The day started well. The sun was shining and there was a cool breeze as I walked to Preston Park for the start of the Brighton Marathon. I could have got the train, but it was only a 30 minute walk from my flat, so I figured the walk would be a good warm up.
The park was already busy when I got there, so I decided to head straight for the porta loos where I met my first 5 minute friend for the day in the queue – he was doing the 10K but had done the marathon a couple of times before and gave me some good advice. After that, there was the warm up, a pep talk from European 10,000 metre champion Jo Pavey, and then another visit to the porta loos before heading to the start pens.
I was in the green pen, which was the last to go off, but I didn’t mind. It was actually quite nice because we got to see the elite runners as they ran past (the first mile is a loop of the park), so we were able to cheer them on too.
Before long though, we were off and, with a high five from Jo Pavey, my Brighton Marathon journey was under way. The start was pretty slow, so I decided not to use my run/walk ratio until after the first mile, and just jog along and enjoy the atmosphere. I wasn’t particularly bothered about the pace, although I kept an eye on my Garmin to check how I was doing.
At around 10K, I spotted a row of porta loos and decided that it would be a good idea to pay them a visit. I wouldn’t normally, but as it was quite warm I had been taking a lot of water and the old bladder was starting to feel a bit uncomfortable. It would mean queueing for a few minutes, but I figured it would be worth it in the end.
I had completed the 10K in around an hour and ten minutes, but this unscheduled stop meant that it took me over 16 minutes to complete the 11th kilometre. Still, it was worth it as I felt much more comfortable as we headed up the hill and then down to the roundabout that leads to Ovingdean.
This was one of my favourite parts of the race as there was a live band at the roundabout to entertain us and the residents of Ovingdean were incredibly generous with their support – lots of high fives from small children gave me a bit of a lift too.
The mostly downhill run back into Brighton was brilliant and, although my pace was starting to drop, I still felt pretty good and was able to stick to my run/walk ratio. I knew I from the way the runners coming the other way had thinned out that I was fairly near the back of the pack, but I was having a great time so it really didn’t matter.
When we got back into Brighton, the crowds were amazing and really kept everyone going, but round about the half way point I realised that my energy was waning. I knew that I couldn’t keep going the way that I was, so I decided to drop my ratio a bit with slightly shorter running sections and longer walk breaks. This kept me going, but it wasn’t easy as my stomach was starting to feel a bit dodgy. I put it down to the Gatorade that I’d picked up at one of the aid stations, so I promptly ditched it in a skip and tried to focus on the ratios.
Once we got on to New Church Road though, I saw a couple of friends from work who had turned out to support. This gave me a massive lift and made me smile and laugh a lot, which carried me through for a bit longer. Around the 27K mark though, I knew that my stomach wasn’t happy. Fortunately, as I was so close to the back of the pack, there weren’t any queues at the next porta loo and I was able to get in and out fairly quickly, only adding a couple of minutes onto my already quite slow split for that kilometre.
As the miles and kilometres plodded by, my stomach started to feel much better, but my legs were getting more and more stiff and heavy with every step, so I decided to drop my ratio even further to one minute running and one minute walking (depending on how I was feeling). There were moments when I was able to push myself a bit further, and there were moments when I just had to stop and stretch, but somehow I made it through the ‘road to hell’ around Shoreham Power Station and onto Hove Promenade (my regular running route) for the final 5K.
I’m not sure if it was the fact that I was on familiar ground, or that I was so close to the finish, or that there were smiley faces painted on the ground to remind us that there would be TV cameras there, but somehow I was able to find it in myself to start extending my ratios again, just by a little and keep things ticking over for the last few miles.
By the final mile, the crowds were really livening up and I started to enjoy the support once more. My feeble thumbs ups became waves and smiles as I thanked the supporters and ditched my ratio altogether, to run in the final 400 metres, with a massive grin on my face.
And then it hit me as I crossed the finish line: I just completed a marathon! How cool is that?
My official time was 5:44:50 which is a fair bit slower than I would have liked, but I’m not complaining. I came away from it with a huge sense of achievement, considerable aches and pains, and the knowledge that I did my best on the day and had an amazing time doing it.
The medal is pretty cool too. It features The Peace Statues next to Hove Lawns, which I’ve run past quite a lot in training for this, so that makes it extra special too.
For those of you in the UK, the highlights of the race will be shown on Channel 4 next Sunday; for those of you elsewhere in the world, it is sure to appear on YouTube at some point if you want to check it out.
Finally, thank you to all of you who have encouraged and supported me throughout these last few months with your comments on this blog. Knowing that I’d have to come back and report to you after the race really helped when things got tough. You kept me accountable, and that means a lot.
I’m going to take a week off to recover and reflect now, but I promise to be back soon with a new challenge.
Thanks again and happy running! 🙂