Southampton Marathon 2022

The lead-up to the Southampton Marathon was far from ideal.

We’d had a week of poor sleep as poor Isaac had gotten a cold from nursery and I therefore now had a cold too.

I can’t believe how quickly Isaac became ill after literally his first couple of days in nursery! I had been warned that illnesses would crop up quickly after he’d start but I didn’t realise it would literally be the day after. Poor little man was so snotty and had such a cough. We tested negative for COVID so that was good!

We’ve also recently stopped Isaac going to the Nana’s each week overnight. We made this decision because what with him going to nursery twice a week and then seeing both Nanas on the other two days, it felt like our Isaac time had diminished so much. As much as I loved having that night of sleep and lie-in the next day, it felt wrong him going away somewhere else again in the week.

So this all entailed me not feeling particularly fresh. But I had no time goals or great expectations for the marathon so I thought I might as well see what happens.

Kyle drove Isaac and I to Southampton while I ate my three pieces of toast.

We parked and walked over to the race village where we met Kyle’s mum, his sister, his brother and his brother’s girlfriend – the support crew! My parents were sadly suffering from a sickness bug so couldn’t come.

After a quick wee, I headed to the start. It was a bit nippy and windy but otherwise a lovely sunny morning.

It felt very odd to be in such proximity with so many people and someone joked had COVID even happened. This is the first time I’ve been in such a crowd – the other races I’ve done haven’t been quite as busy or packed at the start.

And then we were off! It felt really exciting and I couldn’t help but have a big grin on my face. The crowds of supporters really upped the atmosphere and I felt so buzzed. I let the bustle of runners carry me along and the first mile flew by in a blur. There were loads of people around me and I just remember thinking how much I love a big race, especially a big marathon.

Then we got to Itchen Bridge, the first of the major hills. It’s such a long grind up that bridge but the support along it was great. The wind was against us as well so it was hard going. I decided to take my mind off it by simply counting to 100. Amazingly this really worked! As I got to 100 I’d reached the top and was then heading back down, which was obviously far easier.

From Itchen Bridge you do a little loop down by the water and I saw some of my running club friends which was lovely. And then it was back towards Itchen Bridge again for the 2nd of the four times I’d have to run over it. I counted again as I ran over it and it worked nicely once more.

As I ran down the other side I spotted my lovely supporters and they gave me a big cheer which boosted me along. As I continued on, I knew my next major milestone would be the football stadium so I looked forward to that.

Running through the stadium was fun. It was spongy underfoot as they’d put some kind of turf down to protect the ground and I felt very springy as I ran across. My pace was still quite consistent and I felt pretty good.

Then we were off towards Bitterne. I remembered parts of this from the two times I’d run the half but knew that the route had changed a little. In the back of my mind I was praying that the big hill around mile 11 wouldn’t be there…

We ran along the river and again it was just so lovely how many people were out supporting. Loads of people giving out Jelly Babies, water and even offering to spray you with a hose as we passed houses.

I didn’t feel too hot at this point but I’d started to take on more water. A few sips here and there at each aid station. The drinks were these weird plastic bag things that required a bit of navigation to get to work and you were in danger of being aggressively squirted if you weren’t careful!

Sadly there were more hills to come even before the potential mile 11 hill. As we climbed a particularly long incline I heard a pacer say that there was only one more hill after this one. Ah OK then yes mile 11 hill was likely still to come!

The hills on the course were quite tough, I won’t lie. And mile 11 was no different. I just used my counting technique which helped. It also helped not really minding too much about pace. I would of course slow down going up the hill but I found I made it up on the downhill so it all evened out.

As we got nearer and nearer towards the finish, running along part of the Southampton parkrun, the crowds were getting more excited. They were yelling at us that we were almost there and not long now. Of course this was true for the half marthoners, but not for the marathoners! We still had to do this all again.

A slightly depressing part of the course was that the marathoners had to run literally down the finish line and then right before we went over the line we turned left to go again for another lap. It was a little bit frustrating!

Now we were on to the second lap and I knew exactly what was to come. I quite like this about a two lapper. The first lap is all about taking it all in, and the second lap you’re just ticking off the sights you’ve seen before.

But now the course was far more empty. No more half marathoners crowding the field. The supporters were few and far between now as the bulk of the race was over. It suddenly became a little bit like a ghost town at times.

I saw Kyle and Co. again which was lovely and they peppered me on nicely.

What was nice though was that the supporters and marshals that were there all cheered you on pretty much individually. I got a lot of “Go Anna!” which was really nice and encouraging.

Itchen Bridge the 3rd and 4th time came and went, though a lot harder this time. No longer did my count to 100 get me up the hill, it was more like 160. And now there was limited shade from the wind as the field was so empty.

But do you know what? I was still having a great time. I was far more hot now and each time I went past a water station I grabbed a water and kept it with me so I could sip as I went. I definitely needed it now! I was also so pleased I’d worn my sunglasses.

I got to mile 18 and remember distinctly thinking “ahh I love marathons”. I know that might sound a bit twee but honestly I do love them. Yes they’re so hard, long and boring at times but I was just in my little zone ticking off the miles enjoying myself. I had my headphones with me to listen to some music but I didn’t actually fancy it at all. I was quite happy with my own thoughts and the sounds from outside.

As I got to around three miles to go I decided to push on a little bit harder. I actually caught up with a guy I’ve known for a while and we swapped hellos. Then we just sorted of stayed in step with each other.

We didn’t chat – we were both too tired and in our own little worlds. But when he edged further on I pushed myself to keep up, and likewise for him. So in the end I we were really pushing the pace to the end. Far quicker than I think I would have had I been on my own that’s for certain!

The finish line sprint was amazing. The crowds were really thick here (including my family) and everyone was bashing on the barriers and cheering so the atmosphere was electric and ridiculously loud.

I properly sprinted to the end – faster than I’ve probably done for the majority of my marathons! But I was loving it.

My time was 3:30:08, which I am SO pleased about considering I had no time goals in mind. It was a lot faster than I’d intended.

Am I sad I didn’t dip under 3:30? Of course 😉 But no, seriously, I’m so happy and honestly don’t think I could have given anymore in that sprint.

Then I met up with my family and enjoyed a lovely roast dinner later in the day.

I am honestly so happy with how the Southampton Marathon went and really only have happy memories from the day. I just ran at such a consistent pace and never felt like I was over-reaching (until perhaps the last couple of miles which were definitely a hard push!). it just further reminded me of how much I love a pressure-free marathon.

In short, hilly, hot, windy but thoroughly enjoyable!

Goodwood Marathon 2022

Yesterday I ran the Goodwood Marathon… for the 3rd time.

This means I’ve now run round the Goodwood Motor Circuit 33 times. That’s a lot for quite a dull course . So if anyone hears me contemplating running it again, please punch me.

The reason I did it again was because after running the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon in December as a “can  I still run marathons post baby” kind of test and feeling like it went really well, I wanted to  do another marathon where I could  push the pace and see how well I could do. The only available marathon nearby and relatively soon was Goodwood. So Goodwood it was!

My training had been really good so I felt quietly confident. My overall goal  was for a sub-3.30 hour marathon. I felt like I could achieve this if things went well on the day. Like the weather wasn’t horrendous and I didn’t have any sickness or injury issues (always a risk during a marathon). And internally I hoped I could get a significant sub-3.30… it just depended how much I could give and how well I could run (of course).

The weather unfortunately wasn’t the best. It was very cold (standard for February obviously) and fairly windy. I’ve run Goodwood before when it’s been super windy and it was really hard work. I spent the first half of the lap battling the wind and then the second half recovering. I wasn’t that excited for the prospect of another race like that. But you can’t control nor change it, you just have to accept what you’re given on the day.

The night before Isaac stayed with my mum and dad so I could get a solid stretch of sleep. I was very grateful! But also, both sets of grandparents really love to babysit Isaac and take turns each week having him for a night. So we just made sure their turn was the night before the race.

I had a large veggie pizza from Asda and went to bed at 10pm. Because I’m breastfeeding, when Isaac stays with the grandparents I have to pump before I go to bed, during the night and first thing in the morning.

Obviously in the middle of the night isn’t the most fun experience but I’ve got it down to 15 minutes of entire wake time for the whole process so it’s really not that hard. This helps keep our milk stores in the freezer topped up so I can give the grandparents milk when they look after him. It also means my boobs don’t feel like they’re going to explode!

Anyway, that all went fine and I was awake bright and early at 6.50am and we were leaving the house at 7.45am to get to Goodwood for around 8.20am, where we were meeting my parents (and Isaac) and Kyle’s mum. I ate toast on route. I normally have porridge but because I know there aren’t any toilets on the course I wanted to limit the amount of liquid I’d be having before the race.

I picked up my bib, went for a wee and was ready to go. It was cold and breezy but I knew once I started running I’d be fine. My family got themselves a bacon bap and a hot drink and wished me good luck.

We were called in waves of predicted start time and I went with the sub-3:30 bunch. I stood chatting with two other ladies while we waited to start. They were aiming for similar times and so once we started we naturally just stuck together in a little group.

One of the women had the Nike Vaporfly shoes on and they squeaked with every footfall. In fact, it amused me greatly that you could tell who was wearing them without even looking because of that tell-tale squeak.

The first few laps were fairly dull. I found I was comfortably ticking along the miles at 7.40ish and this didn’t feel too much of an effort. I love the marathon for this reason. It’s a strategy game. A pace that feels good at the start can be so much harder later, but do you risk it? Do you play it safe and go slower then hope to speed up later? The risk being you might not speed up and might have missed banking those faster times. But can you ever truly bank time in a marathon?

Normally my strategy is to go slow and increase as I carry on. 7.40 isn’t a slow pace for me by any means but it has been a comfortable pace I’ve been running a lot of my long runs. I could potentially knock it down to 7.30/20 later on if things went well. So I decided to try and keep under that pace.

The wind was from the south which meant it was dead against us as we ran along the stretch past the supporters (the complete opposite to the last time I ran it). This was SO much better because as hard as the force of the wind was, you could use the crowd’s cheers to push you along. And then when you got round to the quieter section of the course the wind was pushing you along – exactly where you needed it.

By lap three I was on my own having just gently stretched ahead of the two ladies. The 20 miler race had started so there were more people on the course now and the faster runners were speeding past. It made things somewhat more interesting.

After the first lap, the nanas escaped, sensibly, to the warmth inside but my dad and Kyle braved the viewing deck and cheered me on every lap which was lovely. I will stress that I never ask my family to come and support me. Of course I’m always over the moon when they come to one of my races but equally if they don’t want to I’m absolutely fine with going on my own. After all, it’s my hobby and it’s not exactly a quick thing!

But they were really keen to come. I mean, let’s be honest the nanas love spending time with Isaac so that helped 😉 but my dad and Kyle are always really enthusiastic about cheering me on and getting geeky about pace times and goals. I think they were quite happy it was a race I was actually going for this time as that’s always a bit more fun for them to watch!

Anyway Isaac was having a whale of time apparently while I was out running.

By lap five I’d decided I needed a wee and started to look for good spots to run off the course to a well concealed bush. Unfortunately, Goodwood isn’t that great for hidden spots. The spot I’d seen others heading to (and a spot I’d used on the previous marathons) was quite a way off the course. However I managed to find a concealed spot behind a barrier quite close to the course (I stress it wasn’t an area people would normally walk!).

Ahh relief! I knew I’d only need that one wee during the race so I felt a lot better. Then my next plan of action for the next lap was to pick up my fuel from the aid station table. The race organisers had said we could leave our own water bottles and fuel at the water station so I had a bottle and a box with some Guylian Seashells and my headphones.

I’d decided that I didn’t want to use traditional gels (mainly because I didn’t have any and didn’t want to buy more) so figured chocolate would be a) more enjoyable and b) just as effective. Quick acting carbs! Guylian Seashells are quite melt-in-the-mouth so I hoped they’d be easy to get down.  I have quite a strong stomach when it comes to what fuel I can use (I’ve used chocolate before) so I knew it’d be OK.

Unfortunately with the cold weather they weren’t quite as melty as I’d hoped and involved a bit more chewing. This was fine tho, it just meant I needed to hang on to my water for a bit longer so I could wash them down. I had two and felt a bit more peppered up!

I have to say there isn’t much to talk about from then until mile 20ish really. The laps were ticking past and I was bored out of my mind. To keep myself amused I was counting up to 100 and back down again. There really wasn’t anything else to do other than look at other runners and smile at the marshals (who were incredible by the way – standing out in that windy cold weather cheering us on. Utter heroes!). I ran past my friends Mike (who I ran the Portsmouth Coastal with) and Gabby. They were going a more leisurely pace without a goal time in mind. They seemed very chilled and relaxed! It was nice to briefly speak to them.

As I got past mile 20 I decided to pop my earphones in and listen to some music to rev me up a bit. I stopped at the aid station to grab them and had a bit of a fluster when I couldn’t find my box.  Luckily the marshals had just moved it to one side, whew!

As I got going again I had one lap of music before I decided to switch to a bit more of a higher tempo playlist. Unfortunately for whatever reason this caused my earphones to stop working and I lost the music altogether. Ho hum!

But by now I really only had two laps to go so I was a bit more focused and ready to push as much as I could. I started counting faster in the hope that would help things. From the time on my watch I knew I was firmly in the sub-3:30 territory… and suddenly had the realisation that I could get close to sub-3:20!

My dad and Kyle were being the most fantastic supporters and I could tell they knew what I knew and that I was looking to be getting a faster than predicted time.

I definitely gave a bit too much in my penultimate lap and realised I wasn’t going to be able to take much more seconds off my pace. My legs were feeling incredibly hard done by and I didn’t have much more in the tank to suddenly drop a gear and zoom ahead.

As I got to the final lap I passed Mike and Gabby again and they enthusiastically cheered me on which MASSIVELY helped. My dad and Kyle were shouting at me to keep on pushing but jeeze as I got the full force of the wind again down that straight it just felt impossible to go any faster.  In fact my pace slipped to 7.45+. I tried my best to push through and it was only after getting round so the wind was more of a crosswind that I could catch my breath and bring the pace back down again.

Then I started to feel droplets of cold rain. This last lap wasn’t going to be pretty. I was literally counting down each 0.1. I could see I had the chance to get under 3:20 if I really pushed hard. The marshals were amazing and they cheered me along – as they had every lap. It really mattered!

By the time I was hitting the final mile and seeing the finish line in sight the rain was starting to come down and the wind was stronger. It was such a grind to get to that finish straight and to push myself forward. I looked at my watch and realised I had about one minute to get there.

My whole family were at the finish line and were cheering me on as I grinded my way to the end. I could barely raise a smile to them I was so focused on just FINISHING.

And whew, I finished in 3:19:37!

I am SO chuffed you wouldn’t believe. I really worked hard for that time in this race. It wasn’t a breeze. While I still managed to wave and smile, it definitely wasn’t the level I’m usually at during a marathon when it’s all flowers and rainbows and I’m loving life.

This race was a rarity for me in that I went there for a purpose: to see how I could do. It wasn’t about enjoying the miles, like I normally do.  It was seeing what my body could achieve seven months postpartum. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the race. It was bloody hard and I fully grafted my way through it, but I still get such a thrill. Just not to the extent of some of my other marathons where I’m not going for a time.

I’m very proud of myself. I honestly didn’t think I’d do as well as I did. I thought I was in a sub-3:30 shape, possibly 3:25. Realistically I knew I’d never be in reach of my PB because honestly I’d have had to have gone out a lot faster and felt more comfortable increasing the pace later (which I definitely wasn’t able to do), but I didn’t think I’d get my second fastest marathon.

So I’m very pleased! A tough marathon but one I’m very proud of. And again, I can’t stress how much I appreciate my incredible supporters – especially now we have Isaac and can’t just swan off whenever we want. I’m beyond grateful to them and feel very lucky to have such a supportive family 🙂

Now on to the next marathon – Southampton in April (fingers crossed!).

Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 2021

Sooo it’s been a while since I last blogged!

I wont lie, the desire to blog has been very low. Time is very precious right now and when I have a few moments to spare I don’t really fancy blogging. I do a lot of updates on Instagram but it’s just not the same as having a bit of a ramble on here. And what better time to have a little ramble than post marathon! My favourite blogs to write are race recaps and I love to keep the memories of the race, while they’re fresh, alive on here (even if no one cares or no one reads!).

I came back to running after 12 weeks of giving birth to Isaac and I did it sensibly, but I also did it with the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon in the back of my mind too. From starting running to that race it was about 12 weeks… which could be doable for an “easier” paced marathon. A marathon that I really enjoy for its festive and fun atmosphere, it’s literally on my doorstep, just before Christmas and one that isn’t about PB attempts (at least for me).

My comeback to running went well – nothing felt off, my pelvic floor held out and I slowly built up the miles. I hope one day to write a bit more about this journey but for now the Sparks Notes is that I built the long runs up, did supplementary strength training to keep my body strong and just ran consistently 3-4 times a week.

I’d managed to (gently) coerce my good friend, Mike, to run the marathon too. We’ve run another marathon together before – the New Forest marathon – when I tried to help him get a sub-4 hour.  This time though it wasn’t about me pacing him, just about us running together enjoying the race and each other’s company. I wasn’t aiming for any sort of fast time and Mike just wanted to get round, which sounded perfect as that would roughly be around an “easier” pace for me considering the long runs I’d managed to do beforehand.

I had a Papa Johns pizza and some chicken wings (sage and onion festive flavoured – they were incredible!) the night before. And my usual porridge in the morning. Kyle’s lovely mum had Isaac the night before so we could get a good night’s sleep before the race, which was just so helpful! He’s waking 2-3 times a night still… So Sarah came over in the morning with Isaac and to drive down with us to the start.

It was so so lovely. Kyle’s mum, sister and brother were coming to support Mike and I as well as my parents. It was really lovely of them and it meant so much to us to have those cheers throughout the race. I’m very lucky to be part of a family who are so supportive.

Yes it wasn’t a goal race but it was my first race post baby. The Portsmouth Coastal isn’t a big race in terms of numbers (less than 1,000?) and while the marshalls are incredible there isn’t a huge amount of consistent support round the course. So knowing we’d see my family 4 times around the course was such a boost.

I met Mike down at the start area about ten minutes before the start. I had a quick pre-race pee and then we were off. The weather was fantastic. No noticeable wind. Not too cold. No rain. It was perfect.

For the first seven miles (before we first saw my family) Mike and I had a nice relaxed start, chatting away and catching up on life. The miles flew by! We also saw a few people we knew from Hedge End Running Club as well as some other familiar faces. It’s such a local race that you just see so many people, which is great.

The annoying bit where you run across the shingles wasn’t too bad. There hadn’t even been a bottleneck to get onto it like there had been the two times I’d run it before. So it was just a quick amble across – try not to break your ankles! – and we were done. Whew.

We did go a little too quick perhaps as we bumped into people we knew and without realising we were speeding up. We all laughed and realised this could be problematic and that none of us wanted to go too speedy! So we slowed down again. It’s always dangerous during a marathon to go too quickly at the start because you feel so good. You’re so fresh and the miles haven’t really hit you yet. But it’s a long race and you have to be cautious because you have literally hours to go!

I was feeling really good though. Nice and comfortable and like I said the miles seemed to fly by. Suddenly we were at Farlington Marshes where our support crew were waiting. We got a big cheer which was lovely, Mike picked up his Lucozade which Kyle was holding for him (handy having supporters for this!) and we were on our way again. Isaac was having a nap in the car so I didn’t see him then, but he was in excellent hands of course.

The course had slightly changed from the previous races but it was still mostly familiar to me and I’m sure I bored Mike to tears with “when I ran this a few years ago…” conversations we had. I’m a broken record!

Both Mike and I were feeling good and enjoying ourselves. The miles were ticking off and around 10 miles (I think) we started seeing the front runners of the marathon heading back. Wow!! We cheered them along – it’s amazing how fast they were! I love and out and back race because you get to see the faster runners coming back and it helps pass the time.

We passed the Lambrook pub where my family and I were actually going to go for lunch after the race. It was funny to think in a few hours it’d all be over and I’d be sat eating a big carvery there later.

Mike and I got to around 11 miles where there’s always a festive aid station (shots of port, cups of mulled wine, mine pies and Jaffa cakes) and where the next location our supporters would be. The last time I ran this I was waving so much and paying too much attention to the cheering that I almost ran into a bollard (a hilarious video was of course captured). As I ran past them this time my dad shouted “mind the bollard!”. Haha I definitely saw it this time!

As the route had slightly changed, we wouldn’t be running too much further on. The turnaround would come sooner. This was a nice thing to do because previously it used to be quite a long run out at this point and the route was quite samey with the terrain and scenery not changing too much. It sort of goes a bit off road (not crazy off road, just on compacted trail and away from the traffic etc.). I needed a wee at this point so was on the lookout for a well concealed bush. Thankfully I saw a fork in the road and ran off there to do my business. A few people shouted I was going the wrong way but I said nature calls and they laughed.

I’d told Mike to keep running so now was the job to catch up with him again. I felt a bit uncharitable picking up speed and overtaking people and (they must have wondered what the hell I was doing suddenly sprinting along). It was also tough going to suddenly be trying to run a lot faster than I had been before, but it wasn’t too long before I’d caught Mike back up and could settle back into a more reasonably chilled pace (and catch my breath!).

Eventually we reached the turnaround point and headed back the way we’d come… all 13.1 miles of it. I love this point of the race because now you know exactly what you’re in for. The route does slightly change from what we ran to begin with but it’s basically the same (we avoid the shingles this time because the tide will have come in).

I sent Kyle a quick voice note on my phone to ask him for some Vaseline as I could feel a bit of chafing happening but as we got to the cheer spot we couldn’t see them. Then suddenly across the road I saw Kyle and his brother Zack race over shouting that they didn’t realise the turnaround was quicker this year haha! Thankfully he had the Vaseline and threw it over to me as I waited for them to cross the road and told Mike to go ahead. Then I had to catch him up again.

As we got to about 16 miles Mike started to slow down a little. But we were still going a nice clip and were in good spirits. We had another annoying bit of shingle which wasn’t nearly as fun to cross this time with all those miles in our legs!

At mile 19 we saw my family again and they gave us a lovely cheer. I gave Isaac a quick kiss as he was now awake. It was just so lovely to see him mid-race. Something I would never have dreamed about in a million years!

And then we were off back towards Southsea seafront. Things were getting trickier now. We were starting to slow down more and more now. I wanted to keep Mike’s spirits up so kept talking rubbish to him (which I’m sure he really appreciated…) and hopefully helped him. We stopped at an aid station and I decided to risk it and have a mulled wine. It’s Christmas why not eh! It was delicious.

The changes in terrain as we headed over some grasslands didn’t help Mike’s twinges that he was starting to feel in his quads. I wish I could have helped him but there’s nothing really you can do but keep encouraging. Our pace wasn’t descending too badly and we were still trucking along so this was good.

I needed another wee and knew there was a toilet ahead so I told Mike I’d dash in and catch him up. And now we were on the Southsea prom, just one long stretch to the finish along the waterfront. We had slowed a bit more now and Mike needed to do some run walking to help with his painful quads. I knew he felt frustrated and just wanted to get to the end now.

Mike said he was happy though as this had happened a lot later in the marathon than he thought and we were actually on for a faster time than he’d expected. We literally had only a couple of miles left and despite the long straight dragging out in front of us, we’d be done soon.

We saw my family again right at the end and we got ourselves together and ran to the finish. Ahh it felt so good! My time was 4:13:19.

Despite Mike’s painful legs, he said he was really happy with the race and the time we’d done. I think we’d both expected to be around 4.30 so to be so much faster was a happy surprise. Our intention was never to smash out a fast time or go for a sub-4 but to get so close to his PB (around 4:08) this was such a decent result!

Myself, I was so chuffed. Yes I’ve run faster marathons but I’ve never run a marathon after a baby and to feel so strong all the way through has given me such confidence. To know I can do the distance again and not break has made be very happy indeed. I can’t wait to see what I can do in another marathon now.

I got reunited with my little man which was just lovely. Though he had been fed by my family while I was running, I did need to feed him myself as my boobs were quite full now! So I sat on the grass and fed him while I enjoyed a post-marathon glow 😊

After doing some post race celebrations and chats with Mike, we headed off for our carvery. It was delicious. Nothing like a gigantic plate of roast dinner to refuel after a marathon eh!

So in a nutshell, I’m SO pleased with how this race went. I had a fantastic time running with Mike. He’s a great person to run with and it’s such a festive fun race before Christmas you can’t help but enjojy yourself. I mean obviously it’s still 26.2 miles, but for me during this race they just seem to fly by as it’s so varied and enjoyable. And of course, a huge thank you to my incredible family who just made the race so much more amazing by being there for us. I feel so warm and fuzzy 🙂

Now on to the next race eh! 😉

My Running For Two Half Marathon at almost 20 weeks

So this “race” recap is a bit delayed as it was actually back in Feb that I ran it when I was almost 20 weeks pregnant (I’m now 23 weeks pregnant). But hey ho!

With still being able to currently run fairly comfortably (*touch wood*) I’d said to Kyle that it was such a shame there were no races for me to plod round as I’d love to get a medal that I could later show our little guy and be like “I got this when you were inside of me”.

Obviously with the lockdown, races just weren’t being scheduled anytime soon (of course). The nearest races seemed to be late May or June. By that time I would be fairly heavily pregnant and I couldn’t guarantee I’d be able to run 5k let alone a half marathon.

I toyed with the idea of doing an official virtual one but Kyle said if I was going to have to do it on my own anyway I might as well just make my own up and really personalise it. It would save a bit of money and I could schedule it however I fancied. This sounded perfect.

I decided to go for a half marathon and came up with my own route round where I lived and created my own bib and name for the “race”: the Running For Two Half Marathon. I mentioned it to my parents and they said they’d come and support as well, which was lovely (strictly speaking breaking the rules a little but they would stand a distance from Kyle and obviously I’d just be running past).

I decided to go with the Sunday just before I turned 20 weeks, so almost half way, which fit nicely with the half distance as the little guy would be half baked. I had a pizza the night before, as is my pre-race tradition, and got myself mentally prepared. I’d been running 10-12 miles  for a few weeks so I wasn’t too worried about the distance – or how long it would take me as this wasn’t about times.

Unfortunately on the morning I woke up to aggressively windy and cold weather. As my route was basically along the coastline I knew I was in for a rough time. But it was planned, my parents were heading over to stand in the spot they were going to cheer from (about 9 miles – then the plan would be they’d walk down to mile 11, and then I’d finish near Baffins Pond and they’d walk down to see me, from afar), so I couldn’t back out now.

I’d dressed snuggly in two layers and my hat, gloves (and yes, shorts). Within two miles I realised I wasn’t warming up that much. Usually by half a mile I’m good but the wind was so icy and was tearing through my layers and stinging my legs. The wind was pushing from the side and I knew from the direction it was going it was going to be horrendous along the seafront.

I got to my three mile loo stop (my absolute saviour at the moment) and had a quick wee. No run can go without this anymore! I can pretty much manage up to four miles before it becomes impossible. Luckily all over Portsmouth there are some decent quality public toilets – especially in Southsea along the front. As I would in a race, I didn’t stop my watch.

Then I headed off through Old Portsmouth to then turn east towards the front. Ah jeeze. That icy wind was straight against me. It was AWFUL. Had I not been doing a race and had Kyle and my parents not been waiting at a certain spot, I honestly would have turned around and headed back home. I knew I had three miles along the front with this wind and it was soul destroying, not to mention freezing.

It was such a rubbish day. Normally if it’s windy or a bit overcast people still come and walk and spend time down the seafront but there was a sparsity of people on the prom, and those that were there looked miserable.

I just put my head down and counted down the 0.1 miles. Eventually I finally got to my next loo stop and thankfully turned the corner to head back north. The relief for both the loo and the wind to stop being full against me was incredible.

Now I was almost at 7 miles and knew it wouldn’t be such a slog to get to my parents. It was basically all north to them, so the wind was just be sideways on me not against me. But it was still cold. I just wasn’t warming up. It wasn’t even because of the pregnancy that this was hard, it was just an awful run because of the external conditions.

Finally I could see from about 0.5 miles away where my parents and Kyle would be. I could just make out their bodies. I felt immensely sorry for them. At least I was running so wasn’t absolutely freezing, whereas I knew them just standing there in the cold wind would be horrendous. I felt very bad indeed.

Eventually I got near enough to hear them shouting my name and cheering me on, like the absolute troopers they are. I could barely raise a smile to them though. I was cold to my core, so fed up and mentally drained. This was not the glorious celebratory run I’d hoped for.

I quickly told them I was changing my route as the one I’d planned  involved heading back to where I’d come from, and that was just utterly miserably in my mind. I wanted to keep moving to other areas and not head back to the hell I’d come from.

So I carried on running north until I roughly worked out if I turned back I could make the 13.1 mile distance if I just ran home. There was no way I wanted to be outside anymore. I wanted a hot shower, hot porridge and a cup of tea. I quickly rang Kyle and explained that was what I was doing. My parents could meet me there and we could chat from the front door. I felt bad but realistically it was no better than standing outside in Baffins Pond.

Happily they’d actually parked the car near to where they’d stood so they had been able to shelter in the car for warmth while I was running to them. So they drove back to our house (yes with Kyle masked up in the back of the car… it was just too cold to expect him to walk the mile back – at least both my parents had had the vaccine at this point).

I sped up on the final mile knowing I was heading home to warmth and shelter and then finally finished to them clapping me along the street which was lovely.

I ran 1:58:34 which I’m over the moon with, especially with two toilet stops. Under two hours was an unimportant goal I’d vaguely had in my mind so it was nice to achieve it. Long gone are the days of sub 1:40 or even sub 1:45 halves!

I’m really pleased I got the run done. It wasn’t what I’d hoped for and to be honest we were all feeling pretty rubbish afterwards. I felt terrible for my lovely supporters but they assured me it was fine and they were happy to see me achieve this milestone. To be honest, had I have known what the weather was going to be like in reality then I’d have changed the day. But it was what it was. It was certainly memorable!

And I got a medal! We had one made and I’ll be able to show our little man and say that I ran a very tough run to get this for him! And that’s something special to me at least.

Have you been running in the cold temperatures?

Have you been doing any virtual races?

Virtual Virgin London Marathon support crew efforts

Last weekend seemed to be a fairly busy running weekend for the running community.

The Virtual Virgin London Marathon weekend was upon us and, while I wasn’t signed up, I was going to be helping my two friends complete theirs.  When I say “help” I mean that they were coming to stay with Kyle and I and do their marathon round Portsmouth. I had plotted a 13ish mile route which the plan was for them to do twice. But more on that later.

Cortney and Emma came over Friday evening and were staying until Monday morning. It was exciting having guests stay over as having only moved into our new house at the end of May, they were our first. We had our spare bedroom all set up and so were excited.

Saturday morning we ran just over 4 miles down to Southsea to get some brunch at the Southsea Beach Cafe. Handily the route was the start of the route they’d be running on Sunday so it helped give them some familiarity of the area. I wouldn’t be running with them on Sunday…this was somewhat of an anxiety for me of them getting lost and me ruining their London Marathon so anything that helped familiarise them was good!

Anyway we met my dad for brunch as well because he was at a loose end due to my mum being away for the weekend (bless him). The weather was pretty crummy (as I’m sure the whole of Britain was aware) but luckily we managed to miss any crazy rain.

Kyle carried a running pack so we could put warmer jackets in for when we stopped which definitely helped.

For brunch I had the kippers, something a bit different for me, and shared the chorizo burrito with Kyle as well (because we’re greedy people, we know this).

The food was very tasty, but a little on the small side so we were glad to have had 1.5 dishes! But quality over quantity and all that jazz.

My dad drove Kyle back to ours, while Cortney, Emma and I walked to grab some coffees and cake. We dropped into Bread Addiction and I picked up a cinnamon roll and a croissant-style doughnut thing (I want to say cronut).

The rest of the day we did a bit of moseying about some shops, picking up food for later and then me going through the route. I was so worried they’d get lost. We put the routes on their watches and I tried to talk them through it. As a failsafe I was going to run the route ahead of them and mark it out using flour that I had put into three water bottles and would carry in my running pack. As the loop was only around 13 miles I was happy to run just one loop and then they could repeat it for the full distance.

Emma was going to run with Cortney for the first loop and their pace was going to be around 11 min/miles, and I was going to be running around 8 min/mile so I would be comfortably ahead marking the route.

The girl woke up early and did their morning marathon preparations while I (luxuriously) got to stay in bed until 7.30am, 30 minutes before we were to leave. I wasn’t going to eat beforehand as I never do so 30 minutes was enough time for me to get sorted. Kyle was staying at home, ready to help if needed if someone got lost.

He took some photos of us before we left and then we were off.

The wind was strong, the rain on and off for the start and it was cold. I knew the wind would be favourable to us though as where the wind would be most strong would be along the seafront but we’d be running with it behind us. And where it would be against us would be more sheltered away from the front, so not as bad.

I periodically marked the “course” with flour where there were turnings or crossings, hoping the rain wouldn’t wash them off the road. But they were more nudges rather than actual signs because they’d have their watches with directions that would be clear (I prayed!). I did hope people didn’t think I was graffitiing as it looked a little odd me marking the pavements.

As I got down to the seafront the wind was exactly as I thought, right behind me. This was nice but my pony tail kept slapping me in my face which was annoying. But less annoying than running into the full force of the wind, which I saw a number of runners having to deal with. It was nice to see so many runners out and so many wearing the London Marathon bibs. I cheered them all on as I passed them and it raised some smiles. I felt a little like a fraud as I wasn’t running a marathon but I still felt somewhat involved, if only tenuously.

I quite enjoyed my run until I got to the last couple of miles and the wind and rain really were horrendous. In my short-sleeved top I felt very cold. I was intermittently worrying about Emma and Cortney as well. Were they OK? Were they lost? Was the route OK for them?

I realised I could get 14 miles if I did a little add-on at the end so I did that before heading back home and getting inside quickly. Brrr! It was cold! I was so grateful that I ran my marathon the week before and that I wasn’t having to run that loop twice. The weather was just horrid.

I realised I had a message from Emma asking if I could grab her a spare jacket and give it to her for the second loop. I found the jacket that I thought she meant and then ran back down to where she’d be. Unfortunately it wasn’t the jacket she meant but she put it on anyway as she was so sodden and cold. She had parted from Cortney a few miles ago. She decided to run down to Southsea and back as she mentally couldn’t face the loop again. I headed back home – now having added an extra mile on to my total distance.

I then had the best shower of my life – burning my skin to red raw I imagine, but so necessary. While I was showering I heard Kyle talking to someone. Turned out Cortney had come back for some spare clothes too and was heading back out again at a slower pace. Her foot (which had been problematic before the marathon) was hurting. She was in very good spirits though!

After showering and eating a steaming bowl of porridge, Kyle and I headed out to walk to cheer Emma on. Handily we had her on the Find My Friends app so we were able to find her and cheer her on as she headed back.

Now the rain was relentless and I felt so very sorry for them being outside – it was bad enough just walking in it.

Emma finished in just over 4hrs 30 and Cortney in 5 hours 50. Bless them both, they were cold, soaked but victorious. They did incredibly! I was sorry that the route hadn’t been better for them but I think the terrible weather had been the main issue (let’s be honest, Portsmouth is Portsmouth – not much I can do there).

After everyone had showered and warmed up we drove down to The Tenth Hole to pick up very much deserved cake. I went for the vegan chocolate strawberry cake which was DIVINE. I love The Tenth Hole for their very generous (Anna-friendly) sized slabs of cake. No issues for me finishing!

So a big congratulations to Emma and Cortney for battling not only terrible weather conditions but the streets of Portsmouth to complete their Virtual London Marathon. I was glad to be involved to celebrate their achievements. Doing a virtual marathon is something so crazy… no crowds, no amazing London sights, no aid stations, no big atmosphere, no volunteers to hang a medal round your neck at the end. But I think VLM did an amazing job in creating a community and doing the best alternative possible. So bug kudos to you all who ran it!

Did you run the Virtual London Marathon?

Have you ever run a virtual race?