Would you believe, even though it involved running a full 26.2 miles for the first time ever, a weekend in Brighton actually felt like a holiday. This may be a sign I need to get out more. It was fun though.
Having first started running over 12 years ago I had so far only attempted the half marathon distance, four times at the Oxford event, and had entered Abingdon Marathon in 2016 but pulled out before the event as I had what felt like the beginnings of an injury. Last summer, a moment of ‘oh go on then, lets try it and see what happens’, I signed up to Brighton Marathon with WWF fundraising ‘Team Panda’. Training started around November building up through December with the high volume mileage kicking in from January. That’s when I found it start to fall apart a bit, suddenly I had a couple of busy weekends where I wasn’t able to run at all, and found it quite stressful trying to figure out each week how I was going to fit in training around needing recovery time from work (teaching group exercise classes). What got me through was deciding to focus my energy mainly into classes and just do the best I can with the running add more miles in during the week and when teaching on Saturdays do the long run the same day so I could rest fully on the Sunday ready for Monday. This meant having to accept a shift in goal for the marathon finish time, I had been hoping it would be possible to get a time between 4 hours and 4:30 but the choice to worry less about training meant the goal became just to finish.
My amazing cheer leading team of mum and dad drove me to Brighton on the Saturday to check in to the apartment we’d booked then walk up to the race village to collect the race pack. That walk (about a mile each way) felt more than enough and a little dread crept in about how awful the following day might be. Luckily, given a strange bed, I managed to sleep well and get myself ready and to the race start in good time and without any stress. On the approach I watched the 10k runners on their way past most of whom would probably be finished before the start of the marathon. One of the fears for a Brighton run was that it could end up being quite hilly, I felt reassured by comments I’d heard that the route had been planned to avoid most of that, and on the day found that any incline was either manageable and short (couple of hundred yards) or barely noticeable and long (couple of miles up then down) and all over and done with in the first half of the race. I had also been worried about the scale of the event, 15,000 runners expected and crowds alongside, but that aspect of it was a lot more enjoyable than I’d imagined. I had deliberately not got my name printed on the front of my t-shirt so I went round ‘invisibly’ in the middle of the pack of other runners enjoying attention from the crowds – something my introvert self would have found quite draining – although it was nice to hear people shout ‘Go Team Panda’ which was why I was there.
Predictably, the first half flowed really well. Apart from what felt like a tortuously slow wait to use the loo at mile six (a stop I had planned) because of frustratingly few cubicles for the number of runners needing them. I seemed to be able to make up some of the time lost and felt good right through the half way point up to about 15 / 16 miles then it started to feel more effort to keep going. I stopped completely for a few minutes around mile 19 then managed a slow ‘run one mile walk a couple minutes’ type pattern up to the end. For the last mile, by which point the temperature had dropped along with my mood (hello grouchiness), and a drizzle was cooling things down even more, thanks mainly to the wonderfully energising crowds I found the momentum to keep going to the end. I think I’d hoped I’d have more left in the tank for stronger push to the finish but only managed to muster that right in the last 0.2 miles when the incentive of being able to stop sooner carried me over the finish line. Sobbing. I can’t believe I actually did this. Then smiling again when I remembered this was a good selfie opportunities and official finishers medal photos were being taken. ; D
Amazingly I wasn’t so exhausted that a final look around the race village shopping wasn’t possible but I’ll need to finish quicker next time as they’d sold out of the right sizes (eyeroll). Hobbled back up to pier to be met by my Dad, and equally importantly my coat, then carried on back to the car and on home. Also amazing, apart from stiffness that I was mostly able to stretch out in the back seat of the car I didn’t hurt at all the next day. Nothing out of the ordinary anyway. I was even able to get through teaching my usual classes on the Monday evening, keeping it low impact and much lower resistance than usual. In future I think I would not do that again. I think knowing I had chosen to work the next day subconsciously held back my pace a little through the run and I’d like to be able to race a bit harder to see what time I’m capable of. Yes, that does mean I’m thinking about doing it again and have already researched about five other events I’d like to run! That’s a while away yet though. My next training goal is the Oxford Half Marathon coming up in October but more about that later. Here are some photos from my Brighton experience instead…