Celebrating good runs with burgers

It’s incredible how different runs can be.

A couple of weekends ago I was knocked down by a bug. I feel like whenever anyone mentions feeling unwell everyone immediately assumes it’s COVID-19 related. Happily mine was just a bug that made me feel a bit lethargic and meh with a bit of a dodgy tummy. Alfie and Kyle actually had similar issues as well – can dogs get ill from you (or vice versa)?! It was very weird, for two days he kept sporadically throwing up, which was just lovely.

I didn’t actually realise I was feeling ill though until I got back from a very unwise long run. I woke up in the morning without being aware that I felt different, then headed out and it just felt so hard. Half-way through I had a little sit down on the curb and just had to take stock of the fact that I was 5 miles from home without any easy way to get back (Kyle’s motorbike had a flat battery and he can’t actually drive our car yet).  In the end I managed to claw my way home. On finishing I felt so drained.

After a few days though I was back to normal and my runs felt SO much better. I decided to leave the speedwork (check me out being all routine-like with my speedwork now) and just do some “whatever I fancy” running to make sure I wasn’t pushing my body when it was just back to normal. Then at the weekend I headed out for my long run without any real ideas of how far I was going to go. I have a great route that I can basically cut short very easily… from 6 miles all the way to 15 miles. I have easy points to add on and take-away.

As I headed out I realised I felt pretty good and decided to go for a longer run. My pace was strong and I felt full of energy. The weather was perfect with barely any wind (such a problem with living on the coast!) and it was relatively cool. In the end I did 17 miles which just felt great and has tempted me to consider running another marathon on my own in a few weeks… Rotterdam  Marathon is doing a virtual one in October so I’ll see how it goes. But I’m putting no pressure on myself.

After running the 17 miles, I got showered and Kyle and I walked down to 7Bone for some lunch. The fact that we can walk to 7Bone is dangerous indeed. I mean I love that we can walk to some fantastic favourites of ours but it can’t be good for our wallets and health!

7Bone were fantastic. They took our temperature before we went inside and had hand sanitizer EVERYWHERE – even on your table. We felt very well looked after and safe. The food, of course, was fantastic too.

Both Kyle and I went for the Winner Winner chicken burger and added an extra halloumi patty and had halloumi fries on the side too. Kyle went for loaded cheesy fries and I went for some Rasta chicken wings. It was a feast! The burger is honestly one of the best chicken burgers I’ve had. Though the chicken wings are always a bit disappointing. But then you don’t go to 7Bone for the wings.

We then walked home – which definitely helped our fullness.

The next day I went for a very gentle 5k and then headed to meet my mum in Southsea for coffee.

It was a lovely mum and daughter time. We had a drink in the Watkins & Faux, a tennis themed café, on the seafront and then walked along the Southsea parade. My mum had a tasty chocolate milkshake and I had a cappuccino.

A solid weekend full of good food and good times (and good health!).

Have you ever run when you felt ill?

Have you been tempted by any virtual races recently?

Old favourites and getting some structure into my running

A lot to catch up on recently…

So firstly, I’ve become a bit green fingered in our new house (and garden). I never thought this day would come. I’ve never been interested in plants or flowers before but now I’m loving that we have a beautiful little garden. I’ve planted some flowers, got some lovely little house plants and I’m carefully looking after them.

I’m trying really hard to not let them die, reading up on how to care for them and watering them as often as they should be. Who’d have thought some don’t like too much watering and some get very sad without it (my temperamental little peace lily drooped significantly when I forgot about him for a bit).

Well anyway, it’s bringing me great joy, much to my parent’s and Kyle’s amusement as I’ve never shown such an interest before.

The other weekend we also had a very lovely visit from my friend Emma. She popped down from Reading for a run and some brunch. Originally we’d planned 14 miles but when it came down to it neither of us were feeling it and decided to bump it down to 5 miles instead.

It was a lovely relaxed run and we were able to catch up whilst seeing the sea and enjoying some trails nearby to where I live.

Chicken, bacon, potato, cheese, coleslaw, beetroot, tomatoes, cucumber, corn, onion, salad, berries

We then walked with Kyle down to Southsea for brunch at The Parade Tearooms. I had the rather un-brunch-like Jayne Salad which was, as always, ginormous but so tasty.

We then walked to The Tenth Hole to pick out some cakes – it had to be done of course! The Bakewell slice was particularly delicious I must say. We are so lucky to live within walking distance to these places – though not close enough to be a real danger thankfully 😉

This weekend gone Kyle and I house sat/dog sat for my parents while they visited my grandparents in Wales. At first we were very happy because my parents have a hot tub (!!) and we were able to get a takeaway from our favourite Indian restaurant (honestly, I’ve never found as good an Indian as the Stubbington Tandoori).

But then during the middle of the night the happiness drained away as their dogs barked several times during the night and I had to stand in the garden at 3am while they did their business. This happened every single night we were there… it was exhausting. How my parents live with this I do not know. I couldn’t remember them being that bad when I lived there so perhaps they were sad my parents weren’t there, who knows. Either way it was ANNOYING. It also meant one morning we didn’t wake up until 10am!!

Anyway, despite these problematic sleeps, Kyle and I had a lovely 6 miles walk along the Titchfield Canal and Hill Head seafront. Thankfully we were sensible enough to put on suntan lotion as it was very sunny and warm. It was a lovely walk. Asides from running, I just really love to walk, explore and be outside (you might already know this I expect).

Sunlight making us squint

We also enjoyed a lovely 4 miles run down to the beach followed by a huge full English fry-up at the Penguin Café (another of our favourites in the area).

It was delicious. It was lovely to sit outside in the sunshine with the sea breeze and eat a ridiculously large breakfast. Then we walked the 2.5 miles back – which certainly helped the full stomach I can tell you!

Then the next day I got up and headed out for a solo long run. I really didn’t know how far I fancied going or where I wanted to go so just went with enjoying some of my favourite routes at random.

I listened to the new-to-me podcast RunPod which I’m really enjoying. Lots of good interviews with people about running and in the end did 10 miles. It felt exactly like what I needed. Not too hard, or too far, or too fast… just a nice gentle plod. I’ve started paying attention a bit more to my heart rate. I won’t say that I’m specifically training using my HR, but I definitely want to keep an eye on it. When I say I’m going to go and do an easy run I want to make sure this actually happens.

So much of my running is just one pace. I feel a bit of a fraud compared to other runners who do specific sessions. They run their easy runs easy and their hard runs hard. Whereas I just…run. Sometimes I go a bit faster, sometimes a bit slower. There’s no real rhyme or reason to it. And while I like to have a bit of freedom with my running and never want to go back to when I was going to the track every week, I do think a bit of structure would help. My motivation to run is never based on times or PB’s, but to some degree I know I need to have a bit more structure to at least keep me motivated and interested. With no races around the corner, my running is becoming a bit stale.

And on the subject of races… I was half-way through writing this post, about to say “guess what! I’ve just signed up for the Reykjavik Marathon – in like two weeks!” and was super excited. And then literally just got an email to say it’d been cancelled. That email came through mere hours after signing up.

I know I was probably too hasty to sign up with everything going on but it seemed like Iceland was fairly safe and they seemed pretty confident. *Sighs* guess not. I think Kyle and I will still go to Iceland (I was so super organised I’d booked flights and an Airbnb – yes, I KNOW, super keen). We’ll only go for a few days but hopefully it’ll be nice. I’ve been to Iceland on my own ages ago so it’ll be lovely to go back with Kyle 🙂

Are you going anywhere on holiday?

Have you got any races planned that are still going ahead?

My yearly calf niggle, home improvements and potential races

Life lately has continued to be fairly hectic.

Work has been busy and house stuff has been ongoing. I also picked up a little niggle in my calf – the ever present yearly calf niggle I get. So lots has been going on.

Firstly with the house… I’m so so happy with our little home.

It’s really coming together. We’ve got most of our furniture sorted now and now it’s more a case of getting pictures up, cushions and those little details that make the house inviting and “ours”. It’s definitely an ongoing and slow process, but one I’ve very much loving. Building a home with Kyle is making me very happy.

I have a never ending list of the things I want to get done but I’m trying not to let it overwhelm or stress me. We have time. And to be honest, working from home has allowed things to happen so much easier than if we weren’t at home… getting deliveries, being able to build furniture in our lunch breaks and things like that.

So my calf niggle. Well, it was time really for it to crop up. With running around 40 miles a week and a consistent 16-17 miler every week as my long run, it was really tempting fate. It’s so weird that my calf niggle (always the same, a sore spot that feels uncomfortable when I run and, when it gets bad, when I walk) always happens to me. I can’t seem to ever escape it.

That said, I’ve become really good at spotting it and backing off. Though I don’t know how to completely cure it, I definitely have a tried and tested mechanism to nip it in the bud. The main thing being to back off from running and reduce my mileage, which (amazingly for me being all sensible) I did. And shock horror, it faded away.

Previously I’ve tried calf strengthening, I’ve tried foam rolling… it just seems to be something that will always crop up when I’m beginning to do higher mileage. It’s like an adjustment. But then when it’s gone it’s gone.

Basically I took about five days off of running (and jumping – the YouTube workouts do love a squat jump don’t they?) and then added back some lower mileage runs in with space between each to recover. And now two weeks later I’m  pretty much back to feeling normal. Of course I won’t just jump back into 40 mile week mileage right away as this would be stupid (watch this space…).

To be quite honest, I’m quite glad to have had a break from the high mileage. Without a marathon to do it was getting a bit pointless to keep running so far every week (as much as I did love it). It’s nice to have dropped back down to eight miles for a long run, and then gradually build up again – something during marathon training I really enjoy doing.

I also got new trainers. I tried the Nike Epic Reacts and while they felt OK I did wonder if they were just a bit too different for me. They’re very tight across the top of my feet and have quite a loose back of the heel. I’m not sure how I feel about them. They just didn’t feel “right”.

So I’m going to try some Saucony Guide ISO 2 shoes which are more supportive. My feet pronate and are quite sensitive to change so fingers crossed this will work a bit better. I think I tried to get too jazzy.

So I ran eight miles with Kyle at the weekend as my first “long” run post niggle and it went well.

It was windy and on the verge of raining but it was just nice to be out running.

My calf felt almost perfect and afterwards was good. So fingers crossed this continues!

I have a few race question marks coming up. Obviously everything is very much in the air at the moment so who really  knows what’s going to happen. One of them was a marathon… only problem is that it’s in Canada! The plan was for my friend Emma and I to stay with our lovely friend Cortney in Toronto (like I did last year) and then we were going to do the Niagara Falls Marathon, which crosses over the border into the New York state in the US. But due to the borders being closed the marathon can’t happen, so I was planning to drop to the half. The latest on flights from the UK to Canada though involves a two week quarantine both sides so that is currently not possible. It might change I guess… it’s in October so who knows!

The race might not happen but I still hope to go to Toronto (as long as there’s no quarantine). I’ve got my flights already booked – though of course that could easily change.

The Rotterdam Marathon date was postponed from March to 25th October, which incidentally is the same day as the Niagara race! So that adds to the confusion too. Obviously I can’t do both… but if I can get to Canada that’ll be my first choice. Then Rotterdam with Kyle supporting (he’s bailed which is understandable from someone who isn’t a big long distance fan. I’m happy to train for a marathon and it not go ahead whereas Kyle isn’t).

I’ll just keep on running regardless with the vague aim of an autumn marathon. Maybe there’s a chance the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon at the end of December will still carry on? With around 1,000 runners maybe? But again, WHO KNOWS. This might be the year I run no races.

Have you got any races still in the diary?

How has your training been affected through all of this?

Running a marathon during the pandemic

I was meant to be in Rotterdam last weekend but of course due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it didn’t happen.

The Rotterdam Marathon that Kyle and I had trained for was not to be. It’s since been rescheduled for October. Who knows where will all be then, eh!

I’ve been feeling very out of sorts, down and just a bit meh – as I’m sure everyone else is too. To be honest, I have nothing really to complain about as my job is secure (for now); I’m WFH, Wiggle is still trading (and customers still buying! Everyone wants a turbo trainer it seems…), my family and friends are healthy. I’m just sadly separated from Kyle, which is tough.

Anyway, I had in my mind that I needed an endpoint to all the training I had done. I was running well, I wasn’t injured and I was finally feeling out of the woods. The end of last year was tough with my two major injuries which dragged on. I now felt like I had nothing to look forward to, nothing to celebrate and an endless span of days ahead with the same old nothing.

So I decided to run my marathon anyway.

I must stress several things about this first. I didn’t take this decision lightly and there was a lot of stress involved in my brain whether to run it or not. Not because I was worried it would be hard (undeniably it would be), not because there was really no point, no medal, no glory, and not because it wouldn’t count to anything anyway. My angst was down to “should I be doing this?”.

Realistically no I shouldn’t. Realistically there was no good reason to run it. But something was eating away in my brain, niggling me: not being able to close the door on last year’s injuries. I also needed something to focus on because, other than work, I currently have nothing. Days blend into days.

I decided the weekend before that I would run on the Saturday, and that gave me a solid week to psychologically prepare for it. I planned my route, planned my other runs around it and mentally got it into my head that I would run on Saturday all being well.

The route was a quiet 13(ish) mile loop. I was going to set my alarm just before 6am and start running no later than 6.30am. I would do my best but ultimately have the freedom to stop at any point for whatever reason. Only my family, Kyle and Kyle’s family knew my plans. I didn’t want to advertise what I was doing, sing and shout about it, as I knew people would have opinions about it. And I also wanted zero pressure.

Friday I did a gentle 5k shake out run, as I always would the day before. I also (jokingly) did a flat lay of my kit.

I had an Indian takeaway for dinner… crazy I know, but it’s a meal I’ve often had the night before long runs and it’s worked well. It’s not that spicy and it’s something I really enjoy and my body has no issues with.

Tandoori chicken, chicken tikka and a lot lof poppadoms (I adore this meal)

I woke up at 5.50am, I had a small black coffee, I went to the loo, I got my kit on and did a few dynamic warm-up exercises before leaving the house just after 6.20am. I didn’t have breakfast. Now normally I would of course have a bowl of porridge before a marathon but as I didn’t want to get up any earlier I decided to forgo it. I’ve run many long runs fasted before (up to 20 miles) and thought I’d be OK. I wasn’t pushing the pace and because my loop past my house halfway I could pick up some fuel to keep me going from there.

My dad (bless him) wanted to come out and support me and cycled to meet me at around 6 miles, then he was there at halfway with my fuel and water ready, and then at 20 miles.

It was cold and super misty that early but it wasn’t windy, and it wasn’t raining. Perfect marathon conditions really. I listened to the MarathonTalk podcast which actually really helped my nerves. I wasn’t nervous per se about running but more about what people would think about my run. But Martin and Tom actually debated about length of runs and the government guidelines during the show and it really put me at ease. I wasn’t breaking any of the guidance by running my marathon. I would give two metres spae to everyone I saw (very few during my first loop – more cyclists than anything) and I was technically on my “one exercise” for the day.

I got to six miles and my dad appeared on his bike and cycled alongside me for about a mile and a half. It actually really broke it up for me and one of the roads was a bit of a windy road (rather than go onto the promenade of the beach where it would likely be more busy) so having my dad there to see ahead for cars and keep me shielded was helpful.

I had hoped to use the public toilet at around 7.5 miles but of course they weren’t open. I hadn’t even thought about them not being available (of course they wouldn’t!) so this was somewhat of a blow as I really needed a wee. My dad took a quick photo and then I headed off on my own again, and he headed home (only about four miles from our house for him).

Mentally it was a good way to do the run as I knew it so well having run round these areas many times in the past. So things sort of flew by. I knew I’d be doing it all again so just focused on getting my first loop done.

I got to my house for just over 13 miles and my dad was standing outside with the fuel I’d asked for and some water. I quickly headed inside for a wee (what a total luxury – a wee in MY OWN HOUSE) – and as I would during a “real” marathon I left my watch running. I wanted this to be relatively realistic.

Then my dad handed me my fuel. I say “fuel” but again this was a bit out of my ordinary. I wanted something I could enjoy, something sugar-rich and easy to eat (and something I had easily available). So that meant some Hotel Chocolat Salted Caramel chocolates!

I’d put them in a little sandwich bag and my dad handed them to me and I ate one there and then with the water he handed me (my watch still running). I decided to leave the water with him (to give me later at 20 miles) and take two more of the chocolates for the road (I had six ready for consumption in total).

I headed off for my second loop. Now lighter, less misty but still quiet. As I got to mile 15ish Kyle rang me. He’d planned to do this after he woke up and sometime after my first loop. Unfortunately this meant just before the one large hill of my route. Thankfully the rest of my route is almost pancake flat, but this hill goes on for almost 0.5 of a mile and is a bit of a grinder.

It was so nice to hear from Kyle regardless and I huffed and puffed my way through a conversation. He was lovely and it really boosted me. Unfortunately I then heard my Airpods beep at me to say the battery was running low. Oh no! I quickly messaged my dad to ask him to bring new headphones when he saw me at mile 20 (another luxury!).

Kyle kept me company for a number of miles and then we said goodbye and I listened to some music. At mile 18(ish) I saw my dad. I hadn’t eaten the other chocolates as I was worried about needing water so I ate two more as I ran alongside him as he also had the water. It was tough to chew and breathe – which reminded me of why I prefer gels. But the chocolates were delicious and I was happy to accept their disadvantages in order to enjoy them!

I saw other runners and walkers out and about now but was able to keep my distance quite easily (the joys of quiet roads now, eh!). I chatted away to my dad and felt quite happy with how it was going. I knew the route so well and knew exactly what was to come, it wasn’t daunting. It was just time before I’d get back.

My dad left me again at the same point and now I had around 10k to go. As I turned a corner and was intending to go up the path to get onto  the road rather than stick near the beach I saw an elderly man coming down it. Instead of navigating the hurdle of trying not to get too close I decided to run up the steep grass to the side (oooof that was not fun!). He smiled so nicely at me and clapped me on – he actually clapped! And it made me smile wryly to think this is probably the first marathon I’ve run where I’ve only had one person clapping. Another nice lady later on shouted at me to “keep going, keep going” – it was weirdly like they knew. It really did help.

And then I was on the home stretch. As I ran down my lane I saw my watch creep to 26.2 miles. I saw my parents at the bottom of the lane cheering me on. It was surreal. As the miles ticked over to 26.28 I decided “that’ll do”. And just stopped, metres from my house. No finish line. No big time on the wall. No medal. No cheering. Just me coming to a stop. Clicking my watch. Done.

3:37:05 – but I guess it’s arbitrary really. It counts for nothing and had I run a metre or so further or less the time would be different.

While I know some people might disagree with me running all those miles for so long and potentially increasing the risk of catching/spreading the coronavirus, I don’t regret it and I’m proud of myself for doing it. I managed and reduced the risks as best as I could. I didn’t break any rules. I was sensible. I saw less people on my entire run than I had the other day when I walked to the local shop and stood queuing outside.

You could argue if we all ran a marathon it would create a problem. But I very much doubt there are many people that would want to go out and run a marathon so that risk is low. What if I fell over and needed medical assistance? Well, this has never happened during any of my running career before, marathon or not, so why would this suddenly be an increased risk?

And yes, my immune system will be somewhat lowered post run, despite how easy I took it. So for the days afterwards I avoided shops and busy places. I also stayed inside for the rest of the day, of course.

The run itself went really well. Surreal really. It felt odd, but good. I think I had one wobble during the entire run at mile four (so early on in the game!) where I realised I had 22 more miles to go. But other than that it was, dare I say, not bad at all.

Of course I would have loved it to be different. To have been running with Kyle in Rotterdam. To have had crowds cheering us on. To have a medal to show for it. To say I’ve run 21 marathons not 20. But it isn’t to be and that’s OK. I learnt a lot about myself during that run – that sometimes I can overcomplicate things. I stripped everything back and just ran. No pressures. That hugely helped. I could stop if I wanted – who would care? Who would know?

Anyway, it’s done. And I feel so much better. Like a weight off my mind. I can remember the experience fondly. And I’ve closed the door on that chapter.

What are your thoughts?

How long would you run for?

Chicago Marathon 2019 – Six Star Finisher

I woke up the morning of the Chicago Marathon after a fantastic night’s sleep. No one was more surprised about this than me to be honest.

I had fallen asleep and stayed asleep nicely, despite being so worried and stressed. I woke up about an hour before my alarm (5am) and did all that I needed to for a comfortable running experience, if you get my drift 😉 I made my porridge in our lovely Airbnb kitchen and drank my black coffee. No stress, no panic.

Just before 7am Kyle and I headed down to the start, a mere 10 minute walk away. I didn’t need a map, I just followed all the other runners coming out of the woodwork.

I had an aluminium blanket round me and was quite warm. It wasn’t nearly as cold as the day before thankfully. And no rain!

Kyle had plans to see me at mile 3, mile 14, mile 17 and then somewhere around the end. He was going to message me encouragements and any changes in his plan and I would see them pop-up on my watch (normally I have notifications turned off). This would be lovely.

My wave began at 7.30am and my corral closed at 7.20am, so at about 7.10am I left Kyle only to find that my gate was closed and was redirecting people to another one (no idea why). So I had to do a bit of a panicked jog the long way to my corral but managed to get in before it closed, whew! I have to say, it was the easiest and quickest race to get to. I didn’t even need a pre-race wee as I’d had one just before I’d left the apartment.

I wedged myself into the crowd of runners (so many people, as is typical for a major marathon) and found myself stood behind a 3:35 pacer.

Hmmm, VERY ambitious but could be worse. We waited for about 10 minutes after our supposed start time and then inched forward closer to the start. The finally we were off!

Having not properly run for a week I was nervous how it would feel. So far, it was OK. Suspiciously OK. Unlike New York, I didn’t have that euphoric feeling of “yay I’m running a marathon”. It was a cautious and almost constant thought cycle of “how does my knee feel? Is it OK?”. And it was OK so far. I could tell though that it wasn’t as strong as my other knee and it wasn’t quite “right”. So I stayed within a cautious pace.

Within the first mile however it became clear that my watch was not tracking things accurately (presumably due to the skyscrapers affecting the GPS). I reached a mile way before the mile marker and my pace was all over the place, despite feeling consistent. This panicked me a bit. What was I going to do?

I knew from experience that when you run a marathon it all feels very easy for the first 10 miles or so regardless if you’re running faster than you should be because… well, you’ve only run 10 miles. If you continue at that pace it starts to get a lot harder and unsustainable later. Having my watch tell me my pace has helped me in all my marathons to not get carried away. And it was important as I didn’t have the training (or the strength in my body) to maintain a faster pace than my planned one. I was going to aim for 8.30s to begin with and then maybe chip away at that later on.

The next issue hit when Kyle started messaging me. His messages would be cut short on my watch display because it was only a preview. So he’d say “I’m waiting near to the….” and that was all I’d get. He kept sending messages like this and it was frustrating – we should have tested this before the race! And in my confusion to see his message I then managed to LAP my watch by pressing the wrong button. Oh god what a muppet! Now it was all out of sync and all over the place.

At mile 3 when I saw Kyle I had minimal amount of time to explain everything of course. I told him I felt OK (knee update) but that my watch was completely out of sync and all I had was the time I’d been running and the mile markers on the road.

I got to 5k in 26:50 (08:39 min/miles). My watch is so far out I can only really go by the 5k splits from the app.

I carried on. He sent another long message and I decided to whip my phone out and message him to tell him to send bursts of messages rather than long streams so I could read it. That worked much better. The first few miles were full of cheering crowds and the skyscrapers of Chicago, along with a couple of bridges to run over. It was a good start for definite. It was brightly sunny but cold. I had my arm warmers on and expected I would take them off later in the race (I didn’t).

Then we headed out north of downtown Chicago towards Lincoln Park. At this point it was probably my lowest time of the race. I could occasionally feel my knee (no pain, just something “not right”) and I worried about the accumulating miles ahead.

I got to 10k in 53:51 (8:42 min/miles).

I had some serious doubts in whether I would finish and all I could see was the time when I did the Bournemouth Marathon a few years ago and had sporadic sharp knee pains which caused me to walk the final two miles. I remembered that in that race I’d gotten to mile 12 before really feeling pain and I hoped to get to that point without issue. But I was in a dark place, wishing I could try and enjoy the race a bit more.

Lincoln Park looked very pretty and I made a mental note to come back here with Kyle. There were lots of people cheering us on and that boosted me somewhat. Then we turned around and headed back south.

I needed to go for a wee (as I always tend to during a marathon and usually plan a stop somewhere between 2-10 miles depending on portaloo availability). But I was loathe to stop for fear that if I did the pain would start when I began running again. So I kept going.

I got to 15k in 1:20:29 (8:35 min/miles).

At mile 10 I switched to a playlist of Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish (current two of my favourite female artists). It was a nice mix of happy clappy songs and chilled but somewhat depressing vibes.

I started noticing that pretty much at any point during the marathon I could look around and find someone wearing the Nike Vaporfly shoes. I’ve never seen a more prolific shoe in a race. So many of these crazy bright neon Nikes. I must have seen over a 100 of them during the race. It was actually comical the number of them.

I got to 20k in 1:47:09 (8:35 min/miles).

Kyle was going to be at mile 14 so I looked forward to this. As I got past the fateful mile 12 without issue I started to relax a little. OK no pain. No discomfort. We’re good for now.

I saw Kyle and he boosted me along, asking me if wanted a gel (he was my gel mule). I said I was OK. Actually in terms of fitness I felt fine. I was running comfortably and felt I was fine to maintain the pace. I’d now worked out I could see my pace (sort of). But my watch was still so far out in terms of distance (around two miles out).

I got to 25k in 2:14:09 (8:42 min/miles).

I started to relx a bit and I allowed myself to start to visualise the finish. I hadn’t done this at all in the lead-up. It was tempting fate and being over-confident. Now I used these thoughts to boost me along. I would be picking up my SIX STAR MEDAL. How would that feel? Seeing Kyle afterwards wearing my TWO medals. The relief. I held on to those thoughts tightly and helped them spur me along.

It was still cold and the wind was fierce. It was more gusty than consistently windy so you’d suddenly get this big blast of frigid air hitting you for a bit and then it’d disappear. It was tough going but at least the course was flat. I actually saw a large piece of cardboard fly down the road and smack into a male runner (fairly amsuing it must be said).

I saw Kyle at mile 17 and honestly this was the best. I felt confident suddenly. I could do this. As I got close to him he shouted, “In less than 10 miles you’ll have your Six Star!” and I punched the air and yelled back “I’ve got this!”.

I got to 30k in 2:40:59 (8:39 min/mile).

I started grabbing water from the aid stations now (which were frequent and a mix of Gatorade, water and gels and then later half bananas and orange segments). Paper cups! And according to the brochure, entirely compostable. In fact, the marathon was very forward thinking in it’s environmental conscience – so much designed for recyling and reducing waste and plastic. Big thumbs up, Chicago!

As I got past 18 miles a man ran up next to me. He said he recognised me and had read my blog. He hoped I was enjoying Chicago and that the race went well for me. Oh I can’t tell you how much this put a spring in my step! What a lovely thing to be told mid-race. I couldn’t work out, in the rush of it all, whether he was running too or a marshal, but it was lovely to see him.

Around 18 miles we were running through the University Village, which would become very familiar to me in the days coming as our next Airbnb would be around there. There did seem to be a numerous number of universities in Chicago I must say.

I hit into mile 20 and could barely contain my excitement. In less than hour I’d be done! I switched my playlist to something else (I love Taylor and BiIllie but god I was done with them).

I tried to do the mental maths of what time I could finish in. My time of course didn’t matter (just finishing was my intention) but a tiny voice wondered if I could sneak in under 3:45? I had had a dream before all this hamstring and knee drama that I could finish all my Six Stars in under that time (I had so far). But it would be a push I think.

I got to 35k in 3:07:34 (8:34 min/mile).

As is typical for when wearing your name on your vest, I got a lot of “Go Anna!”s which is always nice. I love how Americans say my name with their accent. I kept thinking, smile smile smile. And it helped, people would cheer more.

I heard “go Anna” quite enthusiastically and looked over to see a crowd of cheerers. I looked harder and realised I recognised the ‘ring leader’. It was Charlie from The Runner Beans. It was lovely to see her cheering and it definitely boosted me along 🙂

I got to 40k in 3:33:43 (8:25 min/mile).

Just 2k to go. I saw Kyle message me saying I could get under 3:45 if I pushed. Urgh I was so tired now, so this felt like a hard ask. But I pushed on, seeing my pace get a bit quicker. Come on Anna, not long left!

I couldn’t work out where the finish was (I was confused with the 5k course yesterday) but eventually we turned into Grant Park and I saw it ahead. My watched clicked to 3:44:xx and I absolutely sprinted to get to the finish.

3:44:35! Just snuck under 3:45. A man tapped my on the shoulder and shook my hand: “great finish!”. Ahh what a lovely thing to say 🙂 I couldn’t believe I’d done it. The stress was over. The RELIEF. My god the relief.

I walked along, collecting my Chicago medal, some water, ALL the apples…

And then I saw the Six Star Finisher signs. Ahhhhh! I headed over there tentatively, still wondering if something would stop this moment. But they scanned my QR tag and the Abbott man said “congratulations Anna, here is your medal”. Omg it was like a dream. They put my medal on and the weight of it hit me – both metaphorically and physically. It was a beast. I’m not a sentimental person but I must admit, I did get a tiny bit emotional. No crying but a bit choked up.

The crowd of Abbott volunteers were so lovely, congratulating me and saying what an achievement. It was just lovely. They took my things so they could get a photo of me – they looked after me so well.

And then I headed off into the swarms of finishers to find Kyle. Walking on clouds.

I found Kyle faily quickly, thankfully, and showed him my medals. It was such a fantastic moment. I was so glad he was there with me to share my happiness. He was so relieved for me too. (Though he claims he never doubted me finishing, I’m glad one of us was confident!).

Chicago Marathon was definitely a hard graft. The lead-up and the race were mentally and physically tough going. I was so stressed and I don’t think I ever really relaxed properly while running. Of course for any marathon I never go into it believing it’s going to go OK or that I’m 100% confident I’ll finish as anything can happen during those 26.2 miles outside of your control, but I do tend to go into it fairly positive and while I’m running enjoy myself.

This was different. The pit of my tummy was constantly in turmoil. I do remember clearly thinking though, “This is what my body was made to do”. Running a marathon, even when semi-injured and undertrained, is just natural to me. I love it and find such happiness from it – not just finishing, but the entire process. I hope to have many more marathons to come 🙂

And as for getting my Six Star Finisher medal… well, that was just wonderful. It’s been six years since I did my first marathon major, Berlin, and so much has changed in my life. I was married then, I’m divorced now but so very happy. Each Major has special memories and I enjoyed all of them. I was very lucky to have such good experiences, good weather and no big upsets. Yes Chicago was tough because of my injury woes, but I still had a comfortable race and finished smiling. That’s all I ever hope for.

Have you done any of the Major Marathons?

Have you ever run abroad?

Do you depend on your watch during races?