End Running Club as well as some other familiar faces. It’s such a local race that you just see so many people, which is great.

The annoying bit where you run across the shingles wasn’t too bad. There hadn’t even been a bottleneck to get onto it like there had been the two times I’d run it before. So it was just a quick amble across – try not to break your ankles! – and we were done. Whew.

We did go a little too quick perhaps as we bumped into people we knew and without realising we were speeding up. We all laughed and realised this could be problematic and that none of us wanted to go too speedy! So we slowed down again. It’s always dangerous during a marathon to go too quickly at the start because you feel so good. You’re so fresh and the miles haven’t really hit you yet. But it’s a long race and you have to be cautious because you have literally hours to go!

I was feeling really good though. Nice and comfortable and like I said the miles seemed to fly by. Suddenly we were at Farlington Marshes where our support crew were waiting. We got a big cheer which was lovely, Mike picked up his Lucozade which Kyle was holding for him (handy having supporters for this!) and we were on our way again. Isaac was having a nap in the car so I didn’t see him then, but he was in excellent hands of course.

The course had slightly changed from the previous races but it was still mostly familiar to me and I’m sure I bored Mike to tears with “when I ran this a few years ago…” conversations we had. I’m a broken record!

Both Mike and I were feeling good and enjoying ourselves. The miles were ticking off and around 10 miles (I think) we started seeing the front runners of the marathon heading back. Wow!! We cheered them along – it’s amazing how fast they were! I love and out and back race because you get to see the faster runners coming back and it helps pass the time.

We passed the Lambrook pub where my family and I were actually going to go for lunch after the race. It was funny to think in a few hours it’d all be over and I’d be sat eating a big carvery there later.

Mike and I got to around 11 miles where there’s always a festive aid station (shots of port, cups of mulled wine, mine pies and Jaffa cakes) and where the next location our supporters would be. The last time I ran this I was waving so much and paying too much attention to the cheering that I almost ran into a bollard (a hilarious video was of course captured). As I ran past them this time my dad shouted “mind the bollard!”. Haha I definitely saw it this time!

As the route had slightly changed, we wouldn’t be running too much further on. The turnaround would come sooner. This was a nice thing to do because previously it used to be quite a long run out at this point and the route was quite samey with the terrain and scenery not changing too much. It sort of goes a bit off road (not crazy off road, just on compacted trail and away from the traffic etc.). I needed a wee at this point so was on the lookout for a well concealed bush. Thankfully I saw a fork in the road and ran off there to do my business. A few people shouted I was going the wrong way but I said nature calls and they laughed.

I’d told Mike to keep running so now was the job to catch up with him again. I felt a bit uncharitable picking up speed and overtaking people and (they must have wondered what the hell I was doing suddenly sprinting along). It was also tough going to suddenly be trying to run a lot faster than I had been before, but it wasn’t too long before I’d caught Mike back up and could settle back into a more reasonably chilled pace (and catch my breath!).

Eventually we reached the turnaround point and headed back the way we’d come… all 13.1 miles of it. I love this point of the race because now you know exactly what you’re in for. The route does slightly change from what we ran to begin with but it’s basically the same (we avoid the shingles this time because the tide will have come in).

I sent Kyle a quick voice note on my phone to ask him for some Vaseline as I could feel a bit of chafing happening but as we got to the cheer spot we couldn’t see them. Then suddenly across the road I saw Kyle and his brother Zack race over shouting that they didn’t realise the turnaround was quicker this year haha! Thankfully he had the Vaseline and threw it over to me as I waited for them to cross the road and told Mike to go ahead. Then I had to catch him up again.

As we got to about 16 miles Mike started to slow down a little. But we were still going a nice clip and were in good spirits. We had another annoying bit of shingle which wasn’t nearly as fun to cross this time with all those miles in our legs!

At mile 19 we saw my family again and they gave us a lovely cheer. I gave Isaac a quick kiss as he was now awake. It was just so lovely to see him mid-race. Something I would never have dreamed about in a million years!

And then we were off back towards Southsea seafront. Things were getting trickier now. We were starting to slow down more and more now. I wanted to keep Mike’s spirits up so kept talking rubbish to him (which I’m sure he really appreciated…) and hopefully helped him. We stopped at an aid station and I decided to risk it and have a mulled wine. It’s Christmas why not eh! It was delicious.

The changes in terrain as we headed over some grasslands didn’t help Mike’s twinges that he was starting to feel in his quads. I wish I could have helped him but there’s nothing really you can do but keep encouraging. Our pace wasn’t descending too badly and we were still trucking along so this was good.

I needed another wee and knew there was a toilet ahead so I told Mike I’d dash in and catch him up. And now we were on the Southsea prom, just one long stretch to the finish along the waterfront. We had slowed a bit more now and Mike needed to do some run walking to help with his painful quads. I knew he felt frustrated and just wanted to get to the end now.

Mike said he was happy though as this had happened a lot later in the marathon than he thought and we were actually on for a faster time than he’d expected. We literally had only a couple of miles left and despite the long straight dragging out in front of us, we’d be done soon.

We saw my family again right at the end and we got ourselves together and ran to the finish. Ahh it felt so good! My time was 4:13:19.

Despite Mike’s painful legs, he said he was really happy with the race and the time we’d done. I think we’d both expected to be around 4.30 so to be so much faster was a happy surprise. Our intention was never to smash out a fast time or go for a sub-4 but to get so close to his PB (around 4:08) this was such a decent result!

Myself, I was so chuffed. Yes I’ve run faster marathons but I’ve never run a marathon after a baby and to feel so strong all the way through has given me such confidence. To know I can do the distance again and not break has made be very happy indeed. I can’t wait to see what I can do in another marathon now.

I got reunited with my little man which was just lovely. Though he had been fed by my family while I was running, I did need to feed him myself as my boobs were quite full now! So I sat on the grass and fed him while I enjoyed a post-marathon glow 😊

After doing some post race celebrations and chats with Mike, we headed off for our carvery. It was delicious. Nothing like a gigantic plate of roast dinner to refuel after a marathon eh!

So in a nutshell, I’m SO pleased with how this race went. I had a fantastic time running with Mike. He’s a great person to run with and it’s such a festive fun race before Christmas you can’t help but enjojy yourself. I mean obviously it’s still 26.2 miles, but for me during this race they just seem to fly by as it’s so varied and enjoyable. And of course, a huge thank you to my incredible family who just made the race so much more amazing by being there for us. I feel so warm and fuzzy 🙂

Now on to the next race eh! 😉

Running a marathon just for the hell of it

During these weird times I’m grasping at anything to keep my running feeling fresh and to keep it from feeling samey.

So when my friend, Emma, said that she was going to be running the Virtual New York Marathon at the end of October and mentioned I could join her if I fancied, I jumped at it. My running lately has been feeling so meh and flat. It’s not that I’ve lost motivation it’s just that I don’t know what I’m doing, if that makes sense? What mileage should I be running? What goal am I aiming for? I’m not training for anything. Portsmouth Coastal Marathon in December has been cancelled and I’m a bit bereft. (As I’m sure so many others are as well).

On Friday evening after work I drove up to Reading and stayed with Emma and her family ready to run the marathon the next day. She had a route more or less planned and we decided to head out at 8am the next day. That evening she had chicken and pasta and I had a delicious vegetarian pizza. I know it’s crazy but I really cannot stand pasta!

The next morning we got up early. I had some porridge and a black coffee (my standard) and we waited a bit to digest before getting ready to start.

I wasn’t feeling that nervous. Without sounding arrogant or blasé, Emma was aiming for around a four hour marathon with a pace of 9-10min/mile, which is quite relaxed for me.

My training up to this point hadn’t really been optimal for another marathon but I felt confident I would be OK. Of course, the distance is always hard regardless of the pace you run so I knew not to be too chilled about it.

The weather was due to be pretty grim as well. It wasn’t raining as we set off but we knew it would come at some point. As we started, while it was quite windy, it was mild which was nice and made me wonder if my long sleeve jacket was a mistake (spoiler: it wasn’t). We had a few loops around the immediate location of where Emma lived, round some country roads, and we kept it nice and relaxed chatting away. It’s always nice to see Emma and while we catch up most weeks via phone, it was nice to see her in person and have a long chatty run. It was also nice to run in a very country-esque location and pretty much carless roads.

It was really quite easy to keep my pace nice and relaxed – something I had been a little worried about. I didn’t want to speed up and push Emma without realising. But we kept to the goal pace.

As we headed into Reading at around mile 11, Emma said she needed a quick toilet break so we popped into Costa (we’d brought our masks just in case we needed to do this thankfully).

As we came back out the rain had started in earnest and having stopped running for a few minutes my legs were a bit stiff getting going again and I was a little chilly. Thankfully as we got going I got warm again.

We then started running alongside the Thames River and the rain properly started hammering down. The more stable pathing turned into more of a trail route and the rain and leaves on the ground made that a little precarious.

I had visions of slipping and falling into the river – thankfully this never happened! As we ran alongside the river we saw several people getting ready for what looked like a boat regatta with their bibs on.

While running through the wind and rain I was certainly more happy to be running through the rain than rowing through it on the water! It just looked so grim. We did get some grim smiles from the few supporters along the bank. Everyone just looked so thoroughly soaked – as we were too of course. But looking at this point we weren’t cold.

So we continued running alongside the water until we got to the end of the road, as it were, where a gate blocked our way. And so we turned around and headed back the way we’d come. This had always been the plan but I think Emma thought that the path might have gone on a little longer. At this point we were almost at 17 miles. My legs felt a little tired but otherwise I was OK. I did have a slight dip in motivation when I considered how much longer we still had to run and be wet in the rain. The rain was just so relentless it really was quite tedious.

As we headed back down the path we’d come down, the rain had created more and more puddles and we had to do some strategic running and jumping to get through. We continued running further down the Thames to get to around 20 miles and Emma started to struggle a bit with some pains in her hip.

I tried to keep her mind off it by talking about stupid things but it was a struggle as the weather was really killing our vibe. Emma stopped a few times and I started to get colder. I needed to keep running to stay warm, but equally I didn’t want to put pressure on Emma, especially if she was in pain. She kindly said I could run ahead for a bit.

As we got to 22 miles we stopped again and Emma was clearly struggling a fair amount – the rain, the wind, her painful hip and general fatigue – and we needed to find four more miles. We decided to keep running loops around the area we were in – up and down the Thames, round near to the shops a bit and back. It was a little tedious but every mile ticked off the end got closer.

In terms of how my legs felt, they were good. They were tired but no niggles and I didn’t feel that tired in myself. I wanted to stretch my legs out a bit but I knew increasing my pace wouldn’t help Emma finish any faster. I did run ahead a few times so I could sprint back to her to allow my legs to stretch a bit – as my cadence was slower than if I’d been running my usual pace. It helped keep me warm as well. I had to check with Emma a couple of times regarding how much she had left as obviously my watch wasn’t accurate due to my extra running ahead and back.

We got near to where her parents would be picking us up (I was now over 26.4 miles so stopped my watch), Emma was almost there and I ran ahead so I could cheer her in to the imaginary finish.

Then we were done. Soaked and tired but done!

Emma’s parents were incredible. The car was lovely and warm, they had towels for us and big hoodies for us to get into and it was just GLORIOUS. I was so cold by this point and utterly, utterly drenched through I was just glad to be out of the rain.

Emma’s watch time was 4:18:52. I’m not sure what her official time was (we did stop our watches when we stopped – I know there are several  opinions about this). But anyway, she was very happy with her time – as she should be.

I had the most gloriously hot (scalding really) shower and a cup of tea and felt a million times better. The marathon itself wasn’t hard per se as the pace was very comfortable for me. But running for longer than I’m used to did make it fairly tiring. I found at times that I wanted to run faster to stretch my legs and it was mentally tough trying to support someone who was struggling a little at the end. Like there’s nothing you can say to help them but just be there and push as much as you can. You wish you could run the miles for them and seeing Emma in a bit of pain at the end was hard. This makes it sound like I’m being smug and that it was easy. It wasn’t easy. It was just very different and hard in different ways.

Emma and I celebrated with a delicious lunch at a little garden centre café. I opted for the rather delicious (and different for me) lentil salad with another pot of tea. So tasty and warming.

And of course later we had a Doughnut Time doughnut to really celebrate 😉 They were the Halloween specials and very tasty. Then it was an Indian takeaway for dinner and a very early night!

I thoroughly enjoyed running the marathon with Emma. And just before Lockdown 2.0! Not sure what next is planned for my running though…

Have you ever run a marathon with a friend?

What’s your celebratory food of choice?

Goodwood Marathon 2020

I was so nervous going into the Goodwood Marathon race.

What with one thing and another, I hadn’t done a proper marathon race since Chicago last year. Yes I’d done my “lockdown marathon” in April but it wasn’t an official race. It was just me running round my local area for 26.2 miles.

So when I heard that the Goodwood Marathon was still going ahead, and the fact it was just 30 minutes away and that I’d successfully done a few 16 milers, 17 miler and an 18 miler… well, it was far too tempting to not sign up for. Especially as this year I’ve signed up to so many marathons for them to be cancelled/postponed (Rotterdam, Southampton, Iceland and a local lapped event) . At this point I just wanted to run a damn race!

With around two weeks before the race, I’d signed up and was feeling excited. But then as the days crept closer I started to really feel not up for it. Originally my parents, Kyle’s mum and Kyle would be coming to support, until we realised that would be pretty reckless considering it was likely to be fairly crowded already and they were trying to discourage spectators. So just Kyle and I then (and even having Kyle watch me wasn’t guaranteed).

I was nervous and just feeling flat about it. It was just up the road so the commitment to go was minimal. It was lapped, so I could stop anytime really without issue. And ELEVEN LAPS. All these things just weighed against me.

Kyle massively helped hype me up though. He suggested that I could dedicate each lap to something or someone that would keep me entertained or focused. He could hold up a photo on his iPad each lap I passed him. We came up with 11 fun and random things and then Kyle was going to surprise me with the photo. I also made the best music playlist I could. One for just plodding through the miles and one for 20 miles onwards (high tempo go go go music).

Saturday I did a gentle 5k shakeout run with Kyle and had a my usual pizza for dinner (I go to the pizza counter in Asda – I get a BBQ based chicken and veg pizza with less cheese – while I adore cheese, they put loads on and I didn’t want it to be super heavy).

I prepped all my stuff ready for the next day: bag packed, clothes out ready and porridge ready to be made. Then I got a fairly early night.

The next morning I was up at 6:50am, got dressed and washed, had a small but strong coffee (in a fun mug Kyle got made for me with my face on haha), took Alfie for a 10 minute walk, ate my porridge and we were ready to go.

Because I knew the only toilets available were within the race village (which is a faff to get to from the course itself) I wanted to drink as little as possible in the morning to prevent me needing to go during the race. I wasn’t concerned about dehydration because I had drunk a lot the day before and had had some water during the night. I also knew there would be water available every single lap.

We arrived half an hour before the start, parked and walked over to the Goodwood Motor Circuit (parking is super easy, it’s in a field literally next door, and it’s free).

Before we could get in we had to sanitize our hands. The COVID safety measures were really top notch for this event – we felt very safe. All marshals wore masks, everyone was keeping apart and there was minimal contact (no bag drop for example). I kept my mask on in the race village (you didn’t have to) but mainly because it was so cold!

And because I wanted to keep going to the loo beforehand (that sounds excessive, I went twice!).

Kyle leant me his coat and we milled around a bit before they called over the marathon runners for a warm up. It was so cold! I mean I know compared to like November or January it’s not that cold, but considering the previously temperatures we’ve all gotten used to, it certainly felt cold.

And it was windy. Really windy.

The marshals then called out waves for what times people were hoping to finish – starting at 2 hours 30. Blimey! (Spoiler: the winning guy did it in 2:29:56!). When they shouted out 3:25 I decided to go for it. I knew it wasn’t likely to get that time unless I really felt good but I wanted to give myself a good shot… just in case.

We were directed over to the start in lines with markers to keep us 2 metres away from each other and they started four people at a time every 10 seconds. It was like a conveyor belt of runners. Very strange but obviously the safest way to do it.

And then I was off. We had to do a little out and back bit to make up the distance for the 11 laps (2.3 miles per lap) straight into the wind before turning round and heading off in the direction we’d be going round the track each time. 11 laps. Here we go.

I looked up at Kyle who was stood on the balcony bit to watch me and he held up the first photo on his iPad. It was a picture of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s a bit of a random one, I know, but we’ve really been enjoying watching the Buffy series (again for me, first time for Kyle) and I’m Team Spike rather than Team Angel. It made me laugh as I headed off.

Looking up for Kyle

The wind was right behind, pushing us forward nicely. But it was cold. In my vest and shorts I really felt quite exposed. I kept my music off and told myself to do at least two laps without it (always better to use musical sparingly during a marathon as then it’ll have more of an impact). We were all spaced out on the track so it felt a little lonely but it was nice and flat so I just focused on plodding away.

As we turned round the corner I felt the wind now pushing my side. Not quite as easy as it pushing behind but not too bad. As we continued round the lap we were now starting to face the wind. Urgh it was now very cold and getting harder as we were heading into the wind. It was one of those “head down, grind teeth, push forward” times. And in my head thinking “10 more times of this”.

In reality it was probably just a mile of into the wind pain, and then as we turned again it was back to the wind going across us – but definitely a relief from before. And then as we continued on as we followed the loop round, the wind was back to behind us. Whew. And then it was easy running back to towards the start again. Each lap this was the best part, turning that corner, the wind behind and heading to finish the lap and seeing Kyle. It really was a tale of two halves for each lap. A hard grind followed by easy running.

As I got close to the end of the lap I would raise my arm and wave towards where I knew Kyle was on the balcony. He would wave back and then I could spot him easier when I got closer so I could see him and the photo he would hold up. As I finished the first lap I looked up and saw the next photo: apples 😀

Then it was off for another lap. Now I knew what to expect and I knew where it would be hard and where it would be easy. I just zoned out and kept my pace as consistent as I could (well, effort level I guess). While this marathon is quite boring as there isn’t much to look at and you’re doing so many laps, it does go by fairly quickly because you’re just trying to complete the lap your on and 11 laps mentally go quicker than 26 miles. To be honest, I stopped looking at my watch for the miles because there was no point. I knew the number of  laps I had left so it didn’t matter about the miles.

The next lap Kyle held up a photo Thor (I always joke that I love him). And during that lap I made up a little song in my head to repeat over and over to just keep me occupied (don’t laugh) “Thor, Thor, I am Thor” over and over. It was just so rhythmical so it just worked (I don’t have desires to actually be Thor, I must stress). I still kept my music off. I was good for the moment.

The next lap was a photo of a dinosaur (this then went round my head as “di-no-saur, di-no-saur”) and then I starting thinking about how far I’d need to be away from a T-rex to be able to outrun it… the weird things that go round my brain during a marathon, eh.

I think at this point I’d definitely been lapped by the front runners – who were insanely fast! And they just seemed to glide along, despite the wind. I passed a guy who said “urgh this wind” and he seemed to be about to fall into step with me and moan a bit more, but I really didn’t want someone next to me unhappy and I also didn’t fancy chatting much. I needed all the positive energy I could get. Luckily I manage to up my pace a bit more and lost him.

At some point the 20 mile racers joined the course and it got more busy. Eventually they’d be the 20 milers, half marathoners, 10k’ers and 5k’ers out on the track. So throughout the race there was an eb and flow of busyness. It was cool to see the other runners join – even if it was just to keep me occupied by watching them zoom past or me pass them.

Kyle held up a photo of my parent’s dog, Dylan, for lap five. Sadly Dylan passed away a few weeks ago so it was a nice way to remember him.

At this point I was feeling very warm and decided to stop and grab my drink. There was a drinks station just before each next lap and (because I remembered how it was last time) decided to bring my own water bottle so I wouldn’t need to waste any water bottles and could keep as contactless as possible. I’d also attached a gel to the side with tape in case I wanted it. It was really nice to have my own drink – I’d even popped a couple of Nuun tablets in it so it was lovely and refreshing (in the end I didn’t use the gel).

Lap six was a photo of a cake (of course). Then on the 7th lap Kyle had gotten his times muddled and as I waved over to him I didn’t get a wave back… and as I passed he looked panicked and hadn’t got his iPad ready. He looked completely stricken bless him. It did slightly stump me tho as lap 7 was supposed to be a surprise photo so I was a bit disappointed.

At this point I was listening to my music (I had started it on mile 10). I was in the zone and just trucking along. I would be making no crazy moves for a while. Just keep running at the same effort, just stay focused.

Lap eight came around and Kyle quickly held up two photos: chicken wings and the 7Eleven logo (would have been apt for lap seven… lap 7 out of 11).

Lap 9 was a photo of my family. I thought this would be the hardest lap because three laps is still so far from the end (actually it was lap 10 that was the killer). I was around 20 miles now, but not ready to change my music and start running faster. I was feeling the drag. Then my headphones made that little noise which means they’re low battery. I had some spare in my FlipBelt so decided on the 10th lap I would change my music and my headphones and be ready to go go go.

Lap 10 was a photo of Alfie. I grabbed some more water and then headed off. I swapped my headphones and tried to get the new headphones to connect to my phone’s Bluetooth but it said it wasn’t possible… grrrr! So I switched back the headphones, switched the playlist and hoped the battery would hold out. Right, now was time to jump on a the pain train for a little bit. Now I was counting the number of times I would have to run into the wind.

The final lap there was no photo – it was “Kyle” and so he just gave me the biggest cheer and shouted “one more to go!”. And that’s all I needed to be like, “right let’s do this”. To be honest, my pace didn’t dramatically get that much faster but I definitely felt more motivated to get to the finish now. The final time through the wind was tough but I knew it was the last time. Then when I turned the corner, the wind behind me, I picked it up as much as I could and headed for as strong a finish that I could manage.

I could see Kyle cheering me on and I felt spectacular. Oh how I’d missed this!

My official time was 3:33:44 and I was over the moon. Going into this I was going to be happy with a sub 3:45, maybe  push for 3:40. When I was racing and feeling good I considered being near 3:35. So 3:33 was a big win in my book.

I finished and picked up my medal from the table, still wrapped in its plastic and walked towards Kyle. He was there with a man who I recognised lived on our road. He’d just done the 10k, what a small world!

My legs were definitely tired and done. This is what happens when you don’t have a solid lead-up to a marathon – a few long runs does not make for a proper marathon training plan! But I was chuffed nonetheless. At no point was I going to stop, like I feared I’d be tempted to. Once I had started that was it. I had so missed the race atmosphere, people running with you all trying their best, and then the flourish of a sprint finish. It just felt so nice to be doing something like this again. It’s definitely sparked me up again 🙂

But I can definitely say that I never want to run round Goodwood Motor Circuit ever again.

Have you done any races?

Have you got any races planned?

Last long run before the marathon and some SUP

Well I’m just sat here waiting for the Goodwood Marathon to get cancelled…

I won’t be angry because I do understand but it’s frustrating. I mean, who knows it might still happen. The New Forest Marathon happened, though with no spectators. Originally my parents and Kyle’s mum were going to come to support me at Goodwood (this Sunday *gulp*) but obviously this was far too optimistic. Understandably they’re encouraging minimal supporters. The likelihood will be that it’ll just be Kyle and I going. I feel a bit bad for Kyle as it is such a boring  marathon to spectate (let alone run) but he has an iPad and his Switch so he can amuse himself quite happily with minimal effort to hurry to meet me on the course in different places.

(Side note: we always joke that I’m very much a “Hoff” and he’s a “Homer” in our relationship – MarathonTalk reference – I love to be moving and exercising and get itchy feet very easily, whereas Kyle’s default is not to move, to chill and do as little exercise as possible. We balance each other well. So this marathon is ideal that it involves minimal running about for him.)

I did my last long run this weekend gone. I quite like to do 13-16 miles the week before a marathon. It just works for me. And as I haven’t done quite as good a marathon lead-up to this race as I would normally (because I’ve been training for a moving target due to COVID) so I did 16 miles.

It wasn’t as good as my 18 miler the week before. I felt a bit meh and that it was hard work, but it is what it is. It was quite windy along the coast and I planned my run to try and have minimal headwind but there were times I was running straight at it which was tiring. No idea what this will mean for Sunday. I think I’m just going to see how I feel – which, let’s be honest, is no different to how I approach most races! The first mile will be telling. At least if there’s a headwind somewhere on the route I’ll get a tailwind too due to the course being basically a ring.

After my 16 miles I headed to Winchester to meet my lovely friend Bhuvana. Due to one thing and another, we hadn’t seen each other for far too long. It was just so lovely to catch up with her. We had so much to talk about.

We went to our usual lunch location where we’ve  been a few times before. I had the vegan BBQ salad (which I promptly de-veganised by adding smoked cheese and chicken) and we nattered away about everything.

We had a lovely walk along the river and then decided to head back to the train station. At this point I realised I had about 10 minutes to catch my next train (otherwise I had to wait an hour) so we picked up the pace and run-walked quickly to the station. With seconds to spare I leapt onto the train. But Bhuvana (who was heading to Basingstoke) shouted that it was the wrong train! She’s checked with the train guy and it wasn’t my train. So I quickly leapt off again practically just as it left the station. Whew!

Bhuvana said she thought she’d double-check for me (always safe – I’m just a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda gal – definitely stung me a few times). She told me it wasn’t going to Southampton. Ah no! I wasn’t going to Southampton, I was going to Portsmouth! The train guy overheard and confirmed, yep that the train I jumped off of was indeed the Portsmouth train. Haha what a farce! To be fair to Bhuvana, all the times we’ve met up previously I’ve always come from Southampton where I used to live. It was fine in the end – I mean, I really should have checked before jumping on blindly. It just meant we had a bit more time to chat 🙂

Sunday after a gentle 3 mile run, Kyle and I met up with his family to do some stand up paddle boarding in Chichester (a lake not the sea thankfully). I was adamant that I didn’t want to fall into the water because, rather vainly, I’d washed my hair the day before and didn’t want to deal with the faff of washing it again so soon (#longhairproblems). But this was the first time Kyle and I had ever done this so we were nervous. It was a warm day and I was wearing clothes I was happy to get wet but still.

Anyway we were given life jackets, were quickly taught the basics then off we went! Surprisingly I didn’t find it too tricky.

I got my balance and managed to stand up. I enjoyed how peaceful it was just floating and paddling away. And AMAZINGLY I didn’t fall in! Even when the waves picked up after the speedboat zoomed by. Kyle did fall in a few times but I put this down to him being rather taller and bigger than me. I thoroughly enjoyed the hour we were out on the lake but it was quite the upper body workout. I was actually quite envious of the others having had nice cool dips in the lake – whereas I was bone dry but sweating! But I was happy for my hair 😉

Then we headed into Chichester where we had lunch at Trents. I, of course, went for a giant platter of wings. The waiter was both shocked and impressed at my chicken wing eating capacity. The wings were good but a little plain…and humongous! I sadly didn’t manage them all.

It was a lovely weekend all in all. Now just creeping towards the marathon, nervous, apprehensive but excited. Please still  happen!

Have you ever done stand up paddle boarding?

Do you like water sports?