New York Marathon 2018 – part 1

The New York Marathon, my fifth Major and my 16th marathon. I had no real goals, no expectations… I felt strangely relaxed but excited. I knew it would be hard-work (marathons are never easy) and I knew the course would be tough. But I was fit, healthy, well fed and ready to go.Out of the girls, Cortney, Elaine, Emma, Steph and I were running, while Charlie and Anna would be supporting from the sidelines cheering us on. We decided that, even though we had different start times and ferry times, to all get an Uber together and just go to the start together as that would be far more fun than on our own.So the Uber picked us up at 6am and we headed to Staten Island Ferry. Most of the girls had already eaten breakfast/snack but Emma and I had taken ours with us. I like to have my porridge about 2-1.5 hours before the start and as I wasn’t starting until 9.50am I decided to wait. Even if this did mean my porridge would be a little bit like concrete by the time I’d get to eat it…As cheesy as it sounded we played Taylor Swift ‘Welcome to New York’ in the Uber and danced along together. It was the song of the trip and helped calm our nerves and make us laugh. Then we hopped out of the car and headed to the ferry.The place was teaming with runners! Not that you could really tell – everyone looked like a homeless person or someone from the 80’s with what they were wearing. Over-sized jumpers, old-school coats, ponchos, dressing gowns. It was all going on. I had one of Charlie’s old tops and my mum’s old jumper on. It was nice to smell my mum at this point – I know that sounds a bit weird, but it was comforting.We waited for the next ferry then got on with hundreds of other runners. It was buzzing.We then enjoyed a 20 minute journey, with beautiful views of the sky-line and the Statue of Liberty. It was fantastic. The atmosphere on the boat was one of excitement and nerves.Then from the ferry we waited to use the loos in the ferry terminal (might as well use a proper loo where you can!) and then got into a seemingly never ending and non-moving queue for the buses. The queue took forever. At 8ish I decided to eat my porridge. It was still a little warm but not the best. Needs must though!Eventually we got onto the bus, being assured it was just a 10 minute journey. Steph and I were happy to stand as the seats were all taken. Had we have known we would be standing for a long time we might not have been so willing. The bus took far longer than it should have. At least 30 minutes! At this point I was a little bit worried. It was coming up to 9am now. Fears of hanging around the race village for hours on end in the cold very much disappeared.

As we got off the bus (FINALLY) we were then searched by police (who were super friendly). Security was a high priority here.Steph and I then hightailed it to our start areas as we were now under an hour away from the start (the other girls were starting a bit later). We waited in a loo queue and then, as we were in separate colour corrals, parted ways.I was now solo. Unfortunately when I got to my corral I was told it was closed. I was too late! I’d have to wait until the next wave… I felt a little bit annoyed because it wasn’t my fault. I probably wouldn’t have queued for the loo had I known I would miss my wave but ehhh it was chip timed so it wasn’t catastrophic.Though it did mean that when my wave opened I was almost front of the queue, and was able to jump in a loo at supersonic speed for a final Psychological Safety Wee and somehow managed to shuffle all the way to the front of the wave. I tossed my two jumpers into the pile for charity and felt chilly but not too cold.After hearing Wave 1 set off, we were then let out to the actual start area just before the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge (the first bridge, of three I believe). I’d read in a few recaps that going over the bridge was a better route than being under the bridge (horror stories of people peeing above) so I was a bit disappointed to see where my corral was going was under… until I spotted a small gap in the barriers which I squeezed through to allow me to go to the “upper” route. Sneaky sneaky.We waited in the now glorious cold sunshine and I felt happy. A very lively and happy photographer was jumping around the place shouting (nicely I may add) at different people “show me your bib – I got you!” before turning to someone else. When he snapped my photo he shouted “ohh yeaaah I got Anna’s digits! Everyone, I got Anna’s digits!” and everyone around cheered and laughed. It was less creepy than it sounds I assure you. It made me laugh and relaxed my tension of JUST WANTING TO START.

Then the canon BOOMED (terrifying me as it shook the entire ground) and we were off! As I was fairly near the front and the other wave before us was long gone I was strangely seeing a very empty long road ahead of me, sparsely dotted with super fast runners streaming ahead. It was so bizarre. Such a huge marathon and to have that view was crazy.More and more people zoomed past me (steady, Anna, steady) and the uphill climb of the bridge began. But I was loving it. The views! The clear blue sky, the New York skyline in the distance, the glittering water, the excitement around me – it was electric. I had a huge cheesy grin plastered on my face and distinctly remember thinking “this is fantastic! Even if I crash and burn later, this marathon is FANTASTIC”. That moment alone would make everything worth it.The first two miles flew by as we went up the bridge and then back down. Mile one was 8.23 and mile two 7.26 but I wasn’t really sure what to think. I felt very strong and relaxed. It felt very natural and easy (of course it would, it’s the first two miles…).

As we got off the bridge we headed into Brooklyn. There were lots of people hanging out of windows, standing outside their houses and cheering from the sidelines.

I felt buzzed. Absolutely loving life and like I’d taken this special drug called The New York Marathon. I waved, I cheered, I smiled. I people-watched other runners and saw so many different nationalities. I saw a Polish woman (she was wearing white and red with Polska written on her back) get greeted by another Polish runner whom (from the way she reacted) she clearly didn’t know but they seemed to chatter on until she headed off. It was great to see.I became aware that I needed a wee. I decided to promise myself I’d have a wee around mile 15 (at the next available loo). I knew I wasn’t desperate but I knew it was going to annoy me and become a preoccupation in my mind.

I noticed someone’s sign on the sideline say “Go to your happy place” and I smiled and thought “this is it. THIS is my happy place”. I know that’s beyond cheesy but I just felt so bloody fantastic. I was running far faster than I’d intended but I was drinking in the crowd’s enthusiasm and my mind wasn’t even thinking about running or miles.The streets at this point were relatively flat and from miles 3-8 were basically a straight line. You could see out ahead of you, but instead of this giving me anxieties of the distance to come I just found it incredible. I was aware of the danger I was in – being buzzed right at the start, getting carried away on the flat roads and going too fast. But I reassured myself it would be fine. I had more bridges to come and Central Park so it’d all even out in the end.

I got to 10 mile surprisingly quickly. My pace had now been far faster than my expectations. It felt far easier than the Goodwood Marathon where it seemed it was a bit more of a concerted effort to maintain around 8 min/miles. I saw a line of portable loos available and decided to just go for it. I was in and out in super fast time, literally 20 seconds. I’d rather take that time than spend the rest of the race smelling of my own wee (yes, people do actually wee themselves rather than going to the loo because God forbid they might miss a PB. NOT worth it to me!).The crowds were still fantastic. The signs were brilliant (“You’re running better than the Government”, “Keep going random stranger!”). There were so many. I was smiling the entire time and made sure to wave at the supporters – which in turn would encourage them to shout support to me or cheer. I loved how the New York people said my name, “Go Enna” is the only way I can type that to explain.I got to half-way and was surprised at how good I was. I had brief visions of my dad and Kyle (who were at home tracking me on the app) wondering if I was running too fast too soon. Maybe I was but I felt strong and good.

There’s a small bridge after half-way (the Pulaski Bridge) which was brief and not too tricky. Then one of the hardest parts of the race by far was mile 16 as you go over the Queensboro Bridge. I knew they’d be tough bridges but I was so glad not to have known beforehand that this bridge went on for over a mile. It was like going down a long and uphill tunnel. It was enclosed, it was quiet and it was hard hard work. My pace dropped right down. But so did everyone else’s – I wasn’t being left behind. I was still surrounded by the same people.It was a good opportunity for me to listen to my music and find motivation inside to keep going. Before this point the crowd and the sheer thrill of New York had kept me going. Now I was enclosed in a god-awful bridge away from any happy people and was feeling the struggle. That said, I did look over at the views and still couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be running in such a beautiful and awesome place.As we finally got out of the bridge we turned round the corner and suddenly the crowds were back. The roar of cheering just blew the last mile away – I was back in the game!

I’m going to leave it there because this is already ridiculously long…

Have you ever run the New York Marathon?

What is a must for you on race morning?

How early do you eat before a race?

New York, New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever been to New York?

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

Do you prefer an AirBnb or a hotel?

Goals for the New York Marathon

So on Sunday I will be running the New York Marathon. My 16th marathon and my 5th Marathon Major.

On the note of Marathon Majors… I have entered Chicago and will (all being well) will be running my final Major next October. Words cannot explain just how excited I am about that. I’ve heard Chicago is one of the best of the bunch so I’m pleased I have that to finish on.But first New York…

Now I’m obviously super excited for this marathon but it is very much a flying visit to New York itself. I’ll be leaving midday-ish Friday and then arriving home Tuesday morning. So I won’t be hanging out there that long. And a big part of me is sad that I won’t have my amazing support crew with me. But money doesn’t grow on trees and I decided to do this so do it I must!

I won’t be entirely alone though as I’m staying with a great bunch of girls in a palatial-sounding AirBnb, organised by the lovely Charlie, from The Runner Beans blog. So I know I’ll be in good company. And though initially I was terrified that I somehow had to make it from JFK all the way to East Harlem on public transport ON MY OWN (likely I wouldn’t make it without some sort of Anna mishap or drama, let’s be honest), one of the girls is on the same flight as me. HURRAH. THANK GOD. So that’s a major worry off my (and everyone who knows me) mind.

So the marathon. Sorry to be an absolute boring disappoint to everyone but I actually have no ambitions to race this one. I’ve heard it’s the hardest of the Majors due to all the bridges and the final 5k through Central Park is relatively undulating. I don’t want to smash myself to pieces, I want to take it all in and enjoy myself. I’m thinking 8.30-8 minute miles, though *hopefully* closer to 8 minute miles if I do feel good. But as I always seem to say, I’d like to get under 3:45 as I feel that’s a natural pace for me without busting a gut.

I want to take selfies. I want to smile. I want to wave at the crowds. So far my Majors have been all pretty enjoyable (though I found the first 10 miles of Boston very tough). I don’t want to be disappointed or injured at the end. It’s a big deal – and getting a good time doesn’t make a marathon any more enjoyable or memorable to me.

That said, if I feel good in the race, I might push it and see what happens. WHO KNOWS. It’s a marathon mystery. In general, I never really know how I’m going to run until the day – until I’m literally running. I do know for almost 100% certainty that I’m not in PB shape (in body or mind). I don’t want to go after trying to beat 3:16 as it would be painful and I’d fail – I know where I am with my fitness and I’m realistic. I’m not sandbagging here, I assure you. Unless something crazy crazy happens on the day (who knows what those NY doughnuts will do to me eh) I won’t be pulling a Brighton.

So, to be clear. My goals are:

  • Remain uninjured
  • Smile 100 times
  • Cheer madly at the lovely people of New York
  • Take approximately 759 selfies and photos
  • Get under 3:45, but who the hell really cares!

I’ve hit some solid long runs, I’ve managed to get some good paced runs in, I feel healthy, I feel injury- and niggle-free. I’ve basically fueled the last few months with cake, meals out and sugar. But I’m the strongest I’ve ever felt. I’m loving running. I’m loving the gym. I’m loving how I feel in myself and how my body looks. And in general, life is very good right now. So I’m going to celebrate with a little run round a big city and then eat a lot of food. Sounds good, right?Have you run any of the Marathon Majors?

Have you ever been to New York?

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?

The Goodwood Marathon

On Sunday I ran the Goodwood Marathon. I’m not entirely sure why I thought a lapped marathon would be a good idea but at the time I actually thought it was eight laps not 11 until I got an email closer to the time (standard Anna).

Ah OK, that sounded quite a bit worse. But it was meant to be flat and the idea of counting to 11 rather than 26 sounded sounded marginally better in my head. Running around a cool race track…it was flat… it was at a good time of year and about seven weeks before the New York Marathon so ehhh what’s the worst that could happen asides from getting a bit dizzy and bored?The marathon was at the Goodwood Motor Race Track in Chichester. It started at 9am (and then the 20 miler, half marathon, 10k and 5k started later afterwards in cascading times).

My training had gone really well. I’d gotten a good number of solid long runs in, no niggles, some speedy parkruns and speedwork. Well, it all looked pretty good physically. Mentally though I wasn’t in the mindset to attempt a PB run. I’d done that at Brighton and I was quite happy to leave it there. Marathons for me are not about smashing PB’s each time. But I did want to aim for a faster time than I normally would… maybe creep under 3:30?

Another delightful plot twist was that my time of the month had sprung up on me. I’ve done 14 marathons and this has yet to happen – quite lucky I realise. But not today. Without going TMI, I’m very lucky in how things go for me and it’s never really an issue. I can still run and be fine and don’t get bad cramps or headaches, so I wasn’t worried.I had my parents and Kyle were coming to cheer me on which made everything seem a whole lot better. They’d get to cheer me on ELEVEN times (surely they’d get sick of me!). And my friend Mike and Kev were doing it too (amongst other lovely runners I know through social media).So it didn’t look to be a bad day at all. We left the house at 7.30am and drove our way there without issue (and with my trainers firmly on my feet…). I ate my usual porridge and had a black coffee.We arrived and I immediately needed to go to the loo, as you do. There were portable loos in the car park (which was free!) so I went there. MISTAKE. It absolutely stunk. Like properly stunk. It was pretty grim. But as a runner when you see a loo without a big queue at a race YOU GO. Little did I know there were actually very lovely proper toilets in the race village. Ah well.I picked up my bib, got some free GU gels (my favourite brand) and then got a photo with The Stig who was milling about. He did say he wasn’t allowed to talk but we had a nice chat 😉One more quick wee and then I headed off to the ‘warm-up’ area near the track after saying goodbye to my parents and Kyle. My dad was in Full Supporter Mode and I could see him training Kyle up (while my mum, bless her, just took in the scenery and enjoyed the buzz).The warm-up seemed similar to a HIIT class so I did my own mini dynamic warm-up (aka a random squat, a lunge and a token arm swing). And then they started calling out marathon finishing times so we could be sort of order as we stood at the start. Considering there were only about 100 people running the marathon I didn’t think this was entirely necessary but OK. I didn’t really want to declare what time I was going for so early on (mainly because I wasn’t sure) but when they said 3:30 I thought that I might as well aim high (or low?).I don’t think I’ve ever been so close to the start of a marathon. It made me feel very nervous! I could see Kyle, my mum and dad on the balcony bit above me and they were waving and cheering which was nice. This was a very chilled marathon. None of the hype and buzz of the a Major or a big city marathon, it was a nice change.So we got going. The first part of the marathon was a short out and back bit to make sure the correct distance was hit. I sort of forgot about this and only remembered as we literally got to the cone turnaround bit and then headed back the other way. Ahh there was wind. I knew there would probably be some due to the exposed nature of the course and to be fair it wasn’t so bad but just something that would affect me on the course at certain points, over and over.

So there we were, beginning our first lap of 11. The front runners zoomed off into the distance and the rest of us sort of fell into our natural positioning within the race. There were two females ahead of me who straight away ran off ahead, one significantly so. A tiny part of my mind wondered if I should try and keep up… it was a small field, I could place at a marathon if things went well. But the lead female was really going out strong and I wasn’t and nor did I want to.Instead I found myself behind a small group of men and decided to just tuck in behind them. I definitely helped because I was slightly sheltered from the wind and I could turn my brain off and mindlessly listen in to their conversations. In most marathons I try not to listen to any music or podcasts on the first 10 miles so I knew I had a few laps of potential boredom to get through so anything helped.I did feel a bit cheeky essentially slip-streaming from these guys but I did offer to run in front as well to take a turn but they seemed happy enough. They were mostly keeping to a consistent 8ish minute miling and as this was my aim it worked perfectly. I stuck with them for two laps. The first lap went quickly. Annoyingly because of the first out and back I couldn’t accurately work out the distance of the lap. Kyle and my dad had also told me beforehand (maths whizzes that they are) that if I’d wanted a 3:30 time I needed to do 19 minute laps. Well now I was flummoxed completely – how could I work that out! (Incidentally, from Strava, I found out later that each lap was 2.3 miles).The first couple of laps flew by. Each time I heard and saw my parents and Kyle cheer madly at me as I ran past. This was such a boost! It was something really good to look forward to at the end of another lap.On the second lap I knew I needed a wee. I tried to pretend I didn’t but like trying not to think about a white elephant… all I could think about was needing a wee. As we ran another lap I looked out for any loos on the course. Other than the main block of toilets within the main area away from the track, there weren’t any. The course was very open as well and there weren’t any bushes or obvious hiding spots to sneak off to. Hummmm. So either I could waste time running off from the course and going to the loos a fair distance away or I could risk someone seeing my bum. Decisions decisions.

As I continued the next lap I spotted a man dash off from the course on one of the bends and noticed a slight curve round the corner. He could wee without anyone really seeing unless they really tried to have a gawp as they ran past.At this point the 20 miler runners had begun their race so there were now a few more people on the course. I realised this was the best time because there would be far less people on the course to potentially catch me having a wee. So on the next lap I sped up as I got towards the chosen location. As I overtook two 20 miler runners they cheered me on saying I was running strong. I replied “I’m going to have a wee up here, please don’t look behind you as you run past!” they laughed and agreed not too.

Whew! No one saw, I was able to now relax. Though I did run straight across the gravel to get back onto the track (the bit that helps slow cars down if they veer off the course) which was terrible to run on! Another girl shouted to me as I rejoined the race that she was pleased I’d highlighted a good wee spot for her. I was happy to help 🙂I’d lost my friendly gang of guys now there were more runners about it was less sparse on the course. I caught up with the two runners who I’d warned about my weeing adventures and chatted to them for a bit. They were training for the Abingdon Marathon (so this was a nice catered long run). After chatting for a bit I felt a bit wary keeping up with them and decided to let them go ahead. Even though they weren’t running that much faster than I wanted it felt like hard-work and I just wanted to run at my own speed – mentally it felt easier, though awkwardly I was just behind them.I passed through the supporters again and once again felt buoyed by their cheers. There was a drinks and aid station at the start of each lap which was great. I did think paper cups would probably have been a better option though than bottles. Such a waste of plastic considering people were literally taking a sip and then chucking it, and how many bottles would be wasted after so many laps and so many runners… Surely on a lapped course this could be done so much better?They were also offering GU gels on every lap. I hadn’t brought any of my own gels as they knew this beforehand and personally love these gels. Previously I’d take a gel at mile 8, mile 13 and mile 18 but I was feeling pretty good and decided to leave taking a gel until later. As I ran past I heard one of the marshals shout “salted caramel flavour” and I almost did a full turnaround. It’s literally the BEST flavour. SO GOOD. I could put it on ice cream to be honest. But I didn’t need one then. As I’d run past and done a double-take one of the volunteers noticed and yelled as I ran past “I’ve got you some for the next lap!”.The course was fairly flat asides from two gentle short inclines. You wouldn’t really notice them if you did them once. But after a fair number of times you really do.

The first few times round the track were interesting – there were planes landing and taking off in the middle which was exciting, but again became dull due to the repetitive nature of the course. I started noticing things like a dropped jelly baby on the floor that I would look for on the next lap… a marking on the track… fun signs around the course. Anything to keep entertained.As I went past the aid station again the volunteer who’d seen me before brandished a salted caramel GU at me and yelled “I remembered! I got you covered!” and I was able to grab it off him. I tucked it into my Flipbelt ready for when I’d need it.

I still felt good running. Consistently running around 7:50s and getting into the “dark miles” of the marathon…I listened to a podcast for a bit and then switched to a playlist that had songs I was recently enjoying, but not songs that would make me suddenly sprint.

The half marathoners were on the course and the 10k’ers were about to start. Chris Evans (from BBC Radio 2) was doing the half and despite apparently lapping him twice I didn’t see him. I was annoyed about this!At about mile 19 I finally took the gel. It was delicious. Thick, sticky, gooey and sweet. Maybe you hate gels, but this one really rocks my world. I then started drinking water on every lap. It was hot, despite not being too sunny, and I knew I needed to hydrate. I wondered about leaving a bottle somewhere that I could pick up again later but the bottles were all the same so it was impossible. But I did actually notice a few savvy people had put their own bottles and some gels in the middle of the track so they could pick it up each lap. Fantastic idea!I managed to claw back the first female as she was fading and I was maintaining my pace. I’d past the other female near the beginning. I was now first female!

The hardest lap for me was the 3rd from the end. It was mentally very hard to think “another three laps to go”. I just wanted to get to the 2nd lap where I could basically think “just one more to go”. A Hedgie who was doing the half sailed past me, running strong, and wished me well – he was finishing (stellar fast time!).

I knew my watch was out (there were a few complaints around the course) so I knew I wasn’t counting down until 26.2 miles, but I was just thinking about the laps now. Finally I got to the second lap.My whole body was aching. It was really tough. My stomach was really cramping – something I’ve never had while I ran before. Weirdly though I started to focus on those cramps rather than my legs being tired or achy… it made sense in my head! Ooof I just wanted to finish now. It was such a hard grind. I couldn’t speed up much, I was on the edge.Final lap. Thank god. Just once around the track. I could do this.As I came round the bend, into the wind, towards the funnel where racers who were finishing split from the others, a volunteer asked if I was a half marathoner finishing – “no the marathon!” I said.
He cheered me on as I put my head down and sprinted (relative term there) to the finish line.My dad got some great photos of the end – proper focused looking running! I actually have a ridiculously number of photos from this race as my dad was very good at taking lots as I ran past ELEVEN times.I finished in 3:26:53, first female, 11th place – just behind Vassos. My 3rd fastest marathon.I finished and immediately felt dreadful. My stomach was cramping so much. I was not in a good place.Bless my dad for catching this on camera… Initially they were worried I was injured but I reassured them that nope, just one of those things. I was really drained. I couldn’t believe how drained I felt.

 

It was nice to hear about what my parents and Kyle had gotten up to while I was running. The marathon was really good at updating their website for runners’ time as they’re actually running because of the chips. It meant they could see how well I was doing per lap and predict how it was going to go (my dad loves stuff like that).And of course they were well fed 😉

Their support during the race though was so good. I don’t think I could have done such a dull marathon had I not had them cheering me on to look forward to each lap. I can’t imagine it would have been that exciting for them either so I’m hugely grateful.The rest of the day was pretty awful for me. I had the worst headache I’ve ever had and spent the afternoon not feeling great at all. In the end I just had to go to bed at about 7.30pm and lie in a dark room. My head was pounding. I rarely get headaches so this was a complete shock to me. It was honestly the worst I’ve felt in a long long time. Thankfully though I woke up the next day after a solid night’s sleep feeling SO much better. My legs were tired but everything felt OK. Thank god.Right I’ll leave it there… this is already so long!

Have you ever done a lapped race?

Do you get headaches often?

What’s your favourite gel?