A missed opportunity, giant salads and refueling with cake

This weekend was fairly busy, but full of many of my favourite things.

On Saturday Kyle and I headed to Southsea parkrun to meet up with my running friends Michelle, Mark, Billy and Aaron. Unfortunately Michelle wasn’t going to be running as she’s injured (get better soon!) but the other guys were.

Kyle and I arrived a little bit late and as we’d parked a mile away we had to run quite sharpish to get there on time. We arrived with five minutes to spare and then spent too long chatting to the guys for us to realise it had started! Oops!

So this meant we were all pretty much dead last to start, which proved rather tricky. The first 30 seconds or so were us just walking and then trying to infiltrate into the crowd of 600 runners (when did Southsea get so popular??). But this helped ease me gently into the run. I then spent the first mile basically umm’ing and arr’ing whether to push the pace or just plod along.

Mark dashed off ahead and though I attempted to follow for a bit I decided to instead just to run on my own and see how it went. For the first mile I weaved in and out of people and after a quick sprint to get in front of a crowd I realised I didn’t feel so bad and decided to maintain the faster pace.

We got to the turnaround and as I headed back the way we’d come (Southsea is an out-and-back course) and I realised there was no wind. Usually you get one direction being really good and then you turnaround and you’re suddenly hit with the full force of the wind that you didn’t realise was there (such are a problem with the straight out-and-back promenade parkruns).

However, there was no wind. I mentally kicked myself. What a missed opportunity for a flat wind-less 5k! Ahh well.

I managed to get my pace a bit quicker towards the end (God the pain of a hrder 5k…urgh) and finished 22:01. Just shy of a sub 22 minute parkrun. I was pleased anyway to have put a bit of a burst in towards the end.

After finishing, we all lamented at what a shame it was that none of us had gone out with a fast time in mind. I mean, we hadn’t set ourselves up very well by not paying attention at the start of course!

Then we walked over to the Parade Tearooms to have some brunch. Predictably it was quite busy (it’s so popular there) but after a short wait we got a table.In true Anna style when ordering Kyle’s brunch I decided to hear what he wanted and then order something completely different. No idea why! I quickly had to change the order with the lady on the till (who didn’t look too pleased at first but I managed to explain what kind of idiot I was exactly and she seemed to soften a bit and find it funny).

So Kyle did in fact get his pancakes (and not the full English) and I got my beloved Jayne Salad. An epic salad of proportions I’ve seen no where else (bar maybe America where portion sizes are RIDICULOUS).

This was my kind of salad! Chicken, cheese, coleslaw, potatoes, tomatoes, beetroot, carrot, cucumber, fruit (yep) and lettuce. You needed quite the strategy to eat this without it toppling everywhere. A Jenga salad if you will.

The next day I got up a bit later than I would have normally as I really wanted a solid lie-in and having lost an hour from the clocks going forward it meant 10am. I felt really well rested and ready to hit my final long run before Manchester a week later.

I headed out with the intention to run 13 miles, but with some wiggle room if I fancied going further. Generally I’ll run 13-16 miles the Sunday before depending on how I feel. I’d given myself enough time to do up to 16 before I needed to back to shower and get ready for afternoon tea with my mum for Mother’s Day. So no pressures, just relaxed running however I fancied.

It always takes a few miles for me to get into a run (which is why I think I much prefer long distances than to 5ks or 10ks when I’ve basically just warmed up), but as I got into it I realised I felt good. Not just physically but mentally as well. Like it was good to be outside, good to be running. It was fairly warm so I was glad to be wearing a vest and also happy I’d put some sun cream on my face.

As I got to 7.5 miles I stopped at my trusty dodgy tap for a drink before heading on. I was listening to the BBC 5 Live movie review podcast and was chuffed to hear the review be so good for Kyle and my next planned movie, Us. I know it’s going to be scary, but knowing that Simon Mayo is a big horror movie wuss and still enjoyed it has hugely helped calm me a bit. I really enjoyed Get Out so fingers crossed it doesn’t traumatise me like Hereditary did.

When I got to the point of making a decision between 13 or more miles I decided to push on. It was partly me feeling like I was good to run further but also down to the fact that the 13 mile route was a bit rubbish whereas the longer route was nicer. Though it was more into the wind annoyingly.

I finished the run feeling strong and happy. An ideal last long run before a marathon! Then I quickly got myself together ready to go for afternoon tea with mum.

Handily it was just a 20 minute walk to the village to Donny’s where I’d booked a table for us.

We were quite excited as we hadn’t had afternoon tea for a while and it’s something we both love to do (ALL THE CAKE).

We’d both gone for ham and mustard sandwiches and they were crustless tiny little things. I mean they were tasty but very small. Now for a reasonable human being that’s fine – afterall, you’re having a scone and cake afterwards, but for a greedy person like me they were quite dinky and didn’t really touch the sides. I’m not a fan of cutting crusts of bread either – such a waste.

Such a lovely mum x

The scone was delicious. A little pot of strawberry jam and clotted cream – divine.

I mean, again the portions were fairly small and the scone wasn’t warm, but these are MINOR details from an afternoon tea connoisseur like myself ūüėČ

The slice of salted caramel cake was so divine. Very sticky with a rich flavour to it. My mum had lemon drizzle and she loved it too. Handily I got to eat her icing as well as she’s not a fan (I love this about my mum – I’ll always get her icing, especially good for Christmas cake).

Happy Mother’s Day!

Do you like afternoon tea?

What’s the last long run distance you’ll do when you’re tapering?

What’s your favourite kind of salad?

My 200th parkrun and NO CAKE?!

I love a weekend like this, packed full of running, lovely people and  good food. Shocking for me I know.

Kyle and I headed to Netley for parkrun on Saturday morning. It was going to be my 200th! I wanted to spend it at my home parkrun where I knew I’d see lots of lovely familiar faces and have a coffee afterwards. My intention was to bring cakes to celebrate but then decided against it due to a mixture of a) not being able to bake because I’m horrendous at it, b) not wanting to buy crappy ones from the supermarket, and c) I worried that the weather would be awful and no one would want any because they’d be too busy dashing off home to get warm.

Well, when we turned up the sun was shining and the skies were blue. My lack of cakes did not get unnoticed and I got quite a few comments. Apparently I’m the least likely person to not bring cakes for a milestone. Whoops. I saw my friend, Joe, briefly – he was very busy being the run director. But he did shout out my 200th in the pre-run bit which was nice (YES I KNOW IT’S NOT AN OFFICIAL MILESTONE).

My plan was to push my legs a little but not go as fast as Southsea parkrun the week before. As soon as I started running I could tell things were going to be harder. I’d done a legs day at the gym on Friday and consequently my they felt heavy and clunky. Netley’s winter course has two hills and you do the lap three times, so it’s quite a tough run. The wind was very strong but thankfully it wasn’t dead against us, and actually when we had to go up one of the hills it helped push us up. So not too bad at all.

Photo Credit: Andrew Thorne

Kyle and I ran together and we managed to overtake the local celeb and Olympic athlete, Iwan Thomas. He nicely shouted “well done” to us but then exclaimed “oh blimey, mate, those shorts are a bit short! I think I need to burn my eyes out now”. This was directed at Kyle, not me, which was immensely funny. Giggling definitely helps you forget the pain of trying to run fast!

Photo Credit: Andrew Thorne

As we got up the final hill my legs were burning but I could feel Kyle on my heels and though we weren’t really racing I didn’t want him to overtake me at the last bit. So our sprint finish looks quite epic!

Photo Credit: Ben Vanes

Though to be honest, Kyle looks quite relaxed!

Photo Credit: Ben Vanes

I finished in 21:25, Kyle one second behind (the gentleman). This is good progress for me, considering I didn’t want to go faster than Southsea, because the course is a lot harder at Netley. I mean it definitely FELT harder I will say!

After a lovely coffee and catch-up with some of the other guys, we headed back to shower and get sorted.

That evening we headed to one of our favourite restaurants, Red Dog Saloon. Their menu had recently changed so we decided to check it out. For starters we had chicken wings (Buffalo sauce with blue cheese dip, so good).

And then for the main I had St. Louis ribs, smoked sausage and a few more chicken wings. I honestly think chicken wings are one of my top five foods. I managed to persuade the waitor to give me three chicken wings on the side instead of a usual side (chips, onion rings etc.). He very kindly sorted this for me!

Kyle had Southern fried chicken. We were happy! When we like somewhere we struggle not to keep going back, as you’ll see in a bit…

We then headed to a friend’s 30th birthday party. I managed to scavenge a free pudding from the birthday man, Ed, himself. I was devastated when I tried to order pudding and found the kitchen was closed, but Ed told me he wasn’t eating his so I could have it. I was super grateful, but also now extremely full after also eating a birthday cupcake AND a brownie. Ooooof.

We got up the next morning and I headed out for a quick pre-long run run. I wanted to get about 16 miles in but Kyle didn’t fancy running that long so we worked out if I ran 3ish miles beforehand and then we ran to Southsea together that should be perfect.

The first 3.3 miles were quite hilly around Clanfield and it was spitting a little but otherwise it went quickly. I then “picked up” Kyle and we headed on the road to Southsea. I’ve run a lot of this route before when I ran to Fareham from Kyle’s, but as we got to Cosham we then had to veer off towards Portsmouth.

It’s quite a hilly route – one particularly hill in Widley was one of those grit teeth head down kind of hills but otherwise it was fine. It was nice to run with Kyle and chat and relax into it. Though the wind seemed to be against us the entire way. I had to briefly stop at a petrol station to buy a water, which I almost downed the entirety of standing in the queue! Must have been all that salty food from the night before.

We eventually got to Southsea where we finished the run at the Parade Tearooms, ready to meet Kyle’s mum and brother, Zack, for brunch (well, more like lunch as it was now past midday!). 16 miles for me, 12.5 miles for Kyle. Solid running! Kyle’s longest run since the marathon in December so he smashed it. Though he was a little pooped afterwards (I mean, so was I of course!).

We’d been to the Parade Tearooms last weekend and obviously loved it so much we wanted to go back. My stomach wasn’t really knowing what it fancied and wasn’t hungry at all as we stood waiting for a table (it’s very popular at the weekend). But I knew I would be hungry soon so I never make the mistake to reject food!

I decided on the Jayne Salad again because it was so epic and I thought that the combination of good nutritious salad, carbs and protein would be ideal post run. I also ordered a pot of tea, which is something I crave after a winter long run.

The salad did not disappoint. If anything it was larger than last time – if that’s even possible! I also ordered the chicken to go with it (an added extra) which they’d forgotten. To be fair, it didn’t look like ANYTHING more could be added to the ginormous portion, but out came a separate little bowl with the forgotten chicken. Unbelievable.

And yes, I did polish it all off. It took me some time but I powered through it like the warrior I am ūüėČ

My stomach was pretty jam packed full of salad and I wasn’t really fancying cake (SHOCKING I KNOW). I decided to employ some self-control and avoid the cake while I wasn’t in the mood (though I did regret this later in the day). After last night’s epic feast of food, sometimes you need a little bit of health (and a break for my bank account)!

So a solid weekend. I’m feeling in the groove of marathon training again!

What do you crave after a long run?

How many parkruns have you done?

Do you bring cakes for your different parkrun milestones?

Southsea parkrun, my kinda salad and back to long running

This weekend, though not entirely as I had planned, was a good one!

Friday night I stayed at Kyle’s and we decided to give Southsea parkrun a spin as Kyle had never done it before and there was a tearoom nearby we had been meaning to go to for ages.

It was, as I’m sure the rest of the UK was aware, very cold Saturday morning. But happily very sunny and not that windy – not bad conditions for a coastal parkrun. We decided to park about a mile away so we could have a gentle warm-up beforehand. Not that it warmed us up much at all! By the time we arrived at the start we were still cold.

We stood at the start and listening to the pre-run briefing and heard what we already were aware of, having just run down the promenade. There were large patches of ice, both visible and black, around the start section (and consequentially the finish area as it’s a 1.5 mile out and back straight route). The event director implored everyone to do a “Michael Jackson Thriller style walk” at the start to avoid any slips and the marshals were stood on the main ice puddles to help.

My leg had felt good all week and I decided to see where I was at fitness-wise. I wasn’t going for a full on “ruin myself” style of run but I did want to push the pace a bit. Kyle was less keen to do a fast run so we decided to run separately. I had my Aftershokz ready and was feeling good.

We started and ran carefully through the icy bits – as everyone did – and then as we got to the clearer sections started to push the pace. I felt very much in control and happy at 7.15min/miles. I remember thinking how much I was enjoying the run. My legs felt strong, my breathing relaxed and the sun was shining. Asides from my hands being cold (I had to wear my thinner Nike gloves rather than my thick eGloves, which someone had recently nicked – story for another day), I was feeling good.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get my headphones to play my music but actually I really didn’t mind. I was happy to just listen to my breathing and the noises around me more clearly. We got to the turn around (1.5 miles) and this felt very quick to me. I was feeling goooood. It was nice to acknowledge that fact mid-run – rather than feel like “omg this is fast I want to die” kind of feelings I usually get during 5ks or 10ks.

At the turnaround I knew I could then look out for Kyle, who I assumed was taking it a bit easier so would be coming the other way. However as I continued to run the opposite way I couldn’t see him. As I got further down the line of people coming the other way and he still didn’t appear I realised he must be very close behind me. I tried to look behind me but couldn’t see him. It did help spur me on as I didn’t want him to overtake me (though in reality I wouldn’t have minded and this is a highly likely thing to happen in the future as he’s getting stronger and stronger).

I ran with another guy for a bit until, as I felt my speed increase, I managed to push on ahead. I also passed two females. I thought there was another one ahead so I tried not to get too excited and lose my focus (and controlled breathing). I haven’t been a first female in a while. I finished strong with 21:29, my fastest parkrun since October! Turns out I was first female as well, which was a nice bonus. And a royal flush negative split!

Kyle finished 21:34, very close behind me. A solid run for the two of us. We then jogged gently back to the car. And though there was a huge temptation to go to the Tenth Hole for brunch (as we were parked just outside) we drove the two miles or so down the road to the Parade Tearooms. Though the Tenth Hole is brilliant (those cakes!), I’ve been there quite a few times and we really wanted to try this other tearoom.

I pride myself in doing my research before I go somewhere for food and I’m so glad I did. Though I was tempted by the usual full English breakfast (which Kyle went for – with extra toast) I instead went for the Jayne Salad. Yes, a salad. Yes, a salad on a cold morning. But hear me out. This was no ordinary salad. I joked to Kyle saying this shouldn’t be called the Jayne Salad it should be called the ANNA Salad. The portion size was right up my street!

Piled high (to the point it was actually tricky to eat) with salad, roasted baby potatoes, coleslaw, chicken, bacon, cheese, beetroot… it was GINORMOUS. And exactly the kind of salad I would make if I was making it myself.

It took me ages to eat and I can happily say I was stuffed by the end (yes I ate it all – I read a review on Trip Advisor that someone took half home. Wow, way to go Anna you pig).

Kyle thoroughly enjoyed his fry up – quality over quantity (whereas the Harvester breakfast is very much quantity over quality). And of course we had to take two slices of cake (well, traybake) home with us.

I genuinely stood in the queue having a mare of a time trying to decide what to order. The tiffin? The salted caramel shortbread? The “junk yard” cheesecake? The Crunchie cheesecake? The fudge cake? The Bakewell slice? I almost had a breakdown.

In the end I went for the tiffin. A giant triangle slab. Kyle went for an equally large slice of the salted caramel pretzel shortbread. We took them home to give our stomachs time.

I won’t lie. All I needed was the time it took to bathe and get dressed for me to be ready to eat the tiffin in one with a cup of tea. Hollow legs… human dustbin… greedy. All of the above. It was DELICIOUS. Caramelly, chocolaty, full of raisins and biscuit… so flipping good.

That evening I was supposed to go to my friend’s hen party and see Dreamboyz (like Chippendales I believe…) but my mum needed me to stay in and help her as her left hand is basically useless after her accident (she’s left handed) and my dad wasn’t going to be in. It was a shame to miss the hen do but I appreciated a quiet evening in with my mum instead.

At least it meant I got a solid night’s sleep and could crack on with my long run in the morning without feeling hung over. A silver lining at least! I headed out with the intention to run 10 miles but as I got going I realised I felt good and if it continued that way I’d do 12. I’m lucky to have good routes around me that I can shortern or lengthen my route as I go.

As I got on to the seafront promenade at Hill Head, away with the fairies listening to a podcast, I didn’t see the four very familiar dogs and my parents suddenly appear in front of me. Alfie went a bit mental suddenly seeing me, bless him. I stopped and chatted briefly before heading on – Alfie tried to join but my parents managed to wrestle him away.

So the 12 miles went really well. My leg felt fine. Only my endurance struggled I think, but that’ll come back in time. The weather was perfect. Cold but still. I felt very happy and (god I hate this word) blessed to be running again.

How was your weekend?

Do you ever order a salad?

What’s your favourite tray bake?

Instagram and that time I over-dosed on chicken wings

I was going to do a “What I’m loving lately” style post but I ended up waffling too much about two things so let’s just go with that…

Instagram:¬†Say what you like about Instagram and why people use it, I love it. I enjoy using it, I enjoy posting and I enjoy following other people. You do need a degree of “take this with a pinch of salt” perspective of course because people generally post their best selves and it’s a very glossy world vision (as with all social media). You have to be careful not to think too deeply or worry too much about the things you see. Comparison is the thief of joy, and there are ALWAYS going to be people running faster than you, looking more put-together than you, have more money than you, go to more cool places, holidays, restaurants, get more free stuff than you. But as long as you can accept that and not let it affect your own self-worth and value, it’s good fun.I love a good scroll and I enjoy posting gym selfies and running updates on there. It’s fluff and nonsense and, in reality, no one cares more than you do about your own posts, but I enjoy the micro blogging element of it.

And after than preamble…I’ve started¬†another Instagram account on top of my usual @AnnaTheAppleBlog one. This one is a¬†food-based Instagram account called @AnnaTheCake88. Yes yes I know ūüėČI wanted somewhere to document all the amazing food I’ve eaten and will go on to eat. But I didn’t want to muddy my purely fitness-focused account with food. So a new one was born. On this one I can follow all different kinds of local restaurants (or aspirational restaurants I’d love to go to) and be inspired to visit new places to try new foods. I can really focus in on food-related stuff, which, as you probably know, I love doing.

A twing thing: Speaking of food…I’ve been enjoying lots of good food recently. I never realised how good a place Southsea was for food. It’s just down the road from work which makes it a perfect place to drop into. With the weather recently being so nice it’s a great place to walk along the beech, have a drink and enjoy some good food.It kind of reminds me of Brighton, but obviously a lot smaller and not as popular. It has so many quirky restaurants – and most of them have vegan options or some even have entire vegan separate menus. I obviously love my meat but I don’t mind trying a bit of a vegan food once in a while as a change!

I went to Two Doors Down recently with Kyle on a Wednesday evening as it was “Twings” Night. All you can eat tacos and wings for ¬£13. I was ALL over this. I love, love, love chicken wings so this was right up my street. We’d been to the restaurant before and had had a really nice meal there so we knew we were in for a treat. The waiter informed us that to stop people over-ordering and wasting food you had to finish the plate you were on before ordering more, which made complete sense. I’m almost certain they looked at me and thought “ha, we’ll make our money on this one”. Little did they know…

There were lots of different wing flavours (buffalo, Korean BBQ, honey and mustard, honey and sriracha, etc.) and you could choose between cauliflower “wings” and regular chicken wings. As much as I would have enjoyed trying the cauliflower ones I decided to focus on chicken because it actually took a while each time to order another plate as they were quite busy and we only had our table till 8pm. PRIORITIES PEOPLE. This also meant that I decided to not get any tacos either. The tacos had different flavours too – and jack fruit versions not just different meats.The wings were good. So good. I decided early on to avoid the baffalo wings… they were the first eight that I had and it really did a number on my tongue and mouth with the heat. So I tried the Korean BBQ next. Still fairly spicy. As I was in it for the long game, I decided to move to and stick with honey and mustard.In the end I managed five plates of eight chicken wings… 40 chicken wings in total. I won’t lie, the last plate was a struggle and certainly the last two wings I probably didn’t enjoy that much but 40 sounds better than 38 ūüėČ I realise this is the height of gluttony but I genuinely didn‚Äôt intend to eat as many as I did going into it. I just have quite an appetite!

It was a fun evening for sure. The next day I honestly wasn’t hungry until about 1pm. I don’t know how many calories I consumed but if each chicken wing was 80-100 calories (no idea if this is accurate but I did a quick Google) that would between 3,200-4,000 calories. Blimey. Let’s pretend I didn’t have chips with that too…

Do you like chicken wings?

Have you ever done a food challenge? I’m not sure I would. I like to enjoy my food rather than race through it or prove a point.

Do you use Instagram?

The Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 2017

The Portsmouth Coastal Marathon was the first marathon I ever signed up to. Sadly I never made it to the start line as a runner, but I have supported the race so it wasn’t entirely new to me.

I was initially excited about the marathon when I finally got myself a place (it was sold out when I tried to enter it but managed to find a place from a friend of mine who unfortunately couldn’t run). But as the date got closer and the weather colder, my enthusiasm dwindled away. The night before I chatted to my parents saying I was genuinely nervous and worried about the race. I had no “oomph” to do it and felt a bit meh. Normally I’m nervous, yes, but also excited to get going. I just didn’t feel like I was about to run a marathon the next day.IMG_1916Happily I slept well and woke up with a renewed vigour. I’d gone over the race in my mind and was feeling a bit more ready (I find mentally going through the miles and my plans help calm and motivate me). I woke up at 6.30am, ready to leave with coffee, my Beet It shot and porridge to have en route at 7.15am. The marathon began at 8.30am, which is quite early for UK marathons but handily the start was only about 30 minutes away.IMG_1920My dad was coming to support (bless him) and had heated the car up ready which was divine‚Ķfor all of about 10 minutes before we both found ourselves sweating. It was a very cold morning but the combination of the heaters, my coffee and porridge just made me overheat. The night before I’d umm’ed and arr’ed about what to wear before settling on a thicker long-sleeved base layer, my ever faithful thick sports bra, arm sleeves, a buff and my running club vest. Still in shorts but with my long compression socks. I was really worried about being too cold but also about being too hot. The arm sleeves and buff would be ideal as I could remove them if necessary (I did indeed remove the buff, but not the sleeves). I considered a hat but with the headphones I wanted to wear it just didn’t work. I wore my winter coat to the start and genuinely never felt cold the entire race – even when I was stood on the start line. It very much helped that up until five minutes from the start I was inside the Pyramid Centre (where the HQ was located). It’s a very relaxed affair so getting to the start minutes before we were off was about as good as it can ever get.IMG_1924The start is right on the Southsea prom, just a few metres from the parkrun start. The sunrise was spectacular! IMG_1945It was a beautiful morning and all my nerves disappeared. All I had to do was run. It was flat, I was warm and I had no time goals other than not to run like an idiot (i.e. not too fast). I was somewhat concerned with how late I’d left eating my breakfast (only an hour ago‚Ķ) but actually it was fine.

IMG_1951I felt well fuelled running and had two SIS gels packed in my running belt.IMG_1949The first two miles ran up the promenade, past the pier and the cafes. There were lots of people cheering and it felt very relaxed and festive with people wearing fancy dress and familiar faces all round from local clubs and social media.IMG_1932I hadn’t had a chance to go to the loo before starting because the queue was too long (there was also a half marathon and an ultra happening). Plus I knew I’d need to stop anyway at some point because I’d drank that coffee so late. There was a proper loo just before two miles so I was aiming for that. Luckily no one was in it and I managed to dash in and out with no issue. It seems to be a thing for me now to always have a wee in a marathon *sighs*. Now I could relax and get these boring beginning miles past me. My dad drove past and beeped an excessive number of times – but it did make me smile. Off he went to his first supporter point.IMG_1953It’s a relatively small marathon, with around 900 runners. Despite this though, I was never alone. There were always runners near me. A significant part of the course at the beginning snakes along coastal paths so you’re always following someone. As we got to mile three we came to halt as there was a bottleneck to get safely down the steps onto the beach section. I was well aware of this section, having been warned by fellow runners, so I wasn’t surprised by it. And since I wasn’t aiming for a fast time I didn’t mind the¬† stand-still moment. My only annoyance is that I didn’t make the most of the time by taking a photo! I was wearing nice thick gloves and the effort of taking on off and fishing in my belt for my phone seemed like too much effort at the time.

I felt a little sorry for the marshals who were continually shouting to runners to not try and sneak round and go an unsafe way down to the beach to beat the queue. You could feel the anxious energy around as people hopped from one leg to another, keen to get on. Finally we were onto the beach and off again‚Ķacross the pebbles and sand. It only lasted a few minutes though and then we were back onto the path once more.IMG_1933You could see where we were heading – the course hugged the coastline – and the runners further ahead. Someone near me commented that it was like one big runner conga. You couldn’t really pass anyone but the speed was perfect for me. Not quite the 9 minutes I had told myself, closer really to 8.20-30. But I felt very comfortable (a good test for me is being able to run and breathe easily through my nose and to be able to easily hold a conversation).IMG_1935The course is entirely flat, but not entirely easy. The mix of terrain (tarmac, sand, pebbles, mud and trail) makes it tricky underfoot, but in my opinion it keeps you entertained. It’s an out and back route, following the Portsmouth Harbour. As the day was so still and so clear the views across the water were fantastic. The sun rising created beautiful picturesque colours and everything was very peaceful. Hands down one of the most beautiful marathons I’ve done. And believe me, I NEVER thought I’d say that about a marathon in Portsmouth‚ĶIMG_1984The miles ticked away fairly nicely. My first milestone was 6 miles as this would be my dad’s first spectator point.1-6 milesI could see the point from a distance and it gradually drew closer and closer. I listened in to people’s conversations as they chatted away, but was quite content to not get involved. IMG_1982I just switched off. I reached the 6 mile point and spotted my dad. He waved, I waved, all was good. As I passed him I imagined his journey to get to the next point up the motorway at 10 miles, just next to a the Ship Inn. The course is very handy that there are so many easy spots for supporters to gather.IMG_1978In this pic I saw the photographer laughing and knew the guy behind had done something fun, so I turned to him and said I was looking forward to seeing it later. He laughed ūüėČ

The next few miles were along a cycle path (tarmac) and were parallel to the motorway which was just hidden away behind the bushes. Not that scenic anymore. I was familiar with this part of the route as it was where one of the Wiggle runs had gone down so I knew what to expect.IMG_1939What I really liked about the marathon was that you were never on one type of running route for too long. So you could segment the run into “down the cycle path for a mile” to “back onto trail and through an industrial site”. It kept things interesting – it wasn’t just a never-ending road that was always the same (oh hey Dubai Marathon‚Ķ). 7-13 milesThere was another bit you run across the pebbles, but for the life of me I can’t remember when‚Ķ but I’m pretty sure it was before the 10 mile mark. It was quite the grind (though not nearly as bad as it was on the way back!).IMG_1961I seemed to reach 10 miles in no time and spotted my dad again. There were quite a few supporters here all along the pathway which makes it quite narrow but also makes you feel a little like a famous athlete because there’s so much cheering. I had a quick stop to hand my dad my gloves (while also telling him to keep them with him as I might need them back again later). I told him I was feeling good and then headed off.IMG_1976After about another 0.5 mile you come to another good supporter point and lots of people were handing out Jelly Babies and water. IMG_1974I also spotted a guy I work with and it was nice to have him cheer me along. The next part of the marathon is probably my least favourite as you’re simply running to then turn around and come back. My dad would be waiting at the Ship Inn point again but I wouldn’t be back there until about 16 miles so I had a fair chunk to get through. To help me along I put on a podcast. I’d chosen the BBC 5 Live film review show which would have the Star Wars review in it. As I was seeing Star Wars later than day it seemed perfect.IMG_1942The route went down a trail path, so was a bit muddy and puddly, but otherwise easy underfoot. At about 11-12 miles the first marathoners started heading back. Some of them might have been ultra amazing ultra runners as well (as they started earlier) but I wasn’t sure. Eventually we made it to the turnaround point. IMG_1941I had now run all the course so there were no surprises (so I thought). Heading back meant I got to see a lot more runners – and people I knew. It kept me entertained to look out for people. I also took my first gel here (an SIS one with special ‘immune boosting’ vitamins. Can’t say it made me feel any different but the cranberry flavour tasted nice). As there was no bin around I tucked it back into my running belt. On this note, I saw a guy have a gel and then lob it into a bush. This made me REALLY angry. No one is going to be able to find that! Well done for littering the place up, you idiot. If you’re going to use gels make sure you depose of your rubbish responsibly. Rant over.IMG_1983As I got to 14 miles someone ran up next to me and said hello. It was a guy called Graham who I know from Twitter and parkrun. 14-20 milesI was surprised to see him as he’s usually very speedy. I told him he didn’t have to go my pace and good speed ahead if he fancied but he seemed content at the current pace. I turned off my podcast and we settled in to some nice running chatter. This really helped the miles fly by.IMG_1977In the distance I could see my dad. My hands were starting to feel the chill again as it was becoming a little more overcast. I attempted to signal to him that I’d need my gloves back. Luckily he understood and handed them to me as I passed him, while he cheered us along.IMG_1964I remember certain parts of the route and used them as milestones to get to. We were running at a comfortable 8.30 and I was feeling positive. We quickly got to the 20 mile point where my dad was spectating from again (it had been the 6 mile point). How the miles were flying by! My dad drove past (honestly, I couldn’t escape the man. He was everywhere ;-)) and honked – off¬† he went to the finish.IMG_1966Graham mentioned he ticked over to a marathon and this was when I realised he wasn’t running the marathon but actually the ultra! I just hadn’t been listening to him properly! Now a few of the things he’d said made a lot more sense now. Idiot that I am! No wonder he wasn’t speeding ahead at his usual super speed, he’d run five miles more than me!IMG_1943I suddenly found myself with a second wind and I gradually started to increase my speed. I gently pulled away and headed off on my own. I felt bad for leaving Graham but I wanted to push the pace. When I got a polite enough distance away I took my phone out (snapped a photo) and put some music on. In the process I managed to accidentally call my dad. I eventually cancelled the call and sorted my music out only to have him ring me back. We had a very quick conversation where I explain I hadn’t meant to call him and he said he’d see me at the finish.

Now I was grooving. The music was perfect and I felt strong. This is literally the best part of a marathon for me. When I’m IN THE ZONE and hammering it (relatively speaking of course) to the finish. In the back of my mind I questioned the increase in pace (what happened to a 4 hour marathon, Anna?) but I just went with it. I felt gooooooood. I was smiling, waving to marshals and just generally feeling the buzz. I heard a number of different people say a similar comment of, “she’s still smiling!”. This feeling in a marathon is what I live for, I love it!

I had mentally prepared myself for another jaunt across the beach but I was surprised to find us heading in a different route than we’d come. In fact, we were winding our way down residential streets. I wasn’t sure where we were but we had less than a parkrun to go now (well, so I believed). I eventually got back onto a familiar path and passed the toilet I’d stopped in at the beginning – so long ago now. The final stretch down the Southsea promenade – potentially very windy and unforgiving but luckily nice and still. With less than two miles to go I felt a few drops of rain‚Ķ and then it started drizzling. Well, we had been very lucky to not have had any earlier and I was quite warm that I didn’t mind. My watch ticked over 26 miles‚Ķ then 26.2 miles and we weren’t near the finish. As I passed a photographer he said “just half a mile to go”. Riiiiight. I knew we were about that away because I was familiar with this route (parkrun and GSR) so just knuckled down to that extra distance to get it done.

There were a lot of supports at the end which was fantastic. My only quibble (and this is really pathetic and moany so I’m sorry) is that as I was about 50 metres from the finish a man who was just ahead had his entire Von Trap Family of children join him to run with him to the end. This is all very lovely and ahh how cute, but I almost collided with four different children as they randomly went from supporter to runner. I then couldn’t get passed them – they were all running so slowly – and it kind of buzz killed my finish. I GET IT. You’re all so proud and want to share the moment, but there are other runners running the race as well‚Ķ Meh. Rant over. Anyway, I finished, hurrah!21-27 milesMy time was¬†3:45:36. second in my age category, 13th female (out of 280) ūüôā¬† I was now fairly soggy. I collected my medal and goodie bag. I spotted my dad and he passed my coat quickly. IMG_1970What a hero! I saw some other freebies being handed out so headed over to have a look. A marshal was handing out free beers so I went to take one. He looked at me and said, “well I shouldn’t really, but I hope you’ll give this to your dad as you’re underage”. I stared at him, asked him if he was joking and when he said no I said, “I could actually hug you. I’m 29!” He laughed. Well, if that’s not the best thing to hear when you’ve finished a marathon I don’t know what is!IMG_1975We then had a bit of a length walk back to the car in the rain… My dad wasn’t able to find a space any closer. But the walk did me good – it helped stretch my legs a bit. And luckily we made it in the car before the rain really began.IMG_1944We drove home, I showered and got myself together and then we headed straight out again for some much needed Nando’s, followed by a ridiculous amount of sweets at the cinema watching the new Star Wars film.IMG_1973It was such a fantastic way to celebrate and relax afterwards. Though my legs didn’t thank me for the 2.5 hours of sitting and doing nothing… When the film finished I got up and my legs were SO stiff and awful. But otherwise, all good! I really enjoyed the film as well. I’m loving these new Star Wars ūüôā

I really enjoyed this race and have already signed up to next’s years. It really was a fun and festive event – not necessarily one for a PB but more for enjoyment, which is exactly my kind of race!

What do you like doing after a long race?

Do you like running with other people in races?

Do you enjoy out and back races/runs?