Clarendon Marathon Relay recap

The New York Marathon is about three weeks away.

What with lots of plans happening left right and centre it’s getting tricky to plan in a solid proper long run of the 18+ miles variety. Though I know I’ve recently just run a marathon I did want to do at least one good long run before New York to kind of “top me up”. But I wasn’t sure how I was going to get this in as I had the Clarendon Marathon Relay planned for the weekend before last – the best weekend available to me.

The Clarendon Marathon was obviously a marathon event but it also allowed runners to joining as a team of four and run the race as a relay too. I’d signed up with three others from my running group weeks and weeks ago and it had suddenly come around. My leg was number 3 but was “only” 7.6 miles. This would be fine but in reality I needed more. I also didn’t want to run a mega long run the day before as I wanted a lie-in and had plans.After discussing it with my team mates I decided I’d run another leg unofficially just to top up my miles. I added up three legs but it came to almost 20 miles and I wasn’t sure I was up for that long a run. I decided instead I’d run with Mike on his leg (leg 2) and then carry on for my leg after, giving me about 14 miles. Then I’d try and do another shorter run later in the day when I got back (urgh).

So on the Sunday morning I was up early and had some porridge. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have bothered with breakfast (I never tend to before a run) but as I wasn’t going to be running until after 11am it wasn’t a good idea to leave myself that long without food and then try and run. Plus I didn’t know when I’d be back and I’d probably be a hangry wreck to be around. Then I headed off to meet the team at Hedge End for 8.30am. I got to the meeting spot and found there were quite a few doing it from our club – I hadn’t realised it would be this busy!We had a few teams entered for the relay and a few guys doing the full marathon – so we were amongst very friendly company.The race starts in Salisbury and we parked up on a residential street just opposite the school. Several people followed suit and soon the road was quite full of cars. This probably wasn’t an entirely desirable situation for the residents but I imagine many, like us, wouldn’t be hanging around because we’d need to drive to the next relay point – and any marathon supporters would need to drive to the finish in Winchester (it’s a point to point course).Alan, our first relay guy, got himself ready to go and the rest of us milled about putting our numbers on and joking around. A photographer came over to me and asked if I was part of the HERC and I said yes. He then asked if a bunch of the male HERC members could pick me up and hold me for a photo. Riiiiiight. I was quickly hoisted up and had a very bizarre photo taken. In efforts to keep the balance, this was quickly replicated with another member – a larger male runner. It was quite amusing.We then headed outside to cheer on the marathoners and the first relayers. It was beautiful and sunny, albeit chilly, and surrounding us was beautiful hilly scenery and fields. It was lovely.So we cheered the first runners and marathoners off and then headed quickly back to our cars to drive to the next point – just over 10k away (I obviously didn’t do any of the navigating or driving because that’s far too much adulting required).Relay races always feel like such an adventure in this respect. Everyone rushing about trying to get to the next point on time and all the while knowing your runner is out there steadily heading that way.We got to the next point and I had a quick wee before waiting with Mike to see the first runners come through. This was Mike’s leg and I was merely going to be joining him – he would set the pace and I was happy with that. I wasn’t looking to break any records (nor was he). Just a nice scenic amble of just over 10k.Alan headed through in just over 51 minutes (very respectable considering how hilly the course is) and Mike took the chip from him (which could be strapped onto his wrist) and we both headed off. The course was mostly off-road and undulating/hilly. But there were minimal cars, it was well sign-posted and the smiling cheering marshals were frequent enough for us not to get lost and push us on. There were lots of aid stations as well full of squash, water, cakes and nibbles. The temperature was perfect for running – a bit nippy in the shade at the start but lovely in the sunshine without being too hot.Mike and I chatted away when the hills weren’t too strenuous and I started to ponder what I’d do about my run. I felt very comfortable running… the miles were ticking by easily. I could take my run nice and easy and then maybe, just maybe I could keep pushing until the end? Wouldn’t that be easier than having to tack some more miles on later in the day. I mean, we’d have to wait for Keith, our number four runner, anyway so it made sense to use the time wisely rather than schedule it in later. I decided to judge how I felt during my run, which I knew would be the hilliest of all the sections. If I needed to stop after that then fine. But I also knew Keith’s leg was the shortest (just under 10k) and not as hilly.As we got to about 100m from the relay hand-over point (the sign posts were nice and clear for the handovers which made it a very seamless transition), Mike suddenly put in a sprint. I was not prepared for this and had to sprint with him to keep up – after all he would be handing over to me!! I grabbed the wrist-strap from him and as we got to the point I headed off and he stopped. Lots of our club were there and they cheered me on.After a mile I switched my Aftershokz headphones on and listened to some very chilled music on a low volume. It was just nice to have some background noise while I zoned out. It was one of those runs where you think of nothing and everything. I took in the beautiful scenery and found myself running a bit faster. It was a good running day!After a mile or so of my lap suddenly there was an influx of runners who appeared coming round the corner. Like over a hundred runners joining the run! It shocked me – were two races merging on one day? Then I remembered that the half marathon was also happening and this must be where they started. They all looked super fresh of course. It was a little frustrating to suddenly have to weave through a lot of people and I felt like a bit of dick at times but eventually I got to a position where I could be “one with the flow” rather than dodging my way through.And yes the hills were tough. On one significant one I decided to walk – as a lot of others had too. I saw a friend of mine, Ben, from Lords Hill and we chatted as we slogged on up. He had done the cross country earlier that morning (he too was after more miles for a long run) so we were both taking it relatively easy. That said, his easy was not my easy!

As we started running again we chatted for a bit before I told him to go on. I was no longer feeling relaxed at that pace. I did manage to catch him up later as he had a rough time of it towards the end, but he did well regardless (I think he did over 17 miles in the end).

There was quite the break-neck downhill at one point and I tried to just let myself go. I could see the bottom of the hill was clear running so I had nothing to fear. It was terrifying but fun!As I got to the handover point I knew I was going to carry on. I felt strong and I felt good. I ran over to Keith and handed him the relay arm strap thing and told him I was running on but not to wait for me. I didn’t want him to hold himself back (and ultimately our team!) because I’d decided I wanted more miles and couldn’t keep up.

I managed to stay with Keith’s VERY fast pace for about a mile before he gradually peeled off. I was more than happy with this because honestly his pace was insane to me at this point! I couldn’t maintain that having run all the miles before and it being a hilly course. The main thing that kept me going really was that I knew it was less than 10k and a few people had told me beforehand that the last leg was the easiest OK, just hold on Anna.

I went past one marshal who happily yelled “fantastic! We need more ladies up the field!” which was nice. All the marshals were brilliant to be honest. I kept Keith in my sights and was able to overtake a few marathoners and half marathoners as I went and felt so pleased that I wasn’t going to have to run again later.

I was very conscious though that I didn’t want to hold our team up though because they’d have to wait for me at the end. This was strong motivation to keep me going and maintaining a decent pace. I did feel a bit cheeky that I was getting cheered on as technically this wasn’t my race anymore… The photographer even jokingly remarked at how often he’d seen me (on our bibs it says our leg number).There were two quite sneaky and painful hills at the end and then finally someone shouted it was about 500 yards to go – not that I had the foggiest what a yard looked like really. But surely that meant reasonably close?

Thank you Andy for the photo!

I turned round the corner and there was a nice stretch of grass before the finish funnel. Whew! 19.75 miles DONE.I was so pleased to have gotten almost 20 miles done and dusted. And it hadn’t felt like a super long run. Being joining by different people and the undulating course helped break up the monotony. I was glad to have a guzzle of water at the end, pick up my medal and t-shirt (which fitted perfectly! Actual female small sizes yay!). Then I joined my team to celebrate.
Keith had finished just ahead of me so thankfully they didn’t have to wait too long for me. We came 5th out of the mix relay teams which isn’t shabby at all! Our overall time was 3:30:42. This is a great time! I don’t think any of us would have been able to have run the entire marathon in that time!The winning team did it in sub-3 hours which was insane – a solid 42 minutes ahead of us (can I also say, a full female team as well!).Then we cheered on a few more of the other HERC team members coming in (and other runners of course) before deciding to head off home. Whew! I was so so glad not to have to run again and that I’d gotten it done all at once. Last solid long run before New York dunzo!This was a fantastic race – I fully recommend. Friendly, scenic and well organised!

Have you ever done a relay race?

Are you good at organising in team events?

Would you like to the start or finishing position a relay?

The Goodwood Marathon

On Sunday I ran the Goodwood Marathon. I’m not entirely sure why I thought a lapped marathon would be a good idea but at the time I actually thought it was eight laps not 11 until I got an email closer to the time (standard Anna).

Ah OK, that sounded quite a bit worse. But it was meant to be flat and the idea of counting to 11 rather than 26 sounded sounded marginally better in my head. Running around a cool race track…it was flat… it was at a good time of year and about seven weeks before the New York Marathon so ehhh what’s the worst that could happen asides from getting a bit dizzy and bored?The marathon was at the Goodwood Motor Race Track in Chichester. It started at 9am (and then the 20 miler, half marathon, 10k and 5k started later afterwards in cascading times).

My training had gone really well. I’d gotten a good number of solid long runs in, no niggles, some speedy parkruns and speedwork. Well, it all looked pretty good physically. Mentally though I wasn’t in the mindset to attempt a PB run. I’d done that at Brighton and I was quite happy to leave it there. Marathons for me are not about smashing PB’s each time. But I did want to aim for a faster time than I normally would… maybe creep under 3:30?

Another delightful plot twist was that my time of the month had sprung up on me. I’ve done 14 marathons and this has yet to happen – quite lucky I realise. But not today. Without going TMI, I’m very lucky in how things go for me and it’s never really an issue. I can still run and be fine and don’t get bad cramps or headaches, so I wasn’t worried.I had my parents and Kyle were coming to cheer me on which made everything seem a whole lot better. They’d get to cheer me on ELEVEN times (surely they’d get sick of me!). And my friend Mike and Kev were doing it too (amongst other lovely runners I know through social media).So it didn’t look to be a bad day at all. We left the house at 7.30am and drove our way there without issue (and with my trainers firmly on my feet…). I ate my usual porridge and had a black coffee.We arrived and I immediately needed to go to the loo, as you do. There were portable loos in the car park (which was free!) so I went there. MISTAKE. It absolutely stunk. Like properly stunk. It was pretty grim. But as a runner when you see a loo without a big queue at a race YOU GO. Little did I know there were actually very lovely proper toilets in the race village. Ah well.I picked up my bib, got some free GU gels (my favourite brand) and then got a photo with The Stig who was milling about. He did say he wasn’t allowed to talk but we had a nice chat 😉One more quick wee and then I headed off to the ‘warm-up’ area near the track after saying goodbye to my parents and Kyle. My dad was in Full Supporter Mode and I could see him training Kyle up (while my mum, bless her, just took in the scenery and enjoyed the buzz).The warm-up seemed similar to a HIIT class so I did my own mini dynamic warm-up (aka a random squat, a lunge and a token arm swing). And then they started calling out marathon finishing times so we could be sort of order as we stood at the start. Considering there were only about 100 people running the marathon I didn’t think this was entirely necessary but OK. I didn’t really want to declare what time I was going for so early on (mainly because I wasn’t sure) but when they said 3:30 I thought that I might as well aim high (or low?).I don’t think I’ve ever been so close to the start of a marathon. It made me feel very nervous! I could see Kyle, my mum and dad on the balcony bit above me and they were waving and cheering which was nice. This was a very chilled marathon. None of the hype and buzz of the a Major or a big city marathon, it was a nice change.So we got going. The first part of the marathon was a short out and back bit to make sure the correct distance was hit. I sort of forgot about this and only remembered as we literally got to the cone turnaround bit and then headed back the other way. Ahh there was wind. I knew there would probably be some due to the exposed nature of the course and to be fair it wasn’t so bad but just something that would affect me on the course at certain points, over and over.

So there we were, beginning our first lap of 11. The front runners zoomed off into the distance and the rest of us sort of fell into our natural positioning within the race. There were two females ahead of me who straight away ran off ahead, one significantly so. A tiny part of my mind wondered if I should try and keep up… it was a small field, I could place at a marathon if things went well. But the lead female was really going out strong and I wasn’t and nor did I want to.Instead I found myself behind a small group of men and decided to just tuck in behind them. I definitely helped because I was slightly sheltered from the wind and I could turn my brain off and mindlessly listen in to their conversations. In most marathons I try not to listen to any music or podcasts on the first 10 miles so I knew I had a few laps of potential boredom to get through so anything helped.I did feel a bit cheeky essentially slip-streaming from these guys but I did offer to run in front as well to take a turn but they seemed happy enough. They were mostly keeping to a consistent 8ish minute miling and as this was my aim it worked perfectly. I stuck with them for two laps. The first lap went quickly. Annoyingly because of the first out and back I couldn’t accurately work out the distance of the lap. Kyle and my dad had also told me beforehand (maths whizzes that they are) that if I’d wanted a 3:30 time I needed to do 19 minute laps. Well now I was flummoxed completely – how could I work that out! (Incidentally, from Strava, I found out later that each lap was 2.3 miles).The first couple of laps flew by. Each time I heard and saw my parents and Kyle cheer madly at me as I ran past. This was such a boost! It was something really good to look forward to at the end of another lap.On the second lap I knew I needed a wee. I tried to pretend I didn’t but like trying not to think about a white elephant… all I could think about was needing a wee. As we ran another lap I looked out for any loos on the course. Other than the main block of toilets within the main area away from the track, there weren’t any. The course was very open as well and there weren’t any bushes or obvious hiding spots to sneak off to. Hummmm. So either I could waste time running off from the course and going to the loos a fair distance away or I could risk someone seeing my bum. Decisions decisions.

As I continued the next lap I spotted a man dash off from the course on one of the bends and noticed a slight curve round the corner. He could wee without anyone really seeing unless they really tried to have a gawp as they ran past.At this point the 20 miler runners had begun their race so there were now a few more people on the course. I realised this was the best time because there would be far less people on the course to potentially catch me having a wee. So on the next lap I sped up as I got towards the chosen location. As I overtook two 20 miler runners they cheered me on saying I was running strong. I replied “I’m going to have a wee up here, please don’t look behind you as you run past!” they laughed and agreed not too.

Whew! No one saw, I was able to now relax. Though I did run straight across the gravel to get back onto the track (the bit that helps slow cars down if they veer off the course) which was terrible to run on! Another girl shouted to me as I rejoined the race that she was pleased I’d highlighted a good wee spot for her. I was happy to help 🙂I’d lost my friendly gang of guys now there were more runners about it was less sparse on the course. I caught up with the two runners who I’d warned about my weeing adventures and chatted to them for a bit. They were training for the Abingdon Marathon (so this was a nice catered long run). After chatting for a bit I felt a bit wary keeping up with them and decided to let them go ahead. Even though they weren’t running that much faster than I wanted it felt like hard-work and I just wanted to run at my own speed – mentally it felt easier, though awkwardly I was just behind them.I passed through the supporters again and once again felt buoyed by their cheers. There was a drinks and aid station at the start of each lap which was great. I did think paper cups would probably have been a better option though than bottles. Such a waste of plastic considering people were literally taking a sip and then chucking it, and how many bottles would be wasted after so many laps and so many runners… Surely on a lapped course this could be done so much better?They were also offering GU gels on every lap. I hadn’t brought any of my own gels as they knew this beforehand and personally love these gels. Previously I’d take a gel at mile 8, mile 13 and mile 18 but I was feeling pretty good and decided to leave taking a gel until later. As I ran past I heard one of the marshals shout “salted caramel flavour” and I almost did a full turnaround. It’s literally the BEST flavour. SO GOOD. I could put it on ice cream to be honest. But I didn’t need one then. As I’d run past and done a double-take one of the volunteers noticed and yelled as I ran past “I’ve got you some for the next lap!”.The course was fairly flat asides from two gentle short inclines. You wouldn’t really notice them if you did them once. But after a fair number of times you really do.

The first few times round the track were interesting – there were planes landing and taking off in the middle which was exciting, but again became dull due to the repetitive nature of the course. I started noticing things like a dropped jelly baby on the floor that I would look for on the next lap… a marking on the track… fun signs around the course. Anything to keep entertained.As I went past the aid station again the volunteer who’d seen me before brandished a salted caramel GU at me and yelled “I remembered! I got you covered!” and I was able to grab it off him. I tucked it into my Flipbelt ready for when I’d need it.

I still felt good running. Consistently running around 7:50s and getting into the “dark miles” of the marathon…I listened to a podcast for a bit and then switched to a playlist that had songs I was recently enjoying, but not songs that would make me suddenly sprint.

The half marathoners were on the course and the 10k’ers were about to start. Chris Evans (from BBC Radio 2) was doing the half and despite apparently lapping him twice I didn’t see him. I was annoyed about this!At about mile 19 I finally took the gel. It was delicious. Thick, sticky, gooey and sweet. Maybe you hate gels, but this one really rocks my world. I then started drinking water on every lap. It was hot, despite not being too sunny, and I knew I needed to hydrate. I wondered about leaving a bottle somewhere that I could pick up again later but the bottles were all the same so it was impossible. But I did actually notice a few savvy people had put their own bottles and some gels in the middle of the track so they could pick it up each lap. Fantastic idea!I managed to claw back the first female as she was fading and I was maintaining my pace. I’d past the other female near the beginning. I was now first female!

The hardest lap for me was the 3rd from the end. It was mentally very hard to think “another three laps to go”. I just wanted to get to the 2nd lap where I could basically think “just one more to go”. A Hedgie who was doing the half sailed past me, running strong, and wished me well – he was finishing (stellar fast time!).

I knew my watch was out (there were a few complaints around the course) so I knew I wasn’t counting down until 26.2 miles, but I was just thinking about the laps now. Finally I got to the second lap.My whole body was aching. It was really tough. My stomach was really cramping – something I’ve never had while I ran before. Weirdly though I started to focus on those cramps rather than my legs being tired or achy… it made sense in my head! Ooof I just wanted to finish now. It was such a hard grind. I couldn’t speed up much, I was on the edge.Final lap. Thank god. Just once around the track. I could do this.As I came round the bend, into the wind, towards the funnel where racers who were finishing split from the others, a volunteer asked if I was a half marathoner finishing – “no the marathon!” I said.
He cheered me on as I put my head down and sprinted (relative term there) to the finish line.My dad got some great photos of the end – proper focused looking running! I actually have a ridiculously number of photos from this race as my dad was very good at taking lots as I ran past ELEVEN times.I finished in 3:26:53, first female, 11th place – just behind Vassos. My 3rd fastest marathon.I finished and immediately felt dreadful. My stomach was cramping so much. I was not in a good place.Bless my dad for catching this on camera… Initially they were worried I was injured but I reassured them that nope, just one of those things. I was really drained. I couldn’t believe how drained I felt.

 

It was nice to hear about what my parents and Kyle had gotten up to while I was running. The marathon was really good at updating their website for runners’ time as they’re actually running because of the chips. It meant they could see how well I was doing per lap and predict how it was going to go (my dad loves stuff like that).And of course they were well fed 😉

Their support during the race though was so good. I don’t think I could have done such a dull marathon had I not had them cheering me on to look forward to each lap. I can’t imagine it would have been that exciting for them either so I’m hugely grateful.The rest of the day was pretty awful for me. I had the worst headache I’ve ever had and spent the afternoon not feeling great at all. In the end I just had to go to bed at about 7.30pm and lie in a dark room. My head was pounding. I rarely get headaches so this was a complete shock to me. It was honestly the worst I’ve felt in a long long time. Thankfully though I woke up the next day after a solid night’s sleep feeling SO much better. My legs were tired but everything felt OK. Thank god.Right I’ll leave it there… this is already so long!

Have you ever done a lapped race?

Do you get headaches often?

What’s your favourite gel?

New Forest 10k

So this time last year I was running the New Forest Marathon with my friend Mike. This year I went for significantly fewer miles by doing the 10k.

I wasn’t actually planning on doing this race at all but through work I got a free place for the 10k (I work for Wiggle, the online sports retailers). I didn’t want to go for any sort of crazy PB, mainly because I hate racing 10ks and because I have a marathon a week later. It’s also not really a PB course.Sunday morning I headed to the New Forest with Kyle, my lovely supporter, to meet with Connor, another fellow Wiggler doing the 10k and his girlfriend and little girl. We didn’t get there particularly early but really didn’t need to.I knew the set-up of the race village having been there last year and knew collecting my bib in the morning wouldn’t be too hard. Everything was easy peasy and it was a nice touch to get a free water bottle, sweat wristband and the race t-shirt there and then. Though I wouldn’t be wearing it to race in. I find that quite odd when people do that… what if it chafes?
The race village is quite cool. There’s lots going on with different running-related stalls and foodie bits. I guess it makes a lot of sense considering there’s a 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon happening.I went to the loo and then Connor arrived a bit flustered having been caught up in some traffic en route. This was his first real running race and he wasn’t sure what he needed to do. He picked up his bib and then almost forgot to actually pin it on!Then Connor and I headed to the start area where we half-heartedly did some warming up.
Then it was time to head to the start-line. Connor was looking to beat his PB, which was around 55 minutes, and I said I’d try and help him. To be fair, Connor has never really run a 10k race before and could easily get under that time from the way he’s been running recently so I didn’t think this would be too much of an ask for him (hardly needs my help!).It worried me a little bit that Connor’s intention was to go all gun’s blazing right from the start (this isn’t really how I roll) but actually we took the first mile fairly conservatively. It wasn’t crazy busy but we did have to do some maneuvering around people.The course was nice and soft trail and nothing too off-roady. No mud or puddles and firm underfoot. There wasn’t a huge amount of sun either but it was still fairly humid.We chatted as we ran and I found the pace quite comfortable. I mean, we’re not talking a walk in the park here but not lungs-busting or difficult to maintain. We could carry on a conversation.I was expecting the course to be quite undulating, having done the marathon, but actually it wasn’t that bad at all. There were a couple of longer inclines and a bridge to go over but actually it was reasonably flat. The bridge bit was funny because there were signs that said “wet feet” and “dry feet” pointing the different routes… take the bridge to avoid the water basically! Everyone chose the bridge of course.Around three miles the conversation between Connor and I had quietened down and I felt him focusing on running strong and maintaining the now faster pace. Every time I overtook someone I checked behind me and Connor zoomed straight up next to me. He was doing amazingly.I like the above photo because I was just randomly taking a selfie while running and didn’t realise the woman behind waving as well. Hehe! There were signs intermittently that were quite humorous (“Smile if you’re not wearing underpants” – that kind of thing). Little things like this add to the race I think. And the scenery of course was gorgeous. No cars, no road, just forest and nature.

At a mile to go I felt I could give a good burst of speed but I felt Connor just slightly drifting behind me so I tried to maintain the speed I was at instead. It’s hard when you’re trying to pace someone. You don’t know how much to push them and how much to try and encourage them without sounding like a patronising twat or just annoying them.

There was a good amount of support around the course and the marshals were lovely and helpful. There were a lot of young volunteers as well so I made sure to thank them.The finishing straight was packed full of support and I sprinted to the end, knowing Connor wasn’t too far behind me. My time was 46:08, 7th female and 4th in my age category. Not too shabby! Connor’s time was 46:27, smashing his PB quite substantially!!

We collected our race medals, water, banana and then our race goodie bag. The goodie bag contained biscuits which I thought was a bit odd… because that’s exactly what you want after a humid race, dry biscuits.

I felt really good. The race hadn’t felt too tough and I got faster as it continued. The paces were quite zippy as well for me but I felt comfortable. Hopefully this means I’m in good standing right now in terms of fitness!I spotted the stage where the person who had warmed us up had stood and persuaded Connor to jump onto it for a quick cheeky photo. It was just too good an opportunity!Then after chatting a bit more to Connor and his girlfriend, Kyle and I headed off to find the car. Finding the car was a mission in itself to be honest. Genuinely took us like 10 minutes of pacing around a field of cars to find my car. My car (a Fiat 500) is quite small so this doesn’t help. EVENTUALLY we found it and could get moving. Thankfully, unlike the marathon last year, it was plain sailing to get out of the ‘car park’ (field).

I fully recommend these races. They’re friendly, scenic and nice and relaxed, but attract a good crowd of people to help get the buzz going. I’m pleased that I felt strong and my paces were speedy. Let’s hope this translates well for my marathon on Sunday!

Do you enjoy 10ks?

Do you prefer road races or races that are more off-road/trail?

Have you ever paced someone? It seems to be a theme for my in for the New Forest races as I paced Mike during the marathon last year too.

Hatfield NT Half Marathon

I signed up to the Hatfield Half Marathon because my lovely Marathon Talk friend, Kate, was organising it and mentioned it to me. Hatfield is quite a distance from me (about 2.5 hours away) but as it was towards Ipswich way it made sense (to me anyway) to combine the two in one weekend to limit potential future driving.

The half marathon sounded really nice as well. Running two laps through Hatfield Forest National Trust, fairly flat but off-road. I wouldn’t be aiming for a time, just a nice scenic plod round. My friends Michelle and John were joining to run as well so it would be a nice housemates reunion (we all stayed together in a lodge in February in the Sandy Balls Run Camp).

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’d helped Kate and her husband Chris do some of the course set-up the day before and had enjoyed a very tasty Domino’s Pizza for dinner. As their house was about 15 minutes from the forest, it meant I could actually have a nice lie-in on a race day. Chris and Kate, with their kids, left a lot earlier and being so lovely let me sleep in and come later. It was very strange getting up in someone else’s house without them being there…and trying to work out how to use the shower (I don’t usually shower before a race but I felt I needed to freshen up after the day before) and their coffee machine. Not easy feats I tell you!

The race started at 10am and at about 9am I left to head to the race. I’d like to add that I left WITH MY TRAINERS.I feel this is an important point to make due to past experiences with my previous half marathon.
On arrival (parking was great and £3, so super cheap) I walked a short distance to the race HQ area and met up with Michelle to grab our bibs.
It was nice to see Michelle. She’s coming back from injury but is still super speedy. John arrived shortly after. John, likewise, was coming back from some time off so wasn’t aiming for a speedy time. It sounded like we were aiming for around the same time so we decided to run together, which was nice.
I overheard someone say that you really wouldn’t know you were near an airport (Stansted) if you were just teleported into the forest. This was so true, except for the occasional plane flying overheard it was like you were in some deep forest far away from civilisation. It was so scenic and pretty. A really love place for a race but also a lovely place to bring friends and family and spend the day.Kate was zooming around the place doing last minute event organiser business but she did the welcome announcement and start.It was cool to see someone you know starting a race for over 300 people. And so we were off!I feel like I mentally nodded at and was grateful for every sign that I saw. It makes me realise how much effort it really is to set a course up for a race (or in fact, the organisation in general that goes in to it all!) after being a tiny part of that the day before.John and I ran nice and easily, chatting away and catching up. I couldn’t really have gone much faster to be honest. Not at the start. It was hot and sunny and despite being in a forest a lot of the route was actually out of the shade. The ground underfoot was tricky as it was basically dry grass (due to the hot weather). In fact, it did look a bit like the African savanna at times.I was really glad to be running with John because running didn’t feel particularly smooth or easy today. It felt a bit of a grind. The scenery and company certainly helped!There were a few water stops on route (cups) and young little helpers armed and ready with water pistols to squirt anyone who shouted for it. It was a lovely welcome relief! John and me walked through the water stations to grab a drink and drink properly. We were in no hurry. This was just a “bimble”.There was a lovely section that went through the woods which was really nice because it, obviously, meant being out of the sun. It was a bit easier underfoot as well. This then led to a stretch out in the open and over grass with a bit of undulation before we reached the first lap. So this would mean a tough finish. Though our pace was still fairly easy at around 8 min/miles.Now we knew what was to come. We continued chattering away about life, the universe and everything and gradually our pace became a bit stronger and faster. It was very hot though. The marshals were fantastic, cheering us along and being super positive. One of the water stations even had a Mexican theme with sombreros and fake mustaches which was amusing.

As we got back round to the lovely wooded area a guy running near us asked what time we were aiming for. As we weren’t actually aiming for any time (or really had an awareness of what time we were going to be finishing) John replied, “not really aiming for anything, just bimbling round” (this is my new favourite word by the way). Then realised how that might sound and clarified that we were just running for fun rather than pushing for a certain time. It turns out it was the man’s first half marathon and he was aiming for a sub 1:50. We worked out we’d probably be finishing under that time so told him he was welcome to stick with us.

As we got to the last two or three miles we had gradually begun to speed up without really knowing. John helpfully told the guy running with us that we’d unintentionally sped up. And with that increased speed we gradually left him behind. As we got about a mile and a half away I felt myself building a bit more speed up. John told me to go on. I felt bad leaving him but equally I wanted to finish strong. Plus I would have been more than happy for him to have done the same to me had it been reversed.The final mile was tough going in the heat of the sun and slightly undulating (well, a bit bumpy but not hilly per se).I managed to overtake a few people which helped keep me motivated I saw the finish, heard them shout my name over the speaker (they got it right for once!) and sprinted to the end. I saw Kate at the finish which was lovely. And then John finished soon after. Sadly the guy who ran with us just got over 1:50, but he seemed happy enough with this time for his first half.My time was 1:48:24 and 3rd in my category position (but I believe 4th female). I will happily take that! Michelle was 2nd female, the speedster (just under 1:42).After finishing the three of us chilled out a bit on the grass enjoying the sunshine. I took my trainers and socks off ready for a free post-race massage. How good is that! Though they did accept donations (as I had no money on me Michelle kindly donated for me).I was then keen to head off home. It was about a 2 hour 15 minute drive and I just wanted to get on the road and get back. I wanted to be home at a decent time so I could chill before work the next day.This was a fantastic race that I really recommend. Not necessarily a PB course but beautiful, friendly and good fun. Thanks Kate!

Do you ever do races just for fun?

What’s your favourite surface to run on?

Do you like a post race massage straight after?

The South Coast Half Marathon

Otherwise known as the race I forgot my trainers for… Yes this did actually happen. How, after so many years of running, can I manage such a feat? Hmm, well if you’ve been reading here for long you probably realise this is just another normal day in Anna La La Land.

I’d signed up this half marathon fairly late. It was going to be Kyle’s first half marathon and having pretty much gotten him into running I was keen to see how he’d do. Plus I hadn’t done a race in quite a while (I think the last one was the Jersey Half?). I wasn’t going to be racing it but it’s always nice to do a race once in a while – a catered long run if you will.

Unfortunately this race was in Seaford, which is past Brighton. So about two hours from me. As the race started at 9am this meant for a very early morning. The plan was to leave the house at 6.30am. As I had two hours in the car I didn’t stress about putting my compression socks and trainers on just yet and just threw on a pair of flip flops instead. Then we went on our merry way.

As we got to Chichester (about 40 minutes into our journey) I realised I hadn’t actually picked up my trainers. WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. HELL. Who does this?? When I tentatively dropped this bombshell to my parents they first reacted as all normal people would, “are you joking?” before sighing and turning the car around to go home again. They’re very chilled individuals and having known me for 30 years they’re aware of my significant flaws in intelligence. So there’s no point getting angry or stressing out. We did have to work out how likely it was that we could drive home and back again and still make the race. Regardless, I would be going to the race to support Kyle as I said I would but I was hoping I would actually get to run as well!

It was very sweaty bottoms I tell you. I had to do a mad dash into the house to grab my trainers and then mad dash back out again. Our ETA for the race was floating around 8.55-9am. This was going to be close. I decided that I would start the race up to 10 minutes late. It was chip timed so realistically it wouldn’t matter but it would be stressful – and would the organisers even allow this?

I text Kyle telling him the situation (he wasn’t entirely surprised, also used to my Anna’isms) and he said he’d grab my bib for me to save me time. As he arrived before me he gave me a good idea of the car park and how far it was from the start (not far at all). I arrived at 8.55am, my parents dropping me off next to the race area while they parked. I spotted Kyle and we both joined the portable loo queue, which wasn’t that long, and I put my bib on. WHEW. What a relief eh!

The realisation hit me that I’d have to run 13.1 miles in a second. Okaaaay. The weather was horrendous. It was SO windy and chucking it down with rain. I felt somewhat of a relief that I hadn’t had to stand in it for that long before I ran! But also sorry for Kyle and his family who did have to stand in it for a period of time.The course was right next to the sea and ran 2.5k up the prom and then 2.5k back. Four times. There was no shelter from the sea, wind or rain. It was going to be a fairly tough-going first half for Kyle! Relentless, Biblical weather. Right then, let’s go.As soon as we started I realised the wind was right behind us. This was a nice start of course because it felt like we were being gently pushed along. This was a bit dangerous though as it led us into a false sense of security and the danger of running too fast. Kyle and I were running together and I was so glad because this was going to be a tough one.With long stretches of flat, miserably wet concrete ahead of us and wind slapping us around, we tried to keep positive and not let the conditions bring us down. 2.5k went very quickly and we were soon turning around to head back again. Straight away the wind was in our faces. Now the real effort would begin. Spray from the sea was battering against us like mini knives on our faces and we could barely talk to each other because of the noise. We decided any conversation would need to happen in the other direction! I’ve never had issues with ears during a race, but the wind blowing straight into it was a nightmare.What was good about this course though was that for spectators it was brilliant. OK not in the terrible weather that day but in general. They would see us a number of times. Kyle’s family had come down to watch, as had both my parents. My mum doesn’t usually come to races as she doesn’t like to leave the dogs alone for long stretches at the weekend but my dad hadn’t been feeling great so she came to join. With all the rain and wind, I’m sure she wished she was back at home though 😉Kyle’s family did a fantastic job of taking lots of photos and everyone cheered us on, which was just lovely. Definitely the kind of support we needed that day!The second lap was uneventful but still consistently wet and windy. I said to Kyle that the third lap would be the worst because it would be in the thick of the miles but not close enough to see the end in sight. He was doing really well. He’s a strong runner and this was a tough day. We’d originally worried about it being too hot. We weren’t prepared for this! The triathlon that was supposed to be happening as well had to be cancelled due to the conditions too.Each lap we saw our respective supporters and that boosted us along. We made sure to heartily thank the marshals as well. They were absolute heroes standing in ponchos getting absolutely blown away. We were, to some degree, fine running and staying warm, but any supporters and marshals had to endure the conditions by just standing there. I honestly think that’s worse.My hair was getting seriously thrown around the place during this race. It was quite the hindrance to have a pony tail continually slap you in the face I tell you! Though we didn’t really need that much water during the race, when we did get a cup it was so hard to actually drink because the water would just fly out of it.

On the final lap away from the finish (so this is about 10 miles in) we were mentally preparing ourselves for the last 2.5k against the wind. As we turned back around for the finial time, the grind was fully on. Heads down, no talking, just pushing on. I led just slightly and hoped this would pull Kyle along. The final bit of a half marathon is no joke, especially when it’s your first one and wind is directly against you.As we came round the corner to get to the finish we heard both sets of family screaming madly at us and we both sprint finished to the end, Kyle just finishing next to me (he always has a great sprint finish). I heard the announcer say our names (“Anna Smith-Jones” *SIGH*) and then we collected our goodie bags and medal.My time was 1:48:05 (Kyle’s was 1:48:07). We were super chuffed. Kyle’s aim had been a sub 2 hour half (though I knew he’d do better. I thought, without the wind, he should be aiming for 1:45-46ish). Apparently I was third female as well which was quite cool. I got an extra goodie bag and a little trophy. A huge thank you to both sets of supporters (and the marshals of course) because honestly the weather was TERRIBLE and though we had to run in it, they had to stand in it which is 100 times worse. They were soaked and wind-swept, but still smiling and congratulating us. What legends.The goodie bag was great. There was a protein bar, High5 goodies and porridge. And in my extra goodie bag I got a 2kg bag of porridge (the race was sponsored b Mornflake) and lots more High5 stuff. Not too shabby at all! The funniest part was getting home and having to cut my hair bobble in order to free and wash my hair. Check out this absolutely ridiculous volume I acquired.A tough but fun half marathon. I’m glad it wasn’t ridiculous hot but it’s a shame we were (literally) held back a bit. And shout out to my mother for dropping my medal on the drive, so we got to watch it roll away down the road haha 😉 We did manage to retrieve it!

What’s the best thing you’ve gotten in a goodie bag?

How do you cope with bad hair after a race?