Reading parkrun and the Stubbington 10k

When I did the New York Marathon in November I stayed with a bunch of girls who were just lovely. It was all arranged by Charlie, from The Runner Beans, and we had a fantastic time. Happily we’ve since kept in touch.

One of the girls, Cortney, was coming over from her home in Canada to visit so I headed up to Reading to do a little meet-up with a few of the girls. parkrun, brunch and friends – Saturday goals right there! I drove up straight from work on the Friday evening.

That evening we had a lovely girlie night at Charlie’s. Emma (from Nanny on the Run) made a delicious shepherd’s pie with a sweet potato topping. Daaamn it was good.

And we followed that with the less healthy but equally tasty Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (three different kinds! Be still my beating heart. I was a fan of the B&J’s Salted Caramel topped tub but not so huge a fan of the vegan Brownie one).

We chatted, we chilled, we ate and we watched the ever good When Harry Met Sally. It was lovely to see the girls again and properly catch-up.

The next morning we headed to the Reading parkrun. I had been tempted to run when I thought we were going to a different parkrun that I hadn’t done before (Woodley parkrun)…. but as I’d done Reading before (it was my ‘R’) and my calf was still not brilliant, I thought it best to play it safe and volunteer. Charlie was also volunteering and not running due to an injury as well. So I didn’t feel like I was missing out too much.

I was also quite chuffed because I’d been assigned the role of barcode scanner. I’ve never done that job at parkrun and was keen to tick another role off my list! I was also very chuffed for Cortney because it would be her first ever parkrun. Exciting times!

We arrived and ‘signed in’ to our posts. Cortney and Emma headed off to the start and Charlie and I got into our positions.

I was a little sad to be missing out but the other parkrun volunteers were so friendly and chatty that the time flew by and suddenly I was needed to scan the barcodes. It was MANIC. There were three of us scanning and it almost felt never-ending. Lots of people were super friendly and thanked me for my time or chatted to me but some people silently handed me the barcodes or, in a couple of instances, just pointed to their shoe making zero effort. I thought that was a little rude if I’m honest.

Some people asked how they’d done… I’ve no idea! I politely told them they’d find out later in the email. And some people, despite standing in the barcode scanning queue for a lengthy period of time still arrived at me expectantly but without anything prepared. It was quite an interesting experience it must be said. Eventually the buzz died down and I was able to relax a bit. Whew!

A lovely blog reader came and introduced herself to me. It honestly made my morning to hear about her running achievements and goals and that I’d had a little influence on it. I felt very touched. Sometimes it can feel like you’re writing into a void and no one is really listening but to hear from someone I don’t know who does read my random ramblings is just the loveliest thing.

Cortney and Emma did really well and it sounded like they both enjoyed it. Then we headed off for the essential refuel. Volunteering is hard work too! We went to Cafe Yolk, which is a small but very cute little cafe in Reading.

Unsurprisingly I ordered the full English, while the other three girls ordered avocado and eggs on toast. Probably the far healthier option but I’m fairly stuck in my ways and adore a fry-up. It was a rather posh looking fry-up so at least there’s that…

Then we headed for breakfast pudding of course. We originally went to one spot but their cake selection was not up to our high standards and so we headed next door to The Flowering Teapot instead. Now let me tell you, they were fantastic!

All homemade cakes, homemade bread… the whole shabang. The guy behind the counter was so helpful and friendly. Emma asked if there were any vegan cakes and he said there was a carrot cake being finished in the back so we waited for that (the owner who was finishing it said she’d be super quick for us which was lovely). While we waited the guy cut us a bit of the millionaire shortbread to nibble on. I mean, how good is that?

I went for the millionaire shortbread in the end because it was so good. We took our cakes and had a cup of tea at Charlie’s with them. A lovely way to end a lovely meet up!

The next day was the Stubbington 10k. This race literally runs past my house. It starts about a 5 minute walk up the road, and finishes about 15 minutes walk away so it’s super local and convenient. Sadly though I continued to be sensible and decided not to run. However, Kyle was.

He’s never run an official 10k race so I was quite excited for him. I detest 10ks so realistically I wasn’t too sad to miss the race but I was sad not to be running with Kyle and experiencing it with him. Instead, I would be walking to the 9k marker with my dad and Alfie in order to help cheer him. It would also be a nice walk for the three of us.

For whatever reason (probably entirely down to me being me) we thought the race started at 9.30am. I told Kyle he could easily leave the house at 9.15am and get to the start in enough time. My dad and I would need to leave just before 9am to walk the 2+ miles to the 9k marker, meaning we’d be there in time (9.35ish for Kyle to run past). Perfectly under control, nicely planned, we are amazing.

Except as my dad and me were 20 minutes up the road my mum rung to say the race actually started at 10am so Kyle and her were going to sit in a coffee shop for a bit to waste some time. Ah. Classic Anna.

This meant my dad and I were quite early and decided to go find our own coffee shop for a quick drink before heading to the spot. Not too bad considering – I mean, it’s not like we were late! That would have been a lot worse.

Around 10.20am the first runners started passing through and we cheered them on. I saw lots of friends, people I knew and people from my running club so it was good fun. However I do have silly panic moments where despite fully knowing these people I never seem to remember names!! Something about seeing people running just makes my mind go blank. Bit embarrassing but there we go.

Then Kyle ran past (I managed to remember his name ;-)). Then my dad and me quick marched to the finish to catch him afterwards. He’d done a fantastic time of 42:59 – just scraping under the 43 minute mark! Very jammy. And so fast! I remember for my first 10k I did 43:34. Clearly Kyle is going to be super fast in the future considering he hasn’t been running for long! He definitely has a lot more to give.

He mentioned he much prefers the shorter distances to the marathons. I can understand that (though I personally don’t have that preference, obviously). I think Kyle will do well in all distances but I think he’ll probably focus more on the shorter stuff.

Though I’m sad he doesn’t share the same marathon love I do, it does make it a little more interesting for us! I can happily support those shorter distances (I think I get the easier deal here hehe).

What distance do you prefer to race?

What parkrun volunteering role haven’t you done yet but would like to?

Do like to volunteer when you’re injured/not running?

Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 2018

I’d signed up to this race almost immediately after finishing it last year because I enjoyed it so much.

It was just such a good event. The course was interesting, the atmosphere was very festive and relaxed and it was a great way to end the year. Kyle had signed up earlier in the year as he was just getting into running and wanted a challenge. And I guess running with me quite a lot meant that the marathon seemed like the logical step considering I would always sing their praises!After a rather stressful day before (more on that another time), my alarm went off at 7am. The plan was to leave my house at 7.40am to get there for 8ish. I had my bib already and really had nothing else to do there. I’d already planned to have a wee a mile or so where I knew they’d be toilets on the course so I wasn’t worried. Kyle was going from his house so I’d meet him there.I ate my porridge and drank a black coffee and was ready to go. Marathon morning is always a little bit tense and as my dad, mum and I all piled into the car later than we’d intended a bit of an argument erupted. It was about nothing major really but enough to create a very stressful morning. My dad and I very similar personalities and are ridiculously stubborn so neither of us were backing down and in the end we sat in silence on the way to the start.Realising this was not going to go away and not wanting to spend the next 4 or so hours in a grump with my dad as I ran, I decided to make the move to reconciling and happily all was well again. We agreed we’d been very silly.
I jumped out of the car and met Kyle and his family: his two sisters, his two brothers, his mum (his dad, his dad’s partner and son would be at the end) -so quite the crowd! My dad was parking the car and as we were pushing for time, Kyle and I hurried off to the start. I noticed the start was further up the prom which was good news considering last year’s race was 27 miles so clearly they’d rectified this, whew!Kyle barely had time to say much to each other but I wished him lots of luck and then we suddenly realised the race had started! I hoped that it wasn’t too stressful a start for Kyle (but equally far better than waiting around for hours getting cold). Luckily it was chip timed so starting late didn’t really matter. We ran a few paces together before I headed off.

I was very tempted to run with Kyle. It would have been nice to have chatted and been with him, but I knew that the later stages of the race wouldn’t be as fun for him and he might appreciate not having me there wittering away trying to encourage him. It can be quite stressful to have someone run with you and I didn’t want to put any pressures on him with paces. Plus, as selfish as this sounds, I felt like my legs might be feeling good – could I beat last year’s time? (3:47ish).

As we’d started a little late, we were right at the back and the first mile was spent weaving around people and saying hello to people I knew. It was a great way to ease into the race and relax, as I was unable to shoot off too fast. My friend Mark sidled up next to me and we had a nice chat. I then dashed into the toilets when I spotted them and found all six cubicles engaged. Ah well! I didn’t have to wait too long and then I was out back in the race.

I eventually caught back up to Mark. He was running a controlled race (easy at the start, then from halfway picking it up). His pace was probably faster than I’d intended to go but I felt comfortable and it was nice to have a catch-up as I hadn’t properly seem him in a while.

Mark is a very fast and methodological runner. Like me he likes to have his paces fed back to him and the miles planned. We both knew neither of us would do anything too silly and equally if one of us needed space we could tell the other to, politely, go away and no feelings would be hurt.Despite the forecast giving me some anxieties the days before, the rain held off and there was just a moderate breeze. I had my arm-warmers on and short-sleeves. I knew I’d need to remove the sleeves at some point as I was starting to feel just slightly too warm. We were VERY lucky with the weather, but the previous rain that night had caused the terrain to be muddy, slippery and riddled with puddles.The first six miles seemed to fly by. We’d gone over the shingle (no major bottleneck like the year before) and then had the long stretch along the coast to the first point where I’d see Kyle’s and my family. Their cheering was so loud and enthusiastic, it was lovely. I felt very much boosted along.Now it was just four miles until I’d see them again. The great thing about this race is how segmented it is. You don’t get bored because the course is always different… down a pavement, through a forest, on a trail path, back onto pavement. It really helped mix things up and keep you interested.Mark and I chatted away about different training styles, races, life lately, the price of petrol, doughnuts…my mind could focus on other stuff rather than running. I imagine had I been on my own I wouldn’t have been running as fast as we were going, but equally I didn’t feel uncomfortable and could talk so I wasn’t too concerned.I took my sleeves off (annoyingly having to take my watch off to do this) and got them ready to hand over to my dad at the 10(ish) mile point. Again, the whole crew was there and I was so busy smiling, waving and enjoying the cheers that I failed to see a bollard and almost collided with it. To be fair there were two runners ahead of me blocking it and by the time I saw it it was almost too late. Thankfully I managed to quickly avoid a major collision, though it did arouse some laughter from the crowds. But whew, could have been nasty.

And on we went for the three-ish miles to the turnaround point. Now we were facing directly against the wind and amusingly one of the mile signs said “Bloody wind” underneath which made us smile wryly. All the mile markers had different things written on them like Muhammad Ali, Ronnie Corbett and Bowie – I’m guessing legends!

The three miles is a bit of a slog and for me is the most boring part of the route as it doesn’t change much. There were also lots of puddles and it was at that point where you just couldn’t be bothered to avoid them anymore. The nice part of this route is that you get to see other runners (the faster ones and the second leg of the relays) coming the other way.We eventually made it to the turnaround and I suddenly felt a new lease of life – we were heading back! Mark commented that our pace had increased in line with what he’d planned and this concerned me a bit. I shouldn’t be going for it just yet with 13 miles still to go! I slowed down a bit, but the wind was now behind us so helped make it feel less of an effort. I got to spot lots more people coming the other way now, including Kyle! He looked a bit tired but still strong. We waved and smiled and then he was gone. I hoped he’d continue to be as strong as the race continued.We got back round to the infamous bollard spot, now 16 miles, and I saw only my dad. I assumed it was because I was running a bit faster than expected and everyone else was in the pub across the road keeping warm (good choice!). Mark then said he was going to push his pace, so I waved him off and we wished each other good luck and he disappeared into the distance (FYI he finished very strong with 3:22:11).

I popped my music on as I felt I needed to zone out and enjoy some time on my own. The trail was now even more muddy and slippery as more people had gone over it. There’s a precarious bit right next to the water and I genuinely had fears of sliding over into it. Imagine!It started to feel quite tough now. I felt my energy disappearing, mentally and physically. It was now a concerted effort to keep going. I had a bit of my Salted Caramel Cliff Shot and hoped it would boost me up a bit. As I came up to the 20ish mile point I hoped to see my parents again. From a distance I saw a BMW pull up into the car park and I saw my mum get out of the car. My dad remained in the car. I was coming towards them quickly now and I started to wave. My mum saw me and clearly said something to my dad and he quickly jumped out of the car. 

They cheered and waved as I passed and I was so pleased to have caught them in time. It must have been a logistical nightmare to get from the different supporting points (as well as having two of us at different times running).Now I was on my own completely until the end. Just under 6 miles to go and then I’d be finishing. This spurred me on and I started saying mantras in my head that seem so ridiculous in any other setting but during a marathon can really make a difference to me. Basically I’ll think things like “I’m a strong runner” or “I can do this” and “I’ve got this”. I’ve even found myself saying it out-loud during the race if no one is around me. It helps drown out any negative thoughts about how tired I am.

We did the detour bit round the residential areas (due to the tide coming in) and I found myself overtaking a few people here and there. But I just wanted to get onto the front because then I knew how far I had left to go in real terms. This windy route through roads and back alleys was killing me.

Finally we turned the corner to the sea and I saw a girl just ahead. As we turned the wind went fully against us (exactly like what usually happens at the Great South Run). Ooof this was horrible! And in my mind I’d decided to try and overtake the girl. This now meant I needed to run faster than I was before to get past her but with even more effort due to the wind. It was a slow overtake that then caused me a lot of grief because she seemed to speed up a bit. I could hear her feet just behind me and all I wanted to do was get away from her. Eventually though I managed to pull ahead, but the effort level was so hard.

I then wondered where we’d be finishing – would it be where we started or further along near the Pyramids like last time? It was agonising because I just wanted to finish sooner but as we got to the start area I miserably realised no one was there… ehhh, further to go now! I passed a guy who told me I was running strong and doing well, but all I could reply was “gahh can’t talk sorry!”.

People who were casually walking up the prom clapping and shouted encouragement and I tried to keep a smile on my face. Ahead I saw our two families cheering me in and this pushed me to go as fast as I could to the finish. WHEW.My time was 3:25:35, first in my age category and fourth female overall. Damn it was good to stop running! I was so pleased though – I couldn’t believe how fast I’d gone!I collected my medal and goodies and quickly found the guys and asked them how Kyle was doing. Apparently he was three-ish miles away (his brother, Zack, was tracking him using the “Find My Friends” app on the iPhone – so he wasn’t far away at all. We all started wondering what time he’d be able to do – could he get under four hours?Zack and his other brother, Adam, walked up the prom to cheer him in further up and tell him to, well, get a move on basically if he wanted the sub-4! He was literally now only minutes away. We kept looking at the time on the race clock… but I knew we had a few minutes grace  because we started a bit late. It was going to be tight though!

Eventually we saw him coming in, Zack running besides him pushing him on. He squeaked in at 3:59:35. Sub-4!We spent a good amount of time taking photos, chatting and comparing notes of everyone’s day (I love to hear what the supporters get up to while we’re running – invariably my dad always seems to find a good breakfast spot) and I could have burst with pride for Kyle. He was a little battered and tired but he was happy.Ahh what a good day. And of course a huge thank you to our amazing support crew (who even made signs!). It massively helped keep us going and just made the day for us 🙂A fantastic way to the end the year and a fantastic result for Kyle’s first marathon!

Do you enjoy running a race with other people?

What do your supporters do during a race?

Merry Christmas!

Gosport Half Marathon 2018

I was all of a quandary for the Gosport Half Marathon this year.

Last year I ran it with my friend Martin, trying to help him PB and had really good fun. I mean, I guess he wasn’t having quite as much fun as I was as he was going for a PB time whereas I was using it as a long run but I hope it was a good day regardless for him. I did try and get Kyle a place last minute but that failed so he gamely said he’d support instead.

This year I was coming off the back of some solid marathon training and some speedy 10k training runs… so I could be in with a shot for a good time. A PB? Hmmm unlikely. I’m realistic enough to know I’m not in that sort of shape (1:31:06! I still don’t believe it). That said, a good solid full-on effort could possibly get me 1:33-34 if I was really pushing it and the weather was kind to me.

But I was in a quandary. Firstly, the weather really does make a huge amount of difference for this race. The course runs twice up and down the coast – literally next to the sea. It’s a route I regularly run for my long runs so I’m well aware of how the coastal wind can really punish or help you. As you run up AND down, it can be a game-changer. If the weather played ball, it could be a great opportunity to give it some welly as the course is very flat, but my problem was that I wouldn’t really know for certain until the day.

Secondly, I was feeling myself wussing out (as I always do) and decided to potentially shoot myself in the foot and make it into a long run regardless by running four(ish) miles to the race start in the morning. In my head this was a solid warm-up, (though realistically too long a warm-up necessary for a half marathon). Basically I was covering my bases if the run went badly then at least I’d gotten in a 17 mile run – miles in the bank, as it were.

The morning of (still undecided on how I would run) I woke up feeling very sick. This is the second time in a few weeks this has happened to me. I’m generally quite a healthy person and rarely get ill. I pride myself on my stomach of steel. I couldn’t think of a single thing I’d eaten that would have caused me an issue. The only thing that I could connect the two mornings where I felt sick was the fact that the day before I drank a can of Monster energy drink. I don’t normally drink energy drinks but I’ve found myself quite enjoying the taste (and after doing a bit of research found they wasn’t actually that much more caffeine than my regular Starbucks coffee). However, I don’t think they agree with me because the only two times I’ve drunk them has made me feel incredibly sick the next day. That’s the only thing I can think of. It might not be, but who knows? (No, I’m not pregnant – big lols to that).

Anyway, whatever the reason, I felt sick and it woke me up an hour before my alarm. When my alarm eventually did go off (I lay dozing in bed fretting and not particularly having a good time with my tummy) the major nausea had passed and I thought I might as well attempt the four mile run there and if it went badly I’d can the race.So off I went. I hadn’t had breakfast or coffee, just a bit of water. Normally if I was aiming for a PB I would have had both (can you tell I’m getting in the excuses early? ;-)) The 4.6 miles (whoops longer than I thought) actually went surprisingly well. My stomach felt fine and by the time I reached the final bit I found myself running 7.30 min/miles and not feeling it too much of a strain. The wind was a leeeetle breezy along the coast but nothing catastrophic.

I knew I wouldn’t have a stellar speedy race – the lead-up and sickness just hadn’t set me up for it and my mindset was of “ehhh I’m just not feeling it”. But I also didn’t want to waste an opportunity of decent weather and a good course. I decided to compromise with myself and aim for 7.30min/miles and no slower. That would be a solid tempo run – and with the 4.6 miles at the start, a good long run. The temptation to run with my friend Mike (who was aiming for 8 min/miles) was strong but I knew I needed to woman-up. I was in good shape, it would be a solid training run.

So I collected my bib and headed to the start with some of the other Hedgies. It wasn’t that cold (well I wasn’t anyway considering I’d done the run before) and it was lovely and sunny. As we started, I made sure to head off quickly to avoid the temptation of ditching my plan and running slower.Because I’d started a fair way back it was really tricky at the start to weave in and out of people. And then when we got onto the road it was just packed. Only one side of the road was cordoned off and this made it tricky to get properly going.

The race has a strict no headphones policy (even stating no bone conducting headphones) as it is only partial road closures. That’s fair enough. I obviously didn’t wear any so let my mind wander and listen in to other people’s conversations.I stuck to my aim of keeping around 7.30min/miles or under. To be honest it was a little dull…I’ve run up and down this exact road so many times as it’s literally where I do all my long runs, but in that respect it did make the miles disappear quickly.

At Lee-On-Solent, near where the parkrun is held, I saw my top support crew: my parents, Kyle, my sister (!!), her partner Mike and my two nieces Megan and Ellie. They whooped and cheered and I was boosted along. This is actually the first race my sister has ever come to support me at so it really was a lovely moment (she works a lot of weekends and has two kids to look after so I’ll let her off). I also saw the lovely Rebecca who cheered me on – always so cheerful!

I ran past the water station. They were using plastic pouches which I think is great in terms of dropping on the floor you won’t trip over them like bottles. However, the use of so much plastic is still bad. So much waste. However, to be fair to the organisers they did mention this on their website that they were conscious that the use of plastic wasn’t ideal but because of the wind they’re unable to use paper cups as they just fly all over the place. Tricky.At around 4 miles you get to Hill Head and turn around. There were lots of marshals and supporters cheering which was nice. I saw lots of familiar, friendly faces. (Thanks to James for the above photo. And Martin Lewis for the below photo).Then it was back up the coast to head back to where we came from. The only difference was now we were on the promenade bit rather than the above pavement next to the road. I saw my support crew again who really pushed me along. I was managing to maintain my sub 7.30min/mile pace but it wasn’t easy. It was a sustained effort. And urrrgh to do this all again, it felt very taxing on my brain.The nice part is as you run back to the start you have the faster runners coming back and you can watch them and cheer them on – and sometimes get cheers back from people who know you which is nice. I got back to the start and did the turn around. Right, just one more time!The wind was pushing us on in this direction (I wouldn’t have said it was that windy but you could feel it – and certainly feel it against you on the way back). I tried to smile when I saw people I knew but it was an effort. I definitely did not feel that amazing joy I felt during New York, and it just further reminded me of how much I love marathons and how much I dislike all other distances 😉 The pressure to go faster makes it tough (yes, the pressure that I put on myself!)Kyle mentioned later that when he saw me I looked like I was having a tough time. I was. It felt hard. Though looking at my paces this would make sense.And though I felt like I was getting slower and slower I actually wasn’t doing too badly. It felt like everyone was overtaking me but realistically I wasn’t dropping behind. I guess everyone around me was just doing a lot better! Though mile 12 was definitely a GRIND.I managed to pick it up towards the end and the final long sprint was tortuous but speedy (for me). What a relief to finish! I stumbled along and was handed a goodie bag, a chunk of cake (wheeeee!), my medal and a cold drink of water. Much better.What a difference of a race from last year! Happy smiling and loving life last year (though not racing) with a time of 1:46:40 compared to this year attempting to race in a sustained effort sort of way and getting 1:36:10 – 10 minutes quicker but probably 10 times less fun 😉What was nice was having my mum, dad, sister, her partner, my nieces and Kyle there to support me. It really was lovely. It’s such a local race to me and running a race round the roads I normally do my long runs is quite bizarre. It’s a little dull, yes, but it’s a good course with good support. Lots of my running club do it as well which makes for a friendly and fun run too. And of course there is good cake 😉

I’m glad I didn’t wuss out completely but I’m also glad I did the miles beforehand. I feel like I got a really good (but tough) long run in. I don’t often use a long run as a proper training run (to be fair, I don’t often do training runs…). Happy days.

Do you like to run to races?

Would you do a race round where you normally run?

The New York Marathon – part 2

Carrying on my New York Marathon recap.

**Catch up with Part 1 HERE**

So I had just come off from the (dreaded) Queensboro Bridge and the mile slog that had entailed. Coming out of that silence and tough effort onto a nice decline and then straight into the busy streets of New York again was fantastic. It was almost nice to have had that respite of silence to fully appreciate the crowds again.

The sun was still shining, I was feeling a bit warm but nothing crazy. Now from 17 miles to 21 miles it was literally straight down First Avenue. It was also gently downhill. So with the crowds and the now wonderful feeling of no longer being on a bridge grinding upwards, I was flying along. I started to wonder what time I might get… sub 3:30? Could I do it?My pace was dangerous but I felt good. Now we were in Manhattan. I was still having the time of my life, waving at crowds, smiling and just being on top of the world. A woman in the crowd pointed at me and shouted “Anna you are STRONG” and in my happy little mind I thought “yes, yes I am!”.I find with marathons that it really helps to smile, even if you’re not feeling it. It tricks you into thinking it’s going OK and it boosts the crowds to cheer you. I definitely felt boosted!

I hadn’t paid enough attention to what Charlie and Anna had said before the race about where they were going to stand and clearly got confused because I thought they were going to be at mile 19… but they actually said they were going to be at mile 24. So at mile 19 I was looking for them but obviously didn’t see them. I’m annoyed that I didn’t listen properly because had I have known I would have looked at 24!

But around mile 19 we passed the area where our AirBnb was – and “our” Dunkin Donuts that we’d been going to. I suppose to anyone else it would have just been another Dunkin Donuts but to me it was like “ahhh! Familiar places!” and was a really nice moment. I knew where I was!At 20 miles I felt a new lease of life. Like I’m almost there. Less than hour I’ll be done! I put some high powered tunes on and focused on keeping going. I could barely hear my music though due to the crowds but it helped a little. Another bridge and we were into the Bronx, where I’d been told the support would thin out. I don’t feel like that was less support but I wondered just how more bridges to go and as we headed back to Manhattan I saw a sign that said “This is the last bridge!” and was SO grateful.

I remembered Charlie saying that mile 23 was the tough one. We’d run a bit of it the day before and it was literally all incline. It was a tough ask at this point. My legs still felt good, I was still buzzing but now my smile was occasionally a grimace as I knuckled down.

I started doing maths in my head for what time I thought I could get. Now I was wondering if a sub 3:25 would be on the cards. I was well over the mile markers possibly due to satellites or general drifting around the course so I made sure to try and work it out from an actual marker and not my watch. I was working out the eight times table in my head as I thought that was the easiest and most conservative.Charlie and Anna saw me (though I genuinely can’t remember seeing them) and they snapped two fantastic photos  which were better than any of the official ones.I was clearly in the zone! We got properly into Central Park and a man shouted to me “Hey Anna! Welcome to the Park!” and it was a really lovely moment. So random, but really lovely.And now I was on the struggle bus. Every 0.1 was a grind. I was holding on for dear life, pushing up the inclines and trying to fly down any declines. I knew the final 5k was going to be tough and it was. But though physically it was hard, I was still happy. Yes, happy that the finish was soon but also because the crowds were just amazing and I was smashing it. The finis line was after a grueling final uphill and I (gratefully) crossed the line 3:21:29, 3713/52697 overall, 116/3544 in my age group, 205/1812 Brit. Pretty cool! I was over the moon and honestly quite shocked how I’d managed to do that – and how I’d found it a lot easier than the previous Goodwood Marathon which was around 5 minutes slower. It just shows what a fantastic course and cheering crowd can do!I shuffled through the finish area and the sunshine and felt wonderful. My dad rung me straight away – he must have got notified I’d finished. I chatted to him very briefly as I realised I only had under 20% battery left and still needed to navigate my way back. I wanted to speak to Kyle but kept it sensible by using WhatsApp rather than drain any more battery.

Charlie had given me the AirBnb key as it was likely I’d be the first to finish. I hadn’t really planned what i was going to do after the race… but I knew Steph was going to head and find an apparently very popular pie straight after.She had luckily managed to get into Wave 1 so had started ahead of me and though she was taking the race as a training run (I think she did 3:50ish) finished around the same time as me. Very handy! Especially as I really didn’t know how to get back. I was going to walk using my phone to navigate but at this point I don’t think it was going to last.So I headed to pick up my amazing poncho and goodie bag. The poncho…well I can’t even explain how decent it is!It’s huge, waterproof, with a fleecy lining and a hood. I won’t be throwing this away anytime soon. It was part of my package (I bought my place and flights for the marathon with 209 events – I fully recommend them) but  believe you do have to pay extra to get it.

I met up with Steph (thank god!) and she took me to the amazing Milk Bar for some post marathon treats. Steph is very much into her food like I am so she a good person to be around at this point 😉

The Milk Bar was tricky to find and tiny. Once inside though, we had to wait in a quite a long queue – clearly a popular spot!Steph assured me the thing to order was the Crack Pie (real name), which I was totally game for.And I also bought some Birthday Cake Truffles.We then shuffled to the Subway to head home. Countless random people congratulated us – it was brilliant. In fact, we passed the Trump building where people were protesting outside and watched a very heated and sweary shouting match between a protester and a passerby. As we walked past the protester immediately softened his voice and said “Congratulations, girls!” it was quite amusing.

A this point neither of us had sat down since the Staten Island ferry – remember, we didn’t even sit on the bus! My legs were dunzo. I was exhausted. I almost cried when we got onto the metro and saw a rather shifty and possibly high/drunk guy sit sprawled out on the only two seats left on the train.

A wonderful woman noticed and promptly berated the man to stand up and let us sit down, “These girls have just run the MARATHON”. He quickly hopped up and we were able to sit down. I was so grateful to that lady!

We FINALLY got back to the AirBnb and the two of us happily sat and scoffed our pies and a numerous number of grapes (so refreshing). I had a glorious shower and then enjoyed seeing each of the other girls come in and swapping marathon stories with them. Everyone had had a good (albeit tough of course) race. Hurrah!

That evening we went out for Mexican food at Tolouche and celebrated happily together. I’ve never seen guacamole be demolished as quickly as it was though! The tortilla chips were hot and the guac was INSANELY good.For my main, I went for some sort of pulled short rib thing on a tortilla. It hit the spot.Of course we all wore our medals! Though I would have liked to have had a giant pudding of some sort I sensibly followed suite of the majority ruling (post marathon tummy is a delicate thing). We were all grateful to head to bed early that night – Anna and Charlie as well, they’d walked and cheered for silly lengths of time!Genuinely, the New York Marathon is my favourite marathon yet. I felt amazing both physically and mentally. I literally LOVED it. Yes there were tough moments but I remember distinctly thinking several times “I love this” as I was running. Having no time goals or pressures definitely helped. The crowds HUGELY helped. The sights and the sheer amazingness of New York helped. My only sadness is my family and Kyle were so far away, but I had some great new friends who helped make it very special.Next up… Portsmouth Coastal Marathon in December!

Have you ever run the New York Marathon?

What’s your favourite race?

What food do you like post-race?

**Check out Charlie’s blog for details about future running-related trips she’s organising!**

New York Marathon 2018 – part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever run the New York Marathon?

What is a must for you on race morning?

How early do you eat before a race?