Barcelona Marathon 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Have you ever been to Barcelona?

What’s the hottest race you’ve done?

Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 2018

I’d signed up to this race almost immediately after finishing it last year because I enjoyed it so much.

It was just such a good event. The course was interesting, the atmosphere was very festive and relaxed and it was a great way to end the year. Kyle had signed up earlier in the year as he was just getting into running and wanted a challenge. And I guess running with me quite a lot meant that the marathon seemed like the logical step considering I would always sing their praises!After a rather stressful day before (more on that another time), my alarm went off at 7am. The plan was to leave my house at 7.40am to get there for 8ish. I had my bib already and really had nothing else to do there. I’d already planned to have a wee a mile or so where I knew they’d be toilets on the course so I wasn’t worried. Kyle was going from his house so I’d meet him there.I ate my porridge and drank a black coffee and was ready to go. Marathon morning is always a little bit tense and as my dad, mum and I all piled into the car later than we’d intended a bit of an argument erupted. It was about nothing major really but enough to create a very stressful morning. My dad and I very similar personalities and are ridiculously stubborn so neither of us were backing down and in the end we sat in silence on the way to the start.Realising this was not going to go away and not wanting to spend the next 4 or so hours in a grump with my dad as I ran, I decided to make the move to reconciling and happily all was well again. We agreed we’d been very silly.
I jumped out of the car and met Kyle and his family: his two sisters, his two brothers, his mum (his dad, his dad’s partner and son would be at the end) -so quite the crowd! My dad was parking the car and as we were pushing for time, Kyle and I hurried off to the start. I noticed the start was further up the prom which was good news considering last year’s race was 27 miles so clearly they’d rectified this, whew!Kyle barely had time to say much to each other but I wished him lots of luck and then we suddenly realised the race had started! I hoped that it wasn’t too stressful a start for Kyle (but equally far better than waiting around for hours getting cold). Luckily it was chip timed so starting late didn’t really matter. We ran a few paces together before I headed off.

I was very tempted to run with Kyle. It would have been nice to have chatted and been with him, but I knew that the later stages of the race wouldn’t be as fun for him and he might appreciate not having me there wittering away trying to encourage him. It can be quite stressful to have someone run with you and I didn’t want to put any pressures on him with paces. Plus, as selfish as this sounds, I felt like my legs might be feeling good – could I beat last year’s time? (3:47ish).

As we’d started a little late, we were right at the back and the first mile was spent weaving around people and saying hello to people I knew. It was a great way to ease into the race and relax, as I was unable to shoot off too fast. My friend Mark sidled up next to me and we had a nice chat. I then dashed into the toilets when I spotted them and found all six cubicles engaged. Ah well! I didn’t have to wait too long and then I was out back in the race.

I eventually caught back up to Mark. He was running a controlled race (easy at the start, then from halfway picking it up). His pace was probably faster than I’d intended to go but I felt comfortable and it was nice to have a catch-up as I hadn’t properly seem him in a while.

Mark is a very fast and methodological runner. Like me he likes to have his paces fed back to him and the miles planned. We both knew neither of us would do anything too silly and equally if one of us needed space we could tell the other to, politely, go away and no feelings would be hurt.Despite the forecast giving me some anxieties the days before, the rain held off and there was just a moderate breeze. I had my arm-warmers on and short-sleeves. I knew I’d need to remove the sleeves at some point as I was starting to feel just slightly too warm. We were VERY lucky with the weather, but the previous rain that night had caused the terrain to be muddy, slippery and riddled with puddles.The first six miles seemed to fly by. We’d gone over the shingle (no major bottleneck like the year before) and then had the long stretch along the coast to the first point where I’d see Kyle’s and my family. Their cheering was so loud and enthusiastic, it was lovely. I felt very much boosted along.Now it was just four miles until I’d see them again. The great thing about this race is how segmented it is. You don’t get bored because the course is always different… down a pavement, through a forest, on a trail path, back onto pavement. It really helped mix things up and keep you interested.Mark and I chatted away about different training styles, races, life lately, the price of petrol, doughnuts…my mind could focus on other stuff rather than running. I imagine had I been on my own I wouldn’t have been running as fast as we were going, but equally I didn’t feel uncomfortable and could talk so I wasn’t too concerned.I took my sleeves off (annoyingly having to take my watch off to do this) and got them ready to hand over to my dad at the 10(ish) mile point. Again, the whole crew was there and I was so busy smiling, waving and enjoying the cheers that I failed to see a bollard and almost collided with it. To be fair there were two runners ahead of me blocking it and by the time I saw it it was almost too late. Thankfully I managed to quickly avoid a major collision, though it did arouse some laughter from the crowds. But whew, could have been nasty.

And on we went for the three-ish miles to the turnaround point. Now we were facing directly against the wind and amusingly one of the mile signs said “Bloody wind” underneath which made us smile wryly. All the mile markers had different things written on them like Muhammad Ali, Ronnie Corbett and Bowie – I’m guessing legends!

The three miles is a bit of a slog and for me is the most boring part of the route as it doesn’t change much. There were also lots of puddles and it was at that point where you just couldn’t be bothered to avoid them anymore. The nice part of this route is that you get to see other runners (the faster ones and the second leg of the relays) coming the other way.We eventually made it to the turnaround and I suddenly felt a new lease of life – we were heading back! Mark commented that our pace had increased in line with what he’d planned and this concerned me a bit. I shouldn’t be going for it just yet with 13 miles still to go! I slowed down a bit, but the wind was now behind us so helped make it feel less of an effort. I got to spot lots more people coming the other way now, including Kyle! He looked a bit tired but still strong. We waved and smiled and then he was gone. I hoped he’d continue to be as strong as the race continued.We got back round to the infamous bollard spot, now 16 miles, and I saw only my dad. I assumed it was because I was running a bit faster than expected and everyone else was in the pub across the road keeping warm (good choice!). Mark then said he was going to push his pace, so I waved him off and we wished each other good luck and he disappeared into the distance (FYI he finished very strong with 3:22:11).

I popped my music on as I felt I needed to zone out and enjoy some time on my own. The trail was now even more muddy and slippery as more people had gone over it. There’s a precarious bit right next to the water and I genuinely had fears of sliding over into it. Imagine!It started to feel quite tough now. I felt my energy disappearing, mentally and physically. It was now a concerted effort to keep going. I had a bit of my Salted Caramel Cliff Shot and hoped it would boost me up a bit. As I came up to the 20ish mile point I hoped to see my parents again. From a distance I saw a BMW pull up into the car park and I saw my mum get out of the car. My dad remained in the car. I was coming towards them quickly now and I started to wave. My mum saw me and clearly said something to my dad and he quickly jumped out of the car. 

They cheered and waved as I passed and I was so pleased to have caught them in time. It must have been a logistical nightmare to get from the different supporting points (as well as having two of us at different times running).Now I was on my own completely until the end. Just under 6 miles to go and then I’d be finishing. This spurred me on and I started saying mantras in my head that seem so ridiculous in any other setting but during a marathon can really make a difference to me. Basically I’ll think things like “I’m a strong runner” or “I can do this” and “I’ve got this”. I’ve even found myself saying it out-loud during the race if no one is around me. It helps drown out any negative thoughts about how tired I am.

We did the detour bit round the residential areas (due to the tide coming in) and I found myself overtaking a few people here and there. But I just wanted to get onto the front because then I knew how far I had left to go in real terms. This windy route through roads and back alleys was killing me.

Finally we turned the corner to the sea and I saw a girl just ahead. As we turned the wind went fully against us (exactly like what usually happens at the Great South Run). Ooof this was horrible! And in my mind I’d decided to try and overtake the girl. This now meant I needed to run faster than I was before to get past her but with even more effort due to the wind. It was a slow overtake that then caused me a lot of grief because she seemed to speed up a bit. I could hear her feet just behind me and all I wanted to do was get away from her. Eventually though I managed to pull ahead, but the effort level was so hard.

I then wondered where we’d be finishing – would it be where we started or further along near the Pyramids like last time? It was agonising because I just wanted to finish sooner but as we got to the start area I miserably realised no one was there… ehhh, further to go now! I passed a guy who told me I was running strong and doing well, but all I could reply was “gahh can’t talk sorry!”.

People who were casually walking up the prom clapping and shouted encouragement and I tried to keep a smile on my face. Ahead I saw our two families cheering me in and this pushed me to go as fast as I could to the finish. WHEW.My time was 3:25:35, first in my age category and fourth female overall. Damn it was good to stop running! I was so pleased though – I couldn’t believe how fast I’d gone!I collected my medal and goodies and quickly found the guys and asked them how Kyle was doing. Apparently he was three-ish miles away (his brother, Zack, was tracking him using the “Find My Friends” app on the iPhone – so he wasn’t far away at all. We all started wondering what time he’d be able to do – could he get under four hours?Zack and his other brother, Adam, walked up the prom to cheer him in further up and tell him to, well, get a move on basically if he wanted the sub-4! He was literally now only minutes away. We kept looking at the time on the race clock… but I knew we had a few minutes grace  because we started a bit late. It was going to be tight though!

Eventually we saw him coming in, Zack running besides him pushing him on. He squeaked in at 3:59:35. Sub-4!We spent a good amount of time taking photos, chatting and comparing notes of everyone’s day (I love to hear what the supporters get up to while we’re running – invariably my dad always seems to find a good breakfast spot) and I could have burst with pride for Kyle. He was a little battered and tired but he was happy.Ahh what a good day. And of course a huge thank you to our amazing support crew (who even made signs!). It massively helped keep us going and just made the day for us 🙂A fantastic way to the end the year and a fantastic result for Kyle’s first marathon!

Do you enjoy running a race with other people?

What do your supporters do during a race?

Merry Christmas!

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?

The Brighton Marathon 2018

As I previously mentioned, I had fairly ambitious (for me) goals for this marathon. I was going to “go for it”. I haven’t done that for a marathon in a good while! I was going to start at 7:50s and see what happened, with the ambition to speed up as I went along (not crazily but enough to get close to my PB of 3:24:06).

But after chatting to James a bit the night before I decided to go out a bit faster. He made a good point that if I was going to go for it I should actually go for it with a pace that was a bit scary and was genuinely a risk. At least then if I blew up or it went wrong then it happened because I had the balls to try a tasty pace, not halfhearted one that wasn’t as tough. It needed to be a true test.

So anyway. The morning of the Brighton Marathon… woke up at 6.30am, had a black coffee, got my gear on and drove to a road near to Charlotte’s flat where parking wouldn’t be an issue with the road closures. Paddy, Charlotte’s hubby, was ready in his gear. Charlotte would be spectating (while simultaneously looking after their six week old baby, what a superstar!) as her road was literally next to the course.We made and ate our breakfast (porridge) at Charlotte’s and then headed to meet our taxi, to avoid having to have left super early to have walked the three miles to the Preston Park start. I almost drank my two year out of date Beet It! shot but decided to err on the side of caution and give it a swerve. It saddened me to throw it in the bin (I’m quite reckless with out of date stuff).We got to Preston Park where Paddy and I said goodbye to James, who would be heading to the fast start up the road (due to his fast predicted time – it gives the elites and faster runners a flatter first mile than the rest of the marathon field). I stupidly left my gels by accident in his bag, the numpty that I am. That was fine because though as I knew there would be High 5 gels on the course and I’m fine with them. In fact, it was nice to not have to carry any gels in my Flipbelt to be honest.Paddy and I then separated as we headed to our respective loo queues, which were SO long it was ridiculous. But hey ho, what else are you going to do? Then I made my way to my start pen, where I proceeded to stand in line for another portable toilet. I saw Stephanie briefly and we swapped pleasantries having only ever conversed through social media. So that was nice.The start went without a hitch and I was over the moon when Paul Sinton-Hewitt yelled “go Anna!” to me as I ran past (I had my name on my vest – he doesn’t really know me sadly). It really buffered me along though and I was smiling happily to myself, the parkrun nut that I am.

As we started we straight away hit an incline to climb. Oh man, I knew our first mile wouldn’t be flat but this was quite demoralising. Already my legs felt tired. My dream goal pace of 7:40 quickly disappeared as I was over 8 minute/miling up that bad boy. The incline (it was definitely an incline) went on for 0.6 miles. But then we had a nice downhill that, to be honest, probably evened up the first mile in the end. But it was a shock to the system to start that way.

I straight away found myself wanting to go too fast and had to focus on not getting overly excited. 26.2 miles is a lonnnnng way and though a pace might feel easy now it most certainly would not feel easy later. Keep focused on the goal Anna. Annoyingly I had cramp in my side. Nothing to stop me or slow me down but I did have to do some weird arm stretches and change my breathing up a bit, but it didn’t really shift.

At around three miles a runner friend, Matt, sidled up next to me. I know him through social media and we also ran together at a London 10k a year ago – I remember him dropping me half-way round as he was a lot stronger than me. He’s been having a crummy training time due to a niggly hip so had said he was going to take it easy as he also had the London Marathon the next Sunday (I mean, whaaaaaat). After chatting for a bit I glanced at my watch and realised we were running 7:10s so told him I was going to slow down as this pace was too fast for me. So he headed off into the distance. Happily my cramp had gone away too.

Part of me was a little sad to lose a chatting buddy but I knew I needed to be sensible and focus. I just find the first 10 miles of a marathon very dull. I don’t let myself listen to anything other than the environment around me. The crowds were great and the course was interesting enough to let my mind just wander.After five miles we hit the seafront and started to make our way along the coast past Brighton Marina and up to Ovingdean. It was somewhat undulating but not hilly. Eventually the front runners starting coming back the other way. The lead runner was so far ahead of the pack. It was fun watching them storming down at wincingly fast speeds.I picked up a gel from an energy station ready to take at mile eight. My plan was to take three gels. I can manage on one now in a “normal” marathon but because I was going for a speedier time I decided to go back to how I used to do it and have one at 8, one at 13 and one at 18. I remember taking to James about gels beforehand and how he had his orange flavoured High 5 ready and I poo-poo’ed it as I’m not an orange flavour fan at all, smug with my tasty Honey Stinger that I then didn’t get to use. All the High 5’s were orange. Wonderful.

As I came up to the turning to head into another mini out and back in the Ovingdean area I heard someone shout my name and spotted James heading back down the other side. It was a shame really that I’d been caught unawares because I’d been thinking of all the cool things I could shout to him if I did spot him during an out and back. All I managed was a pitiful “Go James!”. Ah well.

Then someone else called my name and I spotted the lovely Rob and Fi, friends from last year’s Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp.At first I just thought it was just a random supporter cheering my name because it was on my vest so I just smiled and waved. Then I spotted them properly and did a little screech and cheer. Always graceful and calm, me. Ha. It was lovely to see them.Then we finally headed back down the way we’d come. I heard someone next to me say “well that’s the last of the hills” and felt a huge relief. I mean there were a couple of undulations as we headed back down, but nothing to really kill you.

I was easily maintaining a 7.30-7.40 pace and feeling really comfortable. I was looking forward to allowing myself to listen to some music at mile 10 but otherwise I felt fresh and happy. In the back of my mind I knew I might crash later but as it was I was good for the moment and kept with it. Nothing risked, nothing gained. Mile 10 ticked by and I put my pre-planned playlist on. These were songs I was enjoying but weren’t GO GO GO tempo so wouldn’t suddenly rev me up or make me want to break out a 7 min/miler. I could lose my mind to the music and just drift along. The music would be low enough so I could still hear the crowds and marshals though.

Along the front the crowds were fantastic. I mean the crowds were great everywhere but especially this front. I honestly lost count of how many people cheered my name. I’m a bit of a loser in that I will try and smile at people and get them to cheer as well because it HUGELY helps me. Plus if you’re a supporter I know how nice it is to see someone genuinely happy that you’re there clapping them.

As we got towards half-way the crowds were quite thick and I felt buzzed along. People cheered my name over and over and I was so pleased to have chosen to wear my vest with my name on. I smiled at everyone and just fed off of the support. I’ve read a study somewhere where it says there are some runners who are super motivated by external factors, like music and crowds. That is me 100%. Give me cheering and music and I will truck along happy as anything. I was going a bit too fast for my original plan though but I decided to just go with it. It didn’t feel harder per se. But that said, I did have the voice in the back of my head saying “you’re going to crash soon…”.

I saw the lovely Lauren from my club and I squealed again. It was lovely to see her and have her cheer me on.What helped was knowing that there were people “watching” my progress through the Brighton Marathon app. Every time I ran over a mat I knew my times would be zooming their way to people’s phones who cared to track me. Especially my dad who I know would have loved to have supported me in person – especially as I was going for a time. I felt like I was doing him proud each time I ran over a mat as my times were consistent and I was well on track to my goal time.At mile thirteen I took another gel and started pouring water on my head as it was getting warmer. I was looking forward to reaching mile 15 as that’s where Charlotte would be. The miles just seemed to fly by at this point – where normally they’d be dragging. I always find 13-19 a real grind. There were so many people standing on the residential streets and waving to them, high-fiving and hearing them cheer passed the time so well.

At this point though I realised I probably could do with a wee. Now once you’ve thought that you need a wee it takes a lot for that thought to go away. It reminded me of the podcast I’d listened to a few weeks ago from BBC Five Live film review where Simon Mayo was discussing how his son said that runners in a marathon just pee and poo as they run. It was such a funny discussion I remember laughing literally out loud as I was running listening to it. Mark Kermode was so aghast.

To be fair, so was I. I’ve never considered just peeing as I run and certainly not pooing. I also don’t think I’ve spoken to any runner where this is the norm during a race. That said, you don’t talk about these things that often so who knows? Maybe I’m the minority. Anyway, as this discussion flitted through my head I momentarily thought, I could just pee as I run. But the sheer embarrassment of a) someone seeing b) someone SMELLING and c) then running along covered in pee just wasn’t worth the SECONDS I’d probably save myself. I didn’t want a PB that badly. I spotted a portable toilet on the other side of the road (for the runners coming the other way on the out and back) and relaxed knowing in a mile or so I could use an actual toilet.

I saw Charlotte on the other side of the road just after mile 15 and it literally made me squeal and cheer. She had Arthur strapped to her front (what a legend) and she waved and shouted. Ahh it was SO nice. Honestly, nothing beats someone you care about cheering you along in a race. It peppered me along nicely, especially as I knew I’d see her at mile 17 on the way back along the same road.

I also saw a man holding up a large sign for someone called Felix and he cheered me on saying he couldn’t believe I was smiling, which was nice.

(I took this photo before the race)

Sadly I passed Matt, who was suffering from hip pain. I tried to give him some encouragement as I passed. He still looked in reasonably good spirits though (and FYI still finished 3:35!). Then I was back to passing Charlotte again. Ahhh such happiness. And she had a proper crew with some friends and her neighbours who all cheered me along. I also passed the Felix man again and he laughed that I was still smiling. Weirdly I saw this man TWICE more before the end of the race. He laughed each time he saw me and called me “smiling girl”. I hope Felix did well!I jumped into that portable toilet I’d spotted and had a very quick wee before jumping out. Ahh relief. The next section was heading off towards the dreaded power station. I’d heard a lot about how depressing and quiet this area was. But I was feeling good, my pace still strong, nothing niggling and no issues. Without sounding arrogant, I knew that as long as I didn’t suddenly get an injury I had a PB in the bag. I took another gel at 18, made sure to keep sipping water and pouring it on my head (I liked that they were in paper cups – easy to squash up and create a small funnel to drink out of, easy to run over if there were loads on the floor and more environmentally friendly). At 20 miles I decided to wait until I was heading back to the finish area before switching my music over as I didn’t want to use all my energy with a spurt of speed too soon. Plus there were enough crowds to keep me going.

I smiled and waved to everyone I could. As I got to a turning point I smiled at a cheering squad and they gave me a huge cheer. Then later when I came back round to head back they were literally CHANTING my name. I’m not kidding. It was probably one of the best moments in the race for me as silly as that sounds. Anyway, as we ran through the power station bit there were all these stacked bits of timber and the smell was amazing. It was like one of those candles trying to be like a woodland forest. It was a nice smell.Then as I turned back to head to towards the finish (still about 4-5 miles to go) I switched my music to my “GO GO GO” playlist. As I got my phone out to do this I thought “ahh might as well” and snapped a selfie and a few pics. Had to be done!
I was passing people and feeling good. I remembered last week’s run where I was able to up my pace after my 10 mile run for the five mile race and that gave me confidence. I remembered the sub 7 minute mile I did at the end of the undulating Iron Bridge Half Marathon. I could DO this. We ran onto the prom and the crowds were solidly cheering and shouting. I literally smiled at everyone. I was in Happy Anna Marathon Land. I literally remember thinking “I bloody love marathons”. Yes I was tired, yes my legs were feeling like they’d been running for far too long, but I knew I had this and just had to HOLD ON.

I got to 23 miles (“parkrun to go”) and was able to up the pace. Just finish. Just get to the finish. Not long. I tried briefly to think about the time I might finish but I couldn’t work it out. Would it be a sub 3:20? Could I push for 3:18? I kept smiling and occasionally fist pumping (I know, what a muppet, but it works for me) which helped get the crowds to cheer me. I got to two miles to go and I was firmly on the pain train. It became harder to smile, harder to wave. I could just about nod to people and grimace smile my way along. The weather was turning slightly, a few drops of rain and a lot cooler. This was good.I saw the finishing straight and was overjoyed. ALMOST THERE. Not as long as the dreaded Dubai finishing straight which went on F.O.R.E.V.E.R. And right at the end I saw my other friend Mark, the Run Director of the Hove Promenade parkrun, and he gave me such a fantastic cheer. It was such a great way to cross the finish line. As I went underneath the timer I spotted 3:19:45. Omg sub 3:20!
I stopped my watch and did a double-take. 3:16:28 – WHAT??? I was literally in shock. And then, I walked straight into Paul Sinton-Hewitt – the parkrun founder. The next few minutes were a highly embarrassing fan girl flurry of gushing “omg I love parkrun” sentences of which I can only hope flattered him rather than terrified him. My phone was suddenly going off with James ringing me and my dad ringing me but I just had to get a selfie with the legend. He happily complied and honestly was the NICEST. He congratulated me on my run (and reassured me that if my watch time said 3:16 it probably meant I’d run that time and not the gun time on the board). He was so nice.

I then spotted another guy from my club who I’d managed to just pip at the end (I finished first in my club overall amazingly – OK there weren’t that many doing it but I will take it!). A guy then said hello to me saying he knew me from Twitter after photo bombing a previous photo of mine. How funny to see him at the finish line again then!

I probably made no sense to anyone I chatted to because I was literally on cloud nine. I spoke to my dad and he just cheered down the phone at me. He was over-the-moon, saying he knew I had it in me and how proud he was. I honestly could have cried. I got my medal and a water and then went to meet James.

James had finished in the CRAZY time of 2:56:38. Yeah. I know right. INSANE. So he was over-the-moon too. In my haste to meet him and in my PB haze I completely missed the goody bag pick-up!I could have gone back but I wasn’t that bothered. I had a water which was exactly what I needed at that moment.
As this has gone on already too long now, I’ll just say that James and me, both in euphoric PB happiness, hunted down some decent post race food from a fabulously lovely Mexican restaurant called Dos Sombreros where yes we did indeed wear our sombreros as we ate.
Sadly our eyes were bigger than our tummies and though we easily polished off the delicious chicken wings, we were both overwhelmed by the main course (I had fajitas while James had a burrito).My tummy felt somewhat delicate, but it’s OK because I was far too happy to care.Have you ever “gone for it” at a race with a time goal?

What’s your ideal post-race cuisine?

Do you like people to cheer your name when you race? I thrive off it.