Running 18 solo miles

So I’m about a week and a half away from my 15th marathon. I won’t lie, I’m nervous. I’m always nervous about marathons.

It doesn’t matter how many I’ve done, I still have the fears. The worry of injury (my first Bournemouth Marathon), the worry of the monotony and the mental torture of the miles dragging on (hello Dubai Marathon) and the worry I won’t finish (thankfully, yet to happen). But saying all of that, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be OK. My training has gone well. I’ve bagged two solid 18 milers. I don’t have any niggles. I’m in good shape. But the marathon is a tricky beast, you never know what will happen on the day.

Speaking of the 18 miler then… I ran my second one on Sunday. Normally I’d dread a run like this. My last 18 miler (the week before) had been run with two of my mates and had flown by. This time I was tackling the beast on my own. Sure there were people who I could have organised to run with but most of them prefer to go out really early and as I get up stupidly early during the week, I quite fancied a lie-in. And having no pressures to get out and run when I wanted to.

Also, I’m a firm believer in doing some long runs solo. It’s not just the physical training that’s important for marathons but the mental training too. It’s a long way to go and it’s not just your body that’s going to feel tired. Your brain is going to be struggling. The demons are going to start creeping out of the woodwork and whispering things like “slow down”, “just stop” or “you’re not going to finish this”.

You need to have some solo time to work out how you can conquer those voices and overcome the psychological side of running a long way. If you’re always running with your friends then you might not encounter these problems until race day and then be screwed how to overcome it. Basically I always think it’s good to get rubbish runs done during training so you can work out how to deal with those issues. So on race day you’re prepared and can think back to those runs and remember YOU CAN DO IT. (I have some more long run tips HERE).

Anyway, strangely I was feeling good about the 18 miler. Maybe because I haven’t done a long run on my own for ages and I had a good route planned. It was my usual route I do on a Sunday but I’d added a bit extra around Stokes Bay and I had good memories of running there before. It helps to make your route feel as positive as possible. Small things like this definitely help!

I headed out nice and slowly. No point in starting fast and exhausting myself or trying to maintain a silly speed. I had my podcast going and the sun was shining. I knew I’d get hot later so I had my “safety” £1 so I could buy a drink later on. I also had several options of shops I could use on the route and a couple of “dodgy taps” I could use as well so I didn’t feel I needed to bring water with me.

I find that using the same route I always use helps the miles fly by quite nicely. I know those miles so well. There’s a tough hill for 2-3 miles but that’s pretty much the only hill. Then it’s plain sailing all the way to to coast. I saw a lot of cyclists flying past me and exchanged lots of good mornings which is always nice.I relaxed into my pace and found it all very effortless. Runs like this are the dream. No niggles, everything flowing and feeling smooth… Happy days. I stopped for a quick drink at my familiar dodgy tap and then had a quick wee. During long runs I’m not bothered at all about taking the time to do these things. Anything to make life more comfortable! I ran along the coast and hit a bit of a headwind which was a bit annoying but I knew when I turned back to go the other way it’d be a nice relief on the final miles.I stopped at around 10 miles to grab a drink from another tap and then did a little photo on the promenade. It was just so picturesque and I find these sorts of things quite fun. I so love living near the sea.Then I continued on my way. As I got towards 15 miles I decided I’d probably need to buy a drink for the final miles. I probably could have lasted but the pound was burning in my pocket and the need for water playing on my mind.

I stopped at a Co-Op, grabbed a 56p bottle of water and joined a large queue. This was quite frustrating. I just wanted to get back on with my run. I showed the lady behind the till the bottle and put the pound coin on the counter and asked if I could just go. I was paying almost twice the cost so didn’t think it would be an issue but she, quite stroppily, said “no I need to scan it”.

I went back to the queue quite frustrated. It really wouldn’t have taken much for her to let me leave the coin would it? She could see what I’d got! I didn’t even want change! I stood for a minute or so longer and then decided to let my hotheadedness get the better of me. I went over to the bottles, took another one of the same that I had, then went back and put both the bottle and the coin on the counter and said “that’s what I’ve got” and then left the shop.I don’t think I’ve ever ran so fast mid-long run! I was genuinely scared she’d run after me or someone would stop me. I realise now this sounds ridiculous but I’m quite the rule follower so this was fairly “out there” for me. Just call me Good Girl Anna. Anyway, obviously no one followed me but I managed to maintain a faster speed all the way to the end. The final mile was TOUGH but I felt fully in the zone and was loving it. Thank you grumpy Co-Op lady!

I finished feeling tried, yes, but strong and happy. A solid solo 18 miler! Hurrah!

Now just a 16 miler as my last long run and then the marathon!

Do you ever stop to buy anything mid-run?

Do you prefer to run with others or on your own?

What makes a good long run?

Running Lately

I thought I’d do a little update on how my running has been going lately… 

Since returning from the Austria Run Camp at the beginning of July, my running has been a bit unfocused. I’ve been in a weird period where I didn’t have any marathons or races pending so I’ve just been enjoying some relaxed and unfocused running. I think it’s important to have some of this kind of running from time to time. I also had a minor blip where my calf/shin started to niggle a little so I backed off and gave it some space and then gently ramped up again.I’ve been hovering around 30ish miles a week for around a number of weeks which is generally my sweet spot. I’d like to get back to 40 miles a week as I didn’t find that too stressful on my delicate injury-prone body previously but I want to do this slowly. I also want to run five times a week when it fits in so these two will go nicely together.

My next big main goal is the New York Marathon. I say “goal” only because I want to run the race uninjured and for me that’s a goal in itself. It’s never guaranteed. I don’t have a time in mind for it at all. I’ve heard it’s the toughest of the Majors so I’m trying not to let that intimidate me. But I still want to enjoy it. For me this means running round comfortably, with a smile on my face, probably take a few selfies and finish happy. Therefore time is irrelevant.

New York is the beginning of November, so about 11 weeks away. It’s been a long time since my last marathon though and I’m getting the itch. My friend Mike mentioned the Goodwood Motor Circuit Marathon September 16th which sounded quite good.Eight laps of the 5k track. Maybe this sounds dull but to me this sounds cool. I can pace myself in chunks. Maybe I’ll see what I can do closer to the time in terms of time but realistically I don’t want to risk New York (which will be six weeks after). We shall see.

So with being a bit gentler with my calf/shin I laid back off the speedwork (any excuse eh…). But I’m trying to get back into it again. Over the past few weeks I’ve felt a bit out of shape in terms of my paces, which I don’t really mind too much. For me consistent healthy running will always win over sporadic high speed but niggle-risk running.

However, I had a run planned at lunch the other week and without my usual running buddy (damn injuries) I wasn’t feeling very enthusiastic. So I decided just to blitz through it to get it done. I’d run the night before with my friend Ant and my legs had felt a bit pants. We’d been running around 9-9.30min/miles for 8 miles and it just didn’t feel very smooth or strong. This is a slower pace for me but it shouldn’t have felt like the grind it was. I therefore had no expectations for a good run the day after.

Yet as soon as I started I felt like my legs were ready to go. And my first mile was the slowest… I just seemed to get faster and faster. I have a great 10k route at work that’s nice and flat (it’s basically an out and back) with few turns and minimal traffic annoyance. I just felt myself gliding along. Yes it was tough going but I didn’t find myself feeling like it was the worst thing in the world. It didn’t remind me of those horrific 10k races I’ve done in the past that have felt like I’ve left everything on the road.

So when I came to a stop at 6.2 miles and checked my watch I actually couldn’t believe that I’d surpassed my 10k PB time by 15 seconds. My original PB was 42:50 but I’d just done 42:36. Now I know this is an unofficial PB really because I PB’s only count if you get them in race (official course, chip-timing and all that good stuff) but I’m over the moon. And what’s even better is that I was getting faster and stronger as it continued.I did manage to scare a man as I came to a holt at the end because I was gasping for air and pretty spent. It was around lunchtime when people were just casually grabbing their lunch or chilling out outside. In fairness, the weather was perfect, the route was super flat and it just seemed to come together, for whatever reason. I will take it!Going forward I’ll be cracking on back to track once a week or every two weeks depending how I feel and growing my longer runs. I’m currently up to 16 miles and I’m hoping to peak at 18 miles just before the marathon and then drop down again the week before (a one week taper special due to lack of time – though personally I always prefer a shorter taper). Fingers crossed I continue to run injury-free!

How’s your running going?

What’s your next race?

Cheating on my running club…

When it comes to running, I tend not to have much of a plan. I have a rough idea of what I want to do in a week and if I have a marathon on the horizon I’ll have my long runs marked out, gradually building up the distance.

Otherwise I work out my runs in general with who else is running when in the week and what parkrun I want to do. I’m really relaxed about it. Previously I’d run all my runs around the same kind of pace as well, usually around 8 minute miles. So really no real structure. I enjoy running this way because, as you probably know, I’m not a PB-hunter. I love getting PB’s of course but realistically I’m not running every race for a time. It kills the fun for me. I find enjoyment in other ways, like collecting different parkruns, doing different marathons and basically just having a doss about.

Part of that is down to me genuinely loving this and part of it is down to not wanting to be too serious or do too much hard training because I’m terrified of injury. I love running and all the benefits I get from it (physical and mental health but also a large social element), and losing that sucks. I do believe I’m injury prone and when I increase my load (higher mileage or harder mileage) I suspect I’m dicing with getting injured. So I’m always reluctant to go too hard or put a lot of hard training into my weeks. I’d rather run slow consistently then run fast sporadically.

That said, I feel like I’m in a good position to think about jazzing things up. While I have more “fun” goals of doing the parkrun Alphabet Challenge, the Marathon Majors and things like that, I would like to get a few times under my (Flip)belt. I’ve now been injury-free for a good number of months and I haven’t had any sort of niggle even slightly raise its head. It’s given me some confidence.

I go to go the gym 3-4 times a week. I work hard to keep my legs, core and glutes strong. I definitely feel the benefits of this when I run, how fast I can recover and just my general mental wellbeing. I enjoy the gym, I enjoy the routine I have and if I did get injured I know the gym is there to tide me over.

So the title of this post… I’ve recently joined Southampton Athletics Club as second claim. This is actually a huge step for me. Southampton Athletics Club is a Serious Club. They do Serious Running. We’re talking track races. Race distances I wouldn’t get out of bed for let alone train for. 800m? Are you kidding me? As a second claim member however I can’t run for Southampton AC. I don’t see this as a bad thing at all. This year I have a number of different races I want to focus on (or at least just do for a bit of fun), and the idea of doing a lot of league races (10ks, cross country, track) just isn’t my bag of fish. Kettle of fish? Bag of…? Whatever, it isn’t my idea of fun. Despite the head coach trying to hard sell the first claim to me, I held firm (he’s a nice guy and though he didn’t quite understand my rationale, he did accept it and was super nice).

I went to a trial speed session down the track last week. DOWN THE TRACK. An actual track. This is literally Out of My Comfort Zone territory (capitals required for full emphasis).We (thankfully) didn’t train on the track, but stayed on an area of grass near to it. When I arrived after running a 1.5 mile warm-up there, everyone was super friendly. But all fairly young and with lean, mean racing snake physiques. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Proper drills. People in warm-up gear and then stripping off to teeny tiny shorts and vests. Then putting on a different pair of trainers.

I’m literally stood there with my FlipBelt that contained just my phone and car keys. I felt woefully underprepared. The coach asked if I was going to change my shoes… into what? These were all I had! But everyone else was switching into barely there weightless shoes and I was stood there in my adidas Boosts that, in comparison, looked like giant bricks on my feet.

But I didn’t let is phase me. I was there to add a bit of structure and speed into my training. I wasn’t there to change my entire way of running. And you know what? I held my own. Yes I was at the back of the reps but I wasn’t being totally dropped and I felt strong. I mean, it was tough. Physically tougher than had I gone out on my own as I was pushing myself to stay within a distance of the main pack, but mentally easier because of the pack. It was weird.

My first speed session: 5 mins tempo (1min), then 4x 90 secs (1min) then 4x 75 secs (1min), then another 5mins tempo

The coach said afterwards I didn’t look like I was trying hard enough (in a nice way, he wasn’t having a go). I honestly thought I was trying, but he said I should be absolutely spent by the end of the session and I guess I wasn’t. I mean I was tired, but I wasn’t rinsed like everyone else seemed to be. I think this comes with having a good understanding of speedwork and an understanding of your body and the pain barriers you need to push through. I’m a long distance runner by heart so I’m used to plodding miles upon miles in a semi-comfortable state. I’m not used to pushing my body for short bursts to efforts of pain. Not injury pain but lung-busting, muscle burning pain. I’ve shied away from that for a good while.

I came away from the session feeling really happy and motivated. It’s reinforced my mindset of how I currently want to run. Keeping my other running nice and easy (two gentle runs 4-6 miles, and a longer run 10+ miles), and then one speed session and an occasional tough parkrun when I’m feeling fruity. That’s the plan. Who knows how long it will last. It’ll only be my body giving up on me that’ll stop it right now. Fingers crossed, eh.

Do you do speedwork?

Are you a member of a running club?

What motivates you with your running?

Marathon Talk Run Camp – part 2

On to the Sunday of the Marathon Talk Run Camp at Sandy Balls in the New Forest, we had a 10 mile “eliminator” style run planned.

*Catch up with Part 1 of the Run Camp here!*

So the idea was that we had a 10 miles race, but there were two stipulations (asides from a set course over the New Forest countryside – following a similar route to the Heartbreaker Half): one was that we had to finish at 12. You were given on point for every second you finished before 12 and two seconds for every second after 12. The more points the worse you did. The second stipulation was that you weren’t allowed to wear a watch, or if you did it had to be taped over. Essentially you had to pace yourself on feel only.

This did make me somewhat anxious. Not knowing my pace or the number of miles I’d done… I mean, what! I already knew I was going to run it as an easy long run but this meant I really had to tap into my body as to what easy actually was without having any paces fed back to me. Tough. Especially as I do tend to run quicker than I should for easy runs. I decided to go with starting at 10:40, to give myself an hour and 20 minutes, which would mean 8.30min/miles…not that i would be able to properly tell!

In the morning, the lodge was all up around the same time. John decided not to run to be super sensible about a pesky niggle he was experiencing – very wise of him. But the rest of us would be running and would be leaving at different times because of their different paces they’d be running and time goals. I didn’t have any breakfast as I never do before long runs so could have a little bit of a lie-in (thank god for finding my ear plugs). James, Michelle and I walked down to the start area together as we were roughly going around the same time and wanted to walk. I mean, just to be clear, I wasn’t going anywhere near as fast as those guys  but it was nice to have the warm up walk beforehand together.Unfortunately I left it a little too late and literally arrived at the start with about 20 seconds to go before I needed to start. Happily my fried Ade was there starting at the same time (what a nice coincidence!) and a very lovely lady called Jenny. We all decided to run together which was great. None of us wanted to push the pace so it was a good conversational run. Because the course was a T shape it meant there were a few out and back sections so we could cheer on other runners who had gone out before us and were coming back down a path we were running along, making it a lovely social run.Unfortunately, because we were talking so much we missed the TWO turnaround arrows on the floor. We didn’t realise until we reached a car park – about 0.25 miles on from the turnaround. We quickly headed back in a bit of a panic (no wonder it had suddenly got quiet with no other runners about!). This meant we’d added about half a mile to our route. As if pacing 10 miles wasn’t hard enough with having no watch, we now had to either quicken up to make up the over-distance or find a way to lose 0.5 miles.We were now no longer plodding along happy as Larry… we were brainstorming where to turn early or what time it was or what pace we were doing. Argghh! We decided that we’d turn around early at the next part of the “T”. I was concerned I hadn’t seen Michelle or James… when we finally saw them heading back along the other “T” they looked at us confused as this was far too late to be seeing us now. We decided a few minutes further to turnaround because at this point we’d never catch up with the main group of people – and therefore would not finish before 12.God, honestly it hurt my brain to try working everything out and adjusting ourselves to other people. Of course we assumed everyone else had their pacing strategy perfect which of course invariably they did not, making it even more of a mess.We even panicked further on thinking we might not even make 10 miles if we’d have turned too soon. What would be worse than finishing too late would be finishing the run having not even completed the 10 miles! So we collectively decided to turn around again and do a tiny out and back to make sure we’d hit 10 miles…just to be safe as we were worried we’d turned around too soon. We agreed we’d rather do over 10 miles than under. This did make us look a bit silly as other runners passed us… they must have thought we were trying to cheat which just mortified me. I tried to explain what we were doing but mostly people just looked bemused at us. Dear oh dear.Regardless of this silly mess-up (the curse of running with the idiot that is Anna? Quite possibly), it was a lovely lovely run. The sun was out, the views were beautiful, it wasn’t that windy and we were still enjoying each other’s company. Despite feeling somewhat stressed and generally in a state of confusion (my natural state perhaps), I was thoroughly enjoying the run. As we got closer to the finish we picked up our speed. The end finishes on a horrible horrible steep uphill. James was at the top looking all chilled and fresh having finished about 10 minutes before (he over-shot it) while we scrambled up, everything burning, and me trying not to look like I was dying. Probably failed there ha.
In the end we finished 1 minute and 40ish seconds over 12… so not too bad considering we’d also run 0.6 miles over the 10 miles!! Ahh what idiots we were 😉 But we all agreed we enjoyed the run, chat and the farce of trying to figure out how to rectify the situation. Smiles all round. John was at the finish cheering us all in which was nice.James and I then walked back to the lodge… James had forgotten that he’d been looking after Chris and Kate’s key for their car so while we were walking back, blissfully unaware, another car caught up to us with Kate in it asking for the key back as they couldn’t drive back… oh dear. For once not an Idiot Anna Move – not my fault at all ha.

We got back to the lodge and I got into the shower pronto as I needed to wash and blow-dry my hair (I was so grateful that the guys let me go first, very kind of them – sharing a shower between six people is tough!). And then we headed off to the lunch with the Marathon Talk crew – a delicious Sunday roast dinner with all the trimmings. Delicious!Then it was a case of saying goodbye to everyone. Obviously this also meant getting my standard photo with Martin and Tom…I’ve now done this every year I’ve been and the motage is quite cool.I know this is going to sound like overly sentimental guff (of which I rarely like to do) but Marathon Talk is such a fantastic community of people. I’ve met so many good friends through it and had such brilliant times with the different events (not to mention the actual podcasts themselves being a good listen). I hope to continue being involved in more events they put on! So big thanks to them.

For once I’d decided this year to stay until Monday as James, John and Michelle were too and it was nice not to rush off. So we headed back to the lodge to chill for a bit and then later we decided to head to a local pub down the road for dinner…the roast dinner clearly hadn’t touched the sides.Happily a few others joined us: Mark, Vicky and Stuart from the Austria Run Camp and Mark’s friend Caroline. Such a lovely bunch of people!I went for rump steak with a jacket potato and Stilton sauce….SO good. Followed by a large wedge of bread and butter pudding with ice cream. Perfection. We said goodbye to the others who were leaving and then headed back.The next morning, we got ourselves sorted. Michelle, the crazy girl, went out for a 5k run while James, John and I went for a walk to find the actual Sandy Ball, which I didn’t realise existed! The weather was lovely and it was a perfect way to end such a great weekend.Happy legs, happy tummy, happy heart.

Are you involved in any running or fitness communities?

Have you met friends through running that you stay in touch with?

Have you ever gone wrong in a race?

Running lately – snow and long runs

Running has been a little up and down lately. There have been good and bad runs thrown into the mix and I’m less than seven weeks out from the Brighton Marathon. But this is Standard Anna so I won’t stress (too much) over it. I mean, same ol’ same ol’, right?

The calf/hamstring issue is slowly dying away. I know what not to do to annoy my hamstring and my calf niggle seems to be disappearing. It’s a pesky thing and one I’m not sure entirely what’s going on there but the discomfort is definitely easing up on most of my runs now to almost nothing. Progress? I certainly hope so.

So I’m currently running four times a week – two runs at work (usually Tuesday and Thursday “runches”). I tend to run one of those runs with my friend, Kyle, who’s recently got into running. He’s progressing really well, breaking 22 minutes significantly already at parkrun. We tend to do just four easy chatty miles on a Thursday which is nice.

Though I did have probably one of the coldest runs I’ve ever done last Thursday – just before all the snow came down. Literally the coldest, iciest wind in Kyle and my face the entire time. I think we managed one normal conversation between us both swearing and saying how cold it was. It was awful. I’d sensibly packed leggings instead of my usual shorts as I knew the Beast from the East was about and as we were running easy I didn’t want to be absolutely freezing (ha. I was anyway…). It always feels so weird running in leggings though! So used to my shorts – I just feel a bit more free?

Anyway, despite there being no snow on the ground yet (we had luckily gone out a couple of hours before Portsmouth turned into Narnia) I still managed to slip over. We turned round a corner and there was a large puddle iced over and I just couldn’t change my trajectory in time and ended up running straight over it – well, I say running but what I mean is skidding over it and then landing on my leg and bum.It was actually a really painful fall. But thankfully only on a superficial level – like my skin had been torn up and it was a bump on the fleshy part of my ankle rather than any bone. Whew. Kyle helped me up (probably trying not to laugh as it was so ridiculous) and I tested it out walking and, though it felt tender, it was fine to bare weight on. We decided to run for a few metres to see how it was and luckily it was OK so we carried on for another three miles. So actually it was a really good thing I’d worn my leggings! Thankfully they hadn’t torn.And then the snow came down… meaning most parkruns were cancelled on the Saturday. It was a shame but fully understandable. Instead I went out for four miles in the snow.This did mean a nice lie-in and no rush to get out of a lovely warm bed. It was a fun run but SO tough. I mean, it was like running on sand. The snow was really dry and powdery so pushing your feet off and working out where to put them was physically and mentally tough work.It wasn’t actually that cold though so I was happy in my leggings, despite people on social media thinking I’m mental. If anything, in my two layers and a buff I was too warm by the end!The pace was obviously a lot slower because it was harder and to be honest I was just happy to be outside running. The air was still and crisp and it was a very invigorating run if that makes sense?The next day’s run however was a lot colder – not on my legs or body  but on my feet. The snow had melted a little and was very slushy but still everywhere. I wanted to get between 10-15 miles, depending how everything felt. Running on the pavements was the best option because that’s where the good routes were for a longer run, but this meant a lot of running through slush. My feet got soaked and cold VERY quickly. It made them feel like dead weights at the end of my legs.But the run went well. I felt my calf a little bit at the beginning but eventually it disappeared and everything felt fine. I’m SO pleased you would not believe. It was such a solid good run. I felt like I could have carried on. My fitness seems to be in a good place (not necessarily speed, but general endurance). I felt comfortable and at ease running. My legs did feel tired though running through the slush. The extra mechanical process of foot placement and moving them over trickier ground did tire them out. But thankfully it was slippy. There was no ice and the snow wasn’t that nasty slippery kind. It helped going a lot slower of course. Usually I’d do my long runs around 8-8.30 mins/mile but because of the snow I was forced to slow down. This is something I REALLY need to do more of. When I was training with Mike last year for the New Forest Marathon to get him his sub-4 we were training at 9+min/miles and I had my most consistent and strong period of running. WHY DO I NOT LEARN. So my long runs, snow aside, will be a lot slower now. I just need someone to keep pulling me back….So I feel really positive at the moment. I still don’t have any time goals for Brighton but I’ll see how the coming weeks go. The Reading Half Marathon will be an interesting one to test my where I’m at. I’m looking forward to that race as a good tune up and to help me plan for Brighton. Hopefully another solid long run this Sunday and then Reading the week after. It’s all go!

How’s your running going?

Did you run in the snow?

Do you prefer to wear shorts or leggings?