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?

Halloween parkrun at Havant

I make no secret about the fact that I love fancy dress. I especially like fancy dress when it comes to running. I don’t know why but I think it feels more fun and random.

So Halloween is obviously a good time for this. Quite a few local parkruns were doing a fancy dress themed event and originally Kyle and I were going to go to Lee-On-Solent parkrun on Saturday but as I was at Kyle’s Friday night and we were both quite tired from a long week we decided to just stick to the very local Havant parkrun. Happily they were doing a Halloween themed event so that worked out perfectly.

Kyle’s sister, Laura, is a super talented make-up and hair stylist extraordinaire (she’s actually going to be on the Bodyguard stage show tour soon – how cool) and amazingly was happy enough to do my make-up Saturday morning for me. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to go as but I had a sparkly black tutu. I’m creatively challenged so I left it in her capable hands to decide what my face should be like. She had so much make-up – like the proper stuff, not what you find in Boots (I don’t wear make-up other than the occasionally eye liner or mascara so to me it’s all very much Greek). And had a bag of different blood make-up – I mean whaaaat.She even had a pot for pus and a pot for blister make-up. This is serious stuff. Anyway, she went with a Joker-esque theme and it looked AMAZING. So we headed down to parkrun and turned up to find about four other people had dressed up. Ahh well! But I honestly didn’t mind because I was having good fun. The marshals had dressed up as well so that was cool. I didn’t look completely out of the ordinary at least.
Kyle wasn’t running parkrun as we did 8.6 miles the day before with the Wiggle monthly run but he was a solid support crew for me – even if he did freeze standing watching me, bless him.I’ve only done the Havant parkrun once before and, granted it was after a 13 mile run, but I found it very tough. It’s a lot of uphill and a break-neck downhill you do twice. The ground underfoot is solid and rocky so quite uneven. But this run they were running the parkrun backwards, which meant a terrible short uphill but a mostly downhill course – far better sounding to me!It was very cold. I immediately regretted not bringing my gloves. I also regretted wearing my mesh sleeveless top. I found myself trying to run fast just to get warmer quicker. The marshals were lovely, shouting support. One of them shouted “well done you! And not for your running – your make-up is great!” which made me laugh. And another marshal complimented my sparkly skirt.The course is mostly trail but it is really uneven underfoot which means you have to concentrate hard where you’re putting your feet. What was great though was how downhill the course was and it did feel far easier than my previous time there.

Then the giant steep hill… jeeze it is hard-work. But I’d much rather a short sharp hill than long stretches of incline. It just meant a short period of time of burning legs before reaching the flat again. The course is two and a bit loops (the bit being at the start) which was nice because it meant I saw Kyle a good few times. He’s great at cheering (and taking photos!) but it was tough to see where he actually was because the low sunshine was pointing directly at us as we came round the corner.The second loop felt better as my body got a lot warmer, but my hands were freezing. It felt really uncomfortable. But finally we got up the horrific hill again and headed to the finish.
My time was 22:20 which I was pleased about – much better than 24:03 of last time.I wasn’t cold when I finished but my hands were like blocks of ice. Bless Kyle, he was freezing stood waiting for me. He’s a very god egg indeed!After a few silly photos (got to be done when you have such cool make-up and a sparkly tutu!) we headed home where I had a wonderfully hot bath. Ahhhh so nice.

Then we headed to Morrison’s cafe for one of their amazing breakfasts with Kyle’s mum and sister. Unfortunately Kyle and my meals were seriously delayed (like a good 20 minutes after Sarah and Laura’s meals) but when it came it was a good spread!Despite the bean contamination, it was delicious 😉 I swapped my hashbrown for extra bacon (the correct decision in my eyes) and felt warm and full.

And then Kyle and I drove to Bristol.My friends Kate and Jay had invited us up for early dinner so to make it worthwhile the 2 hours of driving up there we went to the amazing Cabot Circus to mosey about the shops. I was really chuffed to be able to use a Hotel Chocolat voucher and get a free white chocolate skull lolly, which was delicious, and then, because I had the app, a free Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut (mainly for Kyle but I did have a few bites of course). I do so love freebies!

We then headed to Kate and Jay’s to have a WHOLE LOTTA Mexican food with our other friends Shell and Rob and their little one, Eloise.You know you never go hungry when Jay is cooking. We had fajitas, tacos, nachos and all the trimmings. Kate introduced us to the “Double D” tacos where you make a taco and then wrap the taco in a tortilla. Genius! No mess 😉Followed by chocolates, a Bakewell tart and a cheesecake. Needless to say we headed home stuffed!

The next day I had my final long run before the New York Marathon next week. I like to do between 13-16 miles depending on how my training cycle. If I haven’t had a great lead-up then I’ll probably run 16 miles, whereas if I think I’ve got enough long running in I’ll do 10-13 miles. So Sunday I decided 13 sounded good to me and went with that.

It was ridiculously windy and cold, but sunny. I remembered to wear my gloves and decided a long sleeve top would be in order. As I got going inthe sunshine I did wonder if the long sleeves were unnecessary but as I got onto the seafront I was happy with my choice. The wind was quite brisk.

As my route goes past a lot of farms, I saw a lot of “pick your own pumpkins” going on which was cool. So many orange blobs in the distance and kids and families running round. It’s definitely become a bigger thing to do this over the years.My legs felt strong and I was happy to clip along to a podcast and chill out. It didn’t feel a slog thankfully. However at about 8.5 miles the heavens opened up on me and I got soaked with cold biting rain. I was even more glad for my long sleeves and gloves then!As I got towards  home it backed off and bright sunshine started again which was a nice way to end the run.

So a solid weekend and now less than a week to the Big Apple!

What distance do you do as your final long run?

Have you done any pumpkin carving?

Do you dress up for Halloween?

Jersey parkrun

I’m so chuffed I can finally say I’ve done the Jersey parkrun! Since I found out the parkrun Alphabet Challenge was a ‘thing’ I’ve been trying to do different parkruns hitting all the letters (apart from X – there isn’t one yet). It’s silly but I find it really good fun.

There are so many parkruns all over the UK (and the world) so it gets you to different places, meeting new people and just having a laugh really. Over this year I’ve managed to tick off quite a few letters. I’m strangely very proud of myself.Anyway this weekend saw my friend Mike and I getting a flight from Southampton to Jersey so I could tick off ‘J’. Mike loves parkrun too but isn’t quite as mad as me with the Alphabet Challenge – though he’s now becoming more persuaded!

I took a half day Friday so we could fly Friday afternoon. The flight was super easy and fast. We also both only packed hand luggage which made things even cheaper and easier. The plane was tiny and barely half full. We quickly arrived in Jersey and found a huge T-rex which was amusing!It even moved and roared! I love dinosaurs (weird I know) so this made my day straight away. We got out of the tiny airport and walked straight onto the number 15 bus. The buses in jersey are fantastic. It’s £2 for wherever you’re going. Handily one was going literally just then to St. Helier where we were staying. Twenty minutes later we arrived at Liberation Station, the main bus station. Super easy even for me! To be fair, neither Mike or I are the most savvy of people so it was highly likely something was going to go wrong on our little holiday… fingers crossed eh.We got two rooms at the Avoca Guest House, which was about a ten minute walk from the station.It was tiny and old school British quaint but it did the job and the owners were lovely and friendly. It was also cheap! It included breakfast but as we would be parkrunning Saturday and then half marathoning Sunday we wouldn’t be partaking.Bless Mike, he offered to take the smaller of the two rooms where the bathroom was shared with one of the other rooms (how weird) and I got the bigger room with an en suite. I was very grateful. Especially as I do always need a wee during the night.

We ditched our bags and then headed for a walk to see the local area and to find some dinner. Unfortunately it seemed like the rest of Jersey also had this idea and most places were rammed. We tried a great looking little Mexican, La Hacienda, but it was fully booked. St. Helier is a small seaside town – very British but also felt a little bit French, which would make sense considering it’s proximity to the country. And the weather was beautiful. Sunny and warm!

Eventually we found a place called the Canteen and Bar which looked reasonable enough. It wouldn’t have been our first choice but by this point we were super hungry and tired. We shared some falafels and chicken “cakes” and I had chilli beef and cheese on nachos (not my usual but after seeing someone with nachos in the Mexican I was now craving them) and it was very tasty.For pudding we decided to drop into a crêperie that we’d spotted on our meanderings. Mike had salted caramel and I had Belgium milk and white chocolate with honeycomb toffee crunch ice cream. Absolutely heavenly! Every bite was like an explosion of ‘to die for’ taste. I’m not usually a pancake or crêpe fan but this was just divine.Then we parted to our little rooms ready for parkrun in the morning. Through the night I was intermittently woken up by thunder and lightning. It went on pretty much the entire night and we woke up to it still carrying on and heavily raining. Uh oh. I’d only packed summer clothes and no coat! This had not been forecasted at all.Luckily I’d brought my umbrella and Mike was able to borrow one of the guest house’s umbrellas and we walked to the bus stop. We’d have gotten absolutely soaked had we not had umbrellas but it was still rather grim. I’d packed two options for that morning’s run (a strappy tank and my parkrun apricot t-shirt) and in the end wore both as I was cold. The bus journey took about 20 minutes and we picked up more parkrunners as we went. One of them told us that it might be cancelled due to the thunder and lightning and they were making a decision whether to go through with it or not. WHAT!!! Noooooo! Imagine coming all this way and not being able to get my ‘J’! Thankfully when we arrived I saw a Tweet that said it was to go ahead as long as the thunderstorm held off. Thank goodness.The parkrun was located next to the Les Quennevais sports centre. [Side note: check out Paul Jeffrey’s blog for some more good info on this parkrun]. We had a quick mosey about before heading back into the shelter of the sports centre. I had a quick wee and then eventually headed out for a mile warm-up. Absolutely necessary as I was quite chilly. The cycle track near the sports centre was exactly a mile which was perfect and gave us a good idea of what a section of the course would be like.We met lots of other lovely parkrunners as we waited about. There were a lot of tourists like us who had pretty much just come to do the parkrun (for the Alphabet Challenge like us) and some also doing the half the next day. There was one couple that had only flown in that morning and would be flying back out that afternoon. I mean that is mental! More mental that us…One woman, Marie, just had Jersey left to do for the challenge – which was super exciting. She also gave me lots of solid information about how to get ‘Z’ (Zary in Poland) and some tips on how to travel there and where to stay. Super helpful. She had a t-shirt made with all the letters she’d done. Very dedicated. Annoyingly I’d made the mistake of not bringing my cow cowl… everyone was wearing theirs!

The first timer’s brief was hilarious because it was pretty much 80% of the field who moved over to hear the briefing. The marshal had to grab the megaphone so everyone could hear. And then we lined up ready to go. Though I’d checked the results for last week and seen over 300 people had done it, this week there was definitely less than 200. The run director did an introduction and then said “three, two, parkrun!” and apparently we were off! It was mental. I started running and realised there weren’t too many females ahead of me and decided to be stupid and throw caution to the wind and try and get first female. Stupid because of the the half the next day but ehhh.

I’d had a fairly rubbish week of running, with every run feeling hard and lethargic, so I was pretty sure the half wouldn’t go to plan, which is why I decided to capitalise on feeling good then and getting something out of the parkrun in terms of placing.

The first mile ran round the sports centre area on tarmac and had a slight, brief incline but otherwise was flat. Then we headed off along the railway line path which was compacted sand/trail and easy to run on. It was also nice and flat but you did have to do some puddle dodging. I managed to overtake the females in front of me and was now first girl. I felt the run was comfortably tough and the gentle rain helped cool me down – wearing two tops had not been the right decision!

After the first turnaround I realised the wind had been behind us and now it was against us… ehhh. Eventually though we ran down a small slope and got to another turnaround. It made me think, what’s better running downhill against the wind or running uphill with the wind behind? It didn’t matter hugely as we were soon heading out from this path and back to the tarmac where the finish was on the grass. I was surprised to get my token and see I’d gotten 7th place! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten such a high placing before. My time was 20:55. Happy days!But yeah, probably not the wisest decision. And my calf, which had been feeling super tight all week, was niggling a little. Of course. I signed the guest book and chatted to the others while I waited for Mike who wasn’t too far behind me (24:09). He too was supposed to be taking it easy but had run a bit harder than planned.We then headed upstairs of the sports centre to have a hot drink with a few of the other tourists. We enjoyed a lovely cup of tea with them, swapping running and parkrun stories. It’s so nice to meet people as crazy as yourself 😉 One of them, Richard, had got a hire car and offered to drop us back at our guest house which was very nice of him.

At this point Mike and I were ready to eat our own arms as we hadn’t had breakfast yet. It was about 1pm by the time we’d showered and found ourselves a cafe to eat in! It was a lovely place called Nude Food Cafe, which was kind of a health food cafe I guess. Lots of Buddha bowls, raw desserts and smoothies. We went for a rather healthified fry-up… poached eggs, pancetta, spinach, mushrooms, sweet potato and sourdough toast. It was delicious but I hoovered it up very quickly.Afterwards we shared a raw caramel shortbread. It was made out of coconut sugar, almost butter and things like that. It wasn’t overly sweet but it was nice.Thankfully it had stopped raining and was starting to brighten up. From the cafe we decided to randomly head north on the bus to go to do a bit of exploring. To be honest, our decision was down to what sounded good on the map and what bus was available within the next twenty minutes. So we headed to Greve de Lecq. It was to be an adventure!It was definitely a good choice though. The sun was out and we were at a beautiful bay.The beach had barely a handful of people on it and yet the sun was beating down. It was so beautiful. We obviously had to dip our feet into the sea as well. Stupidly I did manage to put my hoodie in the only puddle of water on the rocks…what an idiot. But as the sun was out I thankfully didn’t need it anymore.From the beach we then did a two mile hike along a clifftop path. It was a very windy and narrow path and at times very steep – not exactly ideal the day before a half but it was so beautiful and peaceful we didn’t care.This was such a random little excursion. We were so proud of ourselves to have found such a gem of a location and something fun to do that afternoon. I mean we were really just there for parkrun and the race, so everything extra was a bonus. And this was a definite bonus!

Eventually we caught the bus back and headed straight to the Mexican from the previous night, determined to get ourselves seated. We literally rocked up as soon as it opened. Amazingly they had one tiny table available (apparently the restaurant is always booked up for two week’s in advance!).

I’m so glad we got this table because honestly this is one of the best tasting meals I’ve had in ages. Like literally every mouthful was an explosion of taste. It was incredible. I had chicken wings to start (I know, I know, always the same) and then ‘deconstructed’ lamb tacos for main. GOD it was good.Mike had a burger with slow cooked pork on it. Honestly the food was incredible. I never wanted it to end! I had churros for pudding which were delicious as well but really the tacos were the main event. Maybe not ideal food for the next day’s half but it was worth it!

I’ll save the half for another post…

Have you ever been to Jersey before?

What is your Mexican dish of choice? Normally I love fajitas.

What’s the furthest you’ve ever travelled for a race or run?

The Brighton Marathon 2018

As I previously mentioned, I had fairly ambitious (for me) goals for this marathon. I was going to “go for it”. I haven’t done that for a marathon in a good while! I was going to start at 7:50s and see what happened, with the ambition to speed up as I went along (not crazily but enough to get close to my PB of 3:24:06).

But after chatting to James a bit the night before I decided to go out a bit faster. He made a good point that if I was going to go for it I should actually go for it with a pace that was a bit scary and was genuinely a risk. At least then if I blew up or it went wrong then it happened because I had the balls to try a tasty pace, not halfhearted one that wasn’t as tough. It needed to be a true test.

So anyway. The morning of the Brighton Marathon… woke up at 6.30am, had a black coffee, got my gear on and drove to a road near to Charlotte’s flat where parking wouldn’t be an issue with the road closures. Paddy, Charlotte’s hubby, was ready in his gear. Charlotte would be spectating (while simultaneously looking after their six week old baby, what a superstar!) as her road was literally next to the course.We made and ate our breakfast (porridge) at Charlotte’s and then headed to meet our taxi, to avoid having to have left super early to have walked the three miles to the Preston Park start. I almost drank my two year out of date Beet It! shot but decided to err on the side of caution and give it a swerve. It saddened me to throw it in the bin (I’m quite reckless with out of date stuff).We got to Preston Park where Paddy and I said goodbye to James, who would be heading to the fast start up the road (due to his fast predicted time – it gives the elites and faster runners a flatter first mile than the rest of the marathon field). I stupidly left my gels by accident in his bag, the numpty that I am. That was fine because though as I knew there would be High 5 gels on the course and I’m fine with them. In fact, it was nice to not have to carry any gels in my Flipbelt to be honest.Paddy and I then separated as we headed to our respective loo queues, which were SO long it was ridiculous. But hey ho, what else are you going to do? Then I made my way to my start pen, where I proceeded to stand in line for another portable toilet. I saw Stephanie briefly and we swapped pleasantries having only ever conversed through social media. So that was nice.The start went without a hitch and I was over the moon when Paul Sinton-Hewitt yelled “go Anna!” to me as I ran past (I had my name on my vest – he doesn’t really know me sadly). It really buffered me along though and I was smiling happily to myself, the parkrun nut that I am.

As we started we straight away hit an incline to climb. Oh man, I knew our first mile wouldn’t be flat but this was quite demoralising. Already my legs felt tired. My dream goal pace of 7:40 quickly disappeared as I was over 8 minute/miling up that bad boy. The incline (it was definitely an incline) went on for 0.6 miles. But then we had a nice downhill that, to be honest, probably evened up the first mile in the end. But it was a shock to the system to start that way.

I straight away found myself wanting to go too fast and had to focus on not getting overly excited. 26.2 miles is a lonnnnng way and though a pace might feel easy now it most certainly would not feel easy later. Keep focused on the goal Anna. Annoyingly I had cramp in my side. Nothing to stop me or slow me down but I did have to do some weird arm stretches and change my breathing up a bit, but it didn’t really shift.

At around three miles a runner friend, Matt, sidled up next to me. I know him through social media and we also ran together at a London 10k a year ago – I remember him dropping me half-way round as he was a lot stronger than me. He’s been having a crummy training time due to a niggly hip so had said he was going to take it easy as he also had the London Marathon the next Sunday (I mean, whaaaaaat). After chatting for a bit I glanced at my watch and realised we were running 7:10s so told him I was going to slow down as this pace was too fast for me. So he headed off into the distance. Happily my cramp had gone away too.

Part of me was a little sad to lose a chatting buddy but I knew I needed to be sensible and focus. I just find the first 10 miles of a marathon very dull. I don’t let myself listen to anything other than the environment around me. The crowds were great and the course was interesting enough to let my mind just wander.After five miles we hit the seafront and started to make our way along the coast past Brighton Marina and up to Ovingdean. It was somewhat undulating but not hilly. Eventually the front runners starting coming back the other way. The lead runner was so far ahead of the pack. It was fun watching them storming down at wincingly fast speeds.I picked up a gel from an energy station ready to take at mile eight. My plan was to take three gels. I can manage on one now in a “normal” marathon but because I was going for a speedier time I decided to go back to how I used to do it and have one at 8, one at 13 and one at 18. I remember taking to James about gels beforehand and how he had his orange flavoured High 5 ready and I poo-poo’ed it as I’m not an orange flavour fan at all, smug with my tasty Honey Stinger that I then didn’t get to use. All the High 5’s were orange. Wonderful.

As I came up to the turning to head into another mini out and back in the Ovingdean area I heard someone shout my name and spotted James heading back down the other side. It was a shame really that I’d been caught unawares because I’d been thinking of all the cool things I could shout to him if I did spot him during an out and back. All I managed was a pitiful “Go James!”. Ah well.

Then someone else called my name and I spotted the lovely Rob and Fi, friends from last year’s Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp.At first I just thought it was just a random supporter cheering my name because it was on my vest so I just smiled and waved. Then I spotted them properly and did a little screech and cheer. Always graceful and calm, me. Ha. It was lovely to see them.Then we finally headed back down the way we’d come. I heard someone next to me say “well that’s the last of the hills” and felt a huge relief. I mean there were a couple of undulations as we headed back down, but nothing to really kill you.

I was easily maintaining a 7.30-7.40 pace and feeling really comfortable. I was looking forward to allowing myself to listen to some music at mile 10 but otherwise I felt fresh and happy. In the back of my mind I knew I might crash later but as it was I was good for the moment and kept with it. Nothing risked, nothing gained. Mile 10 ticked by and I put my pre-planned playlist on. These were songs I was enjoying but weren’t GO GO GO tempo so wouldn’t suddenly rev me up or make me want to break out a 7 min/miler. I could lose my mind to the music and just drift along. The music would be low enough so I could still hear the crowds and marshals though.

Along the front the crowds were fantastic. I mean the crowds were great everywhere but especially this front. I honestly lost count of how many people cheered my name. I’m a bit of a loser in that I will try and smile at people and get them to cheer as well because it HUGELY helps me. Plus if you’re a supporter I know how nice it is to see someone genuinely happy that you’re there clapping them.

As we got towards half-way the crowds were quite thick and I felt buzzed along. People cheered my name over and over and I was so pleased to have chosen to wear my vest with my name on. I smiled at everyone and just fed off of the support. I’ve read a study somewhere where it says there are some runners who are super motivated by external factors, like music and crowds. That is me 100%. Give me cheering and music and I will truck along happy as anything. I was going a bit too fast for my original plan though but I decided to just go with it. It didn’t feel harder per se. But that said, I did have the voice in the back of my head saying “you’re going to crash soon…”.

I saw the lovely Lauren from my club and I squealed again. It was lovely to see her and have her cheer me on.What helped was knowing that there were people “watching” my progress through the Brighton Marathon app. Every time I ran over a mat I knew my times would be zooming their way to people’s phones who cared to track me. Especially my dad who I know would have loved to have supported me in person – especially as I was going for a time. I felt like I was doing him proud each time I ran over a mat as my times were consistent and I was well on track to my goal time.At mile thirteen I took another gel and started pouring water on my head as it was getting warmer. I was looking forward to reaching mile 15 as that’s where Charlotte would be. The miles just seemed to fly by at this point – where normally they’d be dragging. I always find 13-19 a real grind. There were so many people standing on the residential streets and waving to them, high-fiving and hearing them cheer passed the time so well.

At this point though I realised I probably could do with a wee. Now once you’ve thought that you need a wee it takes a lot for that thought to go away. It reminded me of the podcast I’d listened to a few weeks ago from BBC Five Live film review where Simon Mayo was discussing how his son said that runners in a marathon just pee and poo as they run. It was such a funny discussion I remember laughing literally out loud as I was running listening to it. Mark Kermode was so aghast.

To be fair, so was I. I’ve never considered just peeing as I run and certainly not pooing. I also don’t think I’ve spoken to any runner where this is the norm during a race. That said, you don’t talk about these things that often so who knows? Maybe I’m the minority. Anyway, as this discussion flitted through my head I momentarily thought, I could just pee as I run. But the sheer embarrassment of a) someone seeing b) someone SMELLING and c) then running along covered in pee just wasn’t worth the SECONDS I’d probably save myself. I didn’t want a PB that badly. I spotted a portable toilet on the other side of the road (for the runners coming the other way on the out and back) and relaxed knowing in a mile or so I could use an actual toilet.

I saw Charlotte on the other side of the road just after mile 15 and it literally made me squeal and cheer. She had Arthur strapped to her front (what a legend) and she waved and shouted. Ahh it was SO nice. Honestly, nothing beats someone you care about cheering you along in a race. It peppered me along nicely, especially as I knew I’d see her at mile 17 on the way back along the same road.

I also saw a man holding up a large sign for someone called Felix and he cheered me on saying he couldn’t believe I was smiling, which was nice.

(I took this photo before the race)

Sadly I passed Matt, who was suffering from hip pain. I tried to give him some encouragement as I passed. He still looked in reasonably good spirits though (and FYI still finished 3:35!). Then I was back to passing Charlotte again. Ahhh such happiness. And she had a proper crew with some friends and her neighbours who all cheered me along. I also passed the Felix man again and he laughed that I was still smiling. Weirdly I saw this man TWICE more before the end of the race. He laughed each time he saw me and called me “smiling girl”. I hope Felix did well!I jumped into that portable toilet I’d spotted and had a very quick wee before jumping out. Ahh relief. The next section was heading off towards the dreaded power station. I’d heard a lot about how depressing and quiet this area was. But I was feeling good, my pace still strong, nothing niggling and no issues. Without sounding arrogant, I knew that as long as I didn’t suddenly get an injury I had a PB in the bag. I took another gel at 18, made sure to keep sipping water and pouring it on my head (I liked that they were in paper cups – easy to squash up and create a small funnel to drink out of, easy to run over if there were loads on the floor and more environmentally friendly). At 20 miles I decided to wait until I was heading back to the finish area before switching my music over as I didn’t want to use all my energy with a spurt of speed too soon. Plus there were enough crowds to keep me going.

I smiled and waved to everyone I could. As I got to a turning point I smiled at a cheering squad and they gave me a huge cheer. Then later when I came back round to head back they were literally CHANTING my name. I’m not kidding. It was probably one of the best moments in the race for me as silly as that sounds. Anyway, as we ran through the power station bit there were all these stacked bits of timber and the smell was amazing. It was like one of those candles trying to be like a woodland forest. It was a nice smell.Then as I turned back to head to towards the finish (still about 4-5 miles to go) I switched my music to my “GO GO GO” playlist. As I got my phone out to do this I thought “ahh might as well” and snapped a selfie and a few pics. Had to be done!
I was passing people and feeling good. I remembered last week’s run where I was able to up my pace after my 10 mile run for the five mile race and that gave me confidence. I remembered the sub 7 minute mile I did at the end of the undulating Iron Bridge Half Marathon. I could DO this. We ran onto the prom and the crowds were solidly cheering and shouting. I literally smiled at everyone. I was in Happy Anna Marathon Land. I literally remember thinking “I bloody love marathons”. Yes I was tired, yes my legs were feeling like they’d been running for far too long, but I knew I had this and just had to HOLD ON.

I got to 23 miles (“parkrun to go”) and was able to up the pace. Just finish. Just get to the finish. Not long. I tried briefly to think about the time I might finish but I couldn’t work it out. Would it be a sub 3:20? Could I push for 3:18? I kept smiling and occasionally fist pumping (I know, what a muppet, but it works for me) which helped get the crowds to cheer me. I got to two miles to go and I was firmly on the pain train. It became harder to smile, harder to wave. I could just about nod to people and grimace smile my way along. The weather was turning slightly, a few drops of rain and a lot cooler. This was good.I saw the finishing straight and was overjoyed. ALMOST THERE. Not as long as the dreaded Dubai finishing straight which went on F.O.R.E.V.E.R. And right at the end I saw my other friend Mark, the Run Director of the Hove Promenade parkrun, and he gave me such a fantastic cheer. It was such a great way to cross the finish line. As I went underneath the timer I spotted 3:19:45. Omg sub 3:20!
I stopped my watch and did a double-take. 3:16:28 – WHAT??? I was literally in shock. And then, I walked straight into Paul Sinton-Hewitt – the parkrun founder. The next few minutes were a highly embarrassing fan girl flurry of gushing “omg I love parkrun” sentences of which I can only hope flattered him rather than terrified him. My phone was suddenly going off with James ringing me and my dad ringing me but I just had to get a selfie with the legend. He happily complied and honestly was the NICEST. He congratulated me on my run (and reassured me that if my watch time said 3:16 it probably meant I’d run that time and not the gun time on the board). He was so nice.

I then spotted another guy from my club who I’d managed to just pip at the end (I finished first in my club overall amazingly – OK there weren’t that many doing it but I will take it!). A guy then said hello to me saying he knew me from Twitter after photo bombing a previous photo of mine. How funny to see him at the finish line again then!

I probably made no sense to anyone I chatted to because I was literally on cloud nine. I spoke to my dad and he just cheered down the phone at me. He was over-the-moon, saying he knew I had it in me and how proud he was. I honestly could have cried. I got my medal and a water and then went to meet James.

James had finished in the CRAZY time of 2:56:38. Yeah. I know right. INSANE. So he was over-the-moon too. In my haste to meet him and in my PB haze I completely missed the goody bag pick-up!I could have gone back but I wasn’t that bothered. I had a water which was exactly what I needed at that moment.
As this has gone on already too long now, I’ll just say that James and me, both in euphoric PB happiness, hunted down some decent post race food from a fabulously lovely Mexican restaurant called Dos Sombreros where yes we did indeed wear our sombreros as we ate.
Sadly our eyes were bigger than our tummies and though we easily polished off the delicious chicken wings, we were both overwhelmed by the main course (I had fajitas while James had a burrito).My tummy felt somewhat delicate, but it’s OK because I was far too happy to care.Have you ever “gone for it” at a race with a time goal?

What’s your ideal post-race cuisine?

Do you like people to cheer your name when you race? I thrive off it.

My Brighton adventures: food and running, of course

There are a few cities in Britain that I have such a love for. One of those is Bristol, one is Cardiff (I went to university there and just love that city) and another is Brighton.

I mean there are so many lovely and interesting places in the UK, of course, but these places I hold dear because of the memories I’ve made there and the fun I continue to have. Through my new job I was lucky to acquire myself a ticket for the Brighton Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) conference. It’s funny because when I was in Brighton earlier this year for the 10k I remember walking past the big conference building and seeing the Brighton SEO sign and saying to my dad, “ahh I’d love to go to that”. And lo! and behold!

I had a somewhat stressful morning on the Friday I was going as I a) forgot to pack a bra (I was wearing my running clothes when I went to my parents as I ran the night before) and b) I didn’t leave myself enough time. I mean, this is standard Anna behaviour obviously. Luckily I had a fresh clean sports bra with me as I’d planned on running the next day in Brighton, priorities eh! And luckily it was a nice purple one which matched perfectly under my pink top – thank god I didn’t pack a bright yellow one!

Anyway, as I was late I literally had to jump out of my dad’s car at the train station (very grateful he gave me a lift) and run for the ticket machine. I mean, it was almost like fate that I was wearing a sports bra after all! Thankfully I made it with a few minutes to spare, albeit a little flustered, but boobs non-jiggled.I met my two colleagues on the train and on arrival at Brighton we walked from the station and to the conference. We grabbed a coffee en route because caffeine and headed inside for one of many interesting talks regarding search optimisation (all to do with digital marketing… topics such as what makes good content, micro influencers, virtual reality and voice technology with search and things like that).I felt overwhelming uncool amongst the very young and hip crowd that seemed to dominate the conference, but I held my head high and convinced myself I deserved to be there. But seriously, everyone looked very trendy and hipster. Beards ahoy!

There were lots of freebies, like cocktail ice lollies, sweets, beer and smoothies. In fact, it kind of reminded me of an Expo or that first day at university when everyone wants you to join their club.It was just all so interesting and exciting. I’m sure the novelty of this career area will wear off eventually but I’m just loving what I do right now. I find it fascinating.

For lunch we headed out into more central Brighton to avoid the crush of people exiting the conference with similar plans for food. We found a Wahaca and decided on there. I love Mexican food (well, the more mainstream version of it anyway). We got some tortilla chips and guacamole to share for starters and I ordered a chicken salad in a tortilla bowl with a side of sweet potatoes. It was all very tasty and felt like such a treat on a Friday afternoon. We then walked back to the conference to continue on with more talks. I parted ways with my colleagues as they’re from a different department and our talk choices weren’t the same. I noticed how suddenly there was a lot more free beer and Prosecco going on now it was post-lunch!I made the unwise decision to have a cheeky Prosecco and it took a lot more work for me to concentrate during a particularly dull talk (ironically on content optimisation…). After struggling it out for a few more talks I decided to leave. The weather was lovely and I walked down the Brighton prom to meet my friend, Charlotte. I’d already pre-arranged to stay over her and her husband’s flat that evening. It was so nice to be able to see her so randomly in the week. Normally I’d need to wait until our usual uni meet-ups but since I was in Brighton already it made sense.We headed back to her house where Charlotte and her husband (Paddy) ordered pizzas and I ordered a Deliveroo from a really tasty Arabian restaurant. ALL THE MEAT.It was so tasty. Lots of skewers, koftas and chicken wings on a bed of rice with the tiniest side salad. The meat to salad ratio was quite a way off! Even after all that food I was still good to go for a nice walk and an ice cream down the seafront. I went for a scoop of salted caramel and a scoop of raspberry cheesecake. Delicious!
It was such a lovely evening of good food, catching up and easy TV watching. Perfect.

The next morning we got up relatively early to walk down to the Brighton and Hove parkrun. Charlotte lives in the luxurious position of being a relatively short walk from the Hove Prom parkrun and the Brighton and Hove parkrun. And you know what? She doesn’t even do parkrun! She also informed me of a fantastic life hack…the local Furniture Village next to the park has free FRESHLY BAKED cookies when it opens. OK so they are meant to be for browsing customers but still 😉 Sadly I didn’t quite have the time to “browse” that morning, what a shame!

 

Brighton and Hove parkrun is run in the lovely Hove Park. It’s all run on tarmac and is fairly undulating. It’s 2.5 laps of the park and is a nice one for spectators as they can easily see the runners several times. Unfortunately I missed Charlotte and Paddy cheering me on TWICE. I don’t know how I didn’t spot them! Apparently I looked like I was “in the zone” so maybe I was just too focused.I did a short warm-up (it was quite chilly once we’d stopped walking) and then headed to the start. I heard the lady in front of me saying she wasn’t going to make Spin after parkrun… Wow that’d be keen! Anyway I had told myself just to run how I felt and at the start I got caught up in the excitement and realised I was running fairly quickly.
That was soon put to an end as we reached the first incline. The inclines were gradual and fairly long… but it was a beautiful course and the downhills were nice.I felt strong and attempted to pick people off in front of me. A man with a buggy zoomed past me and I tried to keep him in my sights, though never managed to catch up with him. There were a few supporters cheering us round which was nice and strangely a man on the sidelines counting us as we ran past (I remember a man doing this at the New Forest Marathon as well actually – is this a new thing??).

I managed a nice negative split, though my lungs were burning. My time was 21:51 which I was so pleased with! I haven’t had such a fast time in ages. It was also really nice to have my friends there at the finish line as well, though I was dying at this point.Then we said goodbye and I had to quick march to the train station (with a Starbucks stop en route of course). I just made my train… well, might as well finish how I started this trip eh!Sunday saw me waking up at the lovely time of 8.15am to meet my running friends for a long run. A few of us were meeting a fellow Bournemouth marathon trainee half-way through his run in order to help him through his 20 miler.I only really wanted 8-12 miles. I ran to the meeting spot, which was only 1.5 miles away and then met up with the running crewWe ran a lovely, albeit undulating, route through to Southampton and back round again. This did mean, of course, running across the dreaded Itchen Bridge (if you’ve ever done the Southampton 10k/half/marathon you’ll know about this). It wasn’t too bad. The run was really nice and relaxed and I managed to chip out 12 miles exactly in the end.Then the rest of the day was spent walking Alfie and packing to move out. Not particularly relaxing I must say… but needs must!

Do you go to work conferences?

Do you get Deliveroo in your area? I don’t, so it’s always a treat when I’m staying somewhere that does (probably for the best I don’t get it in my area though!)

Do you have any cheeky life hacks?