This is going to be a long post, so you might want to make a cup of tea before you begin!
On Friday we travelled down to Brighton- we had a lovely walk in the evening around the town, and dinner at Bill’s.
Saturday was a gorgeous day. We went out for breakfast (Cafe Coho by the station- I had these amazing nutella and banana pancakes, and Andy had some sort of scrambled eggs and bacon thing), and then had a long long walk along the seafront.
Colourful beach huts.
It was a really high tide (the highest for something like 18 years) – only a few metres of the beach was dry for walking.
Perfect. We went around the shops for a bit, and shared some lovely lemon cake as an afternoon pick-me-up, before resting for a bit in the hotel (just back to see Mo Farah having his new world record time confirmed), and then went to Pizza Express for dinner.
Then we had another walk to see the Pavillion lit up at night- it didn’t come out well in the picture though.
Luckily on Sunday the weather was fine- it had originally been forecast as rain, but thankfully that was pushed back to the afternoon. When I did Brighton before I remember being boiling hot, so I deliberately only wore a thin long sleeved top, with my OH vest over the top, and left my gloves behind.
I could not quite decide what to aim for. My last two half marathons have been tough- Bath was my fastest ever time (2.06 something) but I felt pretty awful for most of the race, and was really shaky at the finish. Then I did Ashridge trail, which was just a super tough course on a hot day, taking me around 2.45. So I wanted to banish those demons and finish feeling strong. I used the free pacer band creator on the Lucozade website, and made one for 2.05, and one for 2.10 (2.10 would beat my previous Brighton time, and 2.05 would be a pb) and I was thinking I would finish at around 2.08. Basically I had to keep my miles between 9.35-9.55, so those were the numbers I kept in my head.
So, onto the race. We walked down from the hotel- as Andy wasn’t doing it I could wear my coat and give it to him at the last moment, so I stayed pretty warm- the pavements were icy and I saw a few people fall over on the way. Once in the starter pen (I ended up being right at the front of the 2-2.15 pen as that was the first opening I found) I could no longer hear the tannoy, but on walking down I had heard of an 80 year old man running it on his birthday- amazing stuff (he is in the video here). I bumped into a friend from SRC in the starter pen, which helped take my mind off the miles to come.
Then everyone was counting down and we were moving towards the start line- there was even a sort of coloured paper sprinkler thing to shower the runners with. I found the start really congested- I kept getting people from behind catching my legs which was weird (do I kick my legs so far out behind me?) and I was a bit worried about being knocked over. Also, one man spat on the ground and it only just missed me (soooo gross- if people need to do that surely they should move to the side????), and I got bumped by a few headphone-wearing runners. But anyway, of course most of the other runners were fab. I kept the 2 hour pacer runner in sight for a few miles, but once I got to the hill they were gone. At around this point I had a mini crisis of confidence- all the runners around me were super slim and athletic looking people, and I did really feel like I didn’t belong in this section of the race at all. The course doubles back and I could see the people behind me, that looked more like me. I did manage to talk myself out of it though. I didn’t find the hill too bad again- I think it is not too steep an incline so although it is uphill it doesn’t sap your energy like some hills can. I didn’t see any of the mile markers, but every time I glanced at my watch I was seeing 9 something, so that was good. After around 5 miles (I think) you turn back and go down towards the start, and this turned out to be into the wind- better that way around but it was tough and I think that mile was slower than my uphill one!
As I got towards the start line (you run past this at around half way) the announcer was shouting that the winner was just heading towards the finish! Crazy stuff!
The course then goes along the seafront in the other direction (towards Hove?)- basically where we had walked yesterday. I think I was remembering the Brighton 10k, as that is a mini version of the course, so I thought we would turn sooner than we did. I saw the 8 mile marker and checked my pacer band, and I was on track for the 2.05- exciting stuff! I wasn’t finding the wind too bad, but it wasn’t the easiest.
At this point I was running just behind a guy with “FLUFF” on the back of his t-shirt. So I spent a long time wondering- is that his name/ is that a club/ is it some sort of charity/ and also thinking about marshmallow fluff. I was also by some people with the BOSH running tops, and loads of the marshals had those tops too, so I had lots of cheers for people around me which made things more interesting. I have seen about BOSH running on blogs, but wasn’t quite sure what it was- does the B stand for Brighton? It kept my mind busy anyway.
Finally we turned, so the wind was almost behind (sort of from the side a bit) and I saw the 10 mile sign- only a parkrun to go hooray! At this point I was feeling good- no need for any bear yoyo’s and no need for any drinks from the water station- I just wanted to get it done. I spent time here trying to work out where on the parkrun course I would be. At the 11 mile marker I checked my pacer band and I was still on track for 2.05- awesome-sauce!
I knew Andy was going to walk back down (he went to have breakfast while I was running) so was looking for him in the crowds, and then as I saw the 12 mile mark I tried to pick up the pace a bit more. I was so pleased that I had felt strong throughout. Often during half marathons I struggle between 8-10 miles, but I suppose the middle distance runs have helped me with this and I felt fine.
I didn’t see Andy (I was looking on the wrong side of the road) but with half a mile to go I saw my time and knew I could get a pb, and managed to keep my legs going.
I got that weird feeling sick feeling in the final spring (I get it at the end of parkrun sometimes) but it went as soon as I stopped after the finish line- it’s only when I push myself hard. I saw my watch said 2.04 something, so I just had to wait for the official time but was pretty sure I had a new pb. Thankfully they had foil blankets (although a big queue and the poor people giving them out were having to peel them apart as they weren’t in packets)- then I walked along further and got some water, further still for the goody bag, and then finally got my medal.
Check that baby out!
I met up with Andy and put my coat on over my foil blanket, and then we walked back to the hotel. I was impressed with how good I felt- my legs did feel a bit stiff but I managed to jog a bit to meet up with him.
I had a nuun tab in the water, and then had the yoyo’s on the walk back to the hotel. The bag was rubbish:
The paper looks OK, but seriously who wants crisps, a frostie bar or jelly babies? Not me! Not even a banana or anything.
Once back at the hotel I had a shower (check out was 12, but we were offered a late check out so I had time to wash and dry my hair), and then got the text confirming my time: 2:04:10!!! Phenomenal!
I tried to take a photo to show how red my chest was- the skin got so cold and then when I have a hot shower it goes red and itches for ages after, but the redness doesn’t really show well in the picture.
Andy had to head off to the football, so I went out for some lunch (lovely Iydea), got an amazing tea latte from the Bluebird tea company (they use almond milk! Yum), and then got the train home. (Which sounds simple, but as there was no through service it was a train, then the underground, then another train). I think all the walking around the underground and stations helped though, as although my legs are tired, they are not very stiff.
I am really really pleased with this. Mainly it has been another confidence booster, as I can see that my long runs are actually making me a stronger runner. If the half had been the main race I was training for, I could have gone faster, but I wanted to feel strong (I did) and enjoy it (I really did). Andy joked when I finished about how I should be able to do it all again- I obviously couldn’t have done that, but I felt like I could have carried on, and of course running longer I would run a bit slower, so it has really helped with how I feel. Although I then panicked myself realising that the full marathon is only 7 weeks away. How is that possible??? Hopefully my next trip to Brighton will be just as enjoyable…