One slightly drunken camping trip way back in may 2014, spurred on by a period of great half marathon training I entered a pact to enter this years Marathon. Surely stepping up from half marathons and trail runs could not be that difficult and I had just under a year to get ready!
Entry was done, as well as the ballot for London safe in the mind that there was no chance on getting in on that one! I sought lots of advice from my running friends around me and also Andy Middlebrook from Exercise Science Consultancy on what was the best way forward. I knew with my family and work I was not going to be able to follow an off the shelf plan as many others could and with Andy’s advice i settled to a plan of 3 quality sessions a week with 1 being a long run and the others being a mixture of speed, hills and shorter ‘tempo’ runs.
I was happy with this plan and work my way to Xmas with all going well. The miles went by easily with a few trail and night races thrown in to help with the increased boredom. I had been told by many that the road to the start line in a marathon is always problematic but I had been eating and drinking right and trying my best to improve.
As I upped the mileage in the cold dark months of January and February it all began to fall apart! Between Flu and knee and ITB injuries February and March came and went and I began to panic that it was not going to happen but with 3 20 milers under my belt I felt that it may not be the best prep. but it was enough to feel a little confidence that I could get to the finish!
The Easter holidays felt very different this year, very little chocolate and attempt to taper and eat clean and as well as trying to do this Carbo Loading thing which as a vegetarian felt normal but far too much! Pasta, Bread, noodles, baked potatoes were ingested and unlike normal I tried to keep my fluids up as it was going to be warm!
The 2 main reasons for doing Brighton were the fact that you could buy a place and not worry about a ballot but also my running buddies family lived there which reduced the cost. we set out on this new era (neither of us had done a marathon before) very early on the Saturday morning to make the trip over to the Expo.
I have never experienced a running expo, the Brighton Expo was relativley small off to London but there was more than enough to look at and to spend my money on! Luckily I had a UKRunChat Tweetup to organise and prepare for. We had over 50 UKRunChat runners doing brighton and it was going to be a great opportunity to meetup and finally put faces to twitter names. After catching up over cake and coffee we all headed our own ways to prep for the morning.
1 thing to remember pre marathons are that everyone and their dog will be trying to find pasta the night before the race so unless you have booked it’s going to be a struggle! Luckily we were able to get in somewhere and our prep was complete.
Like all my other races I slept for a couple of hours before my mind started to panic about the race ahead. Before I knew it the alarm went off, I’d had breakfast, I put on my kit and was heading out the door to the start line.
I had raced the Great North Run back in September so I was used to the large crowds milling about at the start line and the huge cue’s for the toilets. The atmosphere was good and the organisation was slick. Bag drop was easy and getting into your pen was simple enough. I stood in my pen going over my mantra “go steady, see how you feel, don’t go off too fast!” when the time had come and the masses started to move forward!
I past the start line and began my first marathon. The race began with a loop of the park before joining the road where the Elite had started. Like most of my races I had got my hydration wrong and even with several visits to the loo before the gun i still had to join several other men in a hedge within the first kilometre!
The crowds were out and for the first half of the race you run through the city before heading out to the east to a small village before coming back on yourself. It was at this point 2 things happened.
1 I realised how fast the elite move at! watching them on the other side of the road heading back to the city centre they looked fresh and very quick! Their pace was blistering!
2 Mothers never listen! I was wearing my Aftershokz Blues to help with the harder parts of the course and suddenly they started ringing……… ‘Hello?’ “hi son, just checking you got my good luck text?” ‘yes mum but I have begun the race’ “oh ok, while I have you on the phone……………” Bless she stayed on for a further 5 minutes to the amusement of those around me!
After my mum had finally hung up i hit the part of the course that I would later realise was the undoing of my good work! From about mile 15 we hit London Road, the road was long and straight and you could see the runners coming back the other way. The road seemed to go on for ages before the turn around. The temperature was getting hotter and my sub 4 pace was slipping and my body was not willing to speed up. I had kept to the plan. Taking on gels every 5km and I took on water at every station as it was hot!
After you leave the straightness of London road you headed out again towards the Power station on the only part that had very few crowds. The concrete walls and tarmac road was not overly inspiring but at least there was a Saucony cheer point. We had set messages up for each other at the expo and seeing the cheer was just what I needed as i had reached 23 miles and was uncharted territory!
The final stages were along the beach front. I felt disconnected from the loud crowds cheering me on. My body had gone into auto pilot to get to the finish. Although being disconnected I believe that the crowds were the extra bit I needed to help finish, I could see the pier so I knew I was close, my legs began to cramp but I was determined not to walk in the final miles. I hit the pier only to realise i had more to run, luckily it was not far and it was down hill!
The line got closer and closer and the crowds louder and louder. Even in my daze i picked out some friends in the crowd but my focus was just in finishing! I crossed the line and blubbed like a baby. The emotions from 26.2 hard miles washed over me and I hugged the sweaty guy next to me as I was given my medal.
I had done it! I had become a marathoner. It was the hardest thing I have ever done but was it worth it? OH YES! How long before I signed up to my next one? 4 days! Paris here I come!