Before Race Day
This year Brighton was a week after Easter and I had the week off, so I had the added benefit of not spending the whole week sitting at a desk but getting out doing all sorts of activities with the family including Go Ape and swimming (both good cross training), a day out in Brighton on Friday to get my race number and do a bit of carb loading at the energy bar stands and then Frimley parkrun followed by massive full English breakfast on Saturday. I’d also spent some time in the week doing some more carb loading by making some of my nutty flapjack energy bars (recipe in another post!)
The lead up to this marathon saw me in possibly the best condition ever, with no injuries and having done a lot of training miles. I then went in to what was supposed to be a short two week taper, but actually resulted in me doing more miles in a week than I have ever done before (52m including the marathon). Most of that was achieved by getting out with the club on the Tuesday and Thursday night runs, but this week keeping it fairly gentle. At least with my “anti-taper” I didn’t have time to go stir crazy with not running much and didn’t feel like I had to wrap myself in cotton wool to survive till the race.
Race Day and Plan of Attack
I got my kit together the night before and on Sunday morning I was up at 5am, dressed and out of the door to go and pick up Emma Lewis for the drive down to Brighton. There were no traffic issues and, apart from a stop on the A23 at “The Most Disgusting Toilets in East Sussex”, which we abandoned, all went smoothly. I had a park and ride place at the Moulsecoomb campus of Brighton Uni, which we found despite a complete lack of signposts and, after catching the shuttle bus, we got to the start area at Preston Park by about 7:30. First job was to get to the loos while there were no queues, which was just as well, as just half an hour later and we would have been at the tail end of 50m long lines to all of the toilets. These queues lasted until after the start when a lot of people had to just give up and start running. Definitely not enough loos for an event of this size!
We tried to find some other runners but weren’t successful apart from getting a message from Monica asking where we were. I guess we should have sorted ourselves ou a bit better on Facebook. On my way back from the bag trucks, I met Dick and Erol briefly before they went to drop their own bags off and then I went to get in the start pen.
I had arranged to meet and run with a friend of mine from Frimley parkrun, Simon Burfield, with the hope of getting him to a sub 4 hour time and to keep me company. We found each other by the time we needed to get in our start pens, but Simon had a pink number, two pens behind my red one, so I dropped back. The start time was 9:15. Back in the pink pen we waited and waited for the red and blue runners to get under way and then we watched as the elite and faster red bib runners went by as they came through their first mile on the road next to us. There was a slight delay after the final blue runners had left to provide a small gap before we were released, crossing the start line at 9:30am. Luckily I was on the right side of the road so I got to high five Jo Pavey just past the start.
My plan was to set out at 8:50/mile pace and keep that going for as long as possible. As usual, I had my Garmin virtual pacer set up to just tell me how many seconds ahead or behind plan I was so I didn’t have to do any complicated mental arithmetic. Starting with slower runners wasn’t too bad, though we did have to do a bit of weaving to get past some people and the congestion held us up every now and then. However, if you are not too anxious about pacing and can spare a few seconds to chat, there are some interesting stories to be had talking to some people running for charity. The first 4 or 5 miles passed by fairly quickly like this. The congestion didn’t ease off until we got out of the town centre and on the run up the hill above the marina, where the roads were straighter and wider.
The course has a few hills, but nothing too strenuous. What it does have is lots of out and back sections. This could be seen as a bit of a drag and the section from 14 to 18 miles along Church Road parallel to the seafront did seem to go on forever, as did the section out to the power station. However, much like at Portsmouth marathon, the out and back sections give you a chance to see supporters and runners several times. I saw Emma, Madeleine, Pam and Vicky H, Lisa Hale, Dick and Erol on more than one occasion on the other side of the road and twice saw John Tzanetis supporting. I also saw Vicky Rice with 2 miles to go and saw several people from other local clubs around the course.
Conditions for the race stayed sunny and breezy for the whole day and the heat gradually built up from a chilly sub 10⁰C to about 15⁰C by the finish. The air quality was fine after the previous few day’s smog scares, but I was glad I had decided to apply some Factor 50 (if you want to stay cool and not overheat when marathon running, then control your skin temperature – burnt skin doesn’t sweat so well and stays hot, so it’s best to either cover up or apply sunscreen). There were plenty of water stations with both water and Gatorade and the cups were not a problem – I walked a few paces whenever I wanted a drink and the paper cups didn’t cause a tripping hazard like half-full bottles can.
Madeleine at about Mile 3 on her way to a great PB!
The crowds are what really make Brighton a good marathon and throughout most of the route, there are hordes of cheering onlookers. There are only two sections where the crowds are a bit thin; out to the marina and back and then down to the power station. At least the marina section happens when you are reasonably fresh and the views are nice up on the cliffs from miles 7 to 11, but the drag out to the power station is just dull industrial estate down below a sea wall, with not much going on from 20 to 23 miles. I took quite a mental dip on this section and also felt some tightness in my left hamstring for a while and I ended up doing my slowest miles along here. With 4 miles to go I realised I had dropped my mate Simon and it was time to try to push on if I had anything left in the tank.
Getting off the power station road was like a breath of fresh air, as the crowds were back to full strength and kept cheering all the way to the finish. With just 3 miles to go I got back in my stride and felt better for picking up the pace and running more naturally. It was great to spot Vicky Rice and John Tzanetis around the 24mile point and this gave me more of a boost as well. As each of the final miles was ticked off I felt I could push harder, building up to near 7min mile pace as I went through the last mile. The run in to the finish line seemed to take forever to appear and wasn’t even in sight as my Garmin announced 26miles, but eventually I could see the finish gantry and crossed the line running flat out to finish in 3:51:19.
All the Sandhurst finishers – Well done!
I was a bit wobbly after crossing the line, just about managing to take baby steps to get to my medal, cotton T-shirt, bottle of water, Gatorade recovery drink (ew!), banana and melted chocolate biscuit to put in a commemorative plastic bag. After collecting my bag from the bag trucks, I wandered round to the beach area and I met up with Erol and Dick at the S-for-Sandhurst meeting flag for some recovery food (milk and BBQ Hoola Hoops) and we lay around sunbathing and checking the Marathon App for updates on SJ runner’s progress. After meeting Emma and comparing feet, we headed off for the shuttle buses and the drive home.
This was a new PB for me by 1 minute and there were lots of good performances by Sandhurst runners, as you can see in the results table. Well done to the 15 runners who made it to the start line; everybody finished. Extra special mention must go to Madeleine Duncan-Booth for smashing her previous best by over an hour and to Dick Newman, running as Mike Guess, who made a sterling effort to add loads of time to Mike’s marathon average! So, no PB for Mike, but great runs from everyone else.