After losing a bet with Vini, here is a race report from this years Brighton Marathon. Please bear with me, I am no novelist or reporter, but I hope by the end you have gained a few helpful tips about the event itself, rather than read me harp on about hamstring niggles and wondering what beer to have later that afternoon.
The Brighton Marathon and I have a short and volatile history. 2017, it ate me up and spat me out after I passed out from heat at mile 17. 2018 was a better year, coming home in 3:16 with conscience intact and vengeance delivered. 2019, here it goes;
I must start by saying that I highly recommend the event, no ballot but sells out, huge atmosphere, race village, 16-20,000 runners, an undulating to flat course and a sea view. It is close enough to home to drive there and back in a day, saving a fortune on hiked B&B prices. There is free parking on the roads to the West of Preston Park, off Dyke Road. Leaving a 10 min stroll to the start in Preston Park.
Forecast was sunny and bright but windy with a cool air. Start temp couldn’t have been much more than 6oC.
I was fortunate enough to be one of the 250 runners that were invited to start in Withdean Park, another mile up the road from Preston. Less crowds and plenty of space to warm up. Several sub 1:25 half marathons will get you invited to Withdean or <3:15 marathons. You join the main pack of runners after mile 1.
My race strategy was to bag some time over the first two thirds of the race, knowing the breeze at the end will scrub off any remaining speed and human spirit. It must be a 1% gradient downhill into town for the first 4km which feels great but you can get carried away, I averaged 4:14/km across the first 4kms but felt good. A few hilly spikes in town are over quickly enough and then you hit the seafront for a long out and back to the East for the next 10km. This is undulating and very open (think top of Portsdown Hill) and in the breeze a pack of us tucked together taking it in turns to lead a peloton into the wind. It worked great and kudos to the 10 or so runners around me all pulling together and passing water around too. Turning with the wind at 15km was welcomed and you head back towards Brighton. Our pack was still averaging 4:20/km at this stage, I knew this was quicker than target but I wanted take the advantage where possible in the breeze.
You head back into town and past the finish, race village, DJ’sand Bands. The crowds greet you at the half way mark where there is a huge sign and it was then when the pack of 10 I was with got down to it. The chat stopped and we strung out more, some fell off the back and a couple pushed on (aiming for 3:04 for Boston / London auto qualification).
KMs 23-30 were up and down mentally, there is a visible 3km straight drag which you double back on. The crowds here again are great, lots of music, offers of jelly babies and orange slices and you also get some shade from the trees but the long view plays with your mind.
That is where the sales pitch ends. The last 10-12km were tough, as they rightly should be or else everyone would do it and the last 7km the toughest to date. At 30km you head out to the seafront again but turn away from the finish toward the industrial estate. More crowds here than last year but it is still a sole destroying place which breaks many. It is here where you see the most people walking and tackling their own personal walls. I kept to target pace here of sub 4:30/km but then, WIND! Not my personal wind thankfully, but a building breeze from the East hit everyone. I think Michelle Cartwright who also ran a valiant race will back me up here when I say it was the point when you doubted yourself the most. You can see the pier / finish area in the grey distance, but it looks minute. There is also a small incline along the promenade which catches you too. My times went up by nearly a minute per km through tiring legs and the breeze.
With 3k to go you get the larger crowds again and ‘Tour De France’ style chalk messages on the promenade which are priceless motivators. The last km is a saviour again, largercrowds, music, a little decline and sight of the finish gantry. Ahigh five from my wife, mother and father with 800m to go allowed me to apply any afterburners that were remaining,ensuring everything was left on the course. I finished in 3 hrs and 9 minutes, bang on target. My aim was to better last year,then ensure 3:15 was possible and duck under 3:10 if everything else went to plan.
I picked up water at every possible station, only taking a sip at each but they are all well placed. There are energy gel stations too at miles 5, 17 and 23. I advise picking 2 up at the first as it is a wait for the next one unless you are carrying your own fuels.
Be sure to pack a small Tesco trolley in your race bag as there is a generous amount of goodies on offer at the finish and even a 5 minute physio massage was available which helped loosen off my hamstring straight away and an Uber back to your car after the finish is worth its weight in gold, or £4.50 in new money.
It is a Marathon to recommend to any of the triathletes and I think I owe my new PB to triathlon training as well, more swimming and biking has only added to my fitness and aerobic capacity and the Portsmouth duathlons have helped with race pace. Looking forward to a summer of training andracing with you all. My only regret is not doing another 2 or 3 20+ mile training runs. Sub 3 beckons……
Thanks for reading, see you on the start line.