The marathon is a fascinating event. It tasks the body to a whole new level, and then adds an extra ‘surprise’ level just when you didn’t think it was possible (almost like those hidden levels in computer games, just with different noises…). It takes weeks and months of commitment and dedication to prepare for a marathon and yet, it can still drop you like a hot cake after one tiny mistake. But, as you would expect in the contrary world of distance running, the opposite can also be true, and the marathon can leave you feeling exhilarated, and yes, exhausted, but on top of the world!
And so, in the spring months of every year, millions of people travel to marathon races around the world: London, Paris, Boston, and in my case, Brighton, England.
Brighton is a very typical and fabulous British seaside town, with beach huts, deck chairs, fish and chip shops and ice-cream parlours, cute cafes and hotels all furnishing the coast. The iconic pier juts out into the sea, and a ferris wheel now stands on the sea front too. It was brought to fame during the golden age of the British Empire, when Queen Victoria would visit Brighton to bathe in the sea and parade on the prom. Modern day Brighton is a hedonist’s paradise, with arts & music venues abound, restaurants, pubs & clubs, lots of yoga studios, a pebbly beach and sunshine galore.
In running terms, Brighton was traditionally the location of an early ultra running event. The London-to-Brighton foot race started in the late 1800’s (read more on the history of the iconic event HERE), but has now been replaced by an ultra trail race instead. The Brighton road marathon did not start until 2010, when Tim Hutchings (a former world class British cross-country runner) took up the mantle of race director and created the Brighton Marathon as we know it today.
As I lined up for this year’s Brighton Marathon, in a white ‘tyvek’ suit, (looking more like a forensic investigator than a road-runner-trying-to-stay-warm), I tried to soak up the atmosphere. The mass start of any race is always quite a scene: people snuggling up together trying to get as close to the start line as possible; colourful displays of tried & tested running gear; thousands of twitchy feet waiting to run; and serious looking faces all focused on the road ahead. But once the starting-gun was fired, all anticipation was washed away as the task of running 26.2 miles began.
Once the race was underway I tried to settle into a comfortable pace, being careful not to ‘overcook’ my splits during the first six miles, which is typically when fresh legs feel like running too fast! Drink stations were perfectly placed along the route and I started taking sips of water from the intriguing water pouches on offer as soon as possible, but then, by mile 12 I had to make a bathroom/ toilet stop! I’d never had to do this in a marathon before, and had even been contemplating whether or not to make the stop for a few miles – but after a long downhill it suddenly became essential! Thankfully a porter-loo was right on the side of the road, and I dived in & out in record time, setting off again at an uptempo pace to try and catch the group I had been running with.
The course was great for spectators, and I was able to see & hear my family at the places we had prearranged. Knowing where supporters are going to be on a marathon course can be a great motivator and something to mentally focus upon. At mile fifteen I knew my Dad would be there on the side of the road, ready with my nuun hydration bottle complete with electrolyte just in case! It was at that point I ate a gel, and waited for the effects to kick in. Prior to the gel, I had been letting gel-like sweets with caffeine slowly dissolve in my mouth. But at about mile eighteen I hit a ‘bad-patch’ and started to focus on my ‘marathon-mantra’, repeating in my head the words: Laugh, Light, Strong, Go-On.
The mantra enabled me to focus on staying relaxed, light but strong on my feet, whilst looking ahead and thinking about the mile at hand. By mile 20 I had a second-wind, and ran through the ‘lonely’ section of the course almost on a high. But at mile 23, when the full-force of a strong coastal head wind suddenly let loose, I started to feel my energy levels being sapped and my pace diminishing. Of course, this is the hardest part of the marathon for everyone, when the ‘wall’ rears it’s ugly head and the muscle-batteries are drained. I eventually crossed the line in 3:07:31, four minutes shy of a personal best.
In the elite runners race the wind seemed to make little impact. Records were broken and personal bests set. Dominc Kangor, running for the first time outside Africa, won the men’s race in 2:10:46. Eunice Kales of Kenya, making her marathon debut, was the first woman home in 2:28:50. The 2011 winner and British athlete Alyson Dixon finished 2nd in a personal best of 2:31:10, and Frashiah Waithaka of Kenya was third in 2:33:31.
Overall, the 2014 Brighton Marathon is one I’ll never forget since it was my first marathon in the UK outside London, and it was an ideal way to raise funds for the Marine Conservation Society. Please check out my sponsorship page on JustGiving.com for further information about the Society, and also read about their excellent work on the website: mcsuk.org
In my last post I wrote about the tragic events of Brighton and the Boston Marathon, but to end on a positive note today I’d like to leave you with an excellent video of the Brighton Marathon course, as filmed by the fun-loving Brighton Scooter Club: