Running a marathon just for the hell of it

During these weird times I’m grasping at anything to keep my running feeling fresh and to keep it from feeling samey.

So when my friend, Emma, said that she was going to be running the Virtual New York Marathon at the end of October and mentioned I could join her if I fancied, I jumped at it. My running lately has been feeling so meh and flat. It’s not that I’ve lost motivation it’s just that I don’t know what I’m doing, if that makes sense? What mileage should I be running? What goal am I aiming for? I’m not training for anything. Portsmouth Coastal Marathon in December has been cancelled and I’m a bit bereft. (As I’m sure so many others are as well).

On Friday evening after work I drove up to Reading and stayed with Emma and her family ready to run the marathon the next day. She had a route more or less planned and we decided to head out at 8am the next day. That evening she had chicken and pasta and I had a delicious vegetarian pizza. I know it’s crazy but I really cannot stand pasta!

The next morning we got up early. I had some porridge and a black coffee (my standard) and we waited a bit to digest before getting ready to start.

I wasn’t feeling that nervous. Without sounding arrogant or blasé, Emma was aiming for around a four hour marathon with a pace of 9-10min/mile, which is quite relaxed for me.

My training up to this point hadn’t really been optimal for another marathon but I felt confident I would be OK. Of course, the distance is always hard regardless of the pace you run so I knew not to be too chilled about it.

The weather was due to be pretty grim as well. It wasn’t raining as we set off but we knew it would come at some point. As we started, while it was quite windy, it was mild which was nice and made me wonder if my long sleeve jacket was a mistake (spoiler: it wasn’t). We had a few loops around the immediate location of where Emma lived, round some country roads, and we kept it nice and relaxed chatting away. It’s always nice to see Emma and while we catch up most weeks via phone, it was nice to see her in person and have a long chatty run. It was also nice to run in a very country-esque location and pretty much carless roads.

It was really quite easy to keep my pace nice and relaxed – something I had been a little worried about. I didn’t want to speed up and push Emma without realising. But we kept to the goal pace.

As we headed into Reading at around mile 11, Emma said she needed a quick toilet break so we popped into Costa (we’d brought our masks just in case we needed to do this thankfully).

As we came back out the rain had started in earnest and having stopped running for a few minutes my legs were a bit stiff getting going again and I was a little chilly. Thankfully as we got going I got warm again.

We then started running alongside the Thames River and the rain properly started hammering down. The more stable pathing turned into more of a trail route and the rain and leaves on the ground made that a little precarious.

I had visions of slipping and falling into the river – thankfully this never happened! As we ran alongside the river we saw several people getting ready for what looked like a boat regatta with their bibs on.

While running through the wind and rain I was certainly more happy to be running through the rain than rowing through it on the water! It just looked so grim. We did get some grim smiles from the few supporters along the bank. Everyone just looked so thoroughly soaked – as we were too of course. But looking at this point we weren’t cold.

So we continued running alongside the water until we got to the end of the road, as it were, where a gate blocked our way. And so we turned around and headed back the way we’d come. This had always been the plan but I think Emma thought that the path might have gone on a little longer. At this point we were almost at 17 miles. My legs felt a little tired but otherwise I was OK. I did have a slight dip in motivation when I considered how much longer we still had to run and be wet in the rain. The rain was just so relentless it really was quite tedious.

As we headed back down the path we’d come down, the rain had created more and more puddles and we had to do some strategic running and jumping to get through. We continued running further down the Thames to get to around 20 miles and Emma started to struggle a bit with some pains in her hip.

I tried to keep her mind off it by talking about stupid things but it was a struggle as the weather was really killing our vibe. Emma stopped a few times and I started to get colder. I needed to keep running to stay warm, but equally I didn’t want to put pressure on Emma, especially if she was in pain. She kindly said I could run ahead for a bit.

As we got to 22 miles we stopped again and Emma was clearly struggling a fair amount – the rain, the wind, her painful hip and general fatigue – and we needed to find four more miles. We decided to keep running loops around the area we were in – up and down the Thames, round near to the shops a bit and back. It was a little tedious but every mile ticked off the end got closer.

In terms of how my legs felt, they were good. They were tired but no niggles and I didn’t feel that tired in myself. I wanted to stretch my legs out a bit but I knew increasing my pace wouldn’t help Emma finish any faster. I did run ahead a few times so I could sprint back to her to allow my legs to stretch a bit – as my cadence was slower than if I’d been running my usual pace. It helped keep me warm as well. I had to check with Emma a couple of times regarding how much she had left as obviously my watch wasn’t accurate due to my extra running ahead and back.

We got near to where her parents would be picking us up (I was now over 26.4 miles so stopped my watch), Emma was almost there and I ran ahead so I could cheer her in to the imaginary finish.

Then we were done. Soaked and tired but done!

Emma’s parents were incredible. The car was lovely and warm, they had towels for us and big hoodies for us to get into and it was just GLORIOUS. I was so cold by this point and utterly, utterly drenched through I was just glad to be out of the rain.

Emma’s watch time was 4:18:52. I’m not sure what her official time was (we did stop our watches when we stopped – I know there are several  opinions about this). But anyway, she was very happy with her time – as she should be.

I had the most gloriously hot (scalding really) shower and a cup of tea and felt a million times better. The marathon itself wasn’t hard per se as the pace was very comfortable for me. But running for longer than I’m used to did make it fairly tiring. I found at times that I wanted to run faster to stretch my legs and it was mentally tough trying to support someone who was struggling a little at the end. Like there’s nothing you can say to help them but just be there and push as much as you can. You wish you could run the miles for them and seeing Emma in a bit of pain at the end was hard. This makes it sound like I’m being smug and that it was easy. It wasn’t easy. It was just very different and hard in different ways.

Emma and I celebrated with a delicious lunch at a little garden centre café. I opted for the rather delicious (and different for me) lentil salad with another pot of tea. So tasty and warming.

And of course later we had a Doughnut Time doughnut to really celebrate 😉 They were the Halloween specials and very tasty. Then it was an Indian takeaway for dinner and a very early night!

I thoroughly enjoyed running the marathon with Emma. And just before Lockdown 2.0! Not sure what next is planned for my running though…

Have you ever run a marathon with a friend?

What’s your celebratory food of choice?

Last long run before the marathon and some SUP

Well I’m just sat here waiting for the Goodwood Marathon to get cancelled…

I won’t be angry because I do understand but it’s frustrating. I mean, who knows it might still happen. The New Forest Marathon happened, though with no spectators. Originally my parents and Kyle’s mum were going to come to support me at Goodwood (this Sunday *gulp*) but obviously this was far too optimistic. Understandably they’re encouraging minimal supporters. The likelihood will be that it’ll just be Kyle and I going. I feel a bit bad for Kyle as it is such a boring  marathon to spectate (let alone run) but he has an iPad and his Switch so he can amuse himself quite happily with minimal effort to hurry to meet me on the course in different places.

(Side note: we always joke that I’m very much a “Hoff” and he’s a “Homer” in our relationship – MarathonTalk reference – I love to be moving and exercising and get itchy feet very easily, whereas Kyle’s default is not to move, to chill and do as little exercise as possible. We balance each other well. So this marathon is ideal that it involves minimal running about for him.)

I did my last long run this weekend gone. I quite like to do 13-16 miles the week before a marathon. It just works for me. And as I haven’t done quite as good a marathon lead-up to this race as I would normally (because I’ve been training for a moving target due to COVID) so I did 16 miles.

It wasn’t as good as my 18 miler the week before. I felt a bit meh and that it was hard work, but it is what it is. It was quite windy along the coast and I planned my run to try and have minimal headwind but there were times I was running straight at it which was tiring. No idea what this will mean for Sunday. I think I’m just going to see how I feel – which, let’s be honest, is no different to how I approach most races! The first mile will be telling. At least if there’s a headwind somewhere on the route I’ll get a tailwind too due to the course being basically a ring.

After my 16 miles I headed to Winchester to meet my lovely friend Bhuvana. Due to one thing and another, we hadn’t seen each other for far too long. It was just so lovely to catch up with her. We had so much to talk about.

We went to our usual lunch location where we’ve  been a few times before. I had the vegan BBQ salad (which I promptly de-veganised by adding smoked cheese and chicken) and we nattered away about everything.

We had a lovely walk along the river and then decided to head back to the train station. At this point I realised I had about 10 minutes to catch my next train (otherwise I had to wait an hour) so we picked up the pace and run-walked quickly to the station. With seconds to spare I leapt onto the train. But Bhuvana (who was heading to Basingstoke) shouted that it was the wrong train! She’s checked with the train guy and it wasn’t my train. So I quickly leapt off again practically just as it left the station. Whew!

Bhuvana said she thought she’d double-check for me (always safe – I’m just a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda gal – definitely stung me a few times). She told me it wasn’t going to Southampton. Ah no! I wasn’t going to Southampton, I was going to Portsmouth! The train guy overheard and confirmed, yep that the train I jumped off of was indeed the Portsmouth train. Haha what a farce! To be fair to Bhuvana, all the times we’ve met up previously I’ve always come from Southampton where I used to live. It was fine in the end – I mean, I really should have checked before jumping on blindly. It just meant we had a bit more time to chat 🙂

Sunday after a gentle 3 mile run, Kyle and I met up with his family to do some stand up paddle boarding in Chichester (a lake not the sea thankfully). I was adamant that I didn’t want to fall into the water because, rather vainly, I’d washed my hair the day before and didn’t want to deal with the faff of washing it again so soon (#longhairproblems). But this was the first time Kyle and I had ever done this so we were nervous. It was a warm day and I was wearing clothes I was happy to get wet but still.

Anyway we were given life jackets, were quickly taught the basics then off we went! Surprisingly I didn’t find it too tricky.

I got my balance and managed to stand up. I enjoyed how peaceful it was just floating and paddling away. And AMAZINGLY I didn’t fall in! Even when the waves picked up after the speedboat zoomed by. Kyle did fall in a few times but I put this down to him being rather taller and bigger than me. I thoroughly enjoyed the hour we were out on the lake but it was quite the upper body workout. I was actually quite envious of the others having had nice cool dips in the lake – whereas I was bone dry but sweating! But I was happy for my hair 😉

Then we headed into Chichester where we had lunch at Trents. I, of course, went for a giant platter of wings. The waiter was both shocked and impressed at my chicken wing eating capacity. The wings were good but a little plain…and humongous! I sadly didn’t manage them all.

It was a lovely weekend all in all. Now just creeping towards the marathon, nervous, apprehensive but excited. Please still  happen!

Have you ever done stand up paddle boarding?

Do you like water sports?

A happy knee, a happy Anna

FINALLY somewhat of a positive update with ACTUAL running.

I don’t want to jinx anything, of course, but I genuinely feel like I’m (mostly) out of the woods with this knee injury. Obviously things could easily regress back and all go wrong again but at the moment things are looking very positive.

At the weekend Kyle and I went to Southsea parkrun. The week before I’d run a tester mile and another tester two miles and my knee had responded well. So three miles was my next challenge. I could have run the three miles on my own but I really wanted to do a parkrun as it had been so long and we could go for brunch in the amazing Parade Tearooms a short walk away.

Kyle’s mum, Sarah, came with us to support. She’s just started the Couch to 5k programme and was building up to do a parkrun herself. She wanted to see what kind of runners parkrun had and to reassure herself she wouldn’t be right at the back (she definitely wouldn’t be).

The great thing about parkrun is that firstly no one is ever last because of the tail walker and that the run is full of all different kinds of runners, of all different abilities, shapes and sizes. While she has seen a parkrun before, she’s never really watched with the interest of a potential runner.

I woke up and my knee was feeling amazing. It felt almost normal. The ever-helpful Steve Bonthrone had given me some great advice going into this run. He said I should try really hard to visualise and think about the best run I’ve ever had. This way it’ll keep me positive and stop me focusing on “how’s my knee?” or that I think I’m injured and will expect pain. This was fantastic advice.

There’s so much about having a longer term injury that’s in your head. The way you think about yourself, the issue and how much pain and discomfort you believe there to be – or expect there to be. Having Sarah there hugely helped as well as I could chat away to her about her running and her worries, which made me completely forget about mine.

It was very cold. But I do love a cold, dry and still morning for a run. You know you won’t be cold for long. We wedged ourselves within the middle – Southsea gets so busy! There were 657 runners, which is crazy. It’s a narrow area to start and a lot of bollards, fences and people to be wary of at the start so if you ever want a PB here you really need to be as much in the front as you can.

The first mile was an absolute dream. It was like the best kind of running – I felt smooth in my running and with not even a hint of difference between my legs. Through the second mile it started to feel a bit harder and I got a slight niggle just under my knee but it wasn’t concerning and it didn’t last. Whew! More than anything it was just tough on my endurance. Three miles is a long way, eh! 😉

We finished the run and my knee still felt good. Halleluiah! My time was 24:24.

To be honest, I could have gotten 28 minutes and I’d have been just as pleased! Times right now don’t matter (arguably, do they ever…).

Then we walked to the Parade Tearooms and met up with my parents for brunch. It’s lovely that Kyle and my family get on so well 🙂 My dad and Kyle ordered the fry-up while Sarah, my mum and I ordered the Jayne Salad, which is just a BEAST of a salad.

It has chicken, bacon, potatoes, coleslaw, beetroot, corn, tomatoes, berries, onion, carrot, lettuce AND a mid-way hidden layer of cheese. This salad is not for the faint of heart. The waitress even said “you can box it don’t worry”. Oh pahh-leeeease. I will be fine. The two mums however, epically failed and had to box over half for home.

It was a lovely morning, and I felt so happy and relieved that the run went well. And for the rest of the day and days after it still felt good. THANK GOD!

I had another run on Tuesday at lunchtime planned with Kyle. It had been so long since I ran at work. In fact, even people I didn’t know at work had been commenting on my lack of running! So it was so nice to don my gear and head out in the cold sunshine at lunch and go for a run. And while the run was hard work (my legs were feeling heavy from the gym) it was so wonderful to be outside in the fresh air. Yesssss!

A more sensibly paced run

So my next run is planned for tomorrow… long may this streak of good running and happy knee continue.

Do you enjoy running when it’s cold?

Do you find your parkrun getting busier and busier?

The comeback?

Well honestly, I can’t wait for a post that isn’t about my hamstring. It’s had FAR too much air time.

It’s been a highly frustrating process, I can tell you. I’ve felt a bit like I’ve been banging my head against the wall. Some days feeling good, some days feeling very grumpy. Some days the gym helped and some days it didn’t. I removed every exercise that seemed to aggravate it but still it wasn’t improving.

Long weeks of no running

So it was time for a second opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I really rate the physio I’ve been using and he’s helped me during many niggles in the past, but after seeing him three times and it doing nothing, I needed to do something else. Time is of the essence.

Handily someone at work recommended someone to me. A sports therapist who comes to your house – VERY appealing. (If you’re in the South Coast area –> Claire Bennett). She was able to come Friday evening after I got back from work which was perfect.

I explained my issues to her, she examined the way I stood and moved etc. and then told me that my pelvis was misaligned. I was twisted in the way I was standing. This was putting pressure on my hamstring – keeping it stretched – and causing my glutes to pick up the slack and overworking them. All the discomfort and feeling like I’m restricted makes a lot of sense now.

She worked her magic and, I kid you not, I felt better literally straight away. Not perfect or fully healed 100% but SO much better. The analogy I use is that it’s like I’ve been scuffing my toe for ages because it’s been moving wrong. After fixing it to move right, the toe is no longer being scuffed… but the toe is still battered from all the scuffing and needs a bit of time to recover and get back to being a normal toes (does this make sense??).

She even said I could do parkrun the next day – which I was so excited about! I cannot tell you how happy I felt after seeing her. She literally made my day. EIGHT LONG WEEKS of this.

So the next day Kyle and I headed to Southsea parkrun. I wasn’t going to blitz it and if it hurt or felt really off I’d stop. But it already felt so much better so I was feeling confident. The physio did warn that I would ache a bit and it wouldn’t feel perfect so I had to remember that.

Kyle was going to run with me and keep me at a sensible pace. After a bit of a delay due to some delivery lorries being in the way of the course, we began.

Yes it didn’t feel perfect, yes it still niggled a little, but my range of movement was so much better and it felt like it was better. It did feel achy and the run was tough going – fitness and the pounding on my legs. It reminded me how quickly you lose everything. Anyway it’s too early to tell for certain and I’m sure it’ll take time, but I’m feeling positive.

We did just over 26 minutes and I finished smiling. Kyle found it super easy of course and revelled in being the fitter and faster one of us (when we’re both at our fittest though there really isn’t much difference to be fair).

Then we celebrated by getting brunch at the Parade Tearooms. Brunch for me being the Jayne Salad. IT IS THE BEST SALAD IN THE WORLD.

It is ginormous. Roasted new bpotatoes, bacon, cheese, coleslaw, cucumber, tomatoes, salad leaves, strabwerries, sweetcorn, onion, beetroot and I added chicken… It’s wonderful.

Anyway, fingers crossed my hamstring keep improving and I’m able to actually begin training.

What’s your favourite thing in a salad?

How long has been your longest time off of running? I think mine was 11 weeks.

My travels up North

I mean I guess it’s probably more accurate to say to the midlands, but for me anywhere north of Bristol feels “Up North” as I live so south 😉

But accurate geography aside, Kyle and I drove up to Stoke-On-Trent on Friday to stay with my grandad ahead of the Manchester Marathon on the Sunday.

Before that though we had a nice walk down to Lee-On-Solent to have some filling breakfast to fuel us for the 3.5 hour car journey. I like to have a bit of a walk or some sort of movement before a long journey as otherwise your body just feels so meh. So we walked about 45 minutes to the Penguin Cafe in Lee for some brunch.

We went for the rather greedy Emperor Breakfast, which was pretty much everything I love about a fry-up. GIANT.

I swapped my hasbrowns for more black pudding

Kyle even got extra toast. When we get breakfast we mean business. The Penguin Cafe is a lovely place – though it is very much your cheap and cheerful greasy spoon. Everything tasted delicious – so I’ll let them off for their bean contamination 😉

After a lonnnnng drive to Stoke we got to spend a nice evening with my grandad and enjoy a home cooked meal of steak, vegetables and potatoes. It’s always lovely to see him and hear about his adventures in Scotland in the Cairngorms Reindeer Centre where he volunteers twice a year as their handyman and general all-round fixer-upper (“Handy Paul” as they call him). At nearly 80 I’m very proud of him.

Beautiful spring weather

The next morning Kyle and I ran the 1.5(ish) miles to Hanley park for the Hanley parkrun.

Happily it was a lovely downhill to get our legs moving. Hanley park itself was a beautiful park with a lovely pond.

Now I remember running Hanley parkrun a few years ago when I stayed at my grandad’s with my dad before the Liverpool Marathon. However I DO NOT remember it being that hilly (actually after going back to the old post I have clearly stated it was “challenging”. Obviously I wiped it from my memory…).

I told Kyle I thought it was flat but actually it really wasn’t. It’s number 406 on the elevation line-up of all the UK parkruns. My home parkrun Netley with it’s three inclines is 212!

We lined up, all happy and innocent of what was ahead, and got ready to start. Kyle and I agreed if one of us felt good to run ahead and as we got going I decided I felt like I bit of a push.

As we turned the corner we hit the first hill. OK I sort of remembered this now… but it was only one hill. Then we had a lovely stretch of downhill, where I lost Kyle (he’s a very cautious downhill runner whereas I’m pretty much a free-faller). And then we looped back round to the same hill. Hmmm.

The course, in the end, included this hill another time AND a nastier longer hill twice. So actually it wasn’t flat at all and was actually very undulating. At 1.5 miles I felt that draining feeling of tiredness where I wasn’t sure I could maintain my speed anymore. But the downhills helped me catch my breath and give me back some energy.

I managed to overtake a few females on the final mile and powered to the finish as second female. I finished in 21:42 and Kyle, not too far behind, finished 22:21.

The first female was already done and I overheard her talking to someone and saying she was from Portsmouth. I jumped over to say so was I. Turns out her local is Southsea and she was visiting family. What a small world!

Then we made our way slowly back to my grandad’s. Annoyingly having to climb up the giant hill we sailed breezily down before. Ooof it was a grind!

We got washed up, had breakfast then headed to Liverpool to see my lovely friend Charlotte, her husband and her little boy, Arthur. She used to live in Brighton (a far more accessible visiting distance) but now she’s so far away it seemed silly not to make the most of being nearby and dropping in.

As I knew I wanted a larger dinner I decided to be sensible and have a lighter lunch (yes, this is still Anna… mental I know). I went for a vegan salad but added chicken (I know, I know). It had falafels and chickpeas and was very tasty but…well, very light.

It was lovely seeing Charlotte but then we had to head off to our next destination – Manchester! Kyle and I were staying in an AirBnb about three miles from the race start and about a ten minute drive from the city centre, which was perfect.

We met up with my other friend, John from many MarathonTalk adventures, and found a perfect, albeit hidden away, pizza restaurant to carb load adequately before the race called Dogs ‘n’ Dough. John was going to be running the marathon too (Kyle wasn’t, he’d be supporting).

The pizza place was very cool and quirky, and helpfully very quiet! I went for BBQ chicken pieces to start. And a cheeky Bud Light.

And then followed it up with a giant 12 inch deep pan pulled pork pizza (The Pig Lebowski). Normally I’m more of a crispy thin fan but this was very tasty. And very filling.

I was definitely going to be well fueled for the next day! I was pretty much sent into a carb coma.

Centre of Manchester

It was nice to catch up with John, although we both admitted that it didn’t really feel like we’d be running a marathon the next day. He was going to be taking it a bit easier (he’s a 3:12 marathoner usually but is training for a much longer event). I wasn’t sure of my plans yet (am I ever??). I was pretty much going to see how it felt on the day. But I kind of wanted to give it a bit of a blast as it seemed like the weather was going to be cool and the course was flat. So an ideal opportunity.

The classic flat lay

John headed back to his hotel and Kyle and I headed back to our AirBnb. The couple who lived there (we were in a room, rather than an entire flat) were lovely and friendly. One of them had run the marathon before so I got to ask her a bit about it. It was quite amusing when they were advising me to have a good carbohydrate rich breakfast and get a good night sleep and giving me tips on running a marathon in general… they then asked if it was my first. I told them it was my 19th and they looked stunned. They then said “oh well I guess you know what you’re doing then!” hehe.

Have you ever been to Manchester before?

Do you prefer thick crusted or thin base pizzas?

What’s the hilliest parkrun you’ve done?