This was my ‘A’ race of last year, my first ever marathon and the goal was simply to finish. I initially had a secondary aim of finishing <4hrs but in my first run of my 2 week taper, I felt a twinge in the outside of my left knee that caused the taper to be even more dramatic and I only managed to do around 15miles total in those final weeks directly before the marathon, and the pain whilst easing off a bit, hadn’t completely gone away.
Brighton Marathon Course 2013
So the big day came, and I set out with a plan to average 9min miles, and get as close to 4hrs as possible. If I had any issues with the leg I was going to ease off and make sure I didn’t do anything to damage it permanently, but I absolutely was going to finish! Myself and two other friends (Gary and another Matt) had been raising money for charity, so I wasn’t going to let anyone down and not complete the distance.
The first few miles were a bit chaotic, I was running with one of the above friends, Gary, and we had started quite far back in the pack of runners. This meant we were weaving through a host of people wearing tutus, morph-suits and a variety of colourful wigs. This caused the first mile to be slower than our target pace at around 9:18. The effect of this is that we felt pressurised to catch up on time and ran an 8:30 second mile. In retrospect, we had 25.2 miles to get those 18 seconds back, and could have run 8:59 the entire way and finished ahead of schedule, but the mind does funny things to you when you’re running.
There then followed 6 miles in the 8:45-8:55 range, and somewhere in that period we ran by the Brighton Pavillion. I say somewhere, as I do not remember seeing it at all. After the race I told my wife, Becca, that I don’t think we ran past it at all despite the course promising that we would. We then got the post-marathon photos and the evidence below suggests that we definitely did run past it. Again, the mind does funny things when you’re running, I’d either been that focused on running, or simply just blanked it out. Of course, it may have had something to do with the fact that around that time we were trying desperately to find Gary’s wife in the crowd so he could hand over his jacket he had fetchingly fastened around his waist.
I wasn’t even sure we’d run past this tiny, unobtrusive building
This part of the route around Brighton’s central area also saw a couple of hills, nothing particularly big or challenging, but enough to feel them, particularly on the outside of my knee. When running downhill or on the flat I had no pain at all, just whenever I had to run up a slope it let me know it was there. Miles 7-10 along the sea front were particularly sore and mile 9 saw us drop over the 9minute mark for a mile. On the plus side, the route there loops around and you run back the way you came, so we had the same 2/3 miles of gentle downhill to catch up on that pace so by the 13mile mark, where I got to see Becca for the first time that day, we were still averaging around 8:50min/miles.
Miles 13-20 were some of the more boring miles on the course, as we moved off the seafront and into residential area around Hove. The crowds were still out and we still maintained mile splits between 9:04-9:15, but were starting to feel it. In particular, I felt like I needed the toilet and eventually had to give in and stop briefly around mile 19.5, I left Gary to carry on running and stopped for under a minute before setting off again. The second I started running again to try and catch up, my knee felt like someone had just stabbed it, it was agony and I had to walk for a bit. Clearly the standing still and waiting for a porta-loo to free up wasn’t good for whatever was wrong with my knee. After a little walking I was able to run again and catch up with Gary.
Sadly, the knee pain didn’t go away and I started to feel nauseous as a result and had to let Gary go ahead and finish whilst I walked a little bit after the drinks stop around Mile 21. Finishing under 4hrs was not an option any more, but I knew that 4:15 was still realistic and would be a great achievement given the circumstances. The next couple of miles I walked a bit then jogged a bit, the support of the crowd was phenomenal all the way around the course and that didn’t change here. The day had started around 7 centigrade, but was now getting up to 22 as we hit the seafront. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t massively tempted to go and paddle in the sea for a bit just to have a rest.
At about mile 24, I’d managed to get back around 9:30min miles when I looked to my left and realised I was just about to run past Gary, who’d clearly hit some kind of a wall and was taking a breather (he’d averaged 4hrs sleep a night for the week before the marathon due to a crazy work load). I pulled up along side him and we agreed to stick it out to the end. We’d covered a lot of miles together that day and only a couple separately, so we were going to cross the line together. Shortly after we saw Gary’s wife and daughters, and then Becca, my sister and my brother-in-law at mile 25, just the perk up we needed before the final mile.
Look at how happy I was to see my wife.
Finishing under 4:15 now was a certainty, we could have walked it in, but we were determined to finish it running. A 9:40 final mile (no sprint finish here!) saw us cross the line in 4:07:15. Not the sub 4hrs we wanted, but given my knee, and Gary’s lack of sleep it was definitely an achievement! The third part of our fundraising team, Matt, also completed the course and we were delighted that as a team we’d raised over £3,000. The miles of training and the race day itself had all been worth it.
As for the Brighton Marathon and the day itself, it was a fantastic experience. I would recommend Brighton to anyone thinking about a first marathon, the organisation was brilliant and the support on the day was unreal. Other than the bit around mile 13-20 I enjoyed the course and it’s definitely a course that could get some fast times. As for the support on the day, I can’t speak highly enough about it. The fact that I had my name on my chest meant that I heard something along the lines of “Great work Matt!” or “Go Matt and Gary!” roughly 300 times over the course of those 4+hrs, from people I’d never met. My brother-in-law Ben loved supporting on the day so much that he signed up for the 2014 Brighton Marathon before I did and we’ve done some good training runs together already this year.
It’s only a few weeks until I get to revisit Brighton and do the course again, apparently they’ve removed one of the small hills and made the course even faster, so I’m confident that with the change and the way that training is currently going that <4hrs is definitely possible! A 1:44 in the 2013 Run to the Beat Half Marathon in September on minimal training showed that I’ve picked up some speed since Last April. I’m just praying I stay injury free this year, especially in the taper period!