Romsey Beer Race 2019

The Romsey Beer race is a race I’ve done four times before and I truly love it.It’s such a lovely local race with great atmosphere, a beautiful route through Braishfield and of course a cake and beer at the end.

I’ve actually done really well at it each year I’ve done it – placing either 1st, 2nd or 3rd.But going into the race this year things weren’t going to be the same. I was nursing a bit of a hamstring niggle and in all honestly probably should sit the race out to look after it. But the thought of not running it brought a lot more sadness than the thought of running it and not being able to run after. It was a risk and one I decided to take. It was Kyle’s first time doing this race, my parents and his family were going to support… I won’t lie, I’d have felt like shit just watching and not running.

So on the Sunday we arrived in Braishfield. It was fairly overcast but still a little warm. Not as bad as some years though (especially last year which was so hot). It’s such a small and local event that it has a handful of porter toilets and a very easy-going approach to the start, which I love. It’s chip timed though so that’s a win. There’s a water station that you pass twice which is always appreciated (though plastic cups… better than bottles but still).

Now realistically I should have just enjoyed a gentle plod round but as every time I’ve ever run this race I’ve always gone for it I decided to not break the routine. It’s the one short distance race that I actually enjoy pushing myself on. I don’t know why. Maybe because I know the pain points and I know I won’t explode running fast because I’ve survived many times before.

Kyle and I did a little warm-up, said hello to running friends (fellow blogger Big Mug of Tea was doing the race for the second time – spoiler: she smashed her PB!) and then got to the start. The start is on a flat field where you have to do one lap before heading out onto the road. This is the only race I feel somewhat comfortable with going near the front. I feel somewhat justified as I’ve placed a few times before… I was eyeing up other girls wondering how fast they’d be. I mean, I wasn’t expecting anything crazy considering my hamstring issue but I wanted to at least give myself a good chance. It’s like this race turns me into a weirdly competitive person that isn’t normally present at running events.

I knew I’d need to put my foot down straight away from the start because the first mile or so is relatively flat and then there are some nasty hills, so it’s best to get some speed in while you can. So off we went around the field before meeting the road. We turned the corner and I got to wave to Kyle’s family and my parents as they cheered us on. I heard them shout for Kyle very soon after so knew he wasn’t too far behind.

My first mile was 6:40 and I felt like this was within the realms of my capability. I could feel my hamstring a little –  not painful or hindering but just THERE saying “remember me”. I knew there was at least one girl ahead of me and as we got into a consistent pace two other girls passed me. So it goes! I wondered if I would catch them up later. We hit the hill and it was a long slog to the top. Oof why do I love this race so much?? Thankfully we got a nice downhill to enjoy afterwards and I managed to overtake one of the girls. Another girl sped past me but she shouted to us that she wasn’t racing and to ignore her – she was running under a man’s bib. I was nice of her to tell us but a bit confusing.

The route goes in a sort of two loop style thing and is all on road. The road isn’t closed off but the marshals do a good job in managing any cars (of which there were very few). It’s a lovely countryside quaint little British town so it’s very quiet. The locals come out and cheer and one house always sprays their hose pipe which is a welcome relief when it’s super hot.

Because of how the course goes you get to see your supports a number of times. It was really encouraging and nice to hear Kyle being cheered on very quickly after me. Though it did help me keep my pace up for fear of him catching up! 😉 A lot of my club do this race so there are always friendly faces about the place – another reason I love this race.

Thanks Mr Big Mug of Tea for the photos!

Another girl overtook me and I knew any placing was becoming out of reach. That’s OK, I was going a lot faster than I’d expected. My hamstring was still there as a persistent annoyance but still nothing to make me super concerned. The final mile felt like a long drag. I knew there were three girls ahead of me (as well as the non-racing girl) and the third girl was just ahead. She was about 5-10 seconds away. Could I make it? It felt like such an ask. Everyone was cheering me on and I tried and tried to not let my pace drift backwards.

We turned around the corner onto the cricket pitch where you do a final lap before finishing (such a tease). My friend Mark who’d already finished was shouting at me to push on and try and catch her. I tried one final push but just couldn’t get close enough and on the final 200 metres I just lost it and my speed drifted away as I lost my energy. She was the stronger runner, kudos to her. She finished 5 seconds ahead.

The difference between me getting a trophy (or a tankard in this case) and not, ahh well I tried! My time was 33:46 – which means I beat last year’s time by one second.

I was initially (and in a very silly way) disappointed not to have maintained my streak of placing in the top three but when I took a step back I realised I achieved a lot more than I’d initially thought by a) even running it and b) being faster than last year.

My hamstring wasn’t too bad afterwards. I mean it felt like it had been worked hard but I wasn’t limping or anything like that. It wasn’t painful to walk, for that I was glad.

Kyle finished soon after me and was happy with his 34:27 time.

We headed over to the cake and beers and I got a slice of lemon cake and a beer (which, as usual tradition of this race dictates, I gave to my dad after I had a few sips).

Fantastic supporters!

It was nice to chill for a bit on the cricket pitch and cheer in other runners and chat in the sunshine. Another part of why I love this race.

Then we headed home so Kyle and I could quickly shower and head to our local pub, The Osborne View, for some lunch with my parents.

As it was the last day of my non-vegan status I went the full hog (ha) and had a double portion of the chicken wings. It was glorious.

Is there a race you do every year because you love it?

What’s your favourite pre-race food?

Would you rather a medal or a cake/beer?

The Great Manchester Run 10k recap

On to the Sunday recap of last weekend.

After a rather disastrous night, I had an equally terrible night’s sleep due to the hotel being in the centre of Manchester and my room being right next to a club. Ah well, at least it was safe, clean and only five minutes from the brunch location I was going to with Kirsty.

We were meeting at 9.30am at Federal Cafe Bar, somewhere she’d been recommended several times on Instagram. The menu looked good and pushed me to have something I wouldn’t normally (usually I’m distracted by dirty big fry ups!).

I went for the mushroom and halloumi dish… it came with sourdough toast, eggs, halloumi and mushrooms. I added chorizo and avocado too.

It was fantastic. So tasty and really filled me up. I also went for a rather fancy hipster beetroot latte. As a big beetroot fan I was still sceptical because… in a coffee? But I was down to give it a go (on race day whhhhy not eh!).

It was actually really tasty. Made with oat milk, it was quite sweet which I wonder was from something artificial or the actual beetroot itself, as it is quite sweet normally. Who knows. It was nice though.

As the race wasn’t until 1pm it was a bit confusing what to eat to be honest. And actually during the race it did slightly repeat on me… Kirsty mentioned it might be because it was quite high fat and that’s quite an ask for your body just before a race. I hadn’t even considered that.

Then we headed to the Garmin stand to meet with the Garmin team. There were five other “influencers” there too and we chatted and took photos. Basically had a bit of fun.

It was so cool to see behind the scenes of these events. I’m by no means a big fish in this sort of thing so it’s quite cool seeing it happen and being a part of something like this. Though I got HUGE impostor syndrome.

L-R Jenna (@Jenna.is.running, Fudgie (@Fudgieruns), Kirsty (@Shortgirlrunner), and Rachel (@Runwithrachel)

We got T-shirt’s and our bibs and headed to do some start line photos.

I then literally bumped into Adele from the BBC Radio 1 early morning breakfast show. Now I’m a little bit of a fan girl of hers. I listen to her every morning when I go to the gym, and when it’s that early it’s really nice to not think you’re the only one awake so I really enjoy her show.

She’s the nicest person as well and started running a few years ago, supporting the Heads Together charity. Anyway I tweet the show occasionally and met her just before London (yes I know, I’m a proper fan girl) and so when I saw her and said “it’s AnnaTheApple” (I KNOW, PROPER CRINGE) she was like “ohh hey you listen all the time!”. It made my entire day.

We had a proper chat. We talked about running and she even introduced me to her girlfriend! (She called me a unit because of all my running!!) Honestly I was made up. Then we had to dash off to do more photo bits. I couldn’t stop beaming.

Then we headed to start to get ready to go (I say “get ready to go”, but we did still have a 40 minute wait…). Anyway, the time flew by while we chatted and then we were off!

My plan was to not to be a wet blanket about it and actually push myself. I rarely ever push myself, and ESPECIALLY in a 10k. But today the weather was good, the course was ideal and I had no excuse. As tempting as it was to run with the others (who were taking it easier) I resolutely set off with the mindset to GO.

It was really crowded in the first half a mile and I spent some time dodging round people and trying to get into a good rhythm. But then I broke free and got a good amount of space around me.

It’s so odd running a 10k after spending so much time focusing on longer distances. You just have no time to play with. I realised my slower first mile would need to be made up later if I wanted the time I was aiming for. And it really requires a lot of focused energy to hold on to the pace.

The course was pretty much entirely flat. Maybe a couple of very gentle inclines but nothing crazy that would hold you back. I saw Aly Dixon and Gemma Steel fly by going the other way further on in the course and they looked to be on the pain train. Come on, Anna, you can do this too (at a much slower pace ha). I had my music on but could hear the crowds cheering and boosting us along. There were lots of people out which was nice.

We ran round the Manchester United football ground (not quite through it like we did in Southampton). And we followed a lot of the same beginning and end bits of the Manchester Marathon. It did feel fairly familiar. But the course was so much more interesting as it did actually go through the city whereas the marathon really didn’t.

On the course there were two drinks stations and unfortunately full of bottled water. So wasteful. So much plastic. It really makes me cringe. It was a warm day so a lot of water was being taken (a few sips then thrown). There were two showers on the course as well which helped cool people down too.

Then we were on the final straight back. My pace was on goal and I was feeling strong! I was getting an echo of a stitch in my side and I attempted to breathe differently to get rid of it. I was really anxious it would turn into one of those properly painful sharp ones in my side but luckily it remained on the edge as just a slight annoyance.

Then it was 400m to go – over so quickly!

My legs and lungs were pushing hard but I was so chuffed as I knew I was going to PB now. Unless I fell over, I had this!

I crossed the line in 41:40, a PB by over a minute. Wowza I am stoked! But the stitch was now in full force as I walked to the goodie bags.

It took a few minutes to disappear and the effects of the run to dissipate. So much longer than after a marathon! That feeling of “let me catch my breath again”. Obviously the effects of a marathon hang on in different ways a lot longer of course.

I headed back to the Garmin stand and took some photos (of course!) and waited for the others.

They arrived not long after and we swapped stories and congratulated each other. The others had had a nice fun run rather than going for it, which sounded lovely.

After doing our social media bits with Garmin we headed to the VIP area in the Hilton hotel nearby. VIP! So fancy!

They had a buffet spread, sweets, teas and coffee and we just tucked straight in. Omg I was so spoilt!

I tucked right in to several plates of Greek salad (all the feta!) and a fish ratatouille. It was delicious.

I didn’t have long so tucked two Bakewell cakes into my bag wrapped in a napkin for the train back (future Anna would be pleased).

Then I had to say my goodbyes and head sharpish to my train – the station was 20 mins walk away. I only had 30 mins and I wanted to get a tea for the train so I did a very epic run-power walk in my coat, layers and my big rucksack on to get there with time to spare.

Unfortunately (and I didn’t realise at the time) my two cakes fell out of my bag as I hadn’t done it up properly! I was VERY lucky nothing else fell out but I was devastated to get to the station and realise what had happened. Nooooo! No train cakes! I did have two apples which consolidated me somewhat but it was a rather sad moment.

Solid goodie bag spoils

Anyway, lost cakes and failed Airbnb’s aside, the weekend was truly a fantastic one. I loved Saturday with my mum doing so many fun things and then making new friends on Sunday at the race. Garmin gifted me the place and I am SO grateful for the opportunity. It was so much fun. Getting the PB really was only a small addition to the whole rest of the fantastic weekend!

Do you often race races?

Have you ever been VIP for anything?

Do you get trains that often?

**Full Disclaimer: Garmin provided me with a free race place in exchange for some social media posts on Instagram. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

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?