The On The Whistle events are really lovely relaxed races. I mean, it actually feels weird calling them races because they really don’t feel like a race in the true sense of the word. Yes you put a bib on and are timed, but it’s not competitive… this is mainly because they’re lapped events with a 6 hour time limit. You can do as many laps as you like within that time and you only need to complete one lap to get a medal. So you don’t know who around you is doing how many laps; some people might be going for a half marathon, some a marathon and some an ultra – and everything in between.
I did one of these events in August just after I returned from the Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp. My knee was a bit battered and it niggled a lot during my first lap so I walked a second and called it a day. I was sad to have such a poor effort but it was the right thing to do on the day. This event, the Festive Frolic, was pretty much identical to the Why Not Run event I did in August – though it was A LOT colder. It was still laps of Staunton Country Park, in Havant, and each lap was just over 4.5 miles. As I’m marathon training it seemed like the perfect time to get in a solid long run, surrounded by other runners and have it catered (the single aid station where the laps begin and end is particularly well stocked with a variety of tasty food and drink).
I’ve been struggling to have any motivation to go on long runs solo so this was ideal to use for my longest marathon run. I was aiming for four laps, around 18 miles, or five laps, over 22.5 miles. What was nice was that I could make a judgement call at four laps and decide how I felt about doing another chunk of miles.
The event started at 9.30am (with the race briefing at 9.20am). Havant is about 30 minutes from where I live so it meant I could have a lie-in until 8am and leave at 8.30am. I vaguely knew where the country park was, having been there a few times, but I still put it into my Sat Nav because, hi I’m Anna and I’m a certified idiot.
When I got to my destination at 9am and realised I couldn’t actually see a country park anywhere I did somewhat panic. Obviously I don’t leave myself any sort of contingency time (ALWAYS ASSUME THE WORST, ANNA). Thankfully as I drove a little further I saw a sign for a car park and a suspiciously leafy area… After spying some other people who were clearly runners I parked up and paid the extortionate £2.50 (I’m joking, big shopping centres could learn a thing or two!).I arrived in good time (heaven knows how) and didn’t have to spend too long hanging about in the cold while everyone pointed at my pink bare legs in horror. I had been tempted by leggings but decided I wanted to wear compression socks (as I tend to do on long runs) so figured I’d be alright. I wore a thin base layer under my running club vest and a super warm sports bra (I quite like it when sports bra add that slight padding bit, not just because us less-gifted females get a bit of a vanity boost but also because it doesn’t half keep the ladies toasty).There were a few people from my running club but most of them were at the league road race, Hayling 10. A few were aiming to do a half-marathon and a few were aiming for the full marathon (which would actually be around 27 miles). I mentioned my goals and several stated that surely if I got to almost 23 miles I’d be far too tempted to bump it up to a marathon to stop. This thought had gone through my head, I must admit, but I didn’t want to set myself any unrealistic targets or put pressure on myself. We’ll see, I said.After a slight delay (we were waiting for the last few people in the portable loo line – the pressure of everyone waiting! How embarrassing!) we were off. Normally I would have had a wee before a race (even if it was just a Psychological Safety Wee) but the queue had been too long and I decided I could use the loo after finishing my first lap. I ran the first few miles with running club friends, Rich and Matt. Rich was aiming for a marathon and they were both testing out running using their heart rate (not going over 180-age). It was interesting hearing about it but it does sound a little faffy to me (and not just because I’m not a huge fan of wearing my heart rate monitor).
A sceenshot from a video (terrible quality sorry!) from the Facebook page
When they decided on a walking break (all part of the plan) I left them and headed off on my own. I had my headphones with me but decided on keeping the first lap “silent”. I tried not to look too much around me as well because I’d be seeing the route a number of times… I just kept my head down and focused on running a slower-than-normal pace. It was all rather pleasant but a little lonely now I was on my own. It’s not a huge race so there weren’t lots of people about, but I could see people ahead and as I was going a bit faster now I slowly overtook a number of runners over the course of the lap.
As I got to the third mile I really started needing a wee. I kept an eye out for a hidden bush but there were a number of dog walkers and considering I only had a mile to go before there would be the loo I decided to just not think about (ha! Easy right?). The course is completely off-road and on compacted dirt track. There were some areas of mud where the sun hadn’t dried up the moisture but otherwise it was easy underfoot. It was somewhat undulating at points, but not hilly.I reached the end of the first lap in about 45 minutes or so (I think it measured 4.6 miles) and ran quickly to the loo. Whew! I didn’t stop for any food as I didn’t need any but turned on BBC Radio 1 on my phone so I could have a bit of mindless music and chatting on my next lap. You can see from my splits where I stopped.I collected my wrist band (to mark a lap) and went on my way.
This lap went fairly quickly. I tried to keep my pace down but felt very comfortable running around 8.30s so just left it there. On the way out you pass runners behind you coming in to end their first lap so it was nice to encourage people on and wave (and also, when I was coming in to my first lap, seeing the speedy front runners heading out for their second lap). Now it was a bit less lonely because you passed a number of people throughout the lap. What was nice as well was that, as it was laps, you would continually pass the same people.I finished this lap and grabbed myself a couple of those chocolate Jazzie sweets. Well, they’re not Jazzies as they’re the bigger thicker ones (I actually Googled them and they appear to be called the “mother of all Jazzies”, which I’d concur). Very tasty. After a bit of stretching (my right hip was feeling a tiny bit tight) and a drink of water I headed off again. At this point I was aware I was third female. I knew there was a girl quite a bit ahead and another girl just slightly ahead. I wasn’t racing so didn’t intend to try and “beat them” but I wondered if I could eventually catch up. On this lap I put on a podcast to change things up. I was now heading towards the half marathon distance and feeling good. My only one slight worry was the tightness in my hip, but it wasn’t anything too concerning, just something that didn’t feel completely perfect.I caught up with the second female as I finished the third lap, hitting the half marathon distance badge that would be attached to my medal, and got some more Jazzies (mmmm so tasty) and more water. I did some more stretching, trying not to worry about my hip (I will hasten to add, it was not developing into a full-on injury, but just a tightness that I was becoming aware of). I didn’t mind stopping and collecting myself at the end of each lap as it kept it firmly in my mind that this was a training run and that all I was after was time on my feet. As long as my pace remained sensible I was happy.
I really like laps because mentally it helped break down the mileage for me. It wasn’t “ooh X more miles to go”, rather you thought about it in terms of number of laps, which is obviously a lot smaller a number. It was more manageable and you could just focus on the lap you were in. Though I did start to consider what my total mileage goal would be… I decided on five laps as I was still feeling good as I was nearing the end of my fourth lap. Like surprisingly good. I wasn’t breathing hard, I was very relaxed and I was finding it quite easy. I contemplated the idea of running to the full marathon… how cool would it be to randomly do a marathon? Unplanned! Just “hey I ran a marathon yesterday”. But as I finished the fourth lap I realised that despite how good I felt, my hip was rather tight and the jump in mileage would have a knock-on effect to my next week’s worth of running. I was only three weeks from the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon. I’m still Anna The Injury Prone Runner… I must never forget that or take things for granted. Over 4.5 miles over my planned distance wasn’t a walk in the park. It was still pounding on my legs, micro-tears on my muscles and ultimately would tire me out. Just because I’m in good shape does not mean I’m invincible.But as I knew it was going to be my final lap I decided to increase the pace a bit. I’d also overtaken the first female who had slowed down a bit. The demons in my head whispered I could be the first female for the marathon! But Sensible Anna shushed her away and carried on with the plan. I passed Rich and told him it was my last lap. I’d expecting him to say I should do another but he was lovely and cheered me on. He went on to do the full marathon distance (he’s a long distance pro), well done him! I tried to wave and smile to everyone I passed – it was nice getting those smiles back which boosted me along and it helped pass the time. I was back to listening to the radio again and was now feeling the buzz of the end of a race. Despite the pace increase, it still felt manageable, yes, harder but not awful. In the back of my mind I was somewhat concerned I was peaking too early in my training… A worry for another day!I finished strong, collecting my final wristband and rang the finishing bell before I could change my mind. I was done! No marathon for me. 23.3 miles (turns out each lap was just more than 4.5 miles…) in 3:21:57 and the first person for 5 laps (out of 9 of us – someone ran 8 laps!!) A solid and strong long run. I was very pleased. I did get a few people asking me why I didn’t do another lap, but honestly I was done. That speed increase on the final lap and shattered any doubt in my mind. Perhaps if I’d have gone slower it would have been more tempting. Who knows. I felt great though. Yes my hip was still tight and my brain was doing the full ANNA INJURY PANIC MODE but otherwise I was really pleased with the run. I chatted to a few ladies from my club who’d also stopped (one due to injury and two who’d done the half distance) before heading back to my car. Very weird for me to drive to and from a race on my own it must be said!For the rest of the day I did some foam rolling and walked Alfie – keeping my legs moving and the blood flowing. I didn’t feel that tired surprisingly. In fact, it really didn’t feel like I’d run 23.3 miles. This is a good sign (or a terrible one, who knows).I fully recommend the On The Whistle events. They’re very well run, great support and atmosphere, inexpensive (around £30) and a lovely goodie bag with a home-baked gingerbread man (matching the medal). I’d definitely do another event.And, on the hip front because, let’s be honest, this is what was consuming my thoughts a little… The next day I went to the gym and did some more foam rolling, light cross-training (I find this helps flush out some nasties) and then did some hip abduction machine and honest to God it just DISAPPEARED. Like I left the gym with my hip feeling 99% better. I mean, WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL. The hip thing was quite deep in my bum/hip area and I found the hip abduction machine really worked that area so I’m wondering if getting lots of blood flowing there helped loosen it? Hey I’m no physio so I’m guessing here. But either way, it’s now completely gone! I ran on Tuesday and didn’t even feel an echo. Long may this last!
Have you ever done a lapped event?
Have you ever run a lot further than you intended to?
Has a niggly/tightness ever just disappeared for you?