New York, New York

New York, where do I even start? I’ll be doing the marathon recap soon, but for now I’ll just recap the days before, because they were pretty cool too.

So this trip was organised by the lovely Charlie (aka @TheRunnerBeans of blog and Insta fame). I’d briefly met her before and she seemed lovely but I’d not met the other girls who were going to be on the trip too. We’d “met” through social media and chatted via there but I hadn’t actually met them. We created a WhatsApp group and chatted there a bit more, but there was still a little bit of nervousness… would they like me? Would I get on with them? Was I cool enough? I needn’t have worried about whether the girls would be nice or not – Charlie, Anna, Elaine, Cortney, Steph and Emma were all just so lovely.On Friday morning my lovely dad drove me to the airport where I met with Emma, the only one who was one the same flight as me. I was SO pleased to have someone on the same flight who also needed to get to the same place on the other side as me because, let’s be honest, I’m a complete numpty and would probably get very lost on my own. Especially as I was trying to save some money and not just get a taxi from the airport to the AirBnb. And Emma was the nicest person – I’m so glad we met! 😀The flight was long (ehhh 8 hours) but we managed to zip so quickly through security in JFK and grab our bags super fast. This is almost unheard of for flights into the States – it usually takes forever! We then rushed to get the right train to the subway so we could get to the marathon expo that evening before it shut. We were very much pushing it as it was now 6pm and the last entry into the expo was 7pm! By the time we got to Penn Station we literally had to run (with our suitcases!) down the streets (in the rain!) to get there. It was epic – the only way to describe it. We got to the expo minutes before 7pm, saw Charlie who was meeting us there and dropped our suitcases with her while we raced in.We picked up our bibs and then picked up our finisher’s t-shirt (women sizes hurrah!). We could do the expo on Saturday (the next day) but we really wanted to make sure we got our bibs and that bit sorted in case any plans changed the next day or it was a faff to get back to.The expo was very quiet though so it was super fast to do everything we needed. We wandered round the merch area and I bought myself a vest. To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the selection. I’m not a huge New Balance fan and the stuff wasn’t really my sort of thing. I’m really pleased with the vest but nothing else appealed. The expo itself was pretty cool though in this giant glass building.There were lots of stalls but we decided to head back out to Charlie as she was waiting and we were going to head to dinner with the other girls. It was very late to us at this point (New York was four hours apart at this point – the daylight savings would happen Sunday morning) but we were running on adrenaline and excitement. We met the other girls at 5 Napkin Burger, which was very cool indeed.I ordered chicken wings (had to be done!) and sweet potato fries and enjoyed finally chatting to the other girls, who had arrived at different times. The chicken wings were delicious of course.And then we headed to the Airbnb and could finally CHILL. It had been a very long day! The Airbnb was INCREDIBLE. It was a proper townhouse affair, with three stories and four bedrooms. It was really quite big. The downstairs was an open plan living room, dining room and kitchen, so it felt very social.

Charlie had given us all a little goodie bag of treats as well, which was just so lovely. We had a t-shirt with New York and the skyline stitched onto it, a hairband with New York Marathon 2018 written on it, a Nuun water bottle and some Nuun, some peanut butter M&M’s and some trail mix (something we don’t really get in the UK).It was a lovely welcome! Then we headed to bed and I fell asleep very quickly! Though we’d planned to have a lovely lie-in in the morning, jet lag had other ideas and most of us woke up very early. We had a quick little walk to the very local Dunkin Donuts and got a coffee and some of the mini bite-size doughnuts (I want to say munchkins?). Then we all got ready for a shake-out run that would take us to brunch.Anna, Charlie’s friend, is an amazing photographer and does lots of Charlie’s photos for her and was planning on taking photos for us during our trip. It was really quite cool. We’d get some get photos of us running in New York that weren’t blurred or just selfies, it was fantastic!I did feel a little self-conscious, but Anna was great and how could the photos not be good with the scenery being as beautiful as it was with the autumnal colours!We ran to Central Park which was, as you can imagine, just so beautiful and so packed full of other runners! If you weren’t a runner you’d really want to be after being surrounded by so many of them!In the end I ran about 5.5 miles, which was more than I probably would have done on my own and the day before a marathon but it was a gentle pace and my legs enjoyed the stretching out after all the travel. And then we arrived at brunch at P.J Clarke’s. Charlie had previously sent out an invite to any runners who wanted to join and I think there were about 30 of us in total! It was mental. But everyone was so nice and super excited about the marathon the next day.

I love in the above photo how I’m not even caring about the photo, I’m more interested in the menu

For brunch I had toast, ham, poached eggs, tomato and Emma’s unwanted sausages (always surround yourself with people who are willing to share of give up their food ;-)).Charlie and Zoe (@MilesFitter) had done a fantastic job of arranging the brunch and we even got hats to commemorate the occasion.Emma, Elaine and I headed off after brunch to go and do some sight-seeing and to go back to the Expo for another longer mosey about. We didn’t go back to get changed first as we couldn’t be bothered and it wasn’t that cold – well, in the sun it was lovely! So first stop was Levain Bakery for some of the best cookies in New York (or so we had been told…).They sold lots of cakes but the cookie flavours were choc chip and walnut, peanut butter, double choc chip and oat and rasin. Well I was in a quandary of what to order as I wasn’t sure about the addition of walnuts into a cookie… and none of the others really took my fancy. I asked the guy behind the counter and he fully recommended the choc chip and walnut as that’s what they’re famous for apparently. I decided to also order the oat and raisin because that’s always a good one, if a little boring sometimes.I ate the choc chip one then and there – WARM. Oh my god I actually cannot explain just how fantastic this cookie was. It was so melty and gooey in the middle with a firm and crispy outer shell. So soft, so warm, so tasty. It was huge, but that’s the only way I like baked goods so that worked out nicely 😉 It took all the power in the world not to run back to the counter and order 15 more. I decided to save my oat and raisin for later…the will power I showed honestly astounds me.

We had a quick little mosey around Trader Joe’s (bought myself some of their incredible Everything But the Bagel seasoning). I do love looking round foreign super markets! And then we headed off to Time Square.I mean, obviously we just had to be a little touristy and because I’d suddenly, in the last few months, become quite the M&M fan and they have the huge M&M World there. Strangely I’m not a fan of the original M&M’s but the peanut ones, the crispy ones, the caramel ones… basically all the non-original ones I love. And it’s something a bit weird and special between Kyle and me so I thought I’d treat us to some to share (I must share, I must share, I must share…).Well, I got so excited in the M&M pick ‘n’ mix bit (OMG ALL THE FLAVOURS!!) I ended up spending $26.10! Though I have to say, I was only disappointed that it hadn’t come to $26.20… Needless to say I had quite a bag of M&M’s to take away with me (let’s pretend I didn’t go to Target later and buy some Halloween themed M&M’s as well…). ANYWAY.Then we headed to the Expo again where we could spend a bit more time looking around the different stalls (all the tasters… mmmm). I got a cool waterproof cover for my phone at the Strava stand and bought myself a GU gel. I love the GU gels – so thick and tasty. The flavours are incredible. My favourites are the maple bacon (yes yes I know, weird) and the salted caramel. Literally heavenly. This time I went for the birthday cake flavour (we just don’t have birthday cake flavours in the UK so it had to be done!). I was really intrigued to see that you could buy big containers full of GU as well that you could partition into re-usable plastic pouches. What a great idea! Though it did sound a little messy to me..I checked out the AMAZING Six Star Medal as well. Oh I can’t wait to get mine next year (if all goes well!) after Chicago. It’s just so exciting to me. I then added my words of wisdom to the wall of post-it notes (Steve Way’s classic “Don’t be shit”).Then we headed back to finally shower and think about dinner. We all decided to just chill and get dinner in rather than venture out again. I tried to use UberEats but failed so found myself a nearby Mexican and decided to go for that (God I love Mexican food) while everyone else either got something taken away from a local pizza place (Patsy’s Pizzeria) or were making their own dinner (the luxury of an AirBnb!).I enjoyed a salad topped with chicken, pork, avocado, sour cream, rice, tortilla chips and guacamole. It was delicious! I followed that with the oat and raisin cookie (which I microwaved to get warm again). Omg so good. Not quite as good as the one I’d had earlier but still delicious.I actually wasn’t feeling that nervous about the marathon the next day which was WEIRD. I was excited and looking forward to it. I really had no plans how I’d run. If I wanted to go fast, I would, If I wanted to plod along and enjoy everything, I would. It felt very eerie being as calm as I was. But it felt good. At the end of the day, I’d done this before (15 times!) and all I could do was my best. Whatever that might be.I hadn’t had a niggle in ages, I felt in good shape, I’d had a solid amount of decent food and I’d be running round somewhere new, beautiful and amazing. I’d say I was pretty nicely set-up to have a good run.

Have you ever been to New York?

Are you an M&M fan? What’s your favourite flavour?

Do you prefer an AirBnb or a hotel?

Great South Run 2018

The Great South Run is a very local run to me. It’s basically just down the road so always a fun one to enter because it’s so popular and so well supported by the locals.

It has all the feels of a big race, despite being “only” 10 miles. It’s almost like a mini-London Marathon with the atmosphere and support. It is, however, an expensive race (£46). I was luckily offered a free spot from the lovely people of Simplyhealth. I originally had plans to race it, like I did last year, but in the end I decided I’d much rather enjoy the race by running with Kyle. This is not meant to sound derogatory to Kyle, but he’d had 5 weeks off of running and had only just got back into things. This run was not about racing, but just about getting to the end without reigniting any issues. So I felt very relaxed going into this race (unlike poor Kyle, bless him).

The morning of the race was somewhat stressful when Kyle realised he’d forgotten his shorts. Clearly spending time with me is rubbing off on him and he’s developing his own “Anna(Kyle)-isms”. Luckily though his mum and sisters were going to be meeting us in Gunwharf so they were able to bring his shorts. Whew! Crisis (and lots of chafing) avoided.Kyle was running for Cancer Research UK and has been raising money for them (if anyone is feeling a tiny bit generous, his page is HERE).So my parents, Kyle and I headed off to Gunwharf bright and early (a lot earlier than when my mum and me left last year which resulted in SO MUCH PANIC because of traffic).We got parked nice and early and milled around enjoying the views and taking some photos. The weather was perfect.We then met up with Kyle’s mum, Sarah, and his two sisters, Lucy and Laura, (who are all so very lovely) and Kyle was able to get properly ready for the race. We then all headed to Southsea. It’s about a 30 minute walk but the weather was lovely so it wasn’t bad at all. A nice leg stretcher.On arriving at the race village area the support crew headed for important business with a bacon sandwich van while Kyle and I headed to our wave.We did a rather enthusiastic warm-up (kind of a standard Great South Run procedure) and then we were off. Our plans were to keep it nice and gentle at the start. The problem with the GSR is that you do get a bit swept away with all the runners. The crowds are so loud and happy that you just forget all semblance of the plans you made before.Our 9min/miles ambitions quickly turned into 8min/miles. But we were at least consciously aware of this and decided to slow down a touch but ultimately keep a bit quicker. I was relying on Kyle to feedback if he was having issues (though I did constantly ask him – which was probably just a teeeeny bit annoying for him I’m sure…).We were running strong chatting away and enjoying the crowds for the first few miles. The sun was quite intense but I was enjoying feeling its heat after feeling a bit chilly all morning. We ran through the Historic Dockyards and saw a guy dressed up (like fully dressed up) as Henry VIII, which was amusing. We saw another guy from work and other people we knew so it felt very friendly.

I think I might have scared Kyle a bit when I would randomly shout out to club members and people I knew when I saw them as he wasn’t quite expecting it. But there were a lot of people from my club, which was nice and the switchbacks were a great time to people spot.

As we got to about 4.5 miles we saw my dad, Sarah, Lucy and Laura and they cheered us on with such enthusiasm as we passed them. It was brilliant and really boosted us.As we got to around 6 miles Kyle got a bit quieter and I could feel he wasn’t finding it as easy as the previous miles. This would be entering distance territory that he hadn’t hit for quite a few weeks so I knew it would be a struggle at some points for him. He pushed on though and I stopped yabbering away and let him concentrate on just running (well, I tried to for the most part…). He was still in good spirits high-fiving young kids and cheering back when people shouted his name.

I spotted the lovely Carlo from my club who runs the Great South Run every year as the Cookie Monster and saw he was walking. I told Kyle I’d catch him up and I stopped to walk with him for a bit. He was having a bad day (he’s normally SUPER fast) but he was still being positive – as he always is. He raises so much money every year for MNDA and runs so many ultras and marathons – he’s a true inspiration.I hardly needed to give him any sort of motivation or encouragement but he said it was nice that I stopped to chat so I hope it helped!

We saw my mum at another point and she waved and cheered madly as only mums can do. She’s got painful feet at the moment (long story) so couldn’t walk as far as the others but it was nice to have her at a different point anyway to keep us going.As we got to 7 miles Kyle was finding it a bit more tough. It was very warm in the relentless sunshine so that was having an effect. Amazingly though our pace kept strong and we were pushing on. As we got round the corner I was amazed to find there was no wind. Normally along the seafront at this point the last two miles are horrendous struggle but it was clear blue skies and stillness. Hot yes but still.My lovely friend Rebecca cheered us on which was nice (last year she missed me and I had to shout to her but this year she spotted me first). I also saw my good friend Mike ahead and encouraged Kyle to catch him up, which we did. Mike was having a good race – hitting a PB for sure but the final metres were tough all round.With the final 100m Kyle put in a brilliant sprint – of which I struggled to keep up with!My personal trainer was there at the finish as well and got some great photos!
My time was 01:21:06 (Kyle’s was 01:21:05). We were both really pleased. A solid run!We then went and found our amazing supporters. They’d done so well to get round to different points in the course and were such a fantastic cheer squad.It was a really lovely day. The weather, the running and of course the support. Family is a big thing to both Kyle and I so to have them there was really lovely. They were awesome.

Happily Kyle had no injury issues during or after. So fingers crossed this remains that way!

The Great Runs might be expensive,  but they really are fantastically organised events. They usually attract a good amount of support and the atmosphere is always so boosting. I’d love to do the Great North Run one day! And the goodie bags are pretty good (Nando’s money off and sauce, protein bars, maple syrup, technical t-shirt…etc.!).Do you do any of the Great Runs?

Do your family come to support you at races?

Clarendon Marathon Relay recap

The New York Marathon is about three weeks away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Andy for the photo!

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

Have you ever done a relay race?

Are you good at organising in team events?

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

The Goodwood Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Have you ever done a lapped race?

Do you get headaches often?

What’s your favourite gel?

New Forest 10k

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you enjoy 10ks?

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

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