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?

Goals for the New York Marathon

So on Sunday I will be running the New York Marathon. My 16th marathon and my 5th Marathon Major.

On the note of Marathon Majors… I have entered Chicago and will (all being well) will be running my final Major next October. Words cannot explain just how excited I am about that. I’ve heard Chicago is one of the best of the bunch so I’m pleased I have that to finish on.But first New York…

Now I’m obviously super excited for this marathon but it is very much a flying visit to New York itself. I’ll be leaving midday-ish Friday and then arriving home Tuesday morning. So I won’t be hanging out there that long. And a big part of me is sad that I won’t have my amazing support crew with me. But money doesn’t grow on trees and I decided to do this so do it I must!

I won’t be entirely alone though as I’m staying with a great bunch of girls in a palatial-sounding AirBnb, organised by the lovely Charlie, from The Runner Beans blog. So I know I’ll be in good company. And though initially I was terrified that I somehow had to make it from JFK all the way to East Harlem on public transport ON MY OWN (likely I wouldn’t make it without some sort of Anna mishap or drama, let’s be honest), one of the girls is on the same flight as me. HURRAH. THANK GOD. So that’s a major worry off my (and everyone who knows me) mind.

So the marathon. Sorry to be an absolute boring disappoint to everyone but I actually have no ambitions to race this one. I’ve heard it’s the hardest of the Majors due to all the bridges and the final 5k through Central Park is relatively undulating. I don’t want to smash myself to pieces, I want to take it all in and enjoy myself. I’m thinking 8.30-8 minute miles, though *hopefully* closer to 8 minute miles if I do feel good. But as I always seem to say, I’d like to get under 3:45 as I feel that’s a natural pace for me without busting a gut.

I want to take selfies. I want to smile. I want to wave at the crowds. So far my Majors have been all pretty enjoyable (though I found the first 10 miles of Boston very tough). I don’t want to be disappointed or injured at the end. It’s a big deal – and getting a good time doesn’t make a marathon any more enjoyable or memorable to me.

That said, if I feel good in the race, I might push it and see what happens. WHO KNOWS. It’s a marathon mystery. In general, I never really know how I’m going to run until the day – until I’m literally running. I do know for almost 100% certainty that I’m not in PB shape (in body or mind). I don’t want to go after trying to beat 3:16 as it would be painful and I’d fail – I know where I am with my fitness and I’m realistic. I’m not sandbagging here, I assure you. Unless something crazy crazy happens on the day (who knows what those NY doughnuts will do to me eh) I won’t be pulling a Brighton.

So, to be clear. My goals are:

  • Remain uninjured
  • Smile 100 times
  • Cheer madly at the lovely people of New York
  • Take approximately 759 selfies and photos
  • Get under 3:45, but who the hell really cares!

I’ve hit some solid long runs, I’ve managed to get some good paced runs in, I feel healthy, I feel injury- and niggle-free. I’ve basically fueled the last few months with cake, meals out and sugar. But I’m the strongest I’ve ever felt. I’m loving running. I’m loving the gym. I’m loving how I feel in myself and how my body looks. And in general, life is very good right now. So I’m going to celebrate with a little run round a big city and then eat a lot of food. Sounds good, right?Have you run any of the Marathon Majors?

Have you ever been to New York?

Not all runs are created equal

Running is a tricky beast. And our bodies are fickle funny things.

You can have an amazing run where you want to go on forever, and then you can have a run where every mile is like dragging your tired bored through porridge. My runs lately have been a mix of this. But such is the nature of running eh!

I won’t lie, speed training has fully taken a back seat. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy going to track when I went but it’s a hassle. I mean I knew it would be but I was happy to make the effort. Now the initial excitement (if that’s the right word for it…) has worn off I’m a bit “meh” to it.

I think this mainly comes down to the fact that I’ve achieved quite a bit this year that I didn’t expect I would (5k, half and marathon PB’s). I’m not one of those people who OMG MUST GET A NEW PB EVERY RACE. Sure it’d be nice but realistically it’s not my driving force. I don’t feel I’ve failed if I don’t get near my PB in a marathon. I mean, I’d be a pretty big failure if that were the case. I just love running and love running marathons. Time is secondary to the enjoyment.

My self-worth and how I feel about running is not hinged on the time on my Garmin. I’m not saying that people are wrong for loving the thrill of PB-seeking each time or for striving to get faster and faster. I just don’t have that drive. I must get boring when people ask what time I’m aiming for in a marathon. My usual response is “3:45ish injury-free”. If I feel good on the day I might go faster. But if I get 3:44 or 3:29 it really doesn’t change how happy I feel at the end.

My gripe with track is that it means leaving work later and then losing an hour where I drive to Southampton, sit in my car for about 10-15 minutes (if I leave work any later I’ll hit traffic, so I have to have this contingency time) and then run the 1.5 miles to track (you have to be warmed up beforehand), do track and run back, drive back and oh hey it’s now 8.30pm and I haven’t had dinner or any evening. I guess there are some people out there that would see this as an obstacle to overcome, a worthwhile sacrifice for the greater good of training, progression and success. I just see it as a way to make me grumpy and hangry so early in the week.

I will still go occasionally but right now I’m doing that thing of choosing stuff that makes me happy rather than makes me dread one day in the week 😉 Life is too short to do shit you don’t enjoy for reasons that aren’t important to you. As well as this, my mate Joe would normally go to track and catching up with him was one of the bonuses for going but he’s currently injured so my motivation is at a real low.

But anywho, I get random bursts of motivation to run faster so I’m sure I’ll get back to it eventually. But right now, I’m just happy that I’m running consistently and injury-free (TOUCH WOOD).

But anyway, my recent runs have been a bit hit and miss. I had a fantastic social run Wednesday evening with my lovely friend Kim where we natter about everything and anything and saw a beautiful sunset on the beach.We ran 5 miles and it was lovely. We bumped into the Stubbington Green Runners doing their evening run which nice – everyone smiling and saying hi.Most of the runs I really enjoy won’t increase my speed and won’t help me beat my PB’s but I always finish smiling and remembering why I love running.

On Friday I ran with the Wiggle guys for the Wiggle Run Out (last Friday of the month we go running, cycling, walking or swimming in the afternoon). I actually lead it for the first time which from the outset yes, did seem a bit dubious. BUT no one died. No one got lost. I see that as a huge success 😉We ran round Farlington Marshes. The weather was great and it was nice to get out of the office for some fresh air and some chat with people I don’t get to see much in the office.But then on Saturday my run was less than stellar. I squeezed my long run in as I had plans on Sunday. I ran 8 miles to Lee-On-Solent parkrun, then parkrun, then four miles home again. And it felt like such a slog.
I mean I guess running 8.5 miles the day before hadn’t helped but jeeeeze it was tough.parkrun did make me laugh though as while we were running I got so confused. I kept looking at my watch and wondering how I’d suddenly gotten a lot slower. My watch said 9:08 but I didn’t feel like I was running at that effort. It felt far too tough for what should ordinarily feel a bit easier for me. And I was getting slower! 9:09 now… what was happening?

And then I realised… I was looking at the time. I have only recently configured my Garmin watch face to show the time as one of the fields as it annoyed me I couldn’t see it when running. Ahh what an idiot. I was actually running 7:45ish.I was happy to negative split and do a sprint finish at the end (such a decent stretch for it at Lee). I didn’t hang around too long as I had places to be so plodded my way home at what felt like such an awful slog. I realise my paces aren’t really a “plod” but it definitely felt that way!And when I finished I felt overwhelming tired. Like I could literally lie down and sleep straight away. I had to have a 45 minute nap later in the day! I imagine it’s because I haven’t really dropped my mileage down since the marathon and I’m still going full steam ahead. I’m on dodgy territory I know and should be cautious.Happily though I felt a lot better the next day after a solid night sleep and phenomenal Sunday lunch. Rest, nutrition and good company definitely help!So good. Roast beef and roast pork (with crackling)… Sunday lunch goals right there.

How’s your running going?

What motivates you?

What’s your favourite roast?

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?