brighton marathon race report
chip time: 5:04:54hr 7:14min/km (11:38min/mi) 7174 / 8878 overall
Pictures at flickr
Here’s the short version, I had 3 goals:
- A goal of 5:15
- B goal of 5:30
- Consolation goal of just beating 5:38
I surprised myself by beating even the A goal and came very close to sub-5. Had a good race, learned more about training and pacing. The rest of this post is the long version of the race report.
I met a fellow runner as I was coming out of my room at the hotel and she kindly gave me a lift in her taxi to Preston Park station, saving me a good 15mins of walking. It was her first marathon, I hope she did well. I did bag drop and wandered around the park. Tried out the squeezable water pouch we would get along the course, picked up a bottle of powerade and generally tried to stay warm. It was a sunny morning but very cold, I wasn’t the only one with chattering teeth waiting at the start corral.
The race got underway at 9am and the corrals moved out slowly. I was in the last corral, just happened to stand next to the 4:45 pacer. He was the slowest pacer, so I was prepared for the group to pass me early on. The first mile was around the park, then we headed out to the streets. I’m not familiar with the city, we were mainly in local-ish commercial areas, with some hilly bits, then we hit the Pavillion and at mile 5 turned left into (I think it’s called) Marine Drive that ran along the coast. I felt good, at the back of my mind I wanted to try to keep to under 12min/mi which, as my pace band told me, is on time for 5:15.
mile 5-12 — Rottingdean and back
It was sunny with no cover, the wind was fairly brisk though. This bit of the course was boring, nothing much to see and the spectators had thinned out. I was keeping good pace, and feeling pretty fresh. Past Roedean and the hills started. At the U-turn between miles 8 and 9 they gave out bloks and cereal bars. I took a walk break up the hill at mile 9. It was good to turn around and start running downhill. The 15k marker was a welcome sight. Part of the course doubled back, in theory it was super easy to cheat, in reality who would do such a thing? The other thing about doubling back is that we could see faster runners coming on the opposite side of the road. These people are fast. By mile 12 we were back in town and aiming towards the pier.
mile 12-20 — centre of town
Halfway point was at the Hilton. All the way from the pier on, the crowd was thickest and there were a lot of encouragement. At my pace, I’m running mainly with charity runners. Those who had their names on their shirt received the most shouts. Now is the time to mention the runners in costume, I saw a tiger, a badger, a lion, rhino, angry birds, spongebob squarepants and fairies. There was also an army guy in full gear and backpack, and I was lucky enough to run next to a wheelchair participant at one point. Apparently £4m was raised for various charities which is wonderful. Charity running is still not my thing, but if it gets results and people enjoy it, then it’s not for me to comment.
Past mile 14 and we turned “inland” to first shops and then residential neighbourhoods. It was fantastic of people to come out of their houses to blast music or give out jelly babies or simply clap their support. I waved at the Queen and Kate (in masks) and received high fives from kids. Took a loo break at mile 16, there was somewhat of a queue and it took me about 5 minutes. More on that 5 minutes later.
Coming out to the seafront at mile 18 meant being hit by the wind. That part of the course was pretty tough with the wind and not many spectators. There were hardly any marshalls either, but the crowds seemed to be able to stay off the course.
mile 20-23 — the Wall
They even had an arch at the entrance of “the road to hell” — an apt description given its setting of an industrial estate looping around the power station. I took my second walk break just after mile 20. I was slowing down and I figured a 3 min walk will restore my energy. And it did, to an extent. There was also a gu station, someone gave me a raspberry flavoured one and I almost spit it out. Luckily there were chocolate ones scattered on another table which took the nasty berry flavour away. All through the course I had been drinking their water, grabbing bloks and I had my own blok supply too. As far as nutrition was concerned I was okay.
Coming out of the Wall area was a great feeling. The mile 23 sign flashed by and I knew I only had 5k or so left to go.
mile 23 to finish
I was thinking about another walk break at mile 24, but I skipped it. It was a long way home along the coast but at least we were running in the direction of the finish line. I found myself running, not fast but not lagging. I was passing quite a few people who were plodding or simply walking at that point. Lots of encouragement from the sparse spectators along Portslade. I even got one myself, a young girl and her father shouted “Go, lady in orange t-shirt, Go!!!” And we shared a big thumbs up. It was a great feeling.
Just keep running. Mile 24, then mile 25 and we were back along the crowded part of the course. I skipped the last water station and there it was, 400m to go, 200m to go. Past the pier and the last few meters. I took my finish line photo on the run, and then I was across the line. Another marathon done.
It was a long, over 1 mile walk back to the hotel. I had to sit for a bit on the curb before I ventured out. Initially I had to walk slowly, my calves were sore. Then halfway, it got easier, I think the walk ended up being good for relaxing my muscles. First thing after my shower was I put on compression socks, they are doing their magic now.
I knew, coming out of the Wall, that I had a good chance of beating 5:15. The strategy of staying under 12min/mi worked, apart from the walk breaks, I made a conscious effort to stick to it. I crossed the finish line with the official clock at 5:17 so I knew I’d done well. Nike+ showed 5:08, but it wasn’t until I checked on the marathon app (yes, they had an app) that I saw that I was under 5:05. Wow. Oh wow. That’s 34mins off last year’s Chicago PR.
HM time was 2:26 so a 12min positive split. Both Chicago times had HM splits in that area, so what I did right this race was I did not bonk in the second half. Is a 12min positive split good? It’s okay, but it should be lower. Am I okay about it? Yes, absolutely. Could I have tried harder in the second half, knowing that an even split would net me sub-5? I thought about it, but decided that preserving energy was more important. I was already on my way to beating my A goal, I didn’t want to jeopardize it.
At the end, it was only 5 minutes. Could I have gotten that 5min back somewhere else? The obvious points were the 2 walk breaks and the loo break. Not much I can do about the loo break; I did keep to only one, and I had to keep hydrated. I’m not a guy so sprinking the flora isn’t an option and although I did see an odd female or two doing the same, I’d rather “waste” a few minutes queuing for the portaloo. Should I have taken the walk breaks? Probably not, but I was tired at those 2 points and I needed the psychological moreso than the physical boost. More training will take care of that.
Brighton bills itself as the second biggest UK marathon. I think the organisers try their very best to promote it as a race on its own merit and not a sort of consolation for people who didn’t get into the VLM lottery and don’t want a charity place. The reality was there were a lot of “loser” VLM fleeces out there. The race has a lot going for it — location, seafront atmosphere, fairly flat course and the organisation gets high marks from me. Certainly did not feel like it’s only their 3rd time round. There was plenty of water and energy. The volunteers as usual were great. Yes, the course was boring and could do with more bands, I’m not bothered about small things like that.
I really liked the app. It’s simple, and it gave me my time almost instaneously. When I whatsapp’ed mm afterwards she already knew my time because she also downloaded the app. Much better system than the not!working text at Chicago. The biggest issue is that it only gave me my overall position, not age or gender division. Coming in the 7,000 out of almost 9,000 runners is not a result I like.
Would I do it again? It deserves it, that’s for sure. Problem is, Paris is on the same weekend, so if I’m still in Europe next year and if I’m running marathons again and if I apply and don’t get into VLM, I’ll probably go for Paris instead. Nothing against Brighton, but it’s Paris.
I did Chicago in October, and now Brighton. In theory, it means I’m capable of 2 marathons a year. In practice, even though part of me is itching to do another one (marathons are addicting, just ask any marathoner), I don’t want to go through the training cycle. It’s a huge timesuck and I’d like to have a life. What did go right this training cycle was I stuck 95% to the plan. The midweek runs from work with the backpack turned out to be fantastic training tools. The long weekend runs without the backpack felt so much easier.
Here’s the dilemma. I’m so close to sub-5 I should do another one soon, within a year, to take advantage off my current fitness level and break that 5hr barrier. Asking an elite to go drom 2:04 to 1:59 is extremely tough, but for me to get to sub-5 means only going from 11:38min/mi to 11:24, it’s not inconceivable that I can take 15 seconds off each mile. I do know that in order to improve, I have to take the wheels off and move up from novice training plans. 35 miles a week will not bring 4:30; a minimum of 50 miles a week is required. Do I want to spend the time? Sigh. I don’t know. I don’t think so, not today anyway.
That said, I do like the structure of a proper training plan. I only have a couple of 10k races in the calendar so I need to find a HM to aim for. Or find a plan that focuses on speed. I’ll take some rest, then start planning for the rest of the year. I won’t stop running, it’s taken me this far, I can’t stop now.