New Forest Marathon recap – 2022

The New Forest Marathon was my 26th marathon (though I have actually run the marathon distance 28 times but they’re unofficial).

I did this race a few years ago and was looking forward to it. I normally predominately do road marathons, so it was nice to a “semi-trail” one. I say semi-trail because a lot of it is still on road and the non-road bits are on compacted trail so realistically it’s not that off-roady. You wouldn’t need trail shoes for this race.

Sarah, Kyle’s mum, looked after Isaac the night before and came to ours for 7.30am to drop him off and join us. This was really handy because it meant I got a decent night’s sleep the night before. I do have to wake up in the middle of the night though to pump as I’m still breastfeeding Isaac so it’s not perfect but definitely easier.

I fed Isaac and got my porridge together and then we were off. It was about 40ish minutes away and the race started at 9.30am. The traffic to get into the race village is a little heavy but we got there with enough time for me to go for a quick wee and do the warmup.

Then we were off! Sarah and Kyle were going to try and see me during the race but I wasn’t banking on it. It’s a tricky course to spectate unless you drive or cycle around. Spoiler alert: they couldn’t find a way to see me. It was just impossible. But it didn’t stop me thinking “I might see them soon” as I was running which, while ultimately disappointing as I never saw them, was a nice motivator.

I felt very swept away with the first mile, looking at my watch and seeing 7:20s and thinking wooah there this is not sustainable. I’m not in the mindset to GO GO GO. This race was more just about enjoying it and seeing what I could do with the level of effort I want to put in. I pretty much say this about every race so I know I’m a bit of broken record by now! But that’s just how I like to run and do marathons. And I do wonder because I don’t go for a time every time I enjoy them more and can do more of them as I’m not rinsed at the end every time.

Anyway I pulled back the pace a bit and let people fly past me. Marathons are a long way and I wanted to relax a bit more early on. The first 10 miles went by without much to report. The scenery was beautiful. Gigantic trees (apparently weighing around 104 tonnes!) and gorgeous views. It was very peaceful. The marshals were really supportive and happy, so that was great.

Mid-race selfie

The race organisers had said the change of course meant it was now “fast and flat”. Well between 8-9 miles it was certainly not flat! There was a slow incline up to Rhinestone House (which was beautiful) that seemed to suck the life from me. And at different points during the race I would be really questioning their “fast and flat” description. Maybe compared to last year! It certainly isn’t hilly but I wouldn’t describe it as flat. Occasionally bumpy.

I got to mile 10 and decided to put a podcast on. Recently I haven’t felt the need to listen to anything during marathons. I quite like the freedom of just running with the surrounding sounds. Sometimes listening to things during the race can put you in a little bubble away from the race atmosphere. However I was starting to feel a bit bored and the idea of 16 more miles was weighing heavily on my brain.

Don’t get me wrong, the views are beautiful and the marshals lovely, but I needed something to take my mind off the task at hand. So I popped one on and just zoned out.

It was getting really warm now, and humid. I hadn’t got anything with me because I knew there were enough water stations and from about halfway I started stopping at the water stations. Like literally stopping and getting a cup or two of water to drink. They were using paper cups (yay for sustainability!) and I didn’t’ want to try and run and drink because I was getting very thirsty and I knew I wouldn’t take in enough otherwise.

After halfway my mood started to sink. I was mentally struggling. Maybe it was the humidity or maybe it was just one of those days, but I found my pace dropping a bit. It just felt really hard, and finding it hard made me feel demotivated. I’ve run marathons before! I’ve done solid training! What’s going on! But this is why the marathon is so challenging, anything can happen and it doesn’t matter how many you’ve done. It’s still a long way and you’re only human.

I needed a wee as well and I couldn’t see any toilets on the course so I decided to duck into a bush. In doing that I put my foot straight into a soggy bog… ah wonderful. I had my wee and then got back mile 19. This was amazing! I’d somehow glazed over a mile. I can’t tell you what this did to my mood.

Now I was in a whole different head space. Suddenly the end was in sight – I could absolutely do this. I switched the podcast to music and BOOM I was good to go. It was like someone had injected lightening up my bum.

It’s crazy how suddenly my body didn’t feel so tired and demotivated as before. When I got to 20 miles I was feeling in a great place. Knowing I had only 10k to go – I could definitely do this. It helped that there was a great downhill at mile 21. My legs ached and were tired, of course, but I knew I could push through to the end.

I definitely could have had an easier time at the end had I just kept the pace nice and chilled but after I had started getting faster I was like “well I can’t slow down now!”. So I had to ride that pain train. I passed a few people who cheered me on which was nice and the supporters on the route were lovely. I tried to keep a smile on my face as much as I could because, ages ago, I remember reading about fooling your body into thinking everything was OK if you smiled (don’t quote me on that research, ha!). But also it encourages supporters to give you a big cheer so that was nice.

We had now joined the half marathoners which meant a bit of weaving in and out of runners. This involved more concentration that just head down pushing forward. Finally we got to the race village and I could see the finish line. I put some more welly into it and got going. My legs were BURNING. The finish line had a good crowd of supporters lined up along it so that was amazing. They were all cheering and that hugely helped. I saw Kyle and he shouted me on too.

As I almost got to the end I started to feel a little sick, probably due to the effort I was exerting, and I suddenly got a big whiff of a burger van nearby and I honestly thought I was going to throw up! Luckily, thank god, I didn’t. Whew!

My time was 3:24:37. I am SO over the moon as I really thought my race was nosediving in the middle. I actually thought I’d be closer to 3:30+ than a sub 3:30. I’m really really pleased. Especially for a race that I had zero expectations for. It’s one of my faster times (6th fastest in actual fact).

It’s a little annoying that it isn’t a full 26.2 miles on my watch but I’m assuming that’s because of the trees and satellites. I had the same issue last time, and that was a different course. Hey ho!

I met someone I knew from Instagram and we had a nice chat, so that was cool, and then I found Kyle, Isaac and Sarah. Ahh it was so lovely to be reunited and have a cuddle with my little man!

Apparently he’d had a great time enjoying crawling about the place, eating ice cream and spending time with his Nana (and dad of course!). A big thank you to them 🙂 I’m very lucky to have such patient and supportive family who are happy to come and join me when I do my races.

So all in all, a tough but enjoyable day. I’m glad I got myself out of my funny headspace mid-way through the race and finished with a smile on my face. Though my legs were certainly feeling more achy than I’d anticipated!

Do you prefer trail or road races?

Have you had a race where you’ve dipped but then brought it back later?

Romsey Beer Race 2022

The Romsey Beer Race – my favourite race of the year. And due to COVID, a race that hasn’t been held since June 2019. So it’s been a while.

I’ve done this race five times before. I just love it! The course is undulating but is in such a beautiful, picturesque location and the weather is usually pretty good, albeit sometimes a bit too hot. This year however it was very cool and cloudy. The perfect race conditions.

Though I usually hate to actually race as running fast isn’t really my thing. I prefer a long slow run (or a marathon!). But there’s something about this race that gets me going. Every time I’ve done it I’ve given it a good go.

Kyle had floated the idea of running together and pushing each other on earlier in the week but I said I wasn’t sure because I didn’t know if I wanted to race or not. But as Kyle and I drove into the area I started to get the buzz and asked him if he still wanted to. He (semi jokingly) said that maybe we should run our own race as he didn’t want me to “hold him back”. Trash talk, I see. He was joking but in reality we both knew we’d rather run separately than run together. I was happy with that!

The night before my parents had looked after Isaac so we were both feeling pretty good with our solid night’s sleep (something of a rarity these days!). We met my parents and Isaac there, as well as Kyle’s mum and her partner, Tony. Kyle’s brother and his girlfriend also turned up to support too. A lovely support group!

We positioned ourselves fairly near the front. With less than 400 runners this wasn’t too scary but still scary enough. The front runners are VERY fast and I definitely don’t measure up to them but we wanted to give ourselves a good chance to get going quickly.

This worked well as the front runners sped off (as did Kyle) and I didn’t have to wind past anyone and people didn’t have to wind past me. Straight away I felt like I was good to give it my best, whatever that would look like. I had the buzz and my legs were feeling good.

We ran round the cricket pitch, then we ran up the road to where the bulk of the supporters were, including our family. I’ve done this race so many times, as have my parents in supporting it, so they knew exactly where to stand for a great spot.

They cheered us on and up we went to our first grinding hill. It’s a fairly long incline, pretty much the entire first mile. Kyle was ahead – I used him as motivation to keep on grinding and try to get faster.

I knew I’d have the advantage on the downhills as Kyle tends to slow down whereas I have a bit more of an “run with abandon” approach to downhills. Though Kyle is stronger on the uphills.

I caught up with him using that downhill and slowly, slowly overtook him. I jokingly said “well done” as I ran past. The banter between us was very friendly, I want this to be clear. I wasn’t rubbing it in, and he wasn’t annoyed. We both agreed it was good that we were racing each other as it pushed us both on.

I spent the rest of the race knowing Kyle was right on my tail. It was definitely a motivator. I didn’t want him to overtake me! And it pushed him on because he obviously did want to catch up.

Anyway, the race continued with a few more undulations. I was at a huge advantage having run this race five times before to know roughly how long these would last – not as long as the first one, but some steeper. Because I knew the course so well I could judge my speed to know if I could maintain my pace. I felt quite comfortable, as comfortable as you can be trying your hardest. What I mean is, that while I was definitely on the pain train and my legs were burning, I knew I could maintain it.

It also felt incredible short because I’ve only really been running marathons over the last few years! Five miles of pain was a lot different to 26.2 miles of tough sustained exertion (and only painful in the last few minutes). I felt confident.

And then my shoelace came undone. I had a new pair of Brook Adrenalines on and the laces are a bit short and shiny, so don’t tie together that well. Urghh what an utter pain! I stopped on the side and tried to tie it up as quickly as I could. Kyle was just far enough behind that he didn’t get a chance to overtake as I was off again quickly.

It probably took 5-10 seconds and then I was motivated to make up for lost time so realistically it didn’t affect things at all, I don’t think. It merely stopped the memento, which I was able to regain again quickly.

I got to the final stretch, before you head into the field to do the lap around it before finishing.

I still felt like Kyle was just behind me so used that to keep pushing but I was fading. I barely had a sprint finish in me.

If Kyle was on my shoulder he definitely could have out-sprinted me as he has such a good sprint finish.

My finishing time was 33:49 (my PB is still 33:43). Kyle finished 34:48. We were both really happy with our times. We had some banter at the end, as you do, but it was all in good fun. We’ve actually decided to go head-to-head in our next parkrun (tomorrow) to see what will happen.

Kyle is much better at shorter distances. I’m much better at longer, slower distances. Over a 5k will be very interesting. My prediction is that Kyle will speed ahead straight away and be ahead of me for most of the race. Then it’s up to me to try and overtake, which will be such a big ask considering how fast I think Kyle will go. If I’m honest, I don’t think I’ll be able to beat Kyle. He’s been running some solid 5ks and he has that power in his legs which I don’t.

We will see 😉 The trash talk in the house this week has been amusing. But as long as we both put some welly into it, we’re both going to come away with solid times I think (I HOPE!) so in my eyes it’s a win win.

But anyway, back to this race. I fed Isaac after I finished which took quite a while, bless him. I sat there just desperate to get some cake but he was not letting me go anytime soon haha!

I actually came second female which was lovely because I’ve managed to place a few times at this race. I’ve now been second twice, first once and third once. Not too shabby! (I will stress again that this is a small race and previous times another local 10k has happened on the same day which a lot of the speedy club runners were more drawn to).

Finally I was able to grab a cake (a blondie) and a beer (for my dad) and we waited around to get my prize.

The weather was warm enough to not be uncomfortable but not need a coat. The after bit is one of my favourite parts of this race as it’s just so friendly and you can chat to different people while enjoying a lovely cake and drink.

I then collected my “medal” – a beer glass, love it! (Oh by the way, the first place female was INCREDIBLE. I didn’t have a chance in hell of even being remotely her competition, she smashed it!)

And then we headed off to one of our favourite pubs, the Osborne View, for a roast. It was such a lovely day. I’ll definitely be signing up again next year. It’s such a well run, friendly and fun event.

Now on to the smackdown with Kyle… 😉

Goodwood Marathon 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now on to the next race eh! 😉

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.

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