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?

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?