Friday, 20 April 2018

Event Review : Brighton Marathon 2018

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside! We (my parents, Dean and I) arrived in Brighton on Friday afternoon. It was sunny and we had plenty of time after checking into our hotel to wander to the race village by the front to collect our race packs. It was happening. Dean and I were running the Brighton Marathon, him for the first time, me for the second and with a time goal in mind. I was feeling oddly relaxed, but I may have been the only one.
Friday afternoon seemed a good time to be at the race village. It was in the same area as the finish would be so it gave us a chance to check out the food trucks, massage tent and merchandise stands before collecting our packs at the far end. Numbers were allocated as you arrived, allowing you to choose your start pen based on how your training had actually gone, not how you had hoped it would go. We also got commemorative timing chips (which we got to keep) and a "competitors" t-shirt, rather than a finishers one, which I rather liked even if it was a tad short. This t-shirt was supplemented with some additional purchases on my part (and some treats from mum - thank you!). 
All the important things done, we took some time to sit on the beach before making a start on our carb loading at The Geese, a pub specialising in sausage and mash... it was divine! 
Mushroom and garlic sausages, colcannon, mushroom and Guinness gravy and cauliflower cheese
It was an utter joy to wake up on Saturday morning knowing I had no appointments or demands on my time. We had a lazy but filling breakfast and determined to make the walk to Preston Park, where the race would start, to check how long it would take and to see what was going on. About 35 minutes later, after a slow amble in the sunshine, we arrived to see the mini mile races taking place; lots of enthusiastic children wearing matching t-shirts and hefty medals accompanied by proud parents. We found our own start line and examined the course map with mum and dad over a cuppa to decide on their spectator spots. 
We took another amble back via race village so Dean could get a last minute massage for neck and shoulders, where I bumped into a host of FaceBook acquaintances (many selfies and group photos followed) and then headed back to our hotel. A bit of good luck meant we managed to get a table in the sun on the restaurant terrace for shakes and nachos. A chance to rest up properly!
The vast majority of people arrived on the Saturday including our friends Cathy and Barry who were staying around the corner and joined us for a bevy in the last dregs of the sunshine. We compared notes on the race village, emotions, how legs were feeling and game plans for the following day. Us runners agreed to meet in the morning to wander to the start together, leaving my parents to have a more relaxed start to their day. Dinner was at the marina... macaroni cheese and sweet potato chips for me! Tensions started to rise as I laid out my kit for the following morning. Alarms were double checked and we both tried to get some sleep. The nerves continued to build.
Then it was here. Race day! The hotel puts on a runners breakfast each year of porridge, yogurt, toast, cereals and fruit before their regular breakfast starts to allow us to get something inside us before heading to the start. I managed to eat fairly heartily but Dean struggled with toast. Where as when we walked to the start on Saturday I'd been using my phone to guide us, there was no need for that on Sunday. A steady stream of runners lead us to Preston Park. Lots of nervous chatter, arms around shoulders and revised agreements of race plans. Once at the start we did the usual loo queues, meeting up with friends and the bag drop. Cathy had a bottle of fizz in her bag for after and amazingly it survived intact! The weather wasn't anywhere near as nice as the previous two days and I was glad on my bin bag to help keep me warm. Huddling in the start pens helped too. There was a big countdown and... we stayed where we were... faster pens being set of sooner. It took us 20 minutes to get over the line.
Bin bag chic
The marathon distance itself seemed to go by in a bit of a blur. That sounds a bit silly but you are completely in the moment, digging deep the closer to the end you get, and there's a lot to entertain you. I commented to Cathy at one stage that there was so much I wanted to remember but that by the end my addled brain was liable to forget it all so we made a pact to prompt each other with as many of these moments as possible at the end. 

These moments included a DJ in someone's front garden and a lady doing "mum dancing" on the pavement, a little boy shouting "GO RACERS" at the top of his voice to everyone, the most enthusiastic shouting I've ever heard from our friend Zena and my parents popping up all along the route with a big red foam finger. There were people in fancy dress, notably a telephone, a stormtrooper, the Moana ladies and Elvis, who I was running with for about 4 miles until it all got a bit too much and I had to push ahead to leave him behind. 
The four of us all had our names on our vests and from the start we were tallying who got the most shouts. Undeniably it was Barry, to the point I considered pretending I was also called Barry. We stuck together until about 8 miles in, as we turned back from the marina, when Dean stopped to eat something. Barry, Cathy and I carried on together for a few more miles, Cathy reining us in around the half way mile where, the crowd being a little subdued at this point, got whipped up by Barry shouting "go crowd!" at them. We started speeding up with the adrenaline. I laughed a lot. There were lots of signs and banners on the course and my two favourites were "May the course be with you" and "I have crabs, no CARBS, I have carbs!". 
We played spot-the-club, shouting out to fellow club members, other local clubs we knew and groups like RMR or RIOT. You could spot the pacers by the big coloured balloons, plastered with their target time, bobbing through the runners. We caught up to the 4:30 pacers who had started ahead of us and I resolved to stick with them for as long as I could. I didn't realise that this lead to me pulling away from Cathy and Barry around mile 14. There was still masses of support up until mile 18 or so, where we headed out to the industrial estate. This is always the hardest part of the course. You've 8 miles still to go, you're getting tired, the support wanes and there's not much to look at. There also a great deal of speed bumps that seem to creep up on you. I'd pulled away from the pacers and missed seeing Cathy and Barry as we switched back in the town but I saw them and Dean on the switchback in the industrial estate which made my heart sing. They were still there! They were doing well but how on earth was I keeping my pace up?
Coming out of the industrial estate, on to the seafront, I started to get more and more cheers from the crowd. I spotted my parents as I got to the last mile. First Dad (I almost cried) and then Mum, waving like a loon. The last mile. I can run a mile. The crowd spurred me on. I saw the Anthony Nolan support group who gave an almighty roar. I passed under the pedestrian bridges and tried to whip the crowd up as Barry had. Most obliged and their shouts carried me the last 800m, 400m, over the line! 
I'd finished! And in under 4 and a half hours! In 4 hours 23 minutes to be precise, a 19 minute PB. The tears I'd held back when I saw Dad didn't burst forth. I collected my medal, pint of Erdinger (I only managed half), goody bag and kit bag. It was cold so I got changed as quickly as I could, just in time to see first Barry, then Cathy. Dean was a few minutes behind. I was immensely proud of everyone. There was much hugging, a few tears, and an intense desire to get back to the warmth of the hotel for celebrations. 
There was some well-deserved fizz and proper analysis of the race, salt baths, stretches, clean clothes and a hearty meal. The race organisation was really good, in my opinion, although I think , given that the founder of parkrun started the race, they missed a trick by not having a "one park run to go" sign at the appropriate spot on the course. A few days later and my legs have been pummelled by my sports masseuse and I'm feeling fairly recovered. I'm already back into training, with a focus on swimming and cycling, preparing for Swimathon on the 28th and the events beyond. I'm trying to look after myself with lots of good food, extra iron supplements and resting when I can.
You can still donate to the cause via Just Giving, either for efforts thus far or for the upcoming Swimathon, half or full iron triathlons. Good luck to everyone running London this weekend. It's going to be a hot one but oh so wonderful.

1 comment:

  1. What a great idea to base your start pen on how your training has gone rather than based on a target you picked months ago before training had even begun.
    I agree - 'one parkrun to go would have been a perfect sign for the race!
    Well done on smashing your marathon PB! Sounds like a great event. One to add to my marathon bucket list!