A Weekend in Warsaw

I was very fortunate to win a competition hosted by Faya Nilsson, a wellbeing ambassador for Westin Hotels & Resorts for a trip to Warsaw. (Head over to her Instagram for incredibly fitness inspiration @fitnessontoast)

It was my first time in Warsaw and if I’m honest it’s not somewhere that was even on my radar to visit. If you are thinking the same be sure to read on.


Warsaw is around a two hour flight from London Luton and then our hotel was only a 10-15 minute drive from the airport so I wasn’t left feeling at all groggy after travelling. We stayed at The Westin Warsaw and absolutely loved the hotel. Minus a roof top pool with a pink flamingo, there was everything you could possibly want and more. We had an executive room on the top level, 20 floors up in the clouds. 

Whilst you are on holiday it’s so easy to fall into bad habits. Westin have designed a specific wellbeing range to help you maintain your healthy lifestyle whilst away from home and “Stay Well”.
Let’s start with the room. A bed, bath, rainfall shower, fluffy rope and slippers all from the ‘Heavenly’ wellbeing range. At home we have an amazing Superking bed so we are often disappointed, but it was the best night sleep I’ve ever had in a hotel. I woke up feeling relaxed, refreshed and raring to explore. 

The staff were all lovely, very welcoming and the service was fantastic through out our stay. It was such a thoughtful touch to have a fruit platter and chilled water brought to our room within minutes of us arriving. 

Breakfast was like an Instagram smoothie bowl station that I wish I had access to every day. I did a lot of swooning. It made starting the day off on a healthy note even easier with a wide selection of fresh fruit and Westin’s Superfoods range. No doubt I would have opted for the ‘treat your self it’s a holiday’ cooked breakfast instead.

The hotel is fitted out with a gym and sauna. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the gym equipment, which was all state of the art and the free space available for stretching and floor work. A lovely and convenient touch is that Westin have partnered with New Balance and offer a kit lending service. So if unlike me you don’t want to use up 90% of your luggage for activewear and trainers, they will be happy to kit you out. So you avoid the dilemma of trainers being too bulky to pack or not being able to workout. 

I only used the gym once for a quick speed treadmill run and some stretching as I wanted to use the opportunity to “run explore” the city. It was delightfully flat! Having banked a decent amount of miles each day I was more than happy to take advantage of the complimentary prosecco on offer in the Executive Club lounge from 6-8pm. Another superb perk. 

Now for the highlights of our discoveries:

The Vistula / “Wisla” River

Along the banks of the river there are six sandy beaches. In between the beaches are boats with restaurants/bars on deck and pop up bars/food stalls. Beautifully relaxing by day and the hub of summer nightlife come dark. 

I loved sitting by the water, cold beer in hand, getting my toes in the sand post run; an added bonus when you are in a city. One of the beaches even did water-sports, given more time I would have loved to go kayaking or jet skiing. Handy tip, there is a free boat taxi service across the river between the beaches. 
The Old Town

In contrast to the sleek modern skyscrapers where our hotel was located, the Old Town had a wonderfully quaint charm about it. The buildings were stunning, they oozed character and history. The star of the Old Town is the main square, where we were able to sit, eat, drink and soak up the atmosphere. A particular favourite was “The Wine Garden” although after a glass in midday heat it went straight to my head.


Old Town of Warsaw – “Jesteś piękna” (You are beautiful) 

The Palace of culture and Science

This has to be the most eye catching building in all of Warsaw and until recently it was the tallest at 231 metres high. For a small entry fee of 20zl (approx £4) you can be whizzed up to the viewing gallery on the 30th floor for a 360 degree panoramic view of the city. In general we found everything to be very reasonably priced (particularly compared to London).

The University Library Rooftop Garden

There are two levels to the beautiful garden connected by a cascading stream of water and a staircase, allowing access between the two and a stunning view as you ascend/descend. 


On the upper level there is a viewing platform providing fantastic views over the river and a series of paths and bridges connecting the various segments of the gardens. With each corner I turned, I was gasping and pointing at another intricate element of the garden’s design. I really couldn’t recommend it more and entry to the gardens is free.

We were extremely lucky with the weather, 30 Degrees, blue skies and sat on the beach/river bank/in the Old Town Square and I felt like I was on holiday in a Mediterranean country.  The Westin Warsaw is one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in and I would definitely seek out a Westin where ever my adventures take me next. I came home after just three days and two nights feeling full of culture, history and wanderlust.

Warsaw you exceeded expectations. 

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Pokemon Go

I’ve never been one for electronic games, other than a little Candy Crush to kill time when there isn’t any signal and I’ve not got a book to hand. I did however feel somewhat nostalgic when I heard Pokemon was going to be available as a phone app. I had no plans to download it, I wasn’t ten years old again.

Then the hype began….. and I thought that perhaps it would be interesting to see what all the fuss was about and as research for a blog post to consider whether the game really could help make people more active as it claimed. 

With the app installed I wandered to Crystal Palace Park, somewhere I assumed lots of Pokemon would enjoy lurking. I was genuinely astounded about the number of young people in groups, hurrying between spots, frantically tapping at their phones before dashing to the next spot; there was a genuine buzz amongst groups of teenagers who I never seen do anything but lie on the grass looking un-phased by the world. 

  
 Next were groups of grown men. I do not mean to be offensive but I was genuinely pleased to see people who, granted I’m making assumptions,  were overweight and looked like they would normally spent a Saturday in the pub together. Instead they were doing laps of the park. 

Now I’m not a parent, so maybe I’ve judged too soon but I absolutely detest allowing children to be glued to various devices playing electronic games; as opposed to parents taking them to the park or swimming. So I’ve been pleased to see parents walking around the parks with their children, even if they are both staring at their phones, they are interacting and getting some fresh air. 

So thats three demographics that I’ve seen Pokemon has got out and about. Crucial to this is that you have to walk about to play the game. But what about people who are active on a daily basis?

I definitely don’t need a game to get me out and about. That said, on the way to work in the morning I’ve found myself leaving ten minutes earlier to walk the long way to the station and going out of my way up and down streets to visit “Poke Stops”.  I did notice a marginal increase on my daily steps but the count is hardly low to start with.

  
On Monday morning I went through the ordeal of a molar tooth extraction. Beforehand the dentist said no exercise for Monday/Tuesday and then only light exercise for the rest of the week. I told the dentist that I was training for a marathon but would stick to a  jog no speed work. He raised an eyebrow. Apparently jogging is not considered light exercise. But I had Pokemon go and surely walking was light exercise. Needless to say I’m now Level 9 and have nearly 100 Pokemon. I seriously need to delete the app, I’d rather just go for a stroll and take in the natural scenery. 

Today a senior colleague wanted to get ahead of his girlfriend by the time he got home and asked if I wanted to go for a quick Pokemon hunting walk at lunchtime; we usually don’t leave our desks unless it’s the 7 mins it takes me to make it to Tesco Express and back. Mid-walk I had a moment of clarity, I was a little addicted and I wasn’t the only one who had caught the bug. 

  
That said, I am extremely disturbed by the stories I’ve heard of people falling off cliffs, getting stuck in Mines, lurking on people’s front gardens and disrespecting venues such as the holocaust memorial. The warning as the game loads clearly states – “Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings”. It’s a bit of fun and it’s great if it gets people outside walking but unfortunately there will always be people who take it to the extreme in the quest to “Catch them all”. 

Vitality British 10k race recap

Last time I ran a 10km race was the West Run London in November 2015 so I was intrigued to see how I had progressed over the eight months. The time difference between the two was considerable, 12 minutes, but in the wrong direction; slower. 
I’m disappointed to say the least but I think I’ve been running long enough now to be at peace with the fact that some days runs just don’t go to plan. Unfortunately, this can often be on race day. 
Just last Saturday I comfortably ran 10km in under an hour. In the week leading up to the race I had a tooth infection and having been prescribed anti-biotics was told to rest to give my body the best chance to recover. I ran a total of 2 miles all week, just to shake my legs out the day before. I was also dosed up on strong pain killers most of the week and no doubt there might have been a build up in my system. I’m not trying to find excuses for my poor performance rather potential explanations given my recent training runs.

Despite my time and the weather conditions, overall I thought it was a fun race. I also had the opportunity to test out my new 2XU compression socks and Panasonic Wings headphones, both which were super comfortable and functional. 

  
 I started the day meeting up with Sasha, who was a 1hr pacer and Charlie, who was running having been at a wedding the night before. I was never intending on going hard for a PB but thought I’d stick with Sasha and comfortably get round a smidgen under the hour mark. 

  
We set off and there was a good atmosphere, lots of familiar faces in the crowd and I intended to have a sociable fun race. By 2km in I was not happy. It was so humid that I was sweltering and breathing in warm air which isn’t pleasant. The sprinklers pumping out a heavenly cold mist were delightful to run through at various points in the course. My legs felt like concrete and just weren’t co-operating. I dropped back from Sasha at that point and felt rather disappointed in myself because I knew there wasn’t going to be a surge of energy allowing me to catch back up. 

Charlie stopped for the toilet and I plodded on. She soon caught up with me, whilst walking up a hill, grabbed my arm and got me running again but the legs were not planning on going any where fast. 

I decided at the 5km point that I was just going to try and enjoy the rest of the route and soak up the atmosphere. This allowed me to take some snaps here and there whilst running on the traffic free route. 
Westminster Bridge is normally a nightmare to navigate what with the traffic and tourists. I felt quite empowered running along the Embankment, a stretch I hope one day to complete as part of the London Marathon.

There’s no time for selfies when you are gunning for a PB so I made use of the opportunity and embraced Brook’s run happy motto. 

    

There were a times on the course where you looped back on yourself and so could see runners heading in the opposite direction, normally I dislike this but these sections weren’t long and so you soon were heading in the opposite direction and it meant you got to take in more sites of London, like running towards both the London Eye and Houses of Parliament across Westminster bridge and back.

  
  Overall I think the race was well organised, the course route took in a good portion of what Central London has to offer and the atmosphere was fun. 

Pleased to have experienced the British 10k and add another shiny bit of bling to the ever growing collection. I might keep this one by my bed in case of intruders, it’s a big ‘un! 
    

It is a little pricey at £50, I was lucky to have been offered a place but sports capped water bottles and a finishers t-shirt in the mix, it’s worth it for the whole race package. Would be a nice excuse for a weekend in London for any non London runners. The only thing I can fault was the weather and my legs which is a pretty strong recommendation.

  
 If you are thinking of running the British 10k or any other Vitality races, feel free to ask any questions. 

There was of course the obligatory post-run lunch. If you haven’t tried Five Guys you are missing a trick, think American Burger King. 
  
 

Marathon training update

Where has the last three weeks gone?!? Running a marathon in just 11 weeks seems a little daughting, I thought thinking in terms of days might help but equally 77 days doesn’t seem that far away. But I’ve done it before and I know that if I remain injury free I can do it again; just this time I have a time goal – not yet set this but in general terms, FASTER. 

The pesky shin splints are back, particularly following speed treadmill sessions so I’m trying out some Enertor insoles which are said to reduce shock on impact by 44%. Given that the impact on your knees/ankles is 5 times your body weight I’m hoping this might help. I don’t even want to do the calculations on the load I’m putting on poor joints. 

 

I have also invested in a new pair of my beloved Ultra Boosts but opted for the stability version. They certainly seem to be helping and I love the design! They are actually men’s but you couldn’t tell. I’ll report back on both after further use.

So what have I been up to? 

A number of treadmill speed sessions – when I say speed, they are what I consider to be fast. I normally do 3-5miles varying between 10.5-13 mph speed with recovery for 30 seconds at a time at 9-9.5 mph. I managed to stay at 13mph for 42 seconds the other day and was immensely happy with this progress, before I promptly felt horrendously sick and light headed and it took me a good hour to recover. Maybe I need to try this at the beginning/middle of the session rather than it being my final push. 
Road running – I’ve pottered, I’ve taken on hills and generally stretched the legs, enjoying the lighter evenings, on the days it doesn’t torrentially rain! 

I joined Nike run club for their Home Run on tour to the new Hackney store, the other day and it was fab to run with a group of such upbeat friendly people. The pacers are also fantastic. I was really struggling at one point, those pesky shin splits and the pacer I was with was super motivating, encouraging and kept me pushing when my legs started screaming. I will definitely be joining them more regularly. Plus I really want a NRC Runner t-shirt! If you fancy giving it a go you can sign up in their website.
  
 Snap from @nikelondon – Where’s Wally? *Fleur. Try and spot me!

We also got to try the newly released Lunarepic Flynit trainers. They are based on the concept of having no waste materials and have the most fantastic bouncy sensation in the middle of your foot which I’ve never experienced before. 
 
  Snap by pacer Maggie – @magsmay_d

Trail running – I definitely under estimated what the difference in terrain can do to your speed but it’s good to mix things up and the beautiful scenery is the ultimate reward. I’ve discovered some lovely pockets of woods locally, trails down in Surrey and more recently whilst away for a friend’s wedding in Devon. If you ever have the opportunity to go to Hope Cove it is stunning; scenic running heaven. Take me back! 
  

Strength training – I haven’t quite stuck to this and need to give myself a talking to; I know it’s important, I’d just always rather run. I did attend the London leg of Kayla’s Sweat Tour and boy was it hard. I’d rather take on a half marathon any day! I was sore for days and days. Broken record but I definitely need to bully myself to do body weight HIIT more often. I did look into signing up to her BBG programme but it really wouldn’t allow me to get all my running in. Maybe I’ll have a re-think post marathon in September when I can fully commit.

  
 I have some fun events/races/a fitness trip planned so July is looking very exciting and I’m aiming to be able to hold out on 13mph for a full minute by the end of July. 

What has every one got planned for this month? What are you training for? Let me know so I can follow your adventures. 

Marathon Number Two

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*Image from www.richmondrunningfestival.com

Crossing the finish line of Brighton Marathon  there was no doubt I’d be doing another; the thrill of that last mile alone was contagious.

Brighton, as my first, was simply about seeing if I could hack it. The training through the cold winter months, the physical and mental drain and then the 26.2 miles itself. Being my first I just wanted to finish in one piece.

Having survived, without so much as a blister I knew that I could have pushed myself to go faster; which is exactly what I intend to do during Marathon Number two.

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I decided that I couldn’t wait an entire year until Spring marathon season and so I started researching Autumn marathons. We are hoping to go away on a two week holiday in early October so I decided I would opt for something localish, to avoid hotel/travel expenses associated with races. I had heard of Richmond Running Festival before and read good things about the organisation and atmosphere of the half marathon. Then I discovered that for the first time this year, a full marathon was being added to the festival; coupled with the fact that the course is pancake flat and I love Richmond, it ticked all the boxes.

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I learnt a lot from training for my first marathon, what works, what doesn’t and what I need to improve on. Last time I undertook a cautious twenty week program and it simply too long. Twenty weeks is an awfully long time to keep focused and quite simply I became frustrated and bored. This time around, given that my fitness levels remained in tact post Brighton, I am opting for fourteen weeks; commencing today and concluded on the big day 18 September 2016.

I have also drawn myself up a more strict training program, based on Hal Higdon’s ‘The Novice 1 plan’. It essentially reflects the plan but with some of the days swapped around, particularly to account for certain events such as my friend’s wedding and Alex’s birthday; I doubt he’d be too impressed me abandoning him for a 16 mile run. However, I am determined to more strictly follow a plan so that I resist the urge to make it up on a weekly basis. If an event or class comes up, then I will still make time for it but  just make sure I get my run done in the morning before work instead. Conveniently my new office is located exactly ten miles from home.

My next addition is the inclusion of speed work. I am not a fast runner, I enjoy plodding and even as far back as the days at school, I could just about drum up some enthusiasm for 800m but the 100m filled me with dread. Following Brighton I haven’t had much desire to go on any long runs, you could say that I had my fill after running for 6 hours straight (minus the portaloo stops). Instead I have been sticking to 5 milers and 3-5 mile treadmill speed work; I know it’s not quite the same but I find it a lot easier to maintain my speed for longer on a treadmill. In just 6 weeks I’ve knocked minutes off my previous 3 and 5 mile times and running on the road I have also noticed that my natural pace is a little faster than pre-marathon. So I’m hoping that in 14 weeks time with a focused speed session once a week, it will help me to chip away at my current marathon time.

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To keep my mind on track, I am also undertaking an online ‘Behaviour Change’ Course with Future Fit Training to help me understand behaviours and how they can be changed. I am guilty of several persistent bad ‘habits’ and whilst I constantly endeavour to quash them once and for all, add lack of sleep, stress or sometimes just some bad weather into the mix and my efforts dissipate. I’m hoping this course will help me understand my own behaviour better and enable me to share this knowledge with you.

So here’s to the next 14 weeks and marathon number two; I hear there are still places, if any one fancies joining me!

 

 

BBC Good Food Show

I love running (and lycra) but my first love with always be food. From zesty summer quinoa salads to juicy bacon cheeseburgers, I love it all. I was lucky to be given two tickets by The Health Bloggers Community to attend the BBC Good Food Show this weekend. Alex is an even bigger foodie than me so there was no persuading needed. 

  
This weekend was the ‘Summer in the City’ Show, held at the ExCel centre in East London, which is ideal for transportation links. We arrived around 11am and the show was already buzzing with people. When you first arrive there is so much to see and take in it can be a little overwhelming by we grabbed a show guide and decided to snake our way from right to left. I was like a child in a sweet shop and had to keep myself from flitting from one stall to the next. 

  

After an hour of sampling and talking to exhibitors we hadn’t even covered half the room but decided to take a break and head to the SuperTheatre to see the lovely Hemsley + Hemsley sisters in action. It was a giant theatre and we had been allocated tickets near to the back as we booked on the day. There was a big screen and they had microphones but I would recommend booking in advance to be closer to the front. 

Returning to the main room at 12:45pm we noticed a huge influx of people, making navigating our way around and getting close to any of the stall rather difficult and talking to the exhibitors near impossible. So I would highly recommend getting there as early as your can manage; doors opened at 9:30am. 

  
The exhibitors were divided up into an ‘Eat Well’ section which catered for my health conscience with the likes of Oppo, Momo, Vita Coco and Meridian Foods. So cheekily I was able to ‘try out’ some of my solid favourites as well as discovering new brands of birch water, matcha and health bars. Can’t say I was sold on the Jimini’s dried insect snacks/bars but I’m willing to give most things a try once. To my delight I discovered a new flavour of Nakd bar, Berry Blast,  I had to resist the offer of 21 for £10 because the more I have around the more I gobble. 

  
Then for the treat/cheat/I’ve been on a long run / it’s the weekend occasions, we indulged in the Good Food Champions and Producers’ Village. Think good wine, delicious cheese and tasty charcuterie. 

We may have signed up to be part of the Naked Wines club. We were sold on it being more than just a wine club, they have an ethical philosphoy of supporting wine start ups and wine producers experiencing financial difficulties. Members are known as ‘Wine Angels’ and we will have our own wine advisor assigned. I might be some way off owning my own property but hey I now have a wine guy. The generous samples of wine we tasted didn’t influence us to sign up, promise! 

 
To leave on a healthy note we headed to the BBC Good Food Stageto listen to a talk on “Creating a healthy kitchen” with a nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens and Hemsley + Hemsley who emphasised my favourite philosophy of life in balance and having a diet of good wholesome homemade food rather than any silly fad diets; something I can get on board with. 

  

On the way out we collected our goodie bags which contained an interesting array of drinks, snacks, mayonnaise and slightly baffling, Ariel washing tablets; for when you spill your food down you?

Tickets ranged  between £20-28 for a day pass depending on which package you opt for. We were slightly divided on whether we felt the show was value for money, I certainly enjoyed the healthier products section more than Alex but we both would have liked to have seen more owner produce exhibitors, so I think it really depends on your budget and what you are looking for/ interested in. 
Biggest bug bear of the show, a small bottle of water cost £1.95 (there were no big bottles) and there weren’t any water fountains in sight. So my advise would be to bring a big bottle with you, particularly for between samples. 

Overall we had a really good day and came home to a delicious dinner of zesty chicken Heck sausages with potato salad made with some delicious Le Range Mesurier saffron and garlic mayonnaise purchased at the show. It might have been followed by Oppo ice cream topped with 72% raw cacao OM Bar that we also picked up. Last treat before heading into weekday healthy eating mode.

  
If it tickles your fancy then the next London show is being held from 27-29th August at Hampton Court Palace and a full listing of other shows around the country is available on the BBC Good Food Show website

Brighton Marathon

It’s taken me 5 weeks to bring myself to write this post. It’s been absurd at times, but it boils down to the fact that I felt like once I wrote the post, it really was all over and after 20 weeks of training and everything that goes with running your first marathon I just wasn’t ready to let go.

Let’s get the obvious questions out of the way.

Time : 6:04:42 chip / 5:24:17 watch time

I was never going for ‘a time’ so I’m not disappointing in this. I’m just astonished I managed to run for this many hours. There were a few stops to be explained below which accounts for the chip/watch time differences.

Am I doing another?

Absolutely.

Now I’m going to start from the beginning.

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We headed down to Brighton on the Saturday morning and stayed at the Hilton Hotel, a last minute upgrade from the Travel Lodge after our experience before the Bath Half . After visiting the expo and chatting with some fellow runners we had a lovely day shopping, eating, wandering along the beach and in the hotel spa. I was definitely excited but felt rather relaxed, I think because I wasn’t aiming for a specific finish time I was a lot calmer and didn’t suffer from any nerves.

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After a good nights sleep we ambled along to the start line. I spent 40 minutes queuing for the toilet and was still in line when the race started, so I missed a little of the count down hype, which wasn’t ideal but meant I remained very calm.

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I set off at a very easy pace, reminding myself I had 26 miles ahead of me. Mile 1-2 I felt good. It was definitely sunnier and hotter than the weather had predicted and being prone to sunstroke I was being hyper vigilant with taking on fluids. I saw Alex at Mile 2, a quick high five and I continued weaving through the streets of Central Brighton. The course in the early stages looped round on itself so I also managed to see Alex at Mile 3 and 5. I was definitely ready for some of my strawberry laces by then.

One of my favourite moments was around Mile 5.5, we had just conquered the only real hill and after descent we turned a corner and the sea was in front of us glimmering in the sun. It was beautiful. I absolutely love running by the water and this definitely pulled me through during some tougher moments.

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*Photocredit @cisforcharlotte – I was so happy to find this photo post race.

Mile 6 saw the difficulties start. I had taken on more water than I would have liked because of the heat and needed the toilet. There was a slightly cruel flaw in the course around Mile 7/8 because you saw runners coming back on the other side of the road having turned around at what looked like a round a bout. In fact you veered off to the left of the round about and headed out and back for a further mile. The only thing stopping this from being wholey disheartening was the beautiful scenery and an 85 year old man I met who was on his 81st marathon.

I managed to hold on for a few miles without attending to my bladder but by Mile 10 I had to stop, having located a portaloo I then also had to queue, I forgot to stop my watch on my first stop but there were at least four people in front of me so I estimated I was there at least five minutes queuing alone. Once I got into the portaloo a whole other issue reared its head. Diarrhea. Ive gone through my pre-race routine and thought about what could have caused this a hundred times.  I can only put it down to having broken the number one cardinal rule. Never ever ever do anything new on race day and that includes trying different flavoured gels, even if they are of the same brand you have had before.Exiting the portaloo I apologised to the person next in the queue and shuffled off. The time stood in the queue and then in the portaloo had not done my legs any favours. They suddenly felt very heavy and I had at least 16 miles to go.

Mile 11 was a glorious downhill stretch which saw the legs ease up a little and Mile 12 saw us head back onto the main stretch of Brighton Sea Front. I hit the half way point and the crowds were roaring. I felt very tired considering I was only at the half way point. There was no doubt in my mind that mentally I had the strength to finish but I was worried about the state of my body physically at this stage. I knew I was going to see Alex again at the half way point and  my family were planning to arrive around the time I made it to half way. The halfway point with “The Panda made me do it” crossing was absolutely rammed with spectators and it was extremely noisy with every one cheering, despite this miraculously I managed to pick out my sister frantically waving and shouting my name from across the other side of the course stood along side my parents. Seeing them really brought home just how crazy me attempting to run a marathon seemed. They knew me and they knew I had never been a runner or expressed any interested in running ever and yet here I was running a marathon and they were there to support me on this crazy endeavor and that fueled me on.

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The runners on the other side of the road were already coming thick and fast at the 26 Mile point. Half of me felt a little despondent that I still had so far to go but equally I saw people with severely pained expressions and I vividly remember a man keeling over and vomiting before medics rushed to his assistance. I vowed that I would plod on and finish in one piece regardless of the time it took. I was expecting to see Alex soon after I had spotted my family but as I stumbled on I couldn’t spot him. At that point it really hit me, all that I had read in fellow marathon runner’s blog posts about seeing friends and family along the course. I was really was so disappointed, it had been a hard 8 miles since I last saw him and I felt a little crushed. I trundled on, trying to bounce of the energy from the crowd, failing slightly and mainly looking at my feet, but then I happened to glance up and there he was strawberry laces in hand having done the sensible thing and moved slightly on from the dense crowds. I stopped for at least a minute, maybe two, not caring about my time it was a precious few moments that spurred me on for the miles to come.

I was still on a high chomping on my strawberry laces when unexpectedly I saw a sign I recognised – “This is a lot of work for a free banana” held by the lovely Sasha who ran to give me a massive hug; about to run her first marathon herself in a week’s time she fully understood the enormity of the day. And so I happily plodded on through Miles 14 and 15.

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*Photocredit @sasharuns

Mile 16 we turned away from the sea front and headed into residential streets. The residents were having street parties and seemed to be making an occasion of the marathon but the traffic of runners was thinning and I felt distinctly lonely. I spotted Clare on the other side of the course about 2 miles ahead of me and this provided me with a temporary surge of encouragement but I was also experiencing increasing stomach pains and a sense of urgency to locate a portaloo. Mile 16 as a very very very long mile. I felt horrid. I was in pain, my body felt like a lump of concrete and was desperate to avoid a ‘Paula’ situation. I employed a run/walk strategy with random lamposts, traffic lights, trees and pretty much any object I could identify what was now a rather blurred perspective.

There was a portaloo at 17.5 and never have I been so pleased to see one. I don’t know exactly how long I spent inside, but it felt like a very long time. Looking back on my running watch data Mile 17 took 27 minutes. I’m certain that the majority of this was spent in the portaloo. As I sat there in the horrid sweaty box, only ever made bearable if you’ve had a decent amount to drink at a festival, I was questioning my life choices. Why was I doing this, what was I trying to prove, to myself, to any one else, why did I not just stop rather than put my self through nine more miles of discomfort. One thing that came to mind was that I haddn’t come this far, through the wind and rain of winter training, the long runs,  hauling my family to Brighton and 17 miles, to quit at this stage. This really was the lowest point of the race.

I stepped out of the portaloo with a sense of relieve. Apologies for how graphic this may sound, but there was nothing left inside me that could threaten to make a violent exit. I knew that the residential part of the course would be coming to an end soon and my family were waiting a Mile 18, as was the return to the sea front. I stopped for a minute or so to talk with them, shared my woes of the portaloo incident and was grateful for a lucazade hit. From that point I knew I had 8 miles until I saw them again by which time it would be all over. Never ever underestimate the boost of seeing your personal cheer squad, all the energy drinks and gels in the world can’t compare to that feeling when you are struggling on marathon day.

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Miles 18-20 I plodded and plodded and mainly stared at my feet but importantly I didn’t hit the wall. I was super slow. We are talking a pace of 15 min miles and it felt like I was making slow progress. I approached the start a two mile stretch out and back to an industrial estate. This is where every one warned things would get horrid, really horrid but given what I had felt at Miles 16/17 I was feeling pretty positive. I spotted Clare again who gave me a knowing look and I recall shouting out how much I *bleeping* hated this but once again a familiar face spurred me on. It was a slight uphill trundle and if I had power walked I would have probably ended up going a little faster but I managed a slow forward motion.

Having gone round the hairpin and legitimately the least scenic part of a race course ever I had the sea to my right and knew that once I completed this part of the return I was on the home stretch. Approaching Mile 24 I saw a lady handing out jelly babies and it was set in my head that popping a few would see me on the final stretch. Then to my horror a man in front of me reached out to grab one, only to knock the whole tub out of the lady’s hand onto the floor. I was devastated and my face must have shown it because the lady quickly whipped out a new bag and handed me the whole packet. Not going to lie I totally would have scooped several off the floor at this stage.

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Armed with my bag of jelly babies I powered on shoveling them into my mouth at an alarming rate. I spotted a fellow runner who looked like he needed a good old jelly baby and promptly passed the baton. Passing several rows of beach huts the spectators were more frequent and I was showered with words of encouragement. Mile 25 approached and I knew that I could make it to the finish without needing another drink. Time to ditch the bottle. All of a sudden I became irrationally attached to my lucazade stained sticky bottle. It had been with me from the start and I didn’t want us to part ways in the final stretch. But then again did I want this bottle in pictures as I crossed the finish line. Mile 25 of a marathon and these were the thoughts occupying my brain.

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I chucked the bottle and in doing so I let go of the notion I was to remain sensible about this race, to go at an easy pace, to remain hydrated and fuelled and I went for it. Really really went for it. I ran my fastest mile of the whole marathon and it felt glorious. The crowds were thick and people were roaring in support. I was soaking up all the energy and for the first time all day my heart was pounding, I was breathless and I felt like I was flying. It was the best mile of my life.

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Eventually I saw that finish line and I gave it everything I had left, those last few seconds when you realise you are about to become a marathoner are magical. I crossed the finish line and was in utter shock. Unexpectantly,  I didn’t cry as I’ve heard so many do and thought I would, I was just astounded, I had just run a marathon. Me, a marathoner!

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I was utterly amazed. I didn’t care it had taken me over 6 hours, I was a marathoner and as I bowed my head to have that precious medal placed around my neck, I choked up saying thank you to the volunteer. I few hot tears sprang from my eyes but honestly I was too de-hydrated to cry properly. I stumbled forward, having my official finishers’ photograph taken, and  eventually came out onto the beach, where I was met by Alex, a mini bottle of bubbles in hand.  I’m not sure this post really does the day justice, I could go on and on it detail about the day because I really did experience every single possible emotional. It is a day that will go down in my life history of big achievements and perhaps why I have been so reluctant to let go.

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