It’s taken a while, but here’s a slightly more comprehensive race report.
Pre-race I was up at 5:30, which is very early, even for me. Wash (although I do wonder why I bother on race days) and into the running kit, which had been carefully laid out the night before. Breakfast was porridge & coffee, as planned, although I did struggle to work Mum’s microwave. Got there in the end and the porridge was edible. One last check I’ve got everything and into the car.
Mum’s not the most morning person you’ve ever met, but she’d volunteered to act as taxi service for the day, so she was driving me there. Not too bad a journey, although the pony trap racers on the Fontwell dual carriage way held us up a bit (and got the blood pressure rising). Approached Brighton and we managed to take the A23 northbound, not southbound. A rapid exit at the first junction and an about turn got us headed in the right direction. Actually, I think it, inadvertently, helped us at the roundabout the park & ride was off, as we joined the roundabout with very little queueing, whereas off the A27 there was a big tailback. Parked, collected everything and headed down the hill to where the buses were collecting.
Due to the slightly longer than usual gap between breakfast & race start, I ate banana number 1 on the bus. Got dropped off near the start at Preston Park, then left Mum and got myself sorted. I followed the crowd and found the loo (essential). Then it was a case of getting everything I wanted to wear on, eating banana number 2 and texting the rest of the sub 5 thread to see where they were. Soon located Vik & Kim; FlatFoot & Foxy had arrived, although I never found them – but it’s hard enough to find one person in a crowd of almost 10,000! Bag got checked in, then I relocated Vik & Kim, who were now in the queue for the loo. I did a sneaky and joined them, thus circumventing a fair length of queue – how very rude!
Finally it was off towards the start pens. I was green, being a slowcoach, which meant I was the last of the 4 pens. Stood around for quite some time, waiting for the start, and then stood around even longer waiting for the red, blue & pink pens to get out the way so that we could get started. The leaders and, if I’m honest, a fair proportion of the field had done their lap of the park and were off into town before we’d even started to move! I got shot of the sweatshirt I’d worn to keep warm after checking the bag, it must be over 15 years old and was in a rather sorry state, but that didn’t stop me being a little sad to see it go.
Then under the start gantry and we’re off. Lap of the park for the first mile or so, then off. Passed a banner saying “0.2 miles done, only 26 to go” and, shortly after, one marking the highest point of the course. I concentrated on trying to not go off like a scalded cat, but the press of numbers meant that was unlikely. Then it was a case of settling down into a rhythm, and just taking each mile as it came. That did include trying to avoid some idiot pedestrians who thought it would be a good idea to try and walk in the road while we were running down it. Several of us gave them a bit of a nudge as we came past and I think they got the message.
According to the course info and this picture, we ran past the Brighton Pavillion – but I never saw it! Have no recollection of running past this at all, and that’s a rather large building to miss!
Anyway, we meandered our way around town for a bit before hitting the seafront and turning left. This stretch saw me overtaken by a rhino but I did overtake a tiger, who’d stopped for a piddle (naughty tiger). It was a bit of an incline, heading out to Rottingdean, with the detour into Ovingdean. There were a large number of people out spectating, and it was all very friendly and supportive. This stretch was the first significant length where you could see the front end of the field – not the very front, they’d past by before I got here, but the speedy ones at ~3 hours were passing down as I headed up the hill. And it was a hill. Not steep, but a long drag. Then the turn into the north also coincided with a valley in the hills to the north, meaning that it was particularly windy heading out to Ovingdean.
As I headed down the hill, I could see the tail of the field, including my first sight of Tref, also in his first marathon. He looked to be doing OK, but was too far away to say anything too. At the very tail of the field was a chap in a suit of armour – didn’t look the easiest thing to travel in! Shortly afterwards, as I approached half way, I could see people looking over the prom onto Marina Drive, from where I could hear the fast men finishing – that did little for my ego, I can tell you!
I saw Mum at half way, just as I rounded a corner onto the front, there she was. She took this one. I’m waving. It could be worse, a few seconds later and I had both hands down the front of my top, fishing my gloves out of the bra for her to hang on to (talking of which, Mum, you’ve still got my gloves – can I have them back sometime?) That would have made a good photo, now wouldn’t it!
It was then that we faced the bulk of the crowds. The stretch along the seafront was packed with people, all yelling & shouting & clapping for all they were worth. I got very slightly emotional at that point. Half way came up along the prom, and I made that in 2:26. All going to plan at this stage.
From here it all got a bit more difficult. We headed away from the front onto a long straight section of up and back. This got dispiriting, I think because it shows you how far you’ve got to go and how slowly you’re going, especially compared to those going back the other way. However, it does give you a chance to see people you know, on the way back down I saw Tref again and was able to high five him as we passed. He was looking happier than I felt by then. Also saw my kid brother & wife, they’d come to support and were walking their way into Brighton along the route. A loud “Hey Sis” got my attention. The locals were out in force in this section, with music, bowls of jelly babies and vocal support. Quite a party atmosphere going on. Around here I managed to re-pass the rhino, and felt a certain amount of pride at stake in staying ahead of him. He was certainly earning his massive crowd support, it must have been an incredibly hot & heavy costume to run in. Here I also slowed for the first time into a walk, but tried to limit walk breaks to short intervals, and not too often.
It got increasingly more difficult from here. Nothing in particular hurt, but my entire being ached. At approaching 20 miles the route turns towards the power station and a big banner proclaims it “The road to hell”. They weren’t kidding. This was just so dull, and there was no support along the way. It was another straight out and back section, with a loop round the power station – scenic it is not! There were cones down the centre of the road, indicating the up & back sides. I always run on the left of a path, it’s habit. The railway trail I run is treated by most users in this way, ride/walk/run on the left, overtake on the right. So I naturally gravitate to the left of any route. I wasn’t looking too far ahead, just trying to focus on covering the next 10 meters at a time; the end of a long stretch never seems to come any closer, but don’t look at it and it will arrive. Coming the other way was one of the pacers, with a group following them. They’d spilled out and some of the runners were the wrong side of the cones. One chap ran straight into me and I was suddenly heading towards the floor on the right hand side of the road. Managed to stay upright, but that hurt. Left side now felt like it was going to be one enormous bruise. Probably shocked more than physically hurt, I took a few deep breaths and carried on.
After rounding the power station, it was back the way we’d come. At 23 miles I actually stopped and have a bit of a stretch, but I’m not sure it helped any. I wasn’t suffering from cramping or anything, I just ached. A lovely chap asked me if I was OK, but I maybe wasn’t the most fluent in response. He went on with some more encouragement and I set off again, with a bit of a thumbs up. This may have been an encounter with Brighton’s own Fatboy Slim, but I was far too addled to recognise either him or his wife – apparently they were out spectating at that point. I doubt it’s going to go down in his mind as a sparkling conversation! But it was only 3 to go, and I was going to finish this, come what may. The last 3 miles are back along the promenade and then down Maderia Drive. The crowd levels were building back up, people walking on the prom, or sitting at their beach huts made for quite a holiday feel – or would have done had I been in the mood to enjoy it. With periodic walk breaks, I made it along the prom. At 25 miles I determined I was going to run all the way in, and so I lurched into something that doesn’t really merit the description of a run and set off one last time. At 26 miles I dug deep and found a final flourish from somewhere (I know not where).
Mum took this one at about 26, and I’m proud to say that I was ahead of Big Dave by the finish. I wasn’t looking my best at this stage, but I summoned up an effort to look good for the cameras. Not sure it worked, the thumbs up look good, but the face is a bit drawn and pasty white.
At the finish, all I felt was a huge relief that I’d finished. 5:06:29. I was awarded my medal, then wrapped in a big foil blanket to keep warm. Then collected a goodie bag and a finisher’s T-shirt – surprisingly, I was offered a choice of size, so have a wearable small. Then I waddled along to the baggage trucks and collected my bag. At this point I had my hands rather full, so found a patch of kerb to fall down onto to sort myself out. Never have I been so pleased to see a bottle of chocolate milkshake. That disappeared quite quickly. Took my shoes & socks off before putting my calf guards and long socks on, then added trackie trousers and fleecy top to keep warm. Phoned Hubby (and swore I’d never do that again) then phoned Mum. They were standing on the top of the Esplanade, so I had a nice big flight of steps to climb to find them. That was a bit of a challenge, as I found myself unable to get up off the floor. I had to hail a passing volunteer to give me a hand up. Actually walking and stairs weren’t as bad as I thought it would be, I hadn’t yet set solid.
Another thing that had set solid appeared to be the leaky gel in my pocket. I took 6 gel packs with me, one for each 5 miles plus a spare. They obviously didn’t like being squeezed into the pocket. Whenever I took a gel, I felt I had sticky fingers, and it appears that at least one packet had leaked. This left a big sugery splodge which had crystallised. I didn’t notice while running, but when I tried to move the shorts, the set sugary mess had set and joined itself efficiently to my lower back/bum. Ouch. That removed some skin when I finally de-stuck myself. I have an interesting set of chafe marks in that region to prove it.
From here it was into the queue for the park & ride bus, which took a while to arrive and then took a rather circuitous route back out – at one point we actually passed Preston Park, where I’d started from! The bus driver stopped at the bottom of the park&ride, but then said he’s also stop at the top. We stayed on, thinking that a level or downhill walk would be better than up the hill. All was going well until Mum decided to take a trip on the uneven path and landed on the floor. I wasn’t terribly helpful, but some passing runners & supporters helped her up. We made it to the car without further incident, (discarding the leaflet for the 3 forts marathon that was on the windscreen – far too soon to consider that!) but Mum had a sore wrist and opposite hand, and I drove home. Her car and no glasses made for an interesting journey! We scooted through one set of lights at the last moment, as I saw the lights change but wasn’t sure that I’d be able to stop in time! But we made it home without any incident.
Once in, the family rallied round and sorted her out. Then the husband got the bottle of chilled champers out and I took my glass upstairs to have in a nice relaxing bath. Not an ice bath – I’m not that much of a masochist. We’d bought pizzas for tea, not being sure what state I’d be in (certainly in no state to go out to eat!) and they cooked while I soaked. It wasn’t until I eaten the first slice that I realised quite how hungry I was. From there, nothing much was left but to head, rather slowly, up the stairs to bed at the end of a long, long day.