Yesterday was the 25th annual Brighton Half Marathon, and my very first Half Marathon. Ok, so I have run the distance before and taken part in virtual half marathons, but this would be the first time I had ever taken part in an organised event of 13.1 miles with other runners.
Naturally, I was a bit nervous, but very excited about the whole thing. My main concern was getting to the start line on time, but as I live fairly close by, it wasn’t a problem. I had laid everything out the night before, set my alarm for 6:00 am, and checked the bus timetable and weather forecast the night before. All I had to do was get up, get dressed and catch the bus. So far so good.
I arrived at the race village just before 8:00 am, which gave me plenty of time to relax and soak up the atmosphere, drop my bag off, use the toilet and find my start pen. Despite the fact that there were around 12,000 people there, it didn’t feel overcrowded as everything was spread out enough along Madeira Drive to give people space to mill around, stretch and warm up.
The start pens were easy to find with different coloured flags to match the colours on the race bibs according to your estimated finish time. I was in the 2:15:00 to 2:29:00 pen and stayed close to the back. My PB for the distance was around 2:27:18 and, although I was hoping for sub 2:25:00, given my recent bout of flu, I told myself that I would be happy with anything under 2:30:00. After all, it’s a whole different ball game when you’re running in a crowd.
As far as I could tell, the race got underway on time, but being so far back I didn’t cross the start line for another 9-10 minutes. Still, it wasn’t a problem as everything is chip timed, so I started the Garmin as I crossed the line and reminded myself to relax.
I had planned to use my usual 3:1 run/walk ratio, but as the pace for the first few hundred metres was very slow due to the crowds, I decided to just keep running until things thinned out a bit. I figured that I wouldn’t worry too much about my pace, but I’d try to keep it at around 6:50 – 7:00 minutes per kilometre (including walk breaks) for the first half of the run at least.
Of course, that didn’t happen. I was feeling really good and the weather was much nicer than it has been on any of my long training runs so I decided to not worry about easing off and just run at whatever pace felt comfortable.
I checked my Garmin after the first 5K and noticed that I was around 33 minutes. This was a good sign as it meant that I was well ahead of time for a PB. Nothing to get excited about, of course, as I still had over 16K to go, but it was good to know that I was on track as I ascended the only hill on the course.
To be honest though, the hill was not as bad as I had imagined, so much so that at one point I even skipped a walk break. I wouldn’t normally do this as it doesn’t really do anything for my time overall, but at that point the route was getting crowded again and it would have been more hassle to pull over to the side to slow down and stop than it would have been to keep running – so I kept running.
At 8K I took my first gel. I didn’t feel that I needed it, but I’d planned to take one at 8K and 16K to make sure that I refuelled before I got in to trouble. This meant taking a slightly longer walk break, which did slow my average pace down a little, but I figured I would make up for it later.
As we ran back down the hill and into Brighton, the support was amazing. I never realised before, when I was out there cheering people on last year, just what a difference that makes – especially when you are starting to feel tired, which I was at around 16K.
By that point though, I was on familiar ground, running along Hove promenade past the beach huts as I do pretty much every time I go out for a run – one of the advantages of running in your own city.
Still, I took a slightly longer walk break for my second gel and reminded myself that I was still on track for a sub 2:30:00, and might even manage to get under 2:25:00 as long as I didn’t let the pace drop too much.
Of course, the pace did drop, but I ignored it. My legs were hurting, so I just tried to focus on the ratio. Three minutes running, one minute walking, nice and easy until I got my second wind, which came just as we turned off the promenade by the Peace Statue and back up to the road.
We had just over 2 kilometres to go and my time was around 2:08:00, so I knew I was in with a really good chance of beating my goal of 2:25:00. All I had to do was keep moving and pick up the pace where I could. And somehow, I did.
As we approached Madeira Drive, the crowds gave me another huge lift and I decided to ignore the Garmin, ditch the walk breaks, and try to pass as many people as possible in the final kilometre. I knew by then that I was going to get a PB and it was going to be under 2:25:00, but imagine my surprise when I crossed the finish line, pressed stop on the Garmin and saw that I’d finished in 2:21:27.
My official chip time was 2:21:23 and, although it’s not a fast time by most people’s standards, I couldn’t be happier. And the medal isn’t bad either, even if it is pink!
How’s your training going? Did you run this weekend? Do you have a race coming up? Please share your thoughts in the comments.