I’ve known my friend Lukas since we were two years old – we went to nursery school together, then Primary School, then Secondary school, and even worked together as school cleaners while doing our A Levels, to earn some extra money. He’s always been a runner and has completed Iron Mans, so I wasn’t surprised in the slightest when he mentioned at his birthday gathering last May that he was taking part in the Brighton Marathon again during 2018. But this time, virtually everyone in the friendship group had signed up with him – some taking part for the first time.
I’ve been trying to get into the London Marathon for literally about six years and have been rejected from the ballot each time, and was even turned down to run for Great Ormond Street Charity this year, too. Double whammy! Brighton Marathon had guaranteed entry and there would be a whole group of us doing it… Five days before my 30th birthday. I would have been mad to just go along and support! I signed up that night when I got home from Lukas’s birthday gathering and designed my own training plan a few months later, using a mish-mash of templates and guides I found online. Lukas started a group chat specifically for the Brighton Marathon where we agreed that we’d all wear matching vests, with Scimitar being the brand of choice and their Um Bongo design quickly being voted as the favourite.
Although I’ve walked plenty of marathons previously, this would be my first running marathon, and the thought of actually completing it was slightly terrifying. I was told a few years ago that it probably wouldn’t be wise to attempt a running marathon due to my various medical problems – bad hips, Runners Knee in both knees, asthma and scar tissue damage on my calf from tearing it in 2014. Running is not easy for me and never has been – it’s a challenge and it HURTS. But I needed (and wanted) to cross this off my bucket list, so was determined to complete the Brighton Marathon.
Regardless, I didn’t stick to my training plan at all. If I wanted to see friends, I saw them. If I wanted a relaxing evening, I did just that. Sometimes I went for a whole week without exercise and sometimes I only trained once a week. I foam-rolled and stretched before bed and completed a lot of running events – mostly half marathons – but completed only one long 20 mile run during training. I assumed that because I’ve walked the distance before, it would be fine, and I was confident in my mental and physical ability to get me round the 26.2miles. In hindsight that was incredibly naïve and I wish I had taken training more seriously and stuck to my training plan.
Still, I felt confident and capable in the run-up to the marathon and spent the week before eating healthy meals, balancing carbs (pasta and brown bread) and protein (Quorn mince and chicken, and a lot of eggs) with healthy fats (avocado and hummus). I drank a few litres of water a day and was more excited than nervous.
Brighton Marathon don’t send out race packs – you have to attend the Event Village Expo to pick it up in person. The Expo runs from Friday 13th – Sunday 15th and sits right on the beach. I travelled the 90mins down to Brighton on Saturday and found that although the Event Village Expo was bustling with people, the queue to pick up race numbers was thankfully non-existent. I chose my estimated finish time (4hr 30mins) and showed proof of purchase to the volunteer in that lane, who scanned a barcode and handed over a clear branded bag which contained my bib number and shoe timing chip. I was directed around the corner of the marquee to pick up an event technical t-shirt, where more friendly volunteers monitored a walkway with stalls containing women’s sizes on the left and men’s sizes on the right. Again there were no queues so I swiped up a Small t-shirt and headed back out to the Event Village Expo. There were food and retail stalls lining the walkway and I picked up a pair of £48 Oofos recovery sandals and an official Finishers hoody for £35. I ate an Itsu noodle pot for lunch and headed home to eat an egg, tuna & avocado salad around 4pm, followed by a vegetarian spaghetti bolognese for dinner. I was in bed shortly afterwards and felt ready to go!
On Sunday 15th April my alarm went off at 4:45am. I ate porridge and drank Truestart performance coffee then drove 30mins to Lukas’s house, who then drove me and his lovely girlfriend Katie down to the park’n’ride in Brighton, where we caught the shuttle bus to Preston Park. I ate a banana on the way and was wearing my Um Bongo vest with a USA Pro base layer, USA Pro sports bra, Nike headband, Nike storage belt, SKINS calf compression sleeves, the comfiest capri bottoms from an unknown brand off eBay; and 1000 Mile black trainer socks with Brooks Ghost 10 trainers. The weather was dry and overcast, and became slightly stormy throughout the run. My outfit was perfect and nothing chaffed, rubbed or felt uncomfortable, luckily!
We met up with the rest of the friendship group just after 8:30am and took a group photo before making use of the portaloos and heading to the colour-coded starting corals for 9:20am.
Katie and I were both in the Yellow wave, which was the middle (third) wave out of five, with an estimated finish time of us to 4hr 30mins. The first wave set off at 9:45am and it wasn’t long before we were out of our coral and approaching the Start line. A journalist and camera man stopped me to ask my name and what was going to keep me going for 26.2 miles – I panicked and said energy gels!! Before long we set off and the atmosphere was amazing. Supporters lined the course right from the start and cheered us on, which was lovely. It was an effort to keep a slow and steady pace to reserve some energy.
The run itself was simple and straightforward and I was loving it, up until Mile 14. The majority of my training runs had been half marathons, and I think psychologically my body just thought that that should be the end – my hips seized up, my knees starting hurting, and it became an effort. I ‘hit the wall’ as early as Mile 16 and was already resorting to a walk-jog-walk-jog method, despite having consumed two Torq energy gels and an Energy Block by this stage. Luckily, lovely Katie was running next to me the whole time – we had the same pace and same goal, and was feeling the same way I was. We soldiered on together and made it to Mile 20 where I had a third Torq gel. From there, I was on fire – I got a second wind and LOVED it. I had even taken my headphones out and was running music-free by choice, which was surpisingly liberating. In my mind, there were six miles left which is a 10K, my favourite distance – or the equivalent of two Parkruns. Easy! I picked up speed and motivation, and all too soon there were three miles left – basically a 5K or a Parkrun!
I ran steadily to the Finish line, through hoards and hoards of supporters all cheering us on, and burst into tears as I crossed the line. A paramedic asked if I was ok and I had to explain that I was just happy and relieved! The sense of achievement was incredible – I couldn’t believe I’d managed to complete a marathon. A kind volunteer hung a medal around my neck, and another group of volunteers was handing out foil blankets which was perfect as it had just started to rain. Katie and I walked up the finish chute, collecting a goody bag en route which contained a mini Mars bar, nut mix and a razor (!). A beer stand was handing out free pints to all marathon finishers, which was awesome! We exited out on the Event Village and met up with the rest of our group, swapping stories and celebrating our achievements. The weather had turned for the worse and it wasn’t long before we all headed back to the park’n’ride area to catch the shuttle bus back to the car.
In the end I got home at 7pm, which is crazy seeing as I left home before 6am! I had a long hot soak in the bath with Epsom salts, followed by a Bill’s takeaway dinner thanks to Deliveroo, and was in bed passed out by 10pm! I barely had time to check my phone all day or message any friends or family, so taking Monday off work was definitely needed – I had a long lie-in followed by a long hot muscle soak, manicure and pedicure – and managed to respond to all of my lovely messages! I wore SKINS compression leggings and new Oofos recovery sandals all day, with my new Finishers hoody which I was really proud to wear!
Overall, I’m so, so pleased that I signed up and took part in the Brighton Marathon. It still doesn’t feel real! I loved it and I’ve already signed up for Brighton 2019, with the aim of being a lot better prepared and sticking to my training plan.
The only negative thing about this event was that it was incredibly crowded, with a narrow course and runners crammed in, dodging each other for 26.2 miles… I felt like I was playing sardines and it was frustrating having to use energy to run around people towards the end. However that’s not enough to stop me from taking part again, and the rest of the event seemed to run like clockwork – the water stations were super frequent and fully stocked, and everything from picking up my race number to exiting the Finish area at the end, all seemed so simple and stress-free. I’d recommend this event to anyone and can’t wait to run it next year! 🙂
NEXT UP: London Moonwalk 15 Miles, Saturday 12th May 2018