I took part in my first ever half marathon in October 2015, the Royal Parks half in London, and absolutely loved it (you can read my full write-up HERE). In January 2016 I unexpectedly won a place in the Brighton Vitality half marathon thanks to a Facebook competition, and could only hope that the event would be as fantastic and as enjoyable as the Royal Parks.
I set off on Sunday 28 February at 6am, feeling a mixture of excitement and nervousness – and tiredness! I’d consumed orange juice, bran flakes, a multivitamin and a banana. After an hour’s drive followed by a 20min train journey and a 15min walk, I arrived at Brighton seafront. Locating the Vitality tent in order to claim my complimentary ‘Team Vitality’ t-shirt proved to be easier said than done… At events such as Sure Run to the Beat 10K and the Royal Parks half marathon, the Event Village was in a circle or within an easy-to-navigate area which required minimal walking and searching. However, because this event was along a seafront, the charity tents, toilets, baggage etc were in a long line which seemed to stretch on for an almost unbearable amount of time, especially as the walkway was very narrow and there were literally thousands of runners and spectators around. The Vitality tent was at the far end of the row, and my Jawbone activity tracker stated that I had walked over 3K before the half marathon had even started. Nevertheless, the free technical t-shirt was bright and cheerful, gratefully received, and the Vitality staff member was helpful and friendly, offering to look after bags and providing guidance.
I wore lyrca shorts under looser dry-fit shorts, 1000 mile socks, Brooks Ghost 7s, Nike sports bra and running vest, Nike sports gloves, and a running jacket with my asthma inhaler in one pocket and sports jelly beans in the other. The Vitality technical t-shirt went over the jacket; the whole outfit worked well and I was comfortable throughout. I munched two jelly beans before we set off and a spectator gave me a jelly baby at mile 10, which was much needed! I started off with a mini bottle of water which was sipped until mile nine when I discarded it and picked up a bottle of Lucozade from the water stations. There were three beverage stations in total, handily spaced out at miles two, six and nine, with Lucozade at miles six and nine only.
I found the route challenging because it was straight out and straight back in again, flat along the seafront. I’ve previously mentioned that I struggle with remote countryside and flat straight runs because I need stimulants; I thoroughly enjoy London runs where I dart down lanes and run past big landmarks and around the city. Running for miles next to the sea was quite frankly boring after a while, although Vitality had provided entertainment along the route with some drummers and dancers. By mile nine I was starting to struggle, and by mile eleven my knees were in pain and my legs felt heavy and tired – I was ready to finish! It was a mental challenge to continue and maintain a steady pace. I don’t think I had eaten enough carbs the day prior; I’d consumed a healthy burrito for dinner but should definitely have had pasta instead – I think this would have helped. A lesson learnt for the next event!
The weather was slightly chilly but not too windy, and I’d actually consider it to be near-perfect conditions. The atmosphere was brilliant, supporters lined the course and the cheering was motivational. When there are crowds of spectators at events, I automatically correct my posture and pick up the pace or make the effort to maintain it, so this definitely helped. We ran through showers of confetti at the start, and overall the whole feel of the event was positive and uplifting.
I hobbled through the finish line at 2:03, beating my Personal Best by a whole five minutes which was an unexpected and very pleasant surprise; I had been in front of the 2hr pacer until mile nine when I had started to struggle, and then had gradually lost sight of the pacer which had been really disappointing, and I’d thought since then that I’d come in at about 2:15 or later. I’m really happy with this time and am so proud of my body!
We were given a big chunky bespoke medal and encouraged to help ourselves to an impressive array of finish-line goodies including bottles of Lucozade, raisin and yogurt drops, cereal bars, bottles of water, a fantastic bespoke technical t-shirt, bananas and a foil blanket. My knee had begun to seize up and it was increasingly difficult to walk, but the finish line stretched on, up past all the charity tents, and I came out the bottom at the Vitality tent where I was now hobbling and feeling rather uncomfortable! I then had to do a U-turn out of the finish pen and up past all of the charity tents again, along the narrow walkway where thousands of runners and spectators were struggling to get by. Some people were just standing chatting; others were waiting for their friends, and a human traffic jam ensued. The whole process was stressful, frustrating and it took 40mins just to get out of the race area! A slow walk up the hill back to the train station followed, and then an hour’s drive home, where I had a long hot soak and put some pyjamas on, at 3pm! Tiger Balm muscle lotion was applied all over my legs and shoulders and I spent the rest of the day and evening relaxing on the sofa.
So, would I recommend the Brighton Vitality half marathon? Yes, I would. The atmosphere was fantastic, the medal is incredible, the finish line goodies were a welcome bonus, and the route is flat which is ideal if you’re chasing a PB. I won’t be taking part again because a 5am start on a Sunday followed by a lot of travelling and a lot of additional walking was not ideal. However, the event was a brilliant experience and I’m so glad I took part. 🙂