Bournemouth Half Marathon

I’ve done the Bournemouth Marathon twice before, but never the Bournemouth Half Marathon. And it seemed like a great race to do the week before the Chicago Marathon. A last long run. A catered long run with a medal!

Considering how my training hadn’t been exactly how I would have liked it, a sharp build-up and not as many long runs as I wanted, I decided to do three miles before we headed off the half in the morning. Sadly this meant a very early alarm as the race was to begin at 8am and it would take us an hour to drive there. Ooof.

Happily (?) I woke up before my 5.40am alarm at 5.30am and decided to just get up and give myself a bit more of a buffer. It was warm outside (15 degrees) but dark so I grabbed my hand torch. The torch (from Nathan Sports) is fantastic. It has a front and back light, a rape alarm and attaches to your hand so you actually don’t have to hold it.

The run went well. As it was so quiet I ran mostly on the road (it’s a very quiet route in general) and saw several cats and a fox, who just stood and watched me run past. It was all very peaceful.

Then I got back, quickly swapped into some new running gear and my parents, Kyle and I headed off to Bournemouth. Kyle’s brother, Zack, was also going to be running the half as his first ever half marathon (and first actual race I believe) and him and his family were already down there staying in a hotel And happily my friend Emma was running as well. So lots going on and lots of friendly faces!

My parents dropped Kyle and I off and we headed to the portaloos where we met Zack, his mum, his sister, Lucy, and his other brother, Adam. The queues for the loos were huge and seemingly not moving. With only about 15 minutes before the start I was getting nervous. Eventually I gave up and found a well concealed bush nearby. Whew!

Then we headed to the start. We heard over the speakers though that the race had been delayed until 8.15am (we later found out due to the grim police investigation of a dead body).

We spotted Emma and wished each other well which was nice. Then it was off to our respective waves and then the start.

Kyle was planning on seeing what he could do, so I let him run off while I kept to my own more gentle speed. I remembered the course well from the other Bournemouth races I’ve done (the half follows a lot of the similar marathon route, but of course less of it). I had music going and just zoned out.

The first three or so miles went by nicely and I saw Kyle on the switch-back going the other way. I also saw Zack looking relaxed just behind me. He was aiming for a sub-2 hour half, but with a bit of sketchy training and a problematic toenail it was going to be a push.

As we got to around six miles I started to feel like things were harder than I wanted. My pace felt less relaxed and I suddenly felt overwhelmingly tired. As soon as I recognised that feeling I couldn’t get it out of my head. Like a niggle in my brain, all I kept thinking off was “I’m so tired. This is so hard”.

The temperature was increasing but not crazily so. It was a lovely clear day and the crowds were out in force. Annoyingly there was a head wind directly against us as we headed down the promenade. I felt this chip away at my good vibes and the demons set up camp in my head. What if Chicago felt like this? I felt a deep dread in my stomach.

To be honest, I ran this race badly. I wasn’t racing it but my strategy was appalling. It was meant to be an easy run and I (wrongly) associated pace with effort. My watch was saying 8-8.20 and I found it bizarre that this felt hard, but I didn’t slow down. I realise I should have just backed off and actually reduced my pace to the real easy pace for that day.

Easiness can change – the weather, the course, how you feel, how you’ve slept etc. etc. can massively impact what pace is easy for you. But like a newbie I ignored it and pushed through. I knew my parents, and Kyle’s family, would be mile eight and I got a horrible déjà vu from when I ran the marathon the first time and ignored my dad at this point saying I should stop because I felt a lot of pain in my knee. I wasn’t in pain, I wasn’t suffering any niggles, but I was feeling so drained. Should I stop?

As I got to my dad I did stop. He looked very worried – I don’t normally do this during a race. I said how I felt and how hard I was finding it. He suggested maybe I drop out? Or walk a bit? But I was resolved to finish. I had a little cry, a big hug and then headed off. This hugely helped. I felt like I’d had an emotional pick-me-up gel. A hug in a gel if you like.

Then I was hit with the hill that I was very familiar with during the marathon. Thankfully not the 18 miler hill which is horrific, but a shorter and less sharp hill, but tough nonetheless. I felt a new lease of life and pushed on up, smiling as much as I could remembering reading an article that smiling triggered happy feelings in your body. What a loon I must have looked like.

Then it was a lovely downhill which I fully embraced and a long slog to the Boscombe Pier. The sand underfoot that had blown over from the beach made for an annoying running path… the wind dead against us… the sun in my eyes… it all felt so very hard. But I spotted Kyle’s dad and he gave me a big cheer as I headed onto the pier, then back down the other way to the Bournemouth Pier. Now the wind behind us and I felt strong and picked it up a gear. I was almost done!

I finally managed to overtake people (having spent most of the race being overtaken) and whizzed along the pier and to the finish. Done!

I was so glad to stop. I felt exhausted. 1:45:58.

I collected my medal and saw Kyle. He’d finished in 1 hour 40 mins and 12 seconds, sadly about 20 seconds off his PB. He had had a hard run too. But still, a fantastic time. Zack finished in just over 2 hours 1 minute and 18 seconds – oh so close!! He was happy though, as well he should for his first half marathon.

I also saw Emma. She’d had a tough race too but, like me (or like I’d planned anyway) had used it as a last long run before Chicago.

For my race, in retrospect I should definitely have slowed down. My ego got in the way and I paid for it by having a miserable run. I was pleased to have gotten 16 miles for the day though – my last long run before Chicago. And I will definitely relax the pace if it starts to feel like that. Lesson well and truly learnt! Chicago is about getting to the finish uninjured without issue. No heroics or pushing through anything crazy.

We had a few photos, celebrated finishing and then headed home. Whew! I was tired, hungry and mentally drained.

Next stop now, Chicago.

Have you ever run a mentally tiring race?

Have you ever done the Bournemouth Half or Marathon?

The Great Manchester Run 10k recap

On to the Sunday recap of last weekend.

After a rather disastrous night, I had an equally terrible night’s sleep due to the hotel being in the centre of Manchester and my room being right next to a club. Ah well, at least it was safe, clean and only five minutes from the brunch location I was going to with Kirsty.

We were meeting at 9.30am at Federal Cafe Bar, somewhere she’d been recommended several times on Instagram. The menu looked good and pushed me to have something I wouldn’t normally (usually I’m distracted by dirty big fry ups!).

I went for the mushroom and halloumi dish… it came with sourdough toast, eggs, halloumi and mushrooms. I added chorizo and avocado too.

It was fantastic. So tasty and really filled me up. I also went for a rather fancy hipster beetroot latte. As a big beetroot fan I was still sceptical because… in a coffee? But I was down to give it a go (on race day whhhhy not eh!).

It was actually really tasty. Made with oat milk, it was quite sweet which I wonder was from something artificial or the actual beetroot itself, as it is quite sweet normally. Who knows. It was nice though.

As the race wasn’t until 1pm it was a bit confusing what to eat to be honest. And actually during the race it did slightly repeat on me… Kirsty mentioned it might be because it was quite high fat and that’s quite an ask for your body just before a race. I hadn’t even considered that.

Then we headed to the Garmin stand to meet with the Garmin team. There were five other “influencers” there too and we chatted and took photos. Basically had a bit of fun.

It was so cool to see behind the scenes of these events. I’m by no means a big fish in this sort of thing so it’s quite cool seeing it happen and being a part of something like this. Though I got HUGE impostor syndrome.

L-R Jenna (@Jenna.is.running, Fudgie (@Fudgieruns), Kirsty (@Shortgirlrunner), and Rachel (@Runwithrachel)

We got T-shirt’s and our bibs and headed to do some start line photos.

I then literally bumped into Adele from the BBC Radio 1 early morning breakfast show. Now I’m a little bit of a fan girl of hers. I listen to her every morning when I go to the gym, and when it’s that early it’s really nice to not think you’re the only one awake so I really enjoy her show.

She’s the nicest person as well and started running a few years ago, supporting the Heads Together charity. Anyway I tweet the show occasionally and met her just before London (yes I know, I’m a proper fan girl) and so when I saw her and said “it’s AnnaTheApple” (I KNOW, PROPER CRINGE) she was like “ohh hey you listen all the time!”. It made my entire day.

We had a proper chat. We talked about running and she even introduced me to her girlfriend! (She called me a unit because of all my running!!) Honestly I was made up. Then we had to dash off to do more photo bits. I couldn’t stop beaming.

Then we headed to start to get ready to go (I say “get ready to go”, but we did still have a 40 minute wait…). Anyway, the time flew by while we chatted and then we were off!

My plan was to not to be a wet blanket about it and actually push myself. I rarely ever push myself, and ESPECIALLY in a 10k. But today the weather was good, the course was ideal and I had no excuse. As tempting as it was to run with the others (who were taking it easier) I resolutely set off with the mindset to GO.

It was really crowded in the first half a mile and I spent some time dodging round people and trying to get into a good rhythm. But then I broke free and got a good amount of space around me.

It’s so odd running a 10k after spending so much time focusing on longer distances. You just have no time to play with. I realised my slower first mile would need to be made up later if I wanted the time I was aiming for. And it really requires a lot of focused energy to hold on to the pace.

The course was pretty much entirely flat. Maybe a couple of very gentle inclines but nothing crazy that would hold you back. I saw Aly Dixon and Gemma Steel fly by going the other way further on in the course and they looked to be on the pain train. Come on, Anna, you can do this too (at a much slower pace ha). I had my music on but could hear the crowds cheering and boosting us along. There were lots of people out which was nice.

We ran round the Manchester United football ground (not quite through it like we did in Southampton). And we followed a lot of the same beginning and end bits of the Manchester Marathon. It did feel fairly familiar. But the course was so much more interesting as it did actually go through the city whereas the marathon really didn’t.

On the course there were two drinks stations and unfortunately full of bottled water. So wasteful. So much plastic. It really makes me cringe. It was a warm day so a lot of water was being taken (a few sips then thrown). There were two showers on the course as well which helped cool people down too.

Then we were on the final straight back. My pace was on goal and I was feeling strong! I was getting an echo of a stitch in my side and I attempted to breathe differently to get rid of it. I was really anxious it would turn into one of those properly painful sharp ones in my side but luckily it remained on the edge as just a slight annoyance.

Then it was 400m to go – over so quickly!

My legs and lungs were pushing hard but I was so chuffed as I knew I was going to PB now. Unless I fell over, I had this!

I crossed the line in 41:40, a PB by over a minute. Wowza I am stoked! But the stitch was now in full force as I walked to the goodie bags.

It took a few minutes to disappear and the effects of the run to dissipate. So much longer than after a marathon! That feeling of “let me catch my breath again”. Obviously the effects of a marathon hang on in different ways a lot longer of course.

I headed back to the Garmin stand and took some photos (of course!) and waited for the others.

They arrived not long after and we swapped stories and congratulated each other. The others had had a nice fun run rather than going for it, which sounded lovely.

After doing our social media bits with Garmin we headed to the VIP area in the Hilton hotel nearby. VIP! So fancy!

They had a buffet spread, sweets, teas and coffee and we just tucked straight in. Omg I was so spoilt!

I tucked right in to several plates of Greek salad (all the feta!) and a fish ratatouille. It was delicious.

I didn’t have long so tucked two Bakewell cakes into my bag wrapped in a napkin for the train back (future Anna would be pleased).

Then I had to say my goodbyes and head sharpish to my train – the station was 20 mins walk away. I only had 30 mins and I wanted to get a tea for the train so I did a very epic run-power walk in my coat, layers and my big rucksack on to get there with time to spare.

Unfortunately (and I didn’t realise at the time) my two cakes fell out of my bag as I hadn’t done it up properly! I was VERY lucky nothing else fell out but I was devastated to get to the station and realise what had happened. Nooooo! No train cakes! I did have two apples which consolidated me somewhat but it was a rather sad moment.

Solid goodie bag spoils

Anyway, lost cakes and failed Airbnb’s aside, the weekend was truly a fantastic one. I loved Saturday with my mum doing so many fun things and then making new friends on Sunday at the race. Garmin gifted me the place and I am SO grateful for the opportunity. It was so much fun. Getting the PB really was only a small addition to the whole rest of the fantastic weekend!

Do you often race races?

Have you ever been VIP for anything?

Do you get trains that often?

**Full Disclaimer: Garmin provided me with a free race place in exchange for some social media posts on Instagram. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Manchester Marathon

The Manchester Marathon is a fairly popular marathon, with around 20,000 people signing up.

It’s revered as flat and fast and has been on my list for a while. Being from down South though it’s a fair trek to get to. But as my grandad lives in Stoke, a good friend lives in Liverpool and the fact that Kyle and I had free tickets to Alton Towers it seemed like a good reason to do a long weekend up there.

My goals, as ever, were a bit hazy having run the Barcelona Marathon a few weeks ago. I wasn’t in PB shape (that would require actual speedwork) but I felt like it might be a bit of a waste of an opportunity not to see what I could do.

The morning of the marathon I was up 6.45am in our Airbnb. I made my porridge, had a cup of questionable tea (the Airbnb only had oatmilk, something I’d never tried before) and then got myself together. Kyle and I walked the 2.8ish miles to the start. I didn’t mind the walk at all (we could have taken the metro). It was nice to get some fresh air, sooth my nerves and get the legs freshened up.

Kyle was going to be supporting me, not running around the course this time like in Barcelona,. He’d walk from the start to mile three to then get to mile 17/18 to see me again, and then meet me at the finish.

We arrived the start area at about 8.30ish (the race starts at 9am). I’d gotten my place at the marathon through Wiggle as I was going to do some content for them (horrendous videos of before and after the race – god I hate how awkward I am), so I had a pass to go into the VIP area inside the Trafford Town Hall (very posh).

Happily this meant I could use an ACTUAL toilet – with no queues! Such a luxury. I could also have some extra breakfast from the buffet (I didn’t) and even got offered champagne (I declined, probably best not to). I felt VERY fancy – and also hugely out of place!

Then Kyle and I headed to the start, bumping into the lovely Mark, one of the Brighton parkrun event directors.

Literally as I spotted Mark

Lovely to see another friendly face. But then I quickly dashed off to my pen with minutes to spare.

It was actually a very chilled start to the race for me – no hanging about unnecessarily or stress. After a blast of Oasis and Human League we were off!

The first mile was slightly downhill so I tried not to get ahead of myself. My plan was if 8min/miles came easy to me I’d stick with those but if they felt tough or tiring I’d drop down to 8.30s. As it was, I felt OK (I mean, let’s be honest, the first mile always does buuut you know what I mean). During the second mile I saw a man wearing a bib at the side of the road speaking with marshals. He was holding his leg and the marshals were directing him how to get back. Wow, a casualty of the race so soon.

On mile three I spotted Kyle. It was lovely to see him and I happily ran on, buzzed by his cheering. And then I realised I wouldn’t be seeing him for over two hours until mile 17. Jeeeze. But I was peppered along by the cheering crowds who were out in force in this area. I also spotted a few of my lovely Hedge End Running Club friends who I didn’t know would be there. I did the standard Anna Squeal and overly excited frantic waving and then went on my merry way.

I amused myself by looking at the other runners around me. There were a lot of Northern sounding running clubs, of course, a few superhero costumes and everything in between. I spotted one girl, I kid you not, holding her phone and in EACH hand three gels. SIX gels AND a phone?! That’s a lot to be carrying in your hands for a marathon. It baffled me. I like to wear my Flipbelt to carry my phone and maybe a gel but that’s it. Funny how different we all are.

Now we started heading away from central Manchester and into Stretford. Each area of Manchester that we ran through had a sign that said “Welcome to…” and then the name.

It was a nice touch. There were sprinkles of crowds at different points and, as it went through a lot of residential areas, a lot of people were outside their house cheering. I’ve also never seen so many Jelly Babies being handed out in my life. It seemed like everyone had them!

My friend, John who was also running, tapped me on the shoulder and we exchanged brief grunts and status checks. I wondered if he wanted to run together but he told me I was passing him and to go on. I didn’t feel too bad as I very much got the vibe that he wanted a solo run – John is subtly good at conveying this 😉

I was feeling good and generally running faster than I thought. In the back of my mind I wondered if I was going to blow up later. The pace was a sustained effort – not terribly difficult, I could probably hold a conversation, but I knew this would tire me later. It wasn’t feeling easy.

I needed a wee, as is always standard for me during a marathon. As usual I decided around mile 10 would be an ideal point. As I got to mile 9 I saw about five portable toilets in a row and decided to chance it. I opened two different ones that weren’t locked and found men having a pee! I apologised (why though when they didn’t lock the door…) and stood waiting for a free one, which is always horrible during a marathon, standing stationary watching everyone run past you.

Finally one became available and I jumped in. The seat was COVERED in wee. I mean it was grim. I hovered over the seat using that inborn skill that all females have and pretended I was elsewhere while trying not to breathe. Job done, back on the road!

As I continued I began to notice that the course wasn’t as flat as I’d been led to believe, especially as I got to around 13 miles. OK we’re not taking hills or true undulations but definite inclines requiring sustained effort. Actually throughout the course I counted more than four of these. It actually makes me question who thought to call Manchester “pancake flat”. I highly disagree!

I’m going to be honest. I found the course quite dull and trying to remember anything of significance is quite tricky. It was mostly running through residential streets. Yes the people who were out to support were lovely and it was great to be cheered you along…one woman looked me right in the eye and screamed “Anna, you look INCREDIBLE”. Possibly the nicest thing any stranger has (and probably will ever) yell at me. But it was just dull.

Kyle popped up (literally popped up next to me, like he’d jumped out of a bush) at mile 17 and that made me smile. It also meant the next mile flew by because I knew he’d then be at 18 because of how the course was. It was a lot trickier to get to different spots because the course was such a big loop – whereas in Barcelona there were lots of out and backs and the course ran quite close to itself, if that makes sense.

Kyle had my gel to give me but I’d decided I didn’t need it. I wanted to see how I’d be without taking anything other than water on. I felt fine (I mean, let’s be honest, the pizza the night before certainly helped!). I do all my long runs fasted so I feel like gels aren’t necessary for me as long as I’ve had a solid breakfast (I had).

I reached 20 miles and usually this is the time I’m like “let’s go” and I can increase my pace. However I knew this wouldn’t be happening. I was pretty much just going to be able to maintain my current pace. This is the difference between my 3:16 marathon and a fast but not as fast (for me) marathon. During the 3:16 marathon I had the ability to kick it up a gear at mile 20. I had the fitness in the bag to dig deeper. I don’t currently have that fitness and so there was really no discernible “kick”.

But I was OK with this. I can’t expect to magic fitness out of nowhere. I’ve done no real speedwork. However I was happy to maintain my pace and not fade. It was feeling tough now and I was gurning to the end.

I got to mile 23 and had the happy thought of “pretty much just a parkrun to go”. I switched my music to something a bit more high powered – making the guy next to me laugh as I fiddled with my iPhone as I ran and almost went arse over tits as I tripped over a drain. CAREFUL ANNA YOU IDIOT.

I started to’ing and fro’ing with a girl next to me. I managed to get a bit ahead and thought “ah ha! I’ve won [the fake battle that only I’m aware of]!” until she later sped gracefully past me into a blip in the horizon. Wow, she was amazing!

When we turned round the final corner for the last stretch to the finish instead of great relief – look there’s the finish! It was like a punch in the face. IT WAS SO FAR AWAY AND JUST ONE GIANT LONG STRETCH OF ROAD. I decided to look down and not focus on the seemingly never-ending road with the teeny tiny finish line in the distance.

Now the crowds were thick and loud. I smiled as much as I could (honestly, this is such a good trick – it spurs on the crowds and can help trick you into thinking it’s OK you’re not actually dying – results do vary tho).

Kyle was suddenly next to me on the pavement and jogged a little to keep up while cheering. I had fears that he’d try and run with me to the end – something I’d have hated… Not for any reason other than he was wearing jeans and I just find that sort of thing unbelievably cringe. Thankfully he didn’t (he agrees with me on this front I later found).

And finally I crossed the line. Whew. 3:23:04 – not too shabby at all! My 3rd fastest marathon. What a grind though! I saw the girl who’d overtaken me and I said well done and how amazing she was, but I couldn’t hold on (I checked the results later – she got 3:19!). She was lovely.

Bless my dad, he rung me literally SECONDS of me crossing the line. I was still getting air in my lungs and recovering from the final sprint. He is good though – on the ball with the tracker and, as always, a lovely supporter whether physically there or far away. I know he’s always thinking of me.

I bumped into a few people I knew, collected my medal and goodies and then proceeded to play the fun game of “how can I get to Kyle?”. It seemed like a maze to get out of the race finish area and in the end I climbed over a fence (I don’t recommend post marathon). Eventually we found each other and began the slow shuffle back to the AirBnb swapping stories of day’s adventures.

To cut the rest fairly short, we ended up in a KFC on the way back to Stoke and I ordered a 10-piece bucket… I ate eight pieces (just chicken, no chips – I’m not a complete animal ;-)).

I regret nothing… actually my tummy very much regretted this later and on arriving back at my grandad’s and him saying “right, let’s get you some dinner!” I perhaps I should have eaten a few pieces less. In the end dinner was a couple of apples and a corn on the cob!

Have you ever run Manchester Marathon?

What is the flattest marathon/race you’ve done?

Do you like KFC?

Long running and the Eastleigh 10k

So next Sunday I’ll be running the Manchester Marathon.

As I’ve only just run the Barcelona Marathon a few weeks ago I didn’t really need to do any crazy long running but I did want to do a kind of top-up run. So my plan was to do a 16 miler two weeks out, and then 13 or so miles the week before (which is usually what I normally do in a marathon lead-up).

The Eastleigh 10k was the Sunday of my planned 16 miler and in usual Anna fashion I decided to tag on some extra miles onto it (10 lol) to make it into 16. God forbid I actually try racing a 10k eh 😉

Kyle was also down to run it and was going to give it a good blast as he much prefers the shorter stuff, but unfortunately he got struck down with what I had the week before so was barely in a fit shape to plod it let alone race it. He was still keen to run it though – men, eh!

The day before, Saturday, I went to Netley to celebrate my friend Mike’s 200th parkrun. OK not strictly speaking a “real” milestone for those parkrun sticklers but still a good reason to have cake. Kyle sensibly stayed in bed while I headed out. It was a shame for him not to join but realistically it was for the best.

At parkrun it was the “Marmite course”, which is basically five laps around a cricket field because of a caravan event on the normal course area. I groaned inwardly when I realised… this was going to be dull.

The day before I’d done quite a tough legs day so I wasn’t feeling a fast run – which really is the only thing that makes the Marmite course somewhat bearable.

Photo credit: Alana Jayne Williams

Happily Mike wasn’t thinking of a fast run either, having fully beasted himself the weekend before in getting a new half PB. So we decided to run together and have a nice catch-up.

Photo credit: Alana Jayne Williams

The weather was lovely but it was dull running.

Photo credit: Alana Jayne Williams

I was glad to have Mike there because running around in circles on my own would have been utterly boring.

Photo credit: Alana Jayne Williams

My time was 22:46. I’m happy with that! Little bit of a blast on the final mile but nothing crazy.

And then it was time to clear down the course and enjoy some cake. As there were a few people celebrating different events (Mike’s 200th, my other friend Sheryl’s 300th and another guy’s 200th) there was A LOT of cake.

Mike had made a few batches – one for handing out straight after parkrun and a secret batch for people who went to the cafe, excellent idea!

Of course I did need a little something while I helped clear down… a Rolo blondie. Delicious!

And then of course some salted caramel brownies, jam flapjacks and Sheryl’s delicious carrot cake.

Washed down with a cup of tea and a good natter. A lovely (albeit sadly Kyle-less) parkrun morning.

The next day Kyle decided he felt somewhat better to do Eastleigh 10k. He wasn’t going to race it however, which was sensible. I was going to get up a bit earlier, drive a few miles up the road and park my car, then run the rest of the way (10 miles) to the start and then meet Kyle and my dad there.

Surprisingly the plan went perfectly. I managed to make it to the start area with about 10 minutes to go. There was a somewhat precarious moment (which brought me flashbacks of when I tried to run to Eastleigh parkrun and got terribly lost and arrived 10 minutes later having run two extra miles) but I managed to tag along to someone else running that way. Whew! Never depend on your half brain Anna, I think is the moral of these stories.

My dad and Kyle had brought my Hedge End Running Club vest so I could swap tops and then I was ready to go.

We decided to position ourselves between the 45 minute and 50 minute pacer (who incidentally was Mike). There were lots of friendly faces from my own club and other clubs who I knew which was nice. Eastleigh is a very popular race because it’s so flat and usually part of the HRRL league. I’ve never actually done it though.

Kyle was feeling a little better and I told him if he wanted to go ahead that was fine by me. I wasn’t feeling it in my legs to go fast having just run there. Kyle was actually pushing the pace slightly too fast for my liking and I was relieved when he pushed off. Not because I didn’t want to run with him but because I didn’t want to either hold him back or feel pressured to run faster (he wouldn’t pressure me of course but I’d feel the need to keep up).

He disappeared into the distance and I relaxed into a pace where I could just turn my brain off and just enjoy the miles. I wasn’t listening to music or anything and it was nice to literally watch the world go by.

The support on the course was excellent. So many people out in force shouting and cheering, and of course my dad got himself to different areas. It was really nice for him to be there.

Photo credit: Sheryl James

The course is indeed very flat and fast. I mean Eastleigh itself isn’t exactly the greatest place to run round in terms of scenery but it’s a great race if you’re looking for a fast time.

Photo credi: Nick White

It was lovely weather as well which certainly helped. There was a tricky moment with one of the roads still being open to cars and we had to navigate through some traffic which I thought was a bit odd, and one short incline, but otherwise it was a good race. I was getting stronger and faster by each mile and marveled at just how quickly 10ks flew by (of course).

On the final mile there was a rather annoying man cycling along cheering people on. Well, I say cheering, it really wasn’t “cheering”. It was more like coaching. He was shouting – really shouting – things like “keep your arms swinging”, “keep breathing”, “get your legs turning over”. As he was cycling slowly next to us I couldn’t get away and it was actually really annoying.

I don’t mind people trying to push you along but this was full-on “how to run 101”. On the final section of a race it’s not exactly what you need. I muttered “oh please go away” in frustration and several people around me agreed. Not the time for this!

Anyway, the final sprint was through a park area and almost like a tunnel of people, which was a huge boost. I finished in 47:18 with an almost royal flush negative split.

Damn that 5th mile!

Photo credit: Hendy Group

Kyle finished in the very stellar time 45:46.

Photo credit: Hendy Group

He pushed himself a bit, but not overly considering he was still ill.

So a successful 16 miler for me. A nice plod to begin with in the 10 miles and then a bit of a push for the 10k. I love doing long runs like that. It breaks it up so nicely and you do tend to push yourself more than you would if you were just running the entire thing on your own.

Have you ever run while ill?

Do you enjoy tagging a race on to the end of a long run?

What milestones do you celebrate at parkrun?

Barcelona Marathon 2019

The Barcelona Marathon sort of sprung out of nowhere for me.

I mean yes of course I knew it was coming and I was doing long runs in preparation. But mentally I wasn’t really thinking about the actual race. All I was thinking about was the holiday. When I’d originally planned to do the race I was going there on my own. I was single and feeling independent.

Then Kyle and I got together and things changed. I invited him to join me, I extended the trip by another day so we could have a bit longer to explore and enjoy ourselves. It was no longer a trip for me to run another marathon. It was a trip to spend time together, have fun and oh yeah run 26.2 miles too. So the night before it sort of hit me… a marathon is a long way to run.

On the morning I got up at 6.30am and got my stuff together, went to the loo, had my porridge and drank a tea. Kyle got himself ready shortly after. Bless my dad, he’d made Kyle a T-shirt to wear.

Apparently my dad is the main “coach” and Kyle is the assistant one. As my dad couldn’t be there it was a cute and quite humorous gesture. Kyle had a busy day ahead as well. His plan was to see me off at the start, then run to various points to see me, then meet me at the finish. All in all, we’d hopefully see each other seven times. Fingers crossed!

We walked to the start, handily only about 25 minutes from our AirBnb. We got there for 8am, just 30 minutes from the start.

I prefer to have less waiting round. We stood in a long portable loo queue and after about 20 minutes realised nope I wasn’t going to make it.

I legged it to my start pen, saw some nearby loos without a queue, dived in one, peed and then ran to my starting corral. I said goodbye to Kyle and headed in to the pen. Literally minutes to go – whew!

The start was pretty cool. They had Barcelona by Freddie Mercury playing and then a big blast of confetti and we were off!

The first couple of miles headed towards Camp Nou, the Barcelona FC stadium. It was a gentle incline but at this point I didn’t really notice it. I was feeling excited and fresh. My pace was faster than I’d initially thought I’d go but it felt effortless so I decided to go with it. Risky but ehhh I could reel it back a bit later on once the starting buzz had gone.I totally missed Camp Nou. To be fair I really didn’t have a clue what I was looking for. I knew it’d be around 2-3 miles but I didn’t see anything noteworthy. Ah well. The road was a bit dull but I entertained myself by planning to the minuscule detail what I’d do when finishing the race… walk back, shower, wash hair…etc. It sounds dull but it helped focus my mind on something very bland and easy.

If all went to plan I’d see Kyle at 5k. As I ran over the 5k chip mat I looked around to see if I could see him. He’s a tall guy so it wouldn’t be hard. As I got further I realised he wasn’t there. This depressed me a little to think we’d failed at the first hurdle. Maybe we’d been too ambitious with the number of times to see each other? We should have kept it simple. Ah damn.As I got to about 2.7 miles I spotted him. Hurrah! I was boosted along. The next time I was to see him would be 12.5k. Not long at all.

I realised I needed another wee and decided to wait until 10 miles – something that is becoming more of a habit for me during a marathon!It was becoming very warm and sunny so at every drinks station (every 2.5k ) I started grabbing a bottle of water and drinking some and then pouring a bit over my head. Anything to keep me cool. The drinks stations were a little hectic and the volunteers, as wonderful as they were, didn’t seem to be very prepared with handing out the bottles that quickly. It was a bit chaotic.

As I got closer to the next Kyle Point I started looking out for him in case he was earlier. It helped pass the time. This time though he was exactly where he said he’d be. I waved and he cheered me on. Again it was so lovely to see him.

As I continued on I could feel a slight discomfort in my foot. It had been randomly bothering me a few days before. Not in any serious way, but it had ached in a certain spot at various times and now while I was running I could feel it. I started to panic a little. I’d only gone about 7 or 8 miles…. I had so much further to go. My mind went into stress mode. I made the decision that if it got a lot worse I’d stop. I didn’t want to cause myself a real injury and then not be able to enjoy the rest of the holiday. What if it meant I couldn’t walk? Should I slow down? Should I stop and prod it? What actually was wrong with it?

I got to 10 miles and spotted some loos. Despite there being two people in the queue I decided to wait and use the time to have a fiddle with my foot. An ideal opportunity. Everything felt OK – no sharp pains, no throbbing. I realised that after the two people went into their respective loos that one of the loos had been free the entire time without any of realising. Urgh! So I jumped in and then got going again. My foot felt a lot better. Weird.

Then we ran up the Road of Doom. It was basically a long, straight, shadeless road that went out and back. I suddenly had vivid memories of the Dubai Marathon… Time to put some music on and zone out! I could at least watch the faster runners coming back the other way which was interesting.The road seemed to drag on forever and then finally we turned and headed back. At least it was almost entirely flat. Eventually after a lifetime of boredom, I got to the halfway mark.I realised my watch was completely out from the km markers. The only mile markers were the ones for every 5 miles. So I now had to just go by the km markers. I don’t train in km. I’m not familiar with km. Yes I understand them but they are not my friends. I felt cheated with my watch. My head hurt with trying to do the maths of how far I’d gone, how far I had to go and how long till I’d see Kyle again.

At 22km Kyle was there again. He had a gel for me (like I’d asked him) but I decided it was too early so I quickly said “next time”. He clapped me on and I continued.It was so annoying not knowing the miles. Normally I’d take my gel around 18 miles and now I didn’t know when that would be. Maths became tough going. One mile was 0.6km and 5k was 3.1 miles but what was 18 miles?? My brain wouldn’t work. 42km in a marathon and I wasn’t sure where I was. The sun was very strong now. I was feeling hot. I started counting down the rough time it would be before I could stop and the holiday could carry on without anymore running.

At 28 km I saw Kyle again. I was keen to not miss him as I wanted the gel. I didn’t feel like I needed it especially but I needed something to break the monotony. Luckily I was able to gab it. I told him I felt hot and carried on. I waited until the next water station near 30km before cracking into it (easy maths that ensured I was definitely over 18 miles).

I realise I become super particular during a marathon. The gel was a strawberry and banana flavoured GU. It was overwhelmingly banana and I’m not a big banana flavour fan. I think I thought it was vanilla and strawberry so it was quite an experienceFive more kilometres until I would see Kyle again. And genuinely those km took forever. The sun was relentless. My legs felt OK but I was tired and hot. We were running along the seafront now with no shade.

Finally 35km and there was Kyle. Honestly it helped so much having these Kyle Points. They kept me going. I was literally counting down to seeing him at the finish. I confused myself into thinking only 5k left… nooo that’s 40km Anna! I’d worked out my watch was around 0.8 miles out. I could still see my pace which was faster now. I wanted to get to the finish quicker. We ran through the Arc de Triomphe which was cool.

The final mile, then the final kilometre was never-ending. I was pushing hard to finish now. There was an incline and I was clinging on. I spotted, randomly, someone from my club and I ran up next to him and said hello – though I didn’t recognise him. He was friendly and then zoomed off. I hung onto his coat tails to the finish where there were lots of crowds cheering us in. There were lots of inflatable arches to run through which if I’m honest kind of frustrated me as they felt like fake finishes. WHEN WAS IT ENDING?

I finished in 3:31:45, which was about 10 minutes faster than I’d originally planned. It was actually a really tough marathon.

I felt shattered. Like fully drained. I found Kyle and we sat next to the Magic Fountain, with the slight spray of the water, and just took a moment. I was just glad for it to be over.

I’ve run 18 marathons now and they’re still not easy. Sometimes they feel effortless, sometimes that final 5k just flies by… and then sometimes the conditions are tough and it feels like the hardest thing in the world. This was one of those marathons.

But despite it feeling very hard, having Kyle at the various points cheering me on and knowing I had an amazing few days after of fun kept me going. It was just about getting through those hours and kilometres. I like that I still marathon distance a challenge and that I can never take it for granted. It would be dry boring it’s easy after all 😉


Have you ever been to Barcelona?

What’s the hottest race you’ve done?