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?

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?