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Jim Laidlaw reports on a challenging day in the furnace of the 2017 Brighton Marathon

Sometime during 2016 I decided that I should really try a marathon if I wanted to consider myself to be a runner. Having told friends years ago that I could definitely run one before I turned 40 . Time was running out so I bit the bullet and entered Brighton.
Lots of people had told me it was a fantastic event to break your duck and I will continue with this trend if anyone ever asks me about running it .
2107 has started very well for me in running terms . I was loving the long runs out. During the build up to Brighton I had the opportunity to run with lots of different people from the club , I love the fact that there is always someone to go out and run with. I had some good runs leading up to the big day and felt comfortable and confident that I would get round.
Brighton pier
Anyway onto the day. I had traveled down the night before with a friend Tim Elford (Finch Coaster) who had also entered Brighton but had already pulled out due to a injury after running the Wokingham half. We were staying in a travel lodge in Crawley. It was a short 20 drive to the park and ride set up, which took us up to the start area with about a hour to go. This hour unfortunately for me was spent in the long queue for the toilets. This was pretty mad; I just don’t think there were enough. I did however meet a nice couple from Tadley. We chatted about where and what events he had run, wished each other good luck an off I went into the Red start funnel.
Brighton seafront
They had all ready started to make their way down to the start. I had planned to run with Abby Fudge and her partner Ben Curtis (both Windle Valley) We had run similar times in the build up and I knew that they would be good company to run with. This may however have been a mistake as they had both been in great form at Fleet, whereas my form had dipped a little. Our target time was 3.25; an achievable target but I had a gold, silver and bronze time in mind just in case it didn’t happen.  A quick hello and a catch up and we were off.
I felt OK to start with, the first couple of miles were completed at a comfortable pace, we caught and passed the 3.30 pacer at around mile 3 and I made a mental note at that point that all I had to do was stay in front of him or at least finish with him to get a sub 3.30 time.
Brighton Mara - Jim tshirt
Between mile 5-6 we started to climb a little, nothing compared to what we run all the time in club runs but my knee just started to tighten and it no longer felt comfortable – in fact it quickly became very uncomfortable. By the time I reached the top of that first hill, I had dropped behind Abby and Ben so much that I could no longer see them. My family were also at this part of the course and I did my best to hide any pain I was feeling as I didn’t want to alarm them.
To top this off, I had put so much effort in the that short space of distance trying to keep Ben and Abby in sight, I now desperately needed a wee; it’s a funny reaction I get from overworking. I just had to stop, no idea how long I took but when stepped out of the portaloo the 3.30 pacer was just going past.
Jim support team 2
OK – I figured if I could calm down and stick at it I’d still be able to get the time I’d set myself, but I just couldn’t keep the pace. My knee was getting more painful with every step. Lisa Hale passed me at around mile 9-10 I think. She spoke some encouragement and zoomed off, my pace and power deserted me on the next incline and I knew then that it was going to be a case of get round rather than a great time. I stopped at mile 11, stretched my knee and succeeded in releasing a bit of pressure and pain. OK I thought; just crack on. I knew I could run the distance and started to think about positives; 3.45 would be OK. A quick time check and I was off again. I passed my family again just before mile 13 and my dad told me after that I looked absolutely shot to bits. Maybe I need to work on my poker face! I managed to get down to the Pier and onto the flattish part again where I saw more running friends along this part (Richard, Chris and Tracey who I’ll mention again later).
By 16 mile the pain was back, my stride had shortened again so I stopped to stretch it out. Erol passed me here, he shouted and grabbed me. I ran a few yards before telling him I was OK and just needed to sort my knee out. I realised at this point that my pace must have dropped rapidly as the 3.45 pacer went past. This was falling apart. It was at this point that I regretted telling people I could run a sub 3.30. Had I cursed myself? My superstition about saying a time was coming true again, another mental note for the future!
Brighton Mara - Jim huts
I walked to the next water stop, had a drink, half an orange and a few Jellys. I hadn’t given up yet but time was no longer a concern. I certainly wasn’t going to DNF in my first ever marathon. From miles 17-22 I was very very stop and start this resulted in about 5 minutes of running following a stretch before it went tight again. I had to laugh it off, smile at marshals and the people shouting at me ‘that I could do it’ and ‘it wasn’t far to go’. It wasn’t their fault my body had failed so no need to be rude. I had seen Andrea in this section and managed a hello and a wave. At mile 23 I worked out that I could just about squeeze in a sub 4 finish if I could keep my knee relaxed. I made a mile and a half before it just was too painful again. Then out of the crowd Tracey Davidson (Will’s Mum) was there next to me. I’ve known Tracey a while from running and she is another fantastic friend I’ve made from our running community. She spoke to me gently and jogged a little bit with me. Her reasoning that I was a marathon runner now and nothing else mattered. This is what pushed me on the last mile and a bit. Those last two miles are maybe the slowest miles I have ever run but hey they were the last I had in me.
I finished in 4.04.14 and this is now my PB at marathon distance and I should be proud of this time but as most of you that know me, know I’m so disappointed that it didn’t go right. A massive hug from my wife Kim, Imogen and Max very nearly brought tears.
Jim on beach
I loved the event as a whole, the day itself, the people, the atmosphere. It was great seeing people after who had done well. I’m looking forward to marshaling at London to put my bit back into the sport.
I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone that took the time to wish me good luck before and have since messaged me with good wishes. I’m a bit low at the moment but I’ll be back on top form soon enough. Running with you guys is a bigger reward.
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