Brighton Marathon 2014 Race Report

The Brighton Marathon came around a bit quickly for my liking.  Training hasn’t been great, and not finishing my last race up at Oakley a fortnight ago had knocked my confidence a bit.

I had been trying to find the positives from Oakley ahead of my second full marathon, using it as a reality check.  I do need to respect the longer distance running, the taper is important, as is being well rested and well fueled.  Valuable lessons were learned from Oakley.

I was very conscious that I hadn’t ran over 18 miles in training  though, and that quite a bit of my longest run had been run/walking.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ran much more than 13 miles non stop all year.  Oops.

I had tapered properly for this race though (apart from the triathlon club duathlon race last weekend, but I didn’t race hard) – that’s the one part of my training plan that I did follow properly.  I’d cut out the triathlon club swim and bike sessions in the last week, and only ran a couple of shorter steady runs.  I’d also eaten well in the week running up to the marathon, avoiding anything processed, not eating any junk, eating lots of fresh fruit and veg, and being careful to stay properly hydrated.

My wife Sam and I drove down to Brighton Saturday morning, as we had to collect my race pack from the exhibition.  The journey down wasn’t great, and the traffic in Brighton was pretty horrendous. I don’t know if it was the additional marathon runners trying to get into town that was causing traffic mayhem, or if that’s what Brighton is always like, but I think in hindsight, we’d have been better off getting the train.

We finally got to the hotel and checked in, then went to the expo to pick up my race number.  The expo was pretty busy, lots of excited people collecting their race numbers, and stuff to look at and buy.  I did resist buying any gear though – nothing seemed like an exceptional bargain.  We did have some free samples of energy gels, drinks, and protein bars though.  We went for a bit of a mooch around Brighton, then went back to the hotel for dinner.

What a cock up the hotel restaurant was!  It was half empty, and when we were seated, we were warned that there might be a half an hour wait for food.  No problem we thought.  There was no pasta on the menu, and we were told that there were no pizzas left.  Great.  I wanted nice bready or pasta-y carbs.  I ordered a burger, and we sat and waited.  A lot of other people in the restaurant were complaining that the service was so slow.  After waiting 45 minutes, we were told that our dinner would be about another 20 minutes, and there were 3 tables ahead of us to be served.  We decided to wait.  After about 20 minutes, they started bringing out the meals for one of the tables ahead of ours, but most of the meals were sent back to the kitchen, as they got the orders wrong.  This was the final straw, and we decided to walk out.

I’m really glad we did, as luck would have it, there was an all you can eat pasta and pizza buffet just over the road from the hotel, the Casa Della Pizza restaurant.  What an absolute result!  Exactly what I needed, and right on the doorstep of the hotel.  We had a right good feed, loads of lovely carbs, and for the pair of us, change from a £20 note.

We went back to the hotel, and I laid out my kit, just to make sure I was ready, and not panicking in the morning that I’d forgotten or mislaid something:

Kit

Kit

I don’t particularly see the point of having an early night before a race, as I don’t sleep if I’m not tired, so we didn’t hit the sack until about 11pm.  I had a terrible nights sleep anyway – I normally do when I’m away from home.  The alarm went off 6:45 and we got up.  I decided I’d have a pot of instant porridge in the room, fully expecting the breakfast in the hotel restaurant to be a similar fiasco to the evening meal.  Sam went down to the restaurant for a reccie, but thankfully the hotel was organised and had pre-made a vat of porridge, as well as all the other cooked and continental breakfast wares that you’d expect at a Premier Inn.  I ditched the instant porridge, and went to the resaurant, and had a big bowl of freshly made porridge, sultanas, a load of pumpkin seeds and a couple of mini pots of jam on top for good measure.  This was all washed down with some strong black coffee, and a hydration drink.

Breakfast

Breakfast

And no, I didn’t have HP sauce on it!

It was soon time for the off.  It was about half an hours walk from the hotel up to Preston Park where the race was starting, so we took it steady, following the stream of people heading that way.  There was the Brighton 10k race before the marathon, so we saw some of that on the way.  The guys at the front of the race were absolutely flying!  The winner of the race won the 10k in 29:11, which is crazy fast to me!  A pace of 4:42 per mile – I couldn’t run 100m at that pace, let alone 10,000m.

Anyway, we got to Preston Park, and headed for the queues for the toilet.  They were epic – it took half an hour to get to a portaloo.  One of these days, I’ll do a race where there will be enough toilets.  I wish race organisers would think about how many toilets are needed.  Double it, then double it again!

As I was a bit optimistic about my finishing time when I entered the race a year ago, I was in the red corral, with people expecting a finish time between 3:15 and 4 hours.  With the training I’d done, I knew that wasn’t on the cards for me, so put myself right at the back of the red group, and tried not to get in the way of too many people.  Here’s me just before the start:

Red corral - with the cool kids

Red corral – with the cool kids

Marathon legend Paula Radcliffe was starting the race, and she sounded the klaxon promptly at the 9:15 starting time.  It took a few minutes to get to the start line, but I didn’t see the point of rushing, no point running any further than absolutely necessary.  I got over to the side, and let everyone run past me that wanted to.  As I approached the start line, I saw Paula above the crowd on a platform, and managed to get a high-5 off her!  The marathon was off to a good start!

The first part of a race is often a bit quick, full of adrenalin and excitement, but I was very aware of this, and I didn’t want to go off too quickly and do myself in too early on.  It turns out I didn’t need to worry this time out, as there were so many people getting over the start line, and bustling for space to run, and that combined with a couple of tight turns and bottlenecks, my first mile of the race, completed in 11:10 was actually my slowest mile of the race.

I managed to cement my desired 10 minute mile pace pretty well, miles 2 and 3 were 10:01 and 10:03 respectively.

Somehow Sam managed to get around the course quicker than I did, and managed to cheer me on, and take loads of photos.

There were timing mats at each 5km (3.1 miles).  The timing mats were linked up to the internet, to provide live 5km splits on the Brighton Marathon website, and on a mobile phone app, so Sam (and other stalkers  :p ) could track my progress on their phones.  I crossed the 5k mat in 32:22, which would be my slowest 5k split.

I had a very nice surprise early on in the race.  My club-mate Rowan from Freedom Tri caught me up and overtook me, and stopped for a nice chat for a few minutes, he left me with a pat on the back, and disappeared off into the distance.  It really cheered me up seeing Rowan.

Interestingly, mile 4 was 10:20, which looking at my stats is surprising, as it was pretty much all down hill.  Perhaps I was being a bit too reserved?

Mile 5 was uphill again, and I picked up to 9:51.  All a bit odd, but that is me I suppose.

The first 5 and a bit miles were around Brighton city centre, and the support was fantastic.  The streets were lined with thousands of people, all cheering us on.   I’ve never known a race like it.  This marathon was far bigger than any race I’ve ever taken part in – it was almost overwhelming.  The amount of people handing out Jelly Babies and other sugary sweets and cheering us on was phenomenal.

We turned east out of town, along the coast road, towards a little place called Ovingdean.  I love the water, and running by the sea was a real treat.  It’s a big part of the reason I entered the Brighton marathon, where I live in Stotfold is miles away from the sea, so I rarely get to see the sea.  I’d love to live on the coast one day.

Not long after leaving town, we crossed another timing mat, and looking at the stats, my second 5k was 31:30.  I was feeling surprisingly good.  In fact, I was loving it, feeding off the atmosphere and the camaraderie of the other runners.  I’d not felt that good running for a long time.  There were fewer supporters out side of town, but that was OK.  The runners were more relaxed, and it was good to have a chat to a few fellow runners.  Most runners are very friendly, you’ve got a lot in common with complete strangers, a common interest, so it’s really easy to talk to people, and to make friends.

We headed inland for a bit, and got to mile 9, we turned around, and headed back towards the sea, then back towards Brighton.  Soon after the 9 mile mark, we crossed the 15km mat. It’s a bit weird the marathon being measured in miles, with mile markers, but the splits being measured in 5km chunks, the mixtures of units of measure is confusing, and I spend a lot of time running doing maths to work out what’s what, and where’s where!  I guess I am a geek for life!  The third 5km split was 31:32, nice and consistent, I was in the groove.

Must be time for another photo?

Runnig

Runnig

The 20km (12.5 mile) passed, with the 5km split time being 31:15 – I managed to speed up a bit.  This was not expected!  Back into town, the support was back!

Crossing the half way mark, it turns out I was running really close to the 4:30 pacers, although they seemed to be running a bit quick, perhaps they were building in a bit of rubber, to allow them to slow down a bit towards the end.  I have no idea if proper pacers pace evenly or not.  There were a lot of people near the half way mark, as it was right on the front, and about half a mile from the pier.

At about 14 miles, we headed away from the sea for a bit, and ran a 4 and a bit mile loop along a road parallel to the coast road.  I saw Sam again just before heading back to the coast road, and ran over and grabbed a kiss off here – probably a bit sweaty and snotty, but she didn’t seem to mind too much!

We got back to the coast road at 18 and a bit miles, then crossed the 30km (18.75 mile) mat.  The sixth 5km chunk of the race was my fastest – 30:43.

The next section of the race was a bit grim.  It took us out of Brighton, around a wood yard, and a dock, and it smelled a bit fishy, and on the outward leg, there was a bit of a head wind.  Apart from that wind, the weather had been absolutely perfect.  Cool, dry, still.  In my book, perfect running conditions.  Considering the weather forecast had been dire all week – with heavy rain and 20mph winds forecast, we were so lucky.  If the weather had been as the forecast, it would have been a grim day out.

I still felt really strong at this point.  For a while, I actually felt like I might be able to run the entire distance, and if not, run past the 20 mile without stopping to walk, which was as far as I got without stopping when I completed the Milton Keynes marathon in 2012.  My strategy of taking water on at every drink station, and taking all the gels and Gatorade energy drinks on offer would help me to avoid hitting the crippling wall seemed to be paying off.

The furthers part of the race was 21 and a bit miles out.  The finishing straight was billed as the “Road to hell”.  Not very motivational to say the least!  5 miles straight back to the finish, just the other side of the Brighton Pier.  I suppose the problem is that you can see the pier from such a long way away.  I was determined to not let this bother me though.  I did have my first little walk soon after this. I’m not sure if it was the “Road to hell” playing on my mind, or the fact that I’d ran 21.5 miles non stop, and in my my mind already achieved a lot by running further than I’d ran non stop before.  The mental side of long distance running is a funny thing.  That far into a race, it’s sometimes difficult to remain rational and to think straight.  I’d also worked out that I could afford to take my foot off quite a bit, slow down considerably, and still get a pretty big chunk off my PB of 4:39:21.  Perhaps my inherent laziness was getting the better of me?  Who knows, and never mind.

I decided from here on to run to the mile marker, walk for a minute, then carry on running to the next mile marker.  This seemed like a good plan – take a minute to recover a little bit, then press on for another 9-10 minutes.  If you still move forward by walking, you don’t necessarily lose too much time.

The walking strategy soon went out the window anyway, I got chatting to a lady called Sally, and that distracted me nicely.  She was really happy that she was on for a sub 4:30 marathon, I then realised that I must be too!  I ran with Sally for a mile or so, then she faded away a little bit, and I took off ahead of her.  I did walk briefly at the mile 25 marker, as my quads were starting to ache quite badly, but then the crowd was so loud, I managed to draw some energy from somewhere and managed to shift it along.

I saw my Mum and sister, Nic, at about the 26 mile marker, but somehow managed to miss my wife Sam on the finishing straight – I must have had my eye on the prize, and charged for the line.

I stopped my watch, and it read 4:27.  12 minutes quicker than my previous time, so very pleased with that.  I was presented with my medal, and thanked the lady handing them out, and collected my finishers t-shirt, a couple of bananas and some grotty Belvita biscuits to refuel on, as well as a Gatorade recovery protein drink.  It tasted pretty rotten, but I do think it helped.

There was a queue to get out of the finishers funnel, but there was Sam, waiting for me just outside the finishers area.  Here’s me on the beach, just at the end of the race, with my super cape billowing in the sea breeze:

Super-G

Super-G

And here’s a close up of my medal:

Medal

Medal

After the race, we had a leisurely stroll back to the hotel, and I sensibly re-hydrated, had a bath and a stretch, and chilled out for a bit, before going out for a well earned steak:

MEAT!

MEAT!

This was (less sensibly) washed down with a few beers.  Mum and Nic went off back to their campsite, and Sam and I decided to go and have a look at the sea again, and for some daft reason, I wanted to go for a walk to the end of the pier.  It felt OK to be walking, but was tricky to stop and start again, and stairs were a bit of an issue.  We stopped off at another restaurant by the sea side, and had a couple or more beers and pudding, before a slow walk back to the hotel.

So all in all, a pretty good weekend away.

Will I run another marathon?  No.  Not for a while anyway.  I really haven’t enjoyed the training this time around.  It’s been lonely at times, and some of the Saturday morning spending hours running in the wind and rain have been really draining.  It’s also really compromised my triathlon training.  Pretty much everything I’ve done over the past few months has been in a tired and over trained state.  I’m just not cut out for marathon training and triathlon training at the same time, and triathlon is where my heart’s at at the moment.  I want to improve at swimming and cycling, and have been training hard over the winter to try to improve my swimming and cycling technique, and to get physically stronger, but the long runs have just left me too tired to achieve this.

I’m in a good place with the marathon distance now, but I am glad it’s done.  There’s not unfinished business, so I’m in a good place.

For what it’s worth, I finished in 4583rd place out of 8510 finishers.

Here’s the 5km split times from the official tracker app:

Splits

Splits

And here’s the wonderful stats from my watch:

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/475405834

 

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3 Comments

  1. Greg Blount

     /  08/04/2014

    Well done Gareth a great performance and an enjoyable read. Although your Tri training may have been compromised over the last few weeks you will have a fantastic base of fitness to launch you into the season! A mid/late season half IM is by no means out of the question! Ely?

    Reply
    • Ely is 2 days after a 2 week all inclusive holiday. I’ll still be drunk 😉 Next year, maybe………

      Reply
  2. Sonia Weston

     /  08/04/2014

    Gareth I really enjoyed reading this and appreciated your honesty in how lonely and hard it can be training for such events. Interesting how much the mind may have influenced when you started to walk. Well done in running such a well paced race though – something lots of less experienced runners get wrong on the big occasions.

    Reply

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