My next running challenge

So my running lately has been a little bit without focus or a goal.

And I’m sure this has been the same for so many other runners out there too because of COVID and races being cancelled and rescheduled left, right and centre. And entirely understadable and the right thing to have been done.

But while I’m not really the type of runner who is strongly motivated by PB’s or getting faster, I do like to have a race in the diary to schedule my training to. An endpoint so I can schedule my peak in miles and then have a finishing point. It feels a little like groundhog day week and that makes scheduling my runs somewhat tricky.

As someone who really enjoys long runs, it’s hard to not go overboard and end up running a long run every single weekend (like 15+ mile long runs). While I enjoy them, I know it’s not particularly sensible or even necessary. During marathon training it makes sense, but without that goal it can end up just being long run after long run without an end in sight and my body gets worn down unnecessarily. As an injury-prone runner, very risky.

However, this has now changed. I now have a marathon in the plan! I mean this could all change and it could be cancelled of course because, well, COVID really loves ruining things, but SO FAR it’s still to go ahead.

Despite not entirely loving the experience and probably ranking it down the lower end of my top marathon experiences, I’m going to be doing the Goodwood Marathon again 27th September. I ran it two years ago and while it was a fairly fast time for me, it was mentally a tough course to run because you do 11 laps (2.3 miles per lap) around the Goodwood Motor Circuit. It’s flat and an ideal course to get a good time, but it is dull.

However, at this point I’m so desperate to do a race and a marathon again I will take that. I have no idea what time I’m going to aim for, but I’ll do my best. My running has been fairly decent recently. I’ve been doing speed sessions every week, I’ve been doing some solid long runs… will it be enough? Who knows and, frankly, who cares!? It’s an organised race! They’ll be actual runners near me! They’ll be a medal!

I ran 18 miles last weekend. I hadn’t firmly set out to do 18 miles but I decided that if I managed it and felt good for it I’d do it, and then that would dictate whether I would do a marathon in the near future. I managed 18 miles and it felt good and I felt happy with the distance.

At that point I hadn’t entered Goodwood. I was going to run another marathon on my own (similar to how I ran the “lockdown marathon” a few months ago on my own). I just need to get it out of my system again. So I’d planned to do it round Portsmouth. Then I heard about Goodwood still being on from a friend and with it being soon I was sold.

So I’m excited and nervous – which I think is a healthy outlook to have for a marathon. The race organisers seem to have good COVID safety measures in place and it’s not a particular big race, so I’m not concerned about that. I’ll be as safe as I can while running – wide berths with any overtaking (positive thinking on that front), masks where appropriate, minimal contact and touching things I don’t need to… it’s a big track as well so I can’t imagine there being any great risk during the race anyway.

I just can’t wait for the whole shebang, you know? The night before’s pre-marathon meal, setting my clothes out ready, getting up early, eating porridge, getting there and having a million wees. I just love it. Then standing there ready to go with everyone else. BANG, you’re off. One mile in and over 25 to go. It’s daunting, terrifying, hard, tedious, boring, relentless, but exciting, fun and one of my favourite things in the entire world. That last 5k. Knowing how far you’ve come, how long you’ve been running. Just a parkrun to go. Push the pace a bit if you’re lucky. Smile for the cameras (turns out you grimaced), sprint finish to the end – which is never ever a sprint, but in your head your Mo Farah and you’re winning gold. I cannot wait.

I just hope it goes ahead.

Do you miss races?

What race would you love to do right now if you could?

Adding some focus back into my running

Is it just me or has this summer has felt like it’s gone on for eternity?

I feel like I’ve been living in shorts for an exceptionally long time. I think it’s because WFH means I can wear my shorter shorts and can go for a walk in the morning and lunchtime easily… so it feels like I’m experiencing summer a lot more “fully” I guess compared to when I sat all day in an air conditioned office.

And while that’s quite nice – not having to layer up, not having to put a coat on – I’m a little fed up of it now. It’s too hot. It makes me tired mid-afternoon. I hate feeling sweaty and lethargic. I like to go to bed feeling cold, then warming up under my duvet. I don’t like this hot, sweaty, oppressive weather. As a side note, this is how I know I’m a true Brit. I like the variations of the seasons  –  and reserve the right to complain about them at any opportunity of course. But anyway, I’m ready for it to get colder. I’m ready for winter!

My running, despite the heat, has been a bit different lately. I’ve actually incorporated a weekly speed session into my training (and I feel confident to call my running “training”). Now if you’ve read this blog for a while you’ll know I’m quite a lazy runner… Lazy in that I don’t often push myself, I don’t tend to do planned “sessions” and when I do a race I rarely go for a time. I know there’s nothing wrong with that sort of approach to running. For me it’s important I just get to run and that I can continue to run throughout my life – regardless of whether I hit PB’s. I just like to be outside in the fresh air moving. I don’t feel particularly competitive with other people’s times or even my own times. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved so motivation to improve my times is always a bit lacking.

But with no races in the near future and my running becoming a bit samey I got the urge to jazz things up. A lot of my friends do “proper” speed sessions and talk about reps and recoveries and suddenly I was motivated.

So after doing a bit of research and seeking some advice from said friends, I headed out on a Tuesday evening to do 4x800m with the same amount of time recovery. I mean, nothing crazy. I didn’t want to destroy myself or my motivation by doing too much too soon.

This was a tough session though I can tell you! I ran 1.65miles to a nice long, wide, flat strip of sandy trail and got to it. Angry, fast music on (it’s what works for me) and off I went. Ooooof!

I haven’t done proper speed work or any sort of races to challenge myself (sometimes I’ll do a speedy parkrun when the mood takes me) so I knew it would be tough and I knew I wouldn’t be breaking any records (of my own), but it’s a stake in the ground and I will take it!

I did another session a week later but this time 8x400m with 90 seconds recovery and this mentally felt better as it was shorter (weird how that works as normally longer distances mentally feel better to me in general).

Weirdly I’m enjoying this addition to my running. It’s nice to go out with a purpose rather than “hmmm I’ll just do seven miles tonight” or whatever. I don’t know how long I’ll keep it up or whether I’m going to be able to “show off” this hard work in a proper race eventually but for now it’s nice to have something different going on.

I’ve also been back to my personal trainer (@JonhPridham_rule5coaching on Instagram) to get back to some heavier leg training. He’s massively helped in the past to keep my strong and injury-free alongside my running. As a keen cyclist he understands the need for a well-rounded athlete!

My squats and general strength have diminished a lot of course as I haven’t been able to lift any sort of heavy weights for a number of months now, but it’s good to be working my way up again. Though the DOMS is unreal – three days afterwards!!

So I feel like I’m getting back to some level of focus for my running, both in terms of speed and in terms of strength. Fingers crossed I don’t lose motivation and, more importantly, don’t get injured!

And on a different note… I was sent a pair of PaMu Slide Mini Bluetooth earphones for running.

The earphones are kept in a little box that you charge up (very similar to iPhone Earbuds) and they also come with a cute little bag to keep them in. Charging is very simple – it’s just a micro USB that you put into a plug.

The earphones themselves are easy to pop in, stay nicely in my ears, even when running, and the sound quality is decent. I definitely prefer to wear these rather than the expensive Apple Earbuds!

Also, these have 30 hours playback on one charge which is more than enough for a few runs and walks.

So all in all, things are going well round here with my running 🙂

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the earphones for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

How’s my running going

My blogging has definitely become less frequent than it used to, and I’m fine with that. Life is happening and life is good.

(I’m quite active, for my shame, on Instagram @AnnaTheAppleBlog and Twitter @AnnaTheApple88, if you’re interested in more regular updates!)

That said, I do feel the urge to do a post on my running. It’s been a little mental. I don’t feel like I’ve stopped marathon training since last summer. I did Goodwood in September, New York in November, Portsmouth Coastal in December, Barcelona in March and then Manchester in April.

The Goodwood Marathon

Don’t get me wrong, I love marathons and I feel SO thankful that I’ve been able to run so many with barely any injury issues. However, I do feel like it’s probably right to have a bit of a break from the super long stuff.

I’ve got the Southampton Half Marathon in a couple of weeks which will be a nice change. And I think I’ll maybe push the pace a little. This scares me greatly. I much prefer to be using a half marathon as a long run for a marathon build-up – maybe add a few extra miles onto it and plod it out. But racing it? This gives me a lot of anxiety. But that said, I do need to push myself occasionally. Now is the time.

And on the subject of pushing myself: speedwork. Yes I need to get back into it. It’s no surprise to anyone that I quit Southampton Athletics because it really wasn’t for me. They’re lovely people and it was a fantastic experience to train properly on the track but realistic the effort to get there and the focus on shorter distances wasn’t for me.

However, I AM going to try and do speedwork moire frequently, either on my own or with Hedge End Running Club (my first claim club and a club I thoroughly love being a member of). In fact, I did my first (solo) speed session for a few months on Tuesday.

I did a mile warm-up followed by 10 x 1 minute sprints, with 1 minute rest (light jogging) in between. My pace for the sprints was between 5:38-6 min/miles, which I’m quite happy with. I do have a way to go though as last year I was running a lot faster for these sorts of intervals. But it’s a marker in the sand.

It was tough and I had that horrible burning lungs, can’t breathe kind of feelings. The ones I never get during a marathon… but I felt so alive at the end and so accomplished.

I’m quite excited actually to be focusing on things like this. It’s a change for me (though just while I have some “down time” from marathon training). I still have a (trail) marathon booked for July and Chicago in October (I AM SO EXCITED) of course, but for now this is a nice change up.

If I don’t get any PB’s as a result, that’s OK too. I’m not really in this for that. It doesn’t help that I’m really happy with my current PB’s and the desire to beat them doesn’t feel worth the changes I’d have to make. I’m very much, enjoy life first and work hard second.

For me to get to smashing PB’s I’d have to change the way I run. Running would become Serious Business. Whereas I just love going out for a run and seeing what happens, seeing how I feel, rather than being dictated by my watch or a training guide. That’s not for me.

Running is very important to me but it’s not everything. My self-worth does not depend on my running. My happiness does not depend on the outcome of my running. Running makes me happy, of course, and it’s so good for my mental and physical health, but PB’s do not define me, PB’s do not show how good my running is. But that’s just me 😉

So a bit more speed to be added, no marathons for a few months… but still the usual waffle!

Do you enjoy speed training?

What is your favourite thing about running?

What’s your next race?

New year, same me

I just re-read my last year’s New Year’s resolution post. I say “resolutions” but I don’t really make them… basically it was what I had planned for the year basically.

It was really interesting. My plan for the Dubai Marathon, that I ran in January, was to “go for it” and my plan for the Brighton Marathon was to just bimble round. How different that turned out! Dubai was my slowest marathon time of the year (3:39:58) whereas Brighton is now my PB (3:16:28). It’s funny how things are never as you plan (well for me certainly).

2018 was a really good year for me in terms of running. I ran five marathons! I put the exclamation mark because this still shocks me. My body is so much stronger. SO much stronger. Regularly going to the gym and working on my strength has hugely helped. I know where my weaknesses are and what to work on. I’ve had minimal niggles, and anything that did crop up disappeared relatively quickly.


I ran 1,633.9 miles. I PB’ed at my 5k (19:40), was five seconds off a 5 miles PB (33:48), unofficiallybeat my 10k three times during training runs (41:49), beat my half marathon PB (1:31:106) and got a new marathon PB (3:16:28). So in purely performance-related achievements, I think I’ve done well!

Hitting my target of running a sub-20 minute parkrun, a goal I had at the start of the year, made me very happy. I mean it was horrifically hard and I felt every single second, but I got there (twice actually, I squeezed a 19:59 at Victoria Docks parkrun). I’m very happy with that time and feel no desire to attempt to go faster. Sure sub-19 minute sounds amazing but so does winning the lottery, some things in life aren’t meant to happen to me 😉

One of my most proud achievements was getting my parkrun Alphabet Challenge completed. It genuinely took me a lot of organising , but I had so much fun along the way. It gave me good excuses to visit friends, go to different places and have adventures. Something I see goes firmly hand in hand with my running.

So 2019. Well, I’d love to do 4-5 marathons again. In the plan currently is a Barcelona in March, Manchester in April (I know, scarily close to each other), Chicago in October (my LAST Marathon Major!!!) and probably Portsmouth Coastal in December again. I see a gap between April and October so I’m sure if all is well I’ll squeeze something in between. But I don’t want to become complacent with my new found “lack of injury” status I have so I won’t make any assumptions lightly!

It might be nice to get close to my marathon PB again. Manchester or Chicago might be viable options as they’re both flat. The New York Marathon showed me I could put a good time in and still enjoy myself so that makes me more inclined to try. But getting under 3:16 will require consistent, solid running and almost certainly with some speedwork put in. This is something I probably should have as a goal… but actual track? No I think I’m done with that. Let’s be honest, going from zero speedwork to intense PROPER speedwork on the track was never going to be a great fit for me.

So perhaps some less formal sessions with Hedge End Running Club (who are a bit more chilled about these things) and some sessions on my own… once in a while anyway. I won’t commit to anything as ludicrous as “once a week” as that’s a lofty target that I’ll never hit. Baby steps.

In terms of my life outside of running… well, if you couldn’t tell I’m very happy. I wouldn’t have thought I’d be this happy last year but I am.

It’s funny because I actually didn’t think I was missing anything. I was quite content bumbling along with my life and didn’t really think I needed anyone to “make” me happy. But there you go. Kyle and I have a lot of adventures planned for this year. I just hope I don’t mess anything up! I mean there’s bound to be many more Anna’isms through the year but I guess that’s to be expected…

Do you make New Year’s resolutions?

What are your goals for the year?

Did you achieve what you wanted in 2018?

Running Lately

So running lately has been going surprisingly well. I have no niggles or injuries and I’m running consistently around 35-40 miles a week, five times a week.

I’m really proud of how things are going. I seem to be in a very happy place with it and my body doesn’t seem to be breaking. Granted I’m not doing much (if any) speed work and I do wonder how much this helps me avoid injury. I also get a lot more enjoyment out of running by not putting myself through track workouts and intervals each week. However I realise I do probably need to incorporate some of that into my week (or every two weeks) to keep my running from going stale and plateauing on progress.

That said, I’m sure you know my views on these things. I’d rather run consistently slow than super fast with numerous breaks for injury recovery. I’m just a happy plodder. If I never get another marathon PB again I’ll be OK with that. It’s just the experience I enjoy, the thrill of the race (even when not racing), the challenge of all those miles and seeing different places. Boring as that well may be, it’s what I enjoy.

I’ve had a few people say to me I could dip under the 3:15 to get a championship place at London and as amazing as that would be I’m not sure it’s something I want to target. If it happens naturally then of course I’d be up for it, but I very much doubt it would. When I got my 3:16 PB at Brighton I was doing more speed workouts than I am now and was in better shape. The thought of putting more effort in right now for a lofty target isn’t quite where my head’s at.

Maybe next year I’ll have another go, put more effort into structured training… who knows. I do have some good marathons planned where this might be possible. The Barcelona Marathon in March, Manchester Marathon in April and Chicago in October. All are relatively flat and fast courses. So there is that temptation (of course I won’t be targeting all of them… I’m no machine, as we very much know!).

In the near horizon, as in this Sunday, I have the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon. It’s not a PB course despite being quite flat. It’s right next to the coast and if you get bad weather it will really affect the day and the course is semi-off road. But it might be as still and cold as last year and in that case I might go slightly faster than the “plod and be merry” pace I had intended. So I’ll decide the night before or on the day how I feel.

If I did “go for it” I would be super happy with 3:25-3:30, with the course and the fact that it’s not exactly 26.2 miles (last year it was 27 miles) due to the tide causing issues. I do feel like that would be quite a bit of effort though and already I’m mentally backing out. I don’t want to put pressure on myself or be disappointed.

My main focus on the day will be hoping that Kyle does well for his first marathon. After a bit of a bumpy training lead-up due to not being able to start training until a bit later than ideal due to injury and then missing a week due to illness, it’s not been as good as planned.He managed a successful 18 miles which, though he didn’t think it at the time, went pretty well! He struggled through – but then realistically, for your first 18 miler, do you do anything other than struggle through?I just hope he doesn’t have a a bad time of the marathon. He’s a very strong runner though with a solid game plan, so fingers crossed for him. Just really hope the weather is kind to us! We’ll have the full cheer squad out in force as well, so that’ll certainly help.

So hopefully 2018 will finish nice and happy and in a strong place for running. It’s funny to think I started the year with the Dubai Marathon, in the hot sun, and now I’m ending it in, very likely, traditional wet and cold British weather in Portsmouth…

Do you have any big goals for next year?

Do you have any races coming up?