Yup, the recap is here. Be warned, it’s going to be a long one. Much like the race itself!
At the expo on Friday
We travelled down on Friday, but I will just fast forward straight to Saturday night, where we ordered a Pizza Express takeaway pizza to share, along with some salad and plenty of drink (water, tea, iced tea…). And a bit of cake to share. I had got everything out that evening, so all that was left was to try and sleep- not very well at all. I had decided on capris, vest, new headband (they sold Bondi bands at the expo!), and in my pack I had two packs of yoyos, some jelly beans, a nakd bar, my phone, tissues, hand wipes and little headphones- I had the Lilo and Stitch soundtrack on my phone in case of emergencies. My Garmin was charged, I had printed out the pace band for 4.59, added to it 4.50 on one side (my optimistic side) and 5.15 on the other (would still be a pb), and also picked up a 4.45 proper band at the expo (they had no 5 hour ones left on the Friday)- mainly because it had a sticky tab so could actually be worn around my wrist. I also had body glide ready (mainly for where my sports bra straps are) and SPF50 suncream ready.
Outside our flat trying not to look too terrified!
After some toast and nuun in water, we walked up to Preston Park for the start- just over a mile so a good warm up really. We saw the 10k runners race past. It was chilly, so I wore an old jacket (thanks Jess for that idea)- it was in the charity bag at home, but the race guide said if you left old clothes on the fences of the corrals then they would collect them and donate to charity, and I am glad I did. I had time to walk up to the bag drop (which was so well organised- flat bed truck things, divided into sections according to race numbers, and as you handed your bag in the volunteers were sorting them into the right order. Compared to the GNR (the only other point to point race I have done) where, no joke, you had to get on a bus and put your bag on a seat or on the floor, this was just so much better.
Andy took a few photos, I panicked about needing to use the port-a-loos (which is honestly one of my biggest nightmares)- he convinced me it was nerves and I would be OK once I started, but there were also toilets on the course so I could stop if I needed to, so then I walked down to the starter pen and nervously waited around. We saw the elite runners head by (they start further up the road so they miss out the loop of the park so it is even flatter for them) as they started at 9- amazing to see how fast they run and how effortless it looks.
I was hoping to see a pacer runner in the corrals- apparently there were going to be some, but I didn’t see them. I think they had orange tops, but no flags or balloons or anything. I was in the pink (penultimate) one, but could not remember what time I estimated, so had no idea what pacers would be in that pen.
The pens were quite small, but were clearly marked in colours, so I waited in the entrance to the corral as there was no space inside, but that didn’t matter as the start was very organised, setting off the waves with a few minutes in between, and with a countdown to each one. I had the official app on my phone, and Andy used that to track me, and it said I started at 9.31 (the official start time was 9.15) so for a big race that was pretty good timing I think. I heard Jo Pavey starting the race, although I could not hear every word, suddenly I was crossing the start line and she was there on the right- not wanting to miss out again (I didn’t join the queue for Mo at the GNR) I leapt up and high fived her- what a great start to the race!
As I mentioned, I had a few goals. What I really wanted was a sub 5 hour marathon, but any pb would be good, so I had with me 4.59 times, 4.50 (for if I was feeling extremely optimistic) and 5.15 in case I struggled. What it meant in practise was that I had to keep between 11 and 12 min miles, so I just kept glancing at my watch to check I was between those two times. The loop around the park was good- uphill (but not for long) meant you couldn’t set off too fast, and before long I saw Andy, although he didn’t see me until I had run past!
My spi belt was annoying me- it bumps about and takes ages to settle. A lady chatted to me a bit about the times we were aiming for, so I didn’t see Andy here. I tried not to think about the mile markers at this point- marathon talk’s advice of “20 miles is halfway” was on my mind, so although I felt fine I wanted to be cautious.
I quite liked that I only vaguely knew where I was- we looped into the town for a bit (oh look, I’ve been to that Starbucks), up another tiny little hill (a steep road), down the road our flat was on before heading along the seafront. Still I tried to not think about the mile markers- at this point I also stopped needing the toilet- lucky as all the toilets on the course had queues.
We ran up to Ovingdean, similar to the half marathon route but a bit further, and here it was just beautiful- the blue skies and the sparkling seas. After running in and out of the town, we headed back down towards Brighton, and I saw Lara cheering on the runners- what a boost it was to see someone I knew! This was about 10 miles, and at this point I did start to think about the numbers. I was about 5 mins ahead of my 4.49 pacing, but as I had just ran a long downhill I didn’t want to get carried away.
Running back into Brighton the crowds got really busy, and I tried to see Andy but didn’t know where he would be. He saw me though.
At around mile 12 we could see the super speedy runners on the other side heading towards the finish- sometimes this is disheartening but I liked all the out and back parts of the course as it meant more runners to look at to take my mind off my sore legs.
I crossed halfway in 2.25 (+31 seconds but who can see those on their watch as they run?) so I was pleased that I was on track for sub 5 hours still. At this point the sun was warm, and although there was a breeze (quite a strong one) I was getting hot and my mouth was getting dry, and whenever I pushed my glasses up my face I could feel the layer of salt on my face and hands, so I knew I needed to start drinking.
This year Brighton had introduced cups instead of bottles, and although I heard some runners moaning about it, I felt it was much more sensible. I don’t tend to drink at shorter races generally, but I hate taking a bottle, having a few sips and then throwing it away- what a waste. It also meant they had more frequent drink stations (nearly every mile)- their pre-race guide was so sensible, saying that you should not drink at every stop but at least with them being so frequent you could choose what suited you. The drink station at just after 13 miles was my first stop (well I had to walk for a few metres whilst drinking)- the people had put maybe an inch of water in the bottom of the cup, which was perfect as you only want a few mouthfuls.
After the seafront we then headed into Hove, which was tough as the sea breeze was not there to cool us down and there was not much shade. I had water at mile 14, 15, 16 and 17, and had a couple of my yoyos too, as I wanted to have something to eat before I felt hungry/ ran out of energy. Some people had trays of orange slices, and one person had watermelon slices, and they looked so tempting, but having never tried either on a run before I didn’t want to risk it.
Then we were back to the seafront again- at around mile 19 again you could see the people heading towards the finish, so I hoped we would turn and head back to Brighton, but no, we carried on going out. This was where it got tough. It was great to get to 20 miles (the real halfway hooray!), but on the other side was the mile 23 motivation station, so all I could hear was a guy shouting “3 mile to go- this is amazing, you are so close”- well, I still had 6 miles to go which at that point felt like a very long way. Walking whilst drinking was good (and sensible, so I actually drank something) but meant that starting running again was getting tough- I get that weird surge which maybe is the blood going back around or something. Also, it smelled badly of fish, because we were running around some docks- not the best thing to smell! I had more water at mile 20 and 21.5, and the other two yoyos. Then thankfully we turned and started heading back to the finish- this was it! I got a bit prematurely excited here, as the end felt achievable, and had to calm myself down a bit.
There was more and more salt on my skin, and my tummy had started to get that weird bloated feeling, so at mile 23 I risked some gatoraid (plus a bit of water)- I only had 1/3 of a cup but surprisingly it didn’t taste too sweet. Then I got confused about how far I had to go- I could not remember how much over 26 miles it was (26.6 I was thinking….)- I think it was about 4 hours 20 so I was pretty sure I could get sub 5, but the mind plays tricks. I was trying to remember a comment from Anna, which I think was about rocks in a stream, but I could not remember that at all.
Again there were loads of crowds- at some points it was hard because people were not behind the cones so it got very congested, but of course the crowds help. Chariots of Fire was playing (although at that point I could not remember the name of the film, and just knew it was something to do with running on a beach). The Mile 24 marker seemed to appear very quickly, then the mile 25 drinks station (I didn’t think I had water here, but on Strava I seemed to slow so I think I must have done). At this point my legs no longer felt like my own- my feet felt tender with every step, and I felt like I was having trouble running properly. I was still holding my 4.59 pace band in my hand, and the pier was getting closer, and the crowds were getting thicker, and suddenly I heard my dad shout “Go Maria!!” and I saw my mum and Andy waving at me, and I waved back, and honestly this was just what I needed to see- it gave me such a boost when the finish was so near and yet so far. I then got very emotional and had a bit of trouble breathing as I was nearly crying, but luckily managed to push it back down and get on with the running.
You can see the pacer band in my hand. My dad told me later that I actually looked like I was running, compared to a lot of people hobbling at this point.
Then, the 26 mile marker was there, and then I could see the finish, and oh my word point two miles seems like a long way. I knew at that point I had achieved a pb, and a sub 5, so I just went for it, and in fact my 26th mile was my quickest, at 10.32, and the point two was run at 9.39 pace!
Crossing that finish line was amazing. I was so glad I could finally stop, and so proud that I had achieved such a strong run.
Chip time: 4:53:24
The finish area was well organised too- someone put my medal around my neck, and then I was handed a carrier bag, and then some water, and then a chocolate bar, and then a banana, and a weird protein drink that contained collagen (didn’t drink that) and a t-shirt, and a foil blanket (which I put on, as although I was hot, the sea breeze was strong and I knew I would cool quickly). (The bag was useful for all of that stuff, and I took my waist pack off and dropped it in the bag too) . Just like the bag drop, the pick up was well organised- I found the truck with my number, and then the volunteers looked at your race number and found your bag for you. I had some face wipes in my bag- seriously the best thing is to wipe all that salt off of your face. I had packed a tube of nuun in the bag too, so added that to the water, and ate the banana and chocolate bar right away.
Once out of the runners finish area, there was a beach village with flags- we had arranged to meet by M, so I started walking that way. The wind was flapping the foil blanket all over the place, so I got my top out of the bag and put it on instead. I saw the M flag and was about to sit down when I saw my parent and Andy (I think it was lucky I didn’t as I don’t think I would have got back up again).
Looking down onto the finish area from the end of the road.
Scenic big screen
Selfie before I changed- what a mess I had made!
Then it was into some dry clothes and out for a very late lunch- we were going to go to one of the fab veggie cafes but by the time we walked into the town it was nearly 4pm and most of them were closing, so we went to Bill’s. It was so lovely to recap the race with my parents too- my dad loves parkrun and I think was really taken with the whole event- apparently he was shouting out all the names he could see (you know, when people put them on their vests). It was great of them to make the day trip down, so I was glad they enjoyed it too.
Then they headed off to the station, and we got a drink from the Bluebird cafe for the hobble home, and then it was cake time!
Andy had been to three different Starbucks during the day to get me a cinnamon roll, and this one was the best one ever!!!
I do love Brighton, and I think in every race I have done here (10k’s, half marathon and now a full marathon) I have achieved a personal best, which is pretty impressive.
I shall leave you with a picture of the back of the finisher’s t-shirt (sadly not technical)- all those long runs and early starts and late nights were worth it in the end.