Manchester Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Literally as I spotted Mark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever run Manchester Marathon?

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

Do you like KFC?

Long running and the Eastleigh 10k

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Alana Jayne Williams

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

Photo credit: Alana Jayne Williams

The weather was lovely but it was dull running.

Photo credit: Alana Jayne Williams

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

Photo credit: Alana Jayne Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Sheryl James

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

Photo credi: Nick White

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

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

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

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

Damn that 5th mile!

Photo credit: Hendy Group

Kyle finished in the very stellar time 45:46.

Photo credit: Hendy Group

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

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

Have you ever run while ill?

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

What milestones do you celebrate at parkrun?

Barcelona Marathon 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Have you ever been to Barcelona?

What’s the hottest race you’ve done?

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!