On Saturday I was woken up by galeforce winds. Our train to Brighton was delayed due to extreme flooding. We got slammed by stormy conditions and raging sea spray as soon as we hit the waterfront. The “beach” (stones) had been blown onto the seafront.
My Brighton Half Marathon experience was looking pretty grim, to say the least. I held out hope that the weather forecast would be correct, as it predicted mild temperatures and sun – but I thought I was being optimistic. I headed to bed on Saturday night preparing myself for a gruelling morning and a slow, cold, wet plod.
I woke at 6am on Sunday and slipped out the door of our guesthouse. Dressed in full length running tights, a heavy jacket and mitts, I was prepared to battle my way along the seafront against the wind, and then get blown back with force. But as I jogged in the darkness down to the water, it was eerily calm.
My marathon training plan read a petrifying 16miles (26km) for this weekend, and after last week’s good but bad run, I decided to break the distance up. I ran a speedy 5k out towards Hove and back again, stripping off my layers and watching the sun rise over the Brighton Pier. There wasn’t a breath of wind, the sea was flat and still, and it was beautiful and mild in temperature. As I jogged alongside the beach huts and watched the many MANY crews sweeping pebbles off what would soon be the half marathon course, I punched the air (if I could have high-fived myself, I would have), sung along to Eminem’s Lose Yourself and grinned. I felt good, my body felt strong, and today was gonna be an awesome day. I could FEEL it.
(side note: then I stupidly decided to “add in some hills” because I was feeling so pumped and half way up I was like WHAT are you doing, silly girl, you still have 13miles to run…and so I turned around and ran back down feeling a bit stupid).
I got back to the guesthouse and changed my entire outfit. New socks, new shoes, new top – and made the smart decision to leave my jacket at home. In my mind I was forgetting about those measly 3miles, pretending I had completely fresh legs, and focusing on the half marathon ahead. A distance I was confident and comfortable with, having done it repeatedly over the past 5 or 6 weeks (HA, I just re-read that, NEVER EVER thought I would say 21.4km was something I felt “confident” or “comfortable” with!).
I sat on the floor and ate my breakfast (the guesthouse wasn’t serving breakfast early enough for us runners – boo) which I had luckily thrown into my bag as an afterthought. I guess this is what the morning of Paris Marathon might be like though, sitting on the floor of a hotel room, trying to choke down bacon and roasted sweet potato from Tupperware containers and slug back nuun and coffee. May as well get prepared now.
I pinned on my race number, said goodbye to Jase and trotted off to the start line. It was pretty crisp, but the sun was shining and GOD Brighton looked beautiful! I saw Tess in passing and wished her luck, and then Lissy found me and we nudged our way into the purple pen (2:00 – 2.15). We set off right on 9am, to cheers and whistles and claps of hundreds of supporters.
The first few km ticked away as Lissy and I chatted along, just like our normal weekend long run – except this time we were surrounded by hundreds of others. It was nice to be so relaxed and casual, and I took the time to look around at other runners (some things of note: someone dressed completely as a bride, veil, garter, full face of makeup and bouquet; a girl running in bare feet; a pretty obvious London Marathon calf tattoo; a blue morph suit; and THIS amazing guy who competes in marathons with his uncle (who he pushes in a wheelchair)).
We turned a corner and UP we went, and up, and up some more. So much for a “fast and flat” course, there was definitely a lot more uphill than I expected! There was a fab band who was banging out a steady beat at the top of the hill, which really helped to keep my pace. The hill wasn’t hard, but it kept going and going – and it was blazing hot by this point. Sweat was starting to trickle down my face and I desperately wished I was in crops (or shorts!) and no sleeves.
When we finally turned to head back into Brighton, I groaned in relief at the breeze that licked my face and the downhill which eased my legs – it was delightful. The views back along the coast were to die for, and I really enjoyed watching the runners coming uphill after us – I spotted Becca and gave her a whoop!
I’d decided to fuel with baby food again this week (hey, if it aint broke, why fix it) but without a waistbelt (fancy name for a bum bag!) I tried to slip my Ella’s Organic Peach & Banana into my side pocket of my leggings. Except…they kept falling down with the added weight. So after a kilometre or two I ended up carrying it in my hand, along with my waterbottle. Nothing tastes worse than warm pureed peach and banana, let me tell you that. I glugged it down just to get rid of it at about the 5mile mark!
Lissy and I stopped for a quick comfort break not long after, and I was so happy to take off my long sleeve layer and repin my number to my tank. Bare arms in February? HELL YES. I chomped on a shotblock while I waited, which I regretted almost immediately as it sat heavy in my stomach and gave me a bit of a stitch. As it was a lot hotter than expected I drained my waterbottle of nuun early on, and then refilled it with cold water at each water station.
We came into the crowds in Brighton and headed along the straight towards Hove. I had Jase stationed up ahead and I was feeling good so I decided to kick off ahead. I did a smooth pass off with Jase – flung my spare top in his direction while grabbing another babyfood sachet and my new 33Shake chia gel to try. I wasn’t hungry or felt like I needed fuel, but the game plan was to fuel like I would on marathon day, so at 10miles (16k) I dutifully opened the cap on the 33Shake and took a swig. Or a gulp. Or a glob. I’m not quite sure how to describe the consistency, but I couldn’t quite decide whether to swallow it whole or chew it. I went for chew…and then ended up with chia seeds stuck in my teeth…so…that was fun. I think I just need a bit more practice with them to get used to the consistency – I certainly didn’t manage to consume the entire thing. Flavour wise they were ok, a mild vanilla taste which wasn’t sickeningly sweet or offensive to my tastebuds in any way.
We turned at the Hove lagoon and headed back towards the Brighton pier. The colourful beach huts were on one side, the glimmering water on the other, and me running in the middle grinning like a loony. I was SO happy! All my favourite things at once – running, sun and sea. The crowd support was fantastic, people lined the streets and cheered and high fived you which was just awesome.
The Brighton wheel (eye?) glinted up ahead and I could see the finish line flags nearing. Before I knew it, I was across the finish line and it was over!
While it wasn’t a PB for me (2hrs 12mins 59seconds) I was pretty happy with that time. I had some techno-fails – my Nike+ cut out at 16km (thank god for the new Garmin on my wrist!) – but I wasn’t really paying that much attention to my pace or distance to be bothered. My carefully selected spotify playlist (which I had upgraded to paid premium in order to listen to offline) didn’t work at all, but I switched over to my tried & tested (and kind of boring and ho-hum) playlist which I have been rocking since my first ever half marathon instead. But again…better to test these things now.
I’d taken the first half of the race quite leisurely as I was planning to channel the inner tortoise and practice my marathon goal pace – but the conditions and fab race experience got me over excited and I decided to just go with it and run for the joy. My next half marathon can be ALL about the slow plod, but Brighton definitely deserved my arms-flung-wide over enthusiasm.
This race sold out in JUNE last year, and I can 100% see why. It was a beauty. Well organised, started on time, good course, fab water stations which were well placed, and awesome crowd support. There could have been a bit more signage in the start village (I wandered aimlessly until I found a purple flag, as I wasn’t quite sure where to go) and I barely noticed any mile markers. My watch did run the course a bit short, but I would rather short than long! The addition of a couple of bands were a nice touch, I loved the fabulous chunky medal and a nice goodybag was handed to us at the end.
You’ve got to hand it to the organisers who turned a storm-lashed stonefilled seafront into a running friendly paradise in less than 12 hours though!
Brighton Half Marathon, you were everything I wanted you to be AND more. Thank you for showing me an amazing race experience – definitely up there in my top 5 – and allowing me to tick my goal of running in Brighton off my list.
I finished the day with Fish & Chips in the sun (it would be rude not to) before a sloooooow packed train journey back to London. My legs were sore, but held up reasonably well after the distance and effort I asked of them. I was bloody happy to have finished strong and confident!
Keep posted about the 2015 Brighton Half Marathon here.