So, marathon number three is done and I loved it.
We headed down on Saturday morning, arriving to bright sunshine and a cool breeze, what would have been perfect marathon conditions for me. We strolled slowly over to the apartment we were staying in and dropped off our bags before heading straight to the beach 🙂 Hector was, of course, very eager to put on his swimsuit and get busy in the pebbles, but soon realised it was a bit colder than we had thought, and sat wrapped in a towel, playing quietly. The freshness in the air didn’t stop us all enjoying an ice cream before tracking down the Lego shop:
I’m not sure who enjoyed the Lego shop more, Hector or Edward.
As we were staying in an apartment, we decided to throw our own pasta party courtesy of M&S, and it was huge. We ate every last bit though. After putting Hector to bed I spent the evening checking and double checking my things, laying out various bits and bobs: Garmin, race number etc and fixing my timing chip in place. I think I slept ok, but was mainly concerned about my sore throat, streaming eyes and nose and the impending cough (concerns about over-sleeping are no longer a worry with our tag-along alarm-boy!).
It was a relaxed start to marathon day, with the boys watching TV whilst eating breakfast (we don’t have a telly at home, so this was a huge novelty) and me carefully making sure I had the right mix of porridge, tea and Lemsip. Looking out of the window and taking heed of Brighton Marathon warnings, I smothered myself in suncream and Bodyglide and donned Edward’s cap and my nifty Poloroid sunglasses:
We had looked carefully at the map and worked out the route from Hove to the park, and off I set. I hadn’t really wanted such a brisk and slightly panicky walk before the race but, as I don’t know the area, I was trotting along at quite a pace. I needn’t have rushed and fretted so much because the start was a slow affair and my section of the crowd took ten minutes to even cross the line! I was smiling straight away: the crowds were friendly but not too shouty and the atmosphere amongst the runners was jovial and supportive. When I compare this experience to previous marathons (well, London in particular) I can say that having done more races I now feel comfortable running in a crowd like this, and more able to block out any distractions around me, so getting in some Parkruns and smaller races is well worth it for a better marathon experience.
The first few miles were largely in shade thanks to the shops and houses we were passing by and the atmosphere was great, with regular blasts of music and roars of encouragement from the crowd, there’s nothing like the rumble of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ to get you to put your head down and run with added determination! It took me a while to get used to the fact that we were mostly running in loops with the faster runners on the other side of either a barrier, tape or even just some cones, it was simply politeness that stopped people running into each other. This did mean that you would see a stream of people ahead and those who have gone before happily brushing by, but no sense of where you might turn up ahead. This first section was also quite hilly, but the hills were short and oddly enjoyable. In the meantime, as I got hotter, the boys had the beach to themselves and had a wonderful time in the sunshine:
The whole of the next section was one of the most challenging for me. We came out from behind the coolness of the buildings and were suddenly very exposed, with the stretch from around mile five onwards being along long straight roads with no music and very little support, apart from a jolly man with a cowbell and a nice couple who called my name both times I passed them. Again, I had no sense of when we might turn around and was so very relieved when we did that it felt almost as if we were on the home straight. After the experience I had at the London Marathon in 2009, where I drank so much water and Lucozade that I ended up with cramp so bad that my legs buckled under me, I was very worried that I would do the same thing again. This time I was drinking when I felt thirsty, but trying to drink more sports drink than water, occasionally chewing on a Clif gel block and – now this is where I went a bit loopy – licking salt from a sachet. No, really. I was so scared of succumbing to the hideous cramp again, that I ate salt and it seemed to work.I was slightly scared that I might have a heart attack or something, but went for it anyway, ooh the recklessness of me!
One of my favourite moments was crossing the halfway line. There was an arch like one you would see at the start or finish line and it felt like a real celebration to reach that point – the crowds were now strong again and were calling my name. In the few miles before this I had had some moments of doubt, where I thought I couldn’t do it, but nothing was quashing the immensely positive mindset that I had mustered up from who-knows-where. Passing into Hove, I really enjoyed the genuine support given by the crowd, especially along a residential road where families were out having barbeques and one man was kindly giving us a hose-down. I ran alongside a man who was chatting to someone else, saying: ‘this is my road!’ and he had his daughters running with him briefly, in flip-flops. I think it was this kind of thing that made it a far more enjoyable experience than London, it felt more local, and is if the people of Brighton and Hove were behind us all the way, what a lovely place! It was here that I passed the eighteen mile mark and was overcome with emotion, feeling a sense of relief to pass the point where I had felt such pain in London, and here I was, happily waving my hands in the air to anyone who cared to look!
Now, I had heard and read about the horror that is the power station stretch so had psyched myself up for a tough ‘wall’ experience, but anyone who knows me well would know that this was a treat for me: huge cranes, diggers, front loaders, a ship and a power station! Grit and grime just like my regular Greenwich runs and all accompanied by a suitable soundtrack. I had promised myself earlier on in the race that I would have a little treat at mile twenty, a bit of music. First up was Morrissey ‘The More you Ignore me the Closer I Get’, this made me laugh out loud, picturing me sneaking up on the finish line (yes, I was getting slightly delirious here, forgive me). This was followed by some Florence and the Machine, then ‘Empire State of Mind’ (I know, very cheesy, but very rousing) and Florence popped back up again with ‘Dog Days’, which I’ve mentioned before as being a superb running song. By now I really was on the home stretch, with only a few miles to go and the crowds were just wonderful, calling out my name, willing me to the end. Off came the headphones for the last couple of miles, and I smiled all the way. The sea was calling, but so was the finish line, and so was a chap, showing his age with a jolly: ‘Top of the hit parade Adele!’
During these last six miles or so, I had thought I might get a PB and better my time at Edinburgh Marathon 2006 (4 hours 48 minutes), but I was slightly confused as my Garmin had constantly ticked off the miles ahead of any mile markers, so I wasn’t really sure what time I was going to get. I must have really picked up the pace in the last few miles because I felt like I was sprinting, goodness knows where that came from at this stage! This is the most amazing marathon finish: you have crowds on one side, the beach on the other and the pier in the distance, all glistening in the sun. After what felt like an awfully long time for people to be shouting: ‘you’re nearly there!’ I spotted the finish line, my smile widened, my pace quickened and I ran my socks off to get to my medal. It was tough, very tough in places, but I really enjoyed this marathon. I would definitely do it again, but maybe not just yet!
I collected my medal, tried very hard to eat a banana and a cereal bar, drank lots of water then made my way back to where Edward and Hector were waiting for me to come and dip my toes:
It was so lovely to see them 🙂
It was at this point that I realised what a state my feet were in. I had an inkling that my little toe had rubbed a bit, but wasn’t expecting to see five of my toes with nails resting on blisters, the cold sea helped, but getting my socks and shoes back on was interesting!
In addition to my marathon challenge, I have been raising money for Guide Dogs and, to make the challenge even harder, I gave up cake for something like ten weeks so, when Edward presented me with this little selection after my shower, I was very happy:
Thank you to Edward for making time for me to go for such long runs at the weekend, and to Hector for understanding this whole running malarkey. I would also like to thank everyone who has sponsored me so generously and supported me through this blog and through all the chatter on Twitter.
Time: 4 hours 50 minutes 28 seconds
Distance: 26.49 miles
Average Pace: 10.58
Best Pace: 6.53
(my chip time is exactly the same, but I’m guessing they measure that as 26.2 miles. So, very close to my Edinburgh time and knocking about half an hour off my London time, yay!).