Back in the Game: Brighton Marathon

I’ve never really been interested in running the Brighton Marathon.  I always thought London was the only marathon worth running in the UK.  But, last April I found myself signing up for the 2015 race after failing to run a London GFA and realising my ballot chances were incredibly slim.  I knew my jealousy would know no bounds if I was the only one not training for a spring marathon.

Yesterday I realised how foolish and short sighted I had been because the Brighton Marathon is a well organised, high profile, worthy event in a vibrant seaside city with incredible crowd support.  It’s an all round bloody brilliant race and I’m sorry I ever thought otherwise!

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On the drive down to Brighton on Saturday the rain came down thick and fast and I was a bit concerned how the weather would pan out the next day. Heavy rain and inevitable wind on the coast would be challenging to say the least!  It seemed to clear by the time I arrived and I headed to the Brighton Centre to pick up my number.

The expo wasn’t too busy, it was quick and painless so I found myself doing the usual fossicking through the various stands. I came away with a bright pair of coral shorts, 3 pairs of socks, 5 protein bars and 3 bags of Honey Stingers. What are Honey Stingers? Well, they look like little jellies…

‘Are these like Shot Bloks?’, ‘Yes, but better’, ‘Oh, OK, I’ll have 3 packs then please’

I then made a swift exit before I bought anything else…

My Mum and Dad were coming to support and my Aunt and Uncle, who live in a nearby village, had kindly agreed to let us stay for a couple of nights.  I had my usual plain pasta for dinner and got an early night (despite my uncle trying to convince me to get on the wine!)

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The alarm went of at a painful 5.40am but I had already been awake a while, it was marathon day! Again!!! I forced down my porridge (and chia seed, new addition to mara day brekkie) and banana and hurried out the door. Because I’m so clever I didn’t read any of the emails I was sent in the lead up to the run (well, none of the boring bits anyway) so by the time it came to planning the journey to the start I realised that you were supposed to book parking 2 weeks ago. And I hadn’t.  Luckily my cousin lives not far from Madeira Drive and offered me a parking space for her awesomely located house.  Perfect, thanks Carol!

It was a short walk to Preston Park where the race started and the sun was starting to feel warm in a nearly cloudless sky…I guess I didn’t need to worry about driving rain!

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Marathon runners were milling around and there was the usual long queue for the toilets, but there was plenty of time to chow down some Honey Stingers and drop my bag off.  I hadn’t seen anyone I knew so was delighted to bump into my friend Jasmine who was doing a wonderful thing and pacing her (super) mum round all 26.2 miles, a friendly face was just what was needed.

I was in the red start which seemed to be the first wave (the sub 3.15 runners were starting somewhere else) so I was over the start line in a couple of minutes.  I was nervous.  I knew I wasn’t going to get a PB, and I was fine with that, but I desperately hoped I would be able to finish in a strong time and shake off the Amsterdam demons.  I didn’t know what was going to happen, what if I fell apart at mile 9 again?

The race was started by Jo Pavey and there was a fabulous atmosphere.  I made a really conscious effort NOT to start too fast so was pretty pleased not to be running my 10k pace which I often seem to do in all the excitement.  I tend to panic at the start and worry that the crowd will hold me back, but of course they don’t, I just go tearing off like a lunatic wasting a lot of energy stressing and weaving in and out.

Not today.  Today I felt like a marathon grown up, totally in control and calm.

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The pace felt comfortable.  It felt easy and quite slow so I was surprised that I was averaging under 8.30 which was faster than PB pace.  I tried to slow down as I knew there were a few hills on the way and wanted to hold the pace.  The hills are in the first half as it takes you round Preston Park, past the Pavilion, and away from the sea for a couple of miles before running past Kemp Town and the Marina.  There’s an almost continuous incline between mile 5.5 and 9 but there is a welcome decline for about half a mile or so.  A turnaround at mile 9 brings the course back to the seafront along a fast stretch.

The crowds were truly awesome.  I made a last minute decision to get my name printed on my Chaser top at the expo and was very glad I did because I’ve never had so many people cheering my name!  I wasn’t expecting such strong crowd support so it was a real lift.  I saw Mum and Dad at miles 3, 5 and 13 and I definitely heard some Chaser support along the route as well.

image The water stations were frequent and well marshalled, the organisers made the decision to use cups this year which I know some people weren’t keen on but I didn’t mind.  I think this change meant they could increase the frequency of the stations (which were almost every mile), I appreciated this on such a warm day.

At mile 16 the sun was getting to me and by mile 18 I had noticeably slowed…it was getting tough.  By mile 20 I was adamant I was pulling out of London later this month, I didn’t want to do it again.  Mile 20 to 23 were pretty dead miles as we ran towards Shoreham and past the power station, there weren’t many crowds around, just us runners focusing on the road.  Why was I doing this?

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The last 3 miles were thick with screaming crowds.  They lined either side of us as we trudged along the sea front to the finish line and it was the only thing holding me together as I desperately tried to keep jogging.  I saw Alex with the Chaser flag at mile 24 which gave me a boost and Mum and Dad saw me again at around 25 but I didn’t see them.  I tried to smile at everyone cheering me but it was getting harder…and harder.

Finally, with the finish line in sight, I tried to calculate if I could finish in under 4 hours. It would be close.  As I approached the mile 26 marker I picked up the pace, my god it hurt, why was it 100 degrees?  The clock was ticking and I wasn’t going to make it, I couldn’t run any faster.

I crossed the line in a happy 4:00:12, certainly not a PB but definitely a time I could be proud of.  I’d worked hard to get back here and it was a huge improvement on my performance 6 months ago, I was pleased.

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Shuffling along, I picked up my medal and goody bag and headed to the Beach Village to meet my parents. It hurt. Everything hurt.  I really wanted to sit down, to lie down, maybe to cry.  That means I worked hard right??

Mum and Dad dragged me through the crowds and we made it to the pub with my cousin for a cold cider and a little sit down.  Marathon number 8 was done!  I didn’t want to do another one.  I really didn’t.

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But in the car on the way back to my aunt and uncles house I thought it might be silly not to do London…I could just jog round and enjoy the experience, I didn’t have to race did I?  Yes, maybe I would do London if I recovered well.

That evening my Auntie Mareline cooked up a a delicious roast chicken with all the trimmings and Uncle Ken made sure my glass was always topped up with some kind of booze.  Perfect recovery 🙂

It was an all round brilliant weekend seeing family, jogging round Brighton and collecting some more race bling.

Brighton Marathon. 4 hours dead. What did I learn? I’m baaacccccckkkk!

The Brighton Marathon 2106 is open for entries. I kinda want to sign up. SOMEBODY STOP ME. Please. Please?

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Race Review: Brighton Half

It’s fair to say the weather has been pretty wild.  As I drove down to Brighton on Saturday afternoon my car swayed in the wind and the rain came down so hard I could barely see the road…it could be a tough run along the seafront in the morning.  However, there were no signs of the event being called off despite the promenade looking like this…

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The organisers promised to clear the stones and the weather even promised all day sunshine – we would be very lucky if conditions were favourable.

My alarm went off at 6 and I sneaked downstairs for porridge and tea trying not to wake my cousin who I had stayed with.  She fed me a big plate of pasta and salmon the night before, complete with some go-faster sticky toffee pudding (I’m sure that’s what it was called…), so  I was fueled and ready to go.

The Brighton Half has been on my list for a while – I know there have been problems in the past, in 2012 the race came under fire for coming in long at 13.42 miles.  They blamed ‘human error’ but it didn’t go down well with PB hunters.  Learning from mistakes, they seemed to turn it around last year and, following winning the title of ‘Most Improved Race’ in Runners World 2013 Personal Best Awards, the 2014 race sold out in June.  I had fairly high expectations for a good race and a fun day.

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I had’t really thought through the logistics when I entered last year but, when the race pack arrived, I realised I needed to be down at Madeira Drive, where the race started, at 8am.  I live in London.  That would be an early/middle of the night start then!  Luckily my cousin lives down the road and didn’t mind me staying the night before so I could get up a a reasonable time.

My other cousin (also a local!) walked me down to the start bright and early and wished me luck before I headed off to find the baggage area…I walked…and walked…where was it?!  I started to panic that I would have time to hand my bag in and go to the loo before the start.  I have to say some signs wouldn’t have gone amiss, but I made it to the start line in good time bumped into a few Chasers.  A friendly smile and matching vest is always good to see!

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The route took us up to the Royal Pavilion and St Peter’s Church, then headed east along the front towards the Marina which involved a steady incline to the cliff top.  It was a glorious day, the sun was out and I was feeling warm but managed to keep a steady pace despite the hill.

We then turned back on ourselves towards the pier which offered some stunning sea views.  Although the incline wasn’t particularly steep, the decline was welcome by this point.  We ran past Brighton Pier and the West Pier, with great crowd support, but by mile 8 I was really starting to feel it.  I think I was too hot and dehydrated – long sleeves were definitely an error.

I really wasn’t sure about the mile makers and several other people also mentioned this.  Mile 1 popped up with 7.05 on my watch and I knew I wasn’t running that fast, then mile 5 appeared when my watch said 5.16 miles.  I was starting  to wonder if the distance would be wrong again…

Past the piers, the route headed into Hove along the Kings Road and up to Hove Lagoon before turning left onto the seafront.  The organisers had done a brilliant job of clearing the stones and the path was relatively clear.  By mile 10 I was really thirsty and woozy and thought it was a good idea to down half a bottle of Lucozade.  It wasn’t.  Of course it wasn’t.

After that I readjusted my goal from ‘finish under 1.45’ to ‘get to mile 12 without puking and you’ll be fine’.   Maybe it was the heavy marathon mileage in my legs, or last Sundays 19 miler, it could have even been the sun, but I was finding the last few miles really tough.  This was my shortest long run in ages and my pace was fairly controlled (mostly because the incline stopped me speeding off!) so I wasn’t sure why.

My pace slowed as we headed back to Madeira Drive, where the finish line was, but not as much as I thought at the time.  The crowds were lining the street either side and, despite really wanting to stop and walk, it obviously wasn’t an option so I pushed on.  Heading into the last half mile the screaming crowds got thicker and they spurred me right to the finish.  Thanks Brighton!

I finished in 1.46.49 but, despite missing my goal, it was a pretty good tempo run in preparation for Rome which is now less than 5 weeks away!

With Nick & James at the finish.  They beat me!

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After the race I took a short walk back to my cousins where she had laid out a buffet lunch.  I wasn’t expecting to be fed so I was more than excited by the homemade bread, chicken fresh from the oven, salad and strawberries!  After some family time I popped in to see a friend on the way home and made it back to London at about 7.  I was exhausted, totally exhausted!

Yesterday hurt, I could definitely feel it.  In fact, it hurt more than 19 miles the week before.  But that just means I was working hard right?!

In summary, the Brighton Half is a glorious race along the seafront with PB potential if conditions are favourable.  It’s well oraganised with a great atmosphere and awesome crowds.  Although I can’t remember how much the entry was, it was no more than any other big race, with a decent medal and a goody bag full of food!

Would I do the Brighton Half again? Definitely.  If you’re keen I would enter quickly when registration opens!

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