I did it! I finished a marathon! On Sunday 9th April 2017 I covered 26.2 miles on my own two legs.
As some of my readers may be aware I only started running in July 2016, and had a rather over-ambitious goal to finish a marathon around 9 months later.
Luckily for me the training went smoothly – I completed my first 10K race in October 2016 and official Half Marathon in January 2017. My times for these were promising, so I moved my goal from finishing in 5 hours, to 4:15.
I trained hard, and even managed 3x 20 mile and 2x 18 mile long runs. Despite being a bag of nerves in the days/weeks leading up to the big day I was quietly confident I would do okay.
After managing to avoid Southern Rail’s best attempts to ruin over journey to Brighton, we made a successful detour, and arrived nice and early on Saturday morning. We were lucky, and able to check in to our hotel early so we could dump our bags before heading down to the beach to pick up our numbers. Again, very easy with no queues.
We spent the rest of the afternoon/evening relaxing in the hotel, leaving only for our pre-race pizza, and becoming increasingly worried about the weather forecast. 16-17C and sunny – hotter than we were used to but not too much to worry about, surely! Read on….
In the morning we had a well-rehearsed breakfast, and I covered the inside of my legs in body glide (after experiencing chub rub during a rainy 20 miler I was leaving nothing to chance), and we left for the start area.
I’d read from previous race reports that the queues for the toilets at Brighton are abysmal, and it’s safe to say that remains the same. I queued for almost an hour for a port-a-loo while enviously watching the men stroll in and out of the urinals. Seriously guys you don’t know how lucky you are!
Looking back I remember feeling incredibly hot while standing in the toilet queue. Which in hindsight probably should have been a warning sign – I was hot, stood still, at 8am! Running 26.2 miles in the midday sun was not going to end well!
After my pre-race wee I headed in the the yellow coral to wait for the race to start. Despite the crowds I randomly bumped into a pal who is a serial marathoner, and he helped calm my nerves.
As we set off, I dutifully started my Garmin and ensured I stayed within my planned 9:30mm pace. It was actually easy to not get carried away. In fact 9:30mm felt hard! That surely wasn’t right – 9:30mm had always felt easy in training. What was going on?!
I was behind people aiming for 10mm for quite a while, which at the time was really frustrating, but with hindsight probably did me a massive favour. At mile 6 I re-adjusted my goal to averaging 10mm throughout, as it was hotting up, the aid stations were chaos and I was struggling more than I ever anticipated.
I also started to panic, as the gels provided were flavours I’d never tried. This is despite Brighton Marathon sending out regular emails saying the gels would be citrus flavour, and to ensure we’d practised with these. Well I practised religiously, only to be given orange and apple flavours! In fact I don’t think there was a citrus gel on the entire course.
As the race plodded on, and I became increasingly terrified of pooing myself, I realised it was not my day. I reached the coast, but there was no sea breeze! I trained in Storm Doris, I was ready for a bit of wind, but relentless sun, no way.
At mile 10 I remembered thinking ‘when is this going to get easier?!’, and then realising I had 16.2 miles to go and it was only going to get harder and hotter. So I walked. I swore I wasn’t going to walk, but here I was strolling along – at mile 10!
But I felt so much better. The pressure was off, and I actually enjoyed the experience. I started to dance to the music and revelling in the atmosphere. I tucked into the jelly babies I had dutifully denied myself earlier on (as I hadn’t tried them in training) – if I was risking digestive problems for a yucky gel, I may as well have the sweets too!
I had short walking breaks every mile, and generally slowed down overall, but some how was still managing 10:30mm, and began feeling great.
At mile 19, I saw my boyfriend. I had seen him at various points earlier on in the race, but on the other side of the road, coming back from wherever I was headed. Unfortunately at mile 19, he was on my side of the road. I had caught him up! Something must have been wrong – he’s runs much faster than me, and had set off 10 mins earlier.
It turned out he had bad cramps, and was struggling with the heat. He could only run 100-200 metres before having to stop and walk. We stayed together for the rest of the race.
It was incredibly distressing to see the number of people collapsed, and ambulances arriving. I felt so glad I slowed down earlier on. We were in the middle of the pack, but the water stations were already starting to dry up, or run out of cups. I felt awful thinking about all the runners in pink/green numbers behind us, and whether there would be any water for them. We later found out temperatures reached 21C, and it was the hottest day of the year!
Eventually we crossed the finish line, and I managed 4:44:59 – sub 4:45 by a whisker! For a while I was disappointed I didn’t get close to my 4:15 goal, but then I took a step back an realised I had achieved my goal of finishing a marathon. And originally I had hoped to finish in under 5 hours.
Looking back on it, my only goal should have been to enjoy the experience. The first 10 miles were awful because of the pressure I put myself under. Once I let go of time goals, I had a great time. My boyfriend kept commenting on how fresh and bouncy I was while dragging him along the last 7 miles.
Most people say it’s a 20 mile warm up, and a 10K race. For me it was a 10 mile race, and 16.2mile cool down! But I finished feeling strong, which for a first timer should be the most important thing.
However, I do have an ‘unfinished business’ type feeling brewing. I suspect this won’t be my last marathon!