Guest Blogger: Laura Froggatt
All things Brighton Beautiful at the Brighton Marathon
I have a feeling that this is going to be a very long and rambling post, there’s just so much to fit in.
Short version: it was hot, we didn’t die.
The Brighton Marathon has been a wonderful weekend in every way so I think we need to start at the beginning (a very good place to start). We were all making our own way to Brighton, I was going by train on Saturday morning. The journey down was easy and relaxing, I was in Brighton by 11.00 and found my hotel easily. I’d travelled by myself, no family as Sam was playing at the national concert band festival. I’m not going to complain at two nights in a hotel by myself. I met up with Anna, Vicky, Shaun and their families and we headed off to the event village to collect our race packs. After we’d registered we had a sit down on the beach, the weather was lovely (if you’re wanting to sit on a beach). Brighton is fabulous but rather than explore too much I opted for the sensible choice of a disco nap on Saturday afternoon. I didn’t sleep much but I was resting.
Anna has been Mum this weekend, she’s organised everything. She’d organised a restaurant booking for a big group of us on Saturday evening. It was great to have a chat with everyone before Sunday, sharing race plans, targets and nerves. They banned me from weather watch but I had an idea that it might be a warm one, just call me mystic Meg.
Where's the porridge?
I got up really early on Sunday (why not, I’ve been up at daft o clock for work all week). The Premier Inn were doing a special early breakfast for the Brighton marathon runners. At 6.30 there was a queue to be seated. Marathon runners tend to like porridge, it’s good and carby. There was a wonderful array of cooked breakfast, pastries, yogurts etc. The porridge? We were assured it was on its way but the waitress also took orders for porridge from people as they were seated. So we waited, by 6.45 all I could hear was “excuse me, is the porridge ready? I ordered some porridge 15 minutes ago”. It began to look like a scene from Oliver, queues of people holding their bowls waiting for some porridge. Eventually one small serving dish appeared so we were all terribly British and took about half a portion each so we could all have some. Blitz spirit premier inn style. That and a dry bagel (they’d forgotten the butter) must be exactly what Paula and Mo eat.
After breakfast I collected my kit bag and set off for Preston park. I had no idea where it was, nor did the marshalls on the way. Luckily google maps helped out (that and following runny looking people). When I got there I managed to meet up with Maz, Anna, Vicky, Shaun and Sarah. My secretive weather watch (as broadcast by Zoe Ball on radio 2) proved to be correct. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, it was beautiful. By 8.00 it was warm enough to not feel at all cold in shorts and a vest, cor wot a scorcher. We covered every exposed inch with sun cream and the dropped our bags. The next part of the pre race preparation is the loo queue. This was an enormous one but no need to worry, we had 45 minutes until kick off. 35 minutes later we hadn’t really moved, fortunately I spotted a disabled portaloo. Then it was off to the start corale.
Feeling hot, hot, hot
By now it was getting hot, no getting away from it. I knew then that things weren’t going to go to plan. Everything within my control had gone swimmingly- the training was on target, I had the right kit, I’d turned up. The biggest thing we can’t control is the weather, it was always a risk and it wasn’t going to go my way.
We were in the start pens for quite a while, there was quite the party atmosphere with everyone singing along to “feeling hot hot hot”. A group hug and then we were off. I was scared of the heat as I’ve had sunstroke and heatstroke before. The first 3 miles of the Brighton Marathon were hot and I was feeling panicky, then my iPod gave me a bit of beastie boys and things improved. I started to settle down, my pacing was exactly to plan and my legs started to remember that I’m a runner. The next 6 or 7 miles were spot on pace but the heat was building. There was no cloud, no breeze, no shade. At 10 miles there was a small hill and my brain decided that this was a stupid idea, I walked a bit. Three weeks ago I ran 20 miles at the same pace as this without stopping so why did 10 cause my first meltdown? I later found out that everyone seemed to have the same sort of experience at that point. I stopped at the water station and had a bit of a word with myself. I’ve done the training, I can do this. The water stations were not up to the job they faced. The water was in cups rather than bottles and they couldn’t fill them fast enough so you had to queue, not stopping for water would be beyond foolish. So I slowed down a bit to see if that helped, perhaps it helped a bit. By 13 miles I’d decided that this really wasn’t fun and I knew that I was way off pace. Time to revise the plan, I just wanted to finish as I had already bought a finishers hoody.
Oranges hit the spot
At 15 miles I was actively hating it, the noisy and encouraging supporters were annoying me by being so cheerful. Two things happened at once which changed the outcome of my day. Firstly Adam and Marc from our club spotted me, they knew I was struggling and they did exactly what I needed. Not “come on, you’re looking strong” but “what do you need? We’ve got oranges, sweets?”. Oranges hit the spot. The second thing was Louise caught up with me and asked me if I was ok. I couldn’t lie so I told her how tough I was finding it, she felt the same but we ran together for a mile which was enough to help me start moving. Things sort of improved after that, by the time I next saw Adam and Marc (around 18 miles) I was sort of running.
From 19 I knew I was going to finish it, that gives you a bit of a lift. The last 7 miles were slow and I stopped at every water stop but was thirsty again within half a mile. It seemed impossible to stay hydrated, I saw so many people receiving medical attention that it lost its impact. I hope they are all ok now but at the time it was literally one after the other. I’d long since realised that I was running my slowest marathon ever but by then the aim became simply to finish safe and to fight another day.
Like all good things, it eventually came to an end. There was no real elation initially, just relief that it was over and that I hadn’t ended up in the St John ambulance tent. My time was 4.53 which is over 20 minutes slower than it should have been. I started to wonder how everyone else had got on, what if I was just being a diva about a bit of sunshine? I made my way to the meeting point on the beach and we all had identical stories to tell (well nearly all, a few did really well). We missed our times by the same sort of margin, 10 miles and 15 miles were meltdown triggers. I regained a sense of proportion pretty quickly, poor Louise had to pull out halfway due to a torn hamstring. Instead of having a strop she waited to see us all finish, that’s got to be tough.
I always say that you shouldn’t be disappointed when you’ve run a marathon. Whatever else happens you’ve run 26.2 miles, it’s a huge achievement. So am I disappointed? Not really. My legs were fine, my breathing was fine, I didn’t collapse, I’d done everything right, training was spot on but on the day I couldn’t stay hydrated and it was just too hot. I’ve completed my third marathon and I’m proud of that. I know I’d done everything within my control properly, I need to learn to control the weather.
Trials and Tribulations...and a pint on the beach
After a few minutes sharing a few Brighton Marathon triumphs and tribulations- mostly tribulations, we had hugs and a few tears and then got over ourselves a bit. We did good, the weather spoiled our plans but we did well. We had a paddle in the sea, finally the way to cool down. The absolute highlight was the pint of lager on the beach with my best friends. By the end of it we were discussing our next marathon as we all felt a bit cheated. We’ll be back and next time I’m in charge of sorting out the weather.
It has been said that running a marathon isn’t the 26.2 miles on the day, it’s the hundreds of miles leading to that day. In that case we have all, without exception, run a fantastic marathon. It’s just that the last 26 miles didn’t quite go to plan, but we still did them. The Brighton Marathon experience was amazing, I loved every second (apart from a lot of the actual marathon). The support from the Brighton Squad is difficult to put into words, we rock. Although most of us missed our times I think we all need to be proud of what we’ve achieved and it’s telling that we’re all planning the next one. No tantrums and giving up marathon running, just a feeling of wanting to prove what we can do. Whatever we decide we’ll be in it together, like some middle aged version of High School Musical (ask your kids).
So cheers, here’s to the best group of people I know. They’re all tougher than they believe and I wouldn’t be without them. Although next time someone wants to celebrate a birthday, how about a spa weekend?
Check out MapMyMarathon Brighton Marathon print to create a special memento of the day.