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?

Goodwood Marathon 2020

I was so nervous going into the Goodwood Marathon race.

What with one thing and another, I hadn’t done a proper marathon race since Chicago last year. Yes I’d done my “lockdown marathon” in April but it wasn’t an official race. It was just me running round my local area for 26.2 miles.

So when I heard that the Goodwood Marathon was still going ahead, and the fact it was just 30 minutes away and that I’d successfully done a few 16 milers, 17 miler and an 18 miler… well, it was far too tempting to not sign up for. Especially as this year I’ve signed up to so many marathons for them to be cancelled/postponed (Rotterdam, Southampton, Iceland and a local lapped event) . At this point I just wanted to run a damn race!

With around two weeks before the race, I’d signed up and was feeling excited. But then as the days crept closer I started to really feel not up for it. Originally my parents, Kyle’s mum and Kyle would be coming to support, until we realised that would be pretty reckless considering it was likely to be fairly crowded already and they were trying to discourage spectators. So just Kyle and I then (and even having Kyle watch me wasn’t guaranteed).

I was nervous and just feeling flat about it. It was just up the road so the commitment to go was minimal. It was lapped, so I could stop anytime really without issue. And ELEVEN LAPS. All these things just weighed against me.

Kyle massively helped hype me up though. He suggested that I could dedicate each lap to something or someone that would keep me entertained or focused. He could hold up a photo on his iPad each lap I passed him. We came up with 11 fun and random things and then Kyle was going to surprise me with the photo. I also made the best music playlist I could. One for just plodding through the miles and one for 20 miles onwards (high tempo go go go music).

Saturday I did a gentle 5k shakeout run with Kyle and had a my usual pizza for dinner (I go to the pizza counter in Asda – I get a BBQ based chicken and veg pizza with less cheese – while I adore cheese, they put loads on and I didn’t want it to be super heavy).

I prepped all my stuff ready for the next day: bag packed, clothes out ready and porridge ready to be made. Then I got a fairly early night.

The next morning I was up at 6:50am, got dressed and washed, had a small but strong coffee (in a fun mug Kyle got made for me with my face on haha), took Alfie for a 10 minute walk, ate my porridge and we were ready to go.

Because I knew the only toilets available were within the race village (which is a faff to get to from the course itself) I wanted to drink as little as possible in the morning to prevent me needing to go during the race. I wasn’t concerned about dehydration because I had drunk a lot the day before and had had some water during the night. I also knew there would be water available every single lap.

We arrived half an hour before the start, parked and walked over to the Goodwood Motor Circuit (parking is super easy, it’s in a field literally next door, and it’s free).

Before we could get in we had to sanitize our hands. The COVID safety measures were really top notch for this event – we felt very safe. All marshals wore masks, everyone was keeping apart and there was minimal contact (no bag drop for example). I kept my mask on in the race village (you didn’t have to) but mainly because it was so cold!

And because I wanted to keep going to the loo beforehand (that sounds excessive, I went twice!).

Kyle leant me his coat and we milled around a bit before they called over the marathon runners for a warm up. It was so cold! I mean I know compared to like November or January it’s not that cold, but considering the previously temperatures we’ve all gotten used to, it certainly felt cold.

And it was windy. Really windy.

The marshals then called out waves for what times people were hoping to finish – starting at 2 hours 30. Blimey! (Spoiler: the winning guy did it in 2:29:56!). When they shouted out 3:25 I decided to go for it. I knew it wasn’t likely to get that time unless I really felt good but I wanted to give myself a good shot… just in case.

We were directed over to the start in lines with markers to keep us 2 metres away from each other and they started four people at a time every 10 seconds. It was like a conveyor belt of runners. Very strange but obviously the safest way to do it.

And then I was off. We had to do a little out and back bit to make up the distance for the 11 laps (2.3 miles per lap) straight into the wind before turning round and heading off in the direction we’d be going round the track each time. 11 laps. Here we go.

I looked up at Kyle who was stood on the balcony bit to watch me and he held up the first photo on his iPad. It was a picture of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s a bit of a random one, I know, but we’ve really been enjoying watching the Buffy series (again for me, first time for Kyle) and I’m Team Spike rather than Team Angel. It made me laugh as I headed off.

Looking up for Kyle

The wind was right behind, pushing us forward nicely. But it was cold. In my vest and shorts I really felt quite exposed. I kept my music off and told myself to do at least two laps without it (always better to use musical sparingly during a marathon as then it’ll have more of an impact). We were all spaced out on the track so it felt a little lonely but it was nice and flat so I just focused on plodding away.

As we turned round the corner I felt the wind now pushing my side. Not quite as easy as it pushing behind but not too bad. As we continued round the lap we were now starting to face the wind. Urgh it was now very cold and getting harder as we were heading into the wind. It was one of those “head down, grind teeth, push forward” times. And in my head thinking “10 more times of this”.

In reality it was probably just a mile of into the wind pain, and then as we turned again it was back to the wind going across us – but definitely a relief from before. And then as we continued on as we followed the loop round, the wind was back to behind us. Whew. And then it was easy running back to towards the start again. Each lap this was the best part, turning that corner, the wind behind and heading to finish the lap and seeing Kyle. It really was a tale of two halves for each lap. A hard grind followed by easy running.

As I got close to the end of the lap I would raise my arm and wave towards where I knew Kyle was on the balcony. He would wave back and then I could spot him easier when I got closer so I could see him and the photo he would hold up. As I finished the first lap I looked up and saw the next photo: apples 😀

Then it was off for another lap. Now I knew what to expect and I knew where it would be hard and where it would be easy. I just zoned out and kept my pace as consistent as I could (well, effort level I guess). While this marathon is quite boring as there isn’t much to look at and you’re doing so many laps, it does go by fairly quickly because you’re just trying to complete the lap your on and 11 laps mentally go quicker than 26 miles. To be honest, I stopped looking at my watch for the miles because there was no point. I knew the number of  laps I had left so it didn’t matter about the miles.

The next lap Kyle held up a photo Thor (I always joke that I love him). And during that lap I made up a little song in my head to repeat over and over to just keep me occupied (don’t laugh) “Thor, Thor, I am Thor” over and over. It was just so rhythmical so it just worked (I don’t have desires to actually be Thor, I must stress). I still kept my music off. I was good for the moment.

The next lap was a photo of a dinosaur (this then went round my head as “di-no-saur, di-no-saur”) and then I starting thinking about how far I’d need to be away from a T-rex to be able to outrun it… the weird things that go round my brain during a marathon, eh.

I think at this point I’d definitely been lapped by the front runners – who were insanely fast! And they just seemed to glide along, despite the wind. I passed a guy who said “urgh this wind” and he seemed to be about to fall into step with me and moan a bit more, but I really didn’t want someone next to me unhappy and I also didn’t fancy chatting much. I needed all the positive energy I could get. Luckily I manage to up my pace a bit more and lost him.

At some point the 20 mile racers joined the course and it got more busy. Eventually they’d be the 20 milers, half marathoners, 10k’ers and 5k’ers out on the track. So throughout the race there was an eb and flow of busyness. It was cool to see the other runners join – even if it was just to keep me occupied by watching them zoom past or me pass them.

Kyle held up a photo of my parent’s dog, Dylan, for lap five. Sadly Dylan passed away a few weeks ago so it was a nice way to remember him.

At this point I was feeling very warm and decided to stop and grab my drink. There was a drinks station just before each next lap and (because I remembered how it was last time) decided to bring my own water bottle so I wouldn’t need to waste any water bottles and could keep as contactless as possible. I’d also attached a gel to the side with tape in case I wanted it. It was really nice to have my own drink – I’d even popped a couple of Nuun tablets in it so it was lovely and refreshing (in the end I didn’t use the gel).

Lap six was a photo of a cake (of course). Then on the 7th lap Kyle had gotten his times muddled and as I waved over to him I didn’t get a wave back… and as I passed he looked panicked and hadn’t got his iPad ready. He looked completely stricken bless him. It did slightly stump me tho as lap 7 was supposed to be a surprise photo so I was a bit disappointed.

At this point I was listening to my music (I had started it on mile 10). I was in the zone and just trucking along. I would be making no crazy moves for a while. Just keep running at the same effort, just stay focused.

Lap eight came around and Kyle quickly held up two photos: chicken wings and the 7Eleven logo (would have been apt for lap seven… lap 7 out of 11).

Lap 9 was a photo of my family. I thought this would be the hardest lap because three laps is still so far from the end (actually it was lap 10 that was the killer). I was around 20 miles now, but not ready to change my music and start running faster. I was feeling the drag. Then my headphones made that little noise which means they’re low battery. I had some spare in my FlipBelt so decided on the 10th lap I would change my music and my headphones and be ready to go go go.

Lap 10 was a photo of Alfie. I grabbed some more water and then headed off. I swapped my headphones and tried to get the new headphones to connect to my phone’s Bluetooth but it said it wasn’t possible… grrrr! So I switched back the headphones, switched the playlist and hoped the battery would hold out. Right, now was time to jump on a the pain train for a little bit. Now I was counting the number of times I would have to run into the wind.

The final lap there was no photo – it was “Kyle” and so he just gave me the biggest cheer and shouted “one more to go!”. And that’s all I needed to be like, “right let’s do this”. To be honest, my pace didn’t dramatically get that much faster but I definitely felt more motivated to get to the finish now. The final time through the wind was tough but I knew it was the last time. Then when I turned the corner, the wind behind me, I picked it up as much as I could and headed for as strong a finish that I could manage.

I could see Kyle cheering me on and I felt spectacular. Oh how I’d missed this!

My official time was 3:33:44 and I was over the moon. Going into this I was going to be happy with a sub 3:45, maybe  push for 3:40. When I was racing and feeling good I considered being near 3:35. So 3:33 was a big win in my book.

I finished and picked up my medal from the table, still wrapped in its plastic and walked towards Kyle. He was there with a man who I recognised lived on our road. He’d just done the 10k, what a small world!

My legs were definitely tired and done. This is what happens when you don’t have a solid lead-up to a marathon – a few long runs does not make for a proper marathon training plan! But I was chuffed nonetheless. At no point was I going to stop, like I feared I’d be tempted to. Once I had started that was it. I had so missed the race atmosphere, people running with you all trying their best, and then the flourish of a sprint finish. It just felt so nice to be doing something like this again. It’s definitely sparked me up again 🙂

But I can definitely say that I never want to run round Goodwood Motor Circuit ever again.

Have you done any races?

Have you got any races planned?

Chicago Marathon 2019 – Six Star Finisher

I woke up the morning of the Chicago Marathon after a fantastic night’s sleep. No one was more surprised about this than me to be honest.

I had fallen asleep and stayed asleep nicely, despite being so worried and stressed. I woke up about an hour before my alarm (5am) and did all that I needed to for a comfortable running experience, if you get my drift 😉 I made my porridge in our lovely Airbnb kitchen and drank my black coffee. No stress, no panic.

Just before 7am Kyle and I headed down to the start, a mere 10 minute walk away. I didn’t need a map, I just followed all the other runners coming out of the woodwork.

I had an aluminium blanket round me and was quite warm. It wasn’t nearly as cold as the day before thankfully. And no rain!

Kyle had plans to see me at mile 3, mile 14, mile 17 and then somewhere around the end. He was going to message me encouragements and any changes in his plan and I would see them pop-up on my watch (normally I have notifications turned off). This would be lovely.

My wave began at 7.30am and my corral closed at 7.20am, so at about 7.10am I left Kyle only to find that my gate was closed and was redirecting people to another one (no idea why). So I had to do a bit of a panicked jog the long way to my corral but managed to get in before it closed, whew! I have to say, it was the easiest and quickest race to get to. I didn’t even need a pre-race wee as I’d had one just before I’d left the apartment.

I wedged myself into the crowd of runners (so many people, as is typical for a major marathon) and found myself stood behind a 3:35 pacer.

Hmmm, VERY ambitious but could be worse. We waited for about 10 minutes after our supposed start time and then inched forward closer to the start. The finally we were off!

Having not properly run for a week I was nervous how it would feel. So far, it was OK. Suspiciously OK. Unlike New York, I didn’t have that euphoric feeling of “yay I’m running a marathon”. It was a cautious and almost constant thought cycle of “how does my knee feel? Is it OK?”. And it was OK so far. I could tell though that it wasn’t as strong as my other knee and it wasn’t quite “right”. So I stayed within a cautious pace.

Within the first mile however it became clear that my watch was not tracking things accurately (presumably due to the skyscrapers affecting the GPS). I reached a mile way before the mile marker and my pace was all over the place, despite feeling consistent. This panicked me a bit. What was I going to do?

I knew from experience that when you run a marathon it all feels very easy for the first 10 miles or so regardless if you’re running faster than you should be because… well, you’ve only run 10 miles. If you continue at that pace it starts to get a lot harder and unsustainable later. Having my watch tell me my pace has helped me in all my marathons to not get carried away. And it was important as I didn’t have the training (or the strength in my body) to maintain a faster pace than my planned one. I was going to aim for 8.30s to begin with and then maybe chip away at that later on.

The next issue hit when Kyle started messaging me. His messages would be cut short on my watch display because it was only a preview. So he’d say “I’m waiting near to the….” and that was all I’d get. He kept sending messages like this and it was frustrating – we should have tested this before the race! And in my confusion to see his message I then managed to LAP my watch by pressing the wrong button. Oh god what a muppet! Now it was all out of sync and all over the place.

At mile 3 when I saw Kyle I had minimal amount of time to explain everything of course. I told him I felt OK (knee update) but that my watch was completely out of sync and all I had was the time I’d been running and the mile markers on the road.

I got to 5k in 26:50 (08:39 min/miles). My watch is so far out I can only really go by the 5k splits from the app.

I carried on. He sent another long message and I decided to whip my phone out and message him to tell him to send bursts of messages rather than long streams so I could read it. That worked much better. The first few miles were full of cheering crowds and the skyscrapers of Chicago, along with a couple of bridges to run over. It was a good start for definite. It was brightly sunny but cold. I had my arm warmers on and expected I would take them off later in the race (I didn’t).

Then we headed out north of downtown Chicago towards Lincoln Park. At this point it was probably my lowest time of the race. I could occasionally feel my knee (no pain, just something “not right”) and I worried about the accumulating miles ahead.

I got to 10k in 53:51 (8:42 min/miles).

I had some serious doubts in whether I would finish and all I could see was the time when I did the Bournemouth Marathon a few years ago and had sporadic sharp knee pains which caused me to walk the final two miles. I remembered that in that race I’d gotten to mile 12 before really feeling pain and I hoped to get to that point without issue. But I was in a dark place, wishing I could try and enjoy the race a bit more.

Lincoln Park looked very pretty and I made a mental note to come back here with Kyle. There were lots of people cheering us on and that boosted me somewhat. Then we turned around and headed back south.

I needed to go for a wee (as I always tend to during a marathon and usually plan a stop somewhere between 2-10 miles depending on portaloo availability). But I was loathe to stop for fear that if I did the pain would start when I began running again. So I kept going.

I got to 15k in 1:20:29 (8:35 min/miles).

At mile 10 I switched to a playlist of Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish (current two of my favourite female artists). It was a nice mix of happy clappy songs and chilled but somewhat depressing vibes.

I started noticing that pretty much at any point during the marathon I could look around and find someone wearing the Nike Vaporfly shoes. I’ve never seen a more prolific shoe in a race. So many of these crazy bright neon Nikes. I must have seen over a 100 of them during the race. It was actually comical the number of them.

I got to 20k in 1:47:09 (8:35 min/miles).

Kyle was going to be at mile 14 so I looked forward to this. As I got past the fateful mile 12 without issue I started to relax a little. OK no pain. No discomfort. We’re good for now.

I saw Kyle and he boosted me along, asking me if wanted a gel (he was my gel mule). I said I was OK. Actually in terms of fitness I felt fine. I was running comfortably and felt I was fine to maintain the pace. I’d now worked out I could see my pace (sort of). But my watch was still so far out in terms of distance (around two miles out).

I got to 25k in 2:14:09 (8:42 min/miles).

I started to relx a bit and I allowed myself to start to visualise the finish. I hadn’t done this at all in the lead-up. It was tempting fate and being over-confident. Now I used these thoughts to boost me along. I would be picking up my SIX STAR MEDAL. How would that feel? Seeing Kyle afterwards wearing my TWO medals. The relief. I held on to those thoughts tightly and helped them spur me along.

It was still cold and the wind was fierce. It was more gusty than consistently windy so you’d suddenly get this big blast of frigid air hitting you for a bit and then it’d disappear. It was tough going but at least the course was flat. I actually saw a large piece of cardboard fly down the road and smack into a male runner (fairly amsuing it must be said).

I saw Kyle at mile 17 and honestly this was the best. I felt confident suddenly. I could do this. As I got close to him he shouted, “In less than 10 miles you’ll have your Six Star!” and I punched the air and yelled back “I’ve got this!”.

I got to 30k in 2:40:59 (8:39 min/mile).

I started grabbing water from the aid stations now (which were frequent and a mix of Gatorade, water and gels and then later half bananas and orange segments). Paper cups! And according to the brochure, entirely compostable. In fact, the marathon was very forward thinking in it’s environmental conscience – so much designed for recyling and reducing waste and plastic. Big thumbs up, Chicago!

As I got past 18 miles a man ran up next to me. He said he recognised me and had read my blog. He hoped I was enjoying Chicago and that the race went well for me. Oh I can’t tell you how much this put a spring in my step! What a lovely thing to be told mid-race. I couldn’t work out, in the rush of it all, whether he was running too or a marshal, but it was lovely to see him.

Around 18 miles we were running through the University Village, which would become very familiar to me in the days coming as our next Airbnb would be around there. There did seem to be a numerous number of universities in Chicago I must say.

I hit into mile 20 and could barely contain my excitement. In less than hour I’d be done! I switched my playlist to something else (I love Taylor and BiIllie but god I was done with them).

I tried to do the mental maths of what time I could finish in. My time of course didn’t matter (just finishing was my intention) but a tiny voice wondered if I could sneak in under 3:45? I had had a dream before all this hamstring and knee drama that I could finish all my Six Stars in under that time (I had so far). But it would be a push I think.

I got to 35k in 3:07:34 (8:34 min/mile).

As is typical for when wearing your name on your vest, I got a lot of “Go Anna!”s which is always nice. I love how Americans say my name with their accent. I kept thinking, smile smile smile. And it helped, people would cheer more.

I heard “go Anna” quite enthusiastically and looked over to see a crowd of cheerers. I looked harder and realised I recognised the ‘ring leader’. It was Charlie from The Runner Beans. It was lovely to see her cheering and it definitely boosted me along 🙂

I got to 40k in 3:33:43 (8:25 min/mile).

Just 2k to go. I saw Kyle message me saying I could get under 3:45 if I pushed. Urgh I was so tired now, so this felt like a hard ask. But I pushed on, seeing my pace get a bit quicker. Come on Anna, not long left!

I couldn’t work out where the finish was (I was confused with the 5k course yesterday) but eventually we turned into Grant Park and I saw it ahead. My watched clicked to 3:44:xx and I absolutely sprinted to get to the finish.

3:44:35! Just snuck under 3:45. A man tapped my on the shoulder and shook my hand: “great finish!”. Ahh what a lovely thing to say 🙂 I couldn’t believe I’d done it. The stress was over. The RELIEF. My god the relief.

I walked along, collecting my Chicago medal, some water, ALL the apples…

And then I saw the Six Star Finisher signs. Ahhhhh! I headed over there tentatively, still wondering if something would stop this moment. But they scanned my QR tag and the Abbott man said “congratulations Anna, here is your medal”. Omg it was like a dream. They put my medal on and the weight of it hit me – both metaphorically and physically. It was a beast. I’m not a sentimental person but I must admit, I did get a tiny bit emotional. No crying but a bit choked up.

The crowd of Abbott volunteers were so lovely, congratulating me and saying what an achievement. It was just lovely. They took my things so they could get a photo of me – they looked after me so well.

And then I headed off into the swarms of finishers to find Kyle. Walking on clouds.

I found Kyle faily quickly, thankfully, and showed him my medals. It was such a fantastic moment. I was so glad he was there with me to share my happiness. He was so relieved for me too. (Though he claims he never doubted me finishing, I’m glad one of us was confident!).

Chicago Marathon was definitely a hard graft. The lead-up and the race were mentally and physically tough going. I was so stressed and I don’t think I ever really relaxed properly while running. Of course for any marathon I never go into it believing it’s going to go OK or that I’m 100% confident I’ll finish as anything can happen during those 26.2 miles outside of your control, but I do tend to go into it fairly positive and while I’m running enjoy myself.

This was different. The pit of my tummy was constantly in turmoil. I do remember clearly thinking though, “This is what my body was made to do”. Running a marathon, even when semi-injured and undertrained, is just natural to me. I love it and find such happiness from it – not just finishing, but the entire process. I hope to have many more marathons to come 🙂

And as for getting my Six Star Finisher medal… well, that was just wonderful. It’s been six years since I did my first marathon major, Berlin, and so much has changed in my life. I was married then, I’m divorced now but so very happy. Each Major has special memories and I enjoyed all of them. I was very lucky to have such good experiences, good weather and no big upsets. Yes Chicago was tough because of my injury woes, but I still had a comfortable race and finished smiling. That’s all I ever hope for.

Have you done any of the Major Marathons?

Have you ever run abroad?

Do you depend on your watch during races?

Bournemouth Half Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next stop now, Chicago.

Have you ever run a mentally tiring race?

Have you ever done the Bournemouth Half or Marathon?