Rundancerun and I spent the day in Brighton running the Brighton Half Marathon, along with 7,500 other runners including the fabulous Blon, Becca and a couple of people called Norman Cook and Katie Price.
I travelled down on Saturday afternoon and enjoyed a nice long catch up with Blon at Cocoa Brighton, a fabulous French café just down the road from the station.
We sipped good coffee and chatted about life, the universe and everything including running and the impeding half marathon. She surprised me with a fabulous and thoughtful present of a pair of X-Socks (the magic anti-blister socks) and a sachet of mineral bath salts for soaking my aching muscles after the race.
After Blon left, I stayed for another pot of tea (ginger and lemon) to calm my fluttering pre-race nerves, ran through my mental checklist of things I needed for the race and having decided that I was severely lacking in the post-race treat department I bought a bag of Cocoa’s gorgeous macaroons in raspberry & lychee and raspberry & milk chocolate.
I decided to pick up some last minute essentials including more Compeed Blister Plasters. I just want to take a moment to sing the praises of Boots in Brighton, although the shop is open regular hours, they have a Midnight Pharmacy where you can pick up prescriptions or medical supplies from a little booth window. I managed to buy some more plasters. Why don’t all Boots stores do this?
I went to check in to our hotel and used the time before rundancerun arrived to unpack and lay out all my running kit for the morning and my hoard of anti-blister products. After she arrived, we feasted on room service sandwiches, salad, fruit and sorbet while downing pints of water and watching the gorgeous Christina Ricci on the Jonathan Ross show and Pan Am. Although I deliberately kept my dinner plain and simple after the trouble I had on my long run last week, I couldn’t help being a bit nervous that I’d have a repeat attack of nausea.
The race started at 9am on Sunday, so I was up, dressed and eating my Grasshopper porridge at 7am. I still felt nervous but in a good way and didn’t feel at all sick. I covered my feet with anti-blister spray, blister plasters and zinc oxide tape and packed the whole kit at the top of my rucksack so they were readily available at the end of the run. We decided to walk to the start of the race, carrying all our overnight gear and cursing the people who got in our way (and crushed the bag of macaroons! Quelle horreur!)
After dropping off our bags and some last minute dynamic stretches, we queued up at the back of the pack. We were right behind Katie Price, her coach and camera man. We gawked discreetly while trying to avoid getting in the back of the shots, and crossed the start line about 10 minutes after the starter’s gun.
Mile One was crowded and a lot of time was spent weaving between the slower runners to get to a point where I could comfortably get into my stride. The mile was ruined by the fact that some inconsiderate ******* had left their bike lying on the pavement on the course. Rundancerun tripped over the handle bars and fell, she had cuts on her palms and knees but got straight up and started running again, dismissing the blood, mud and offers of finding a St John Ambulance volunteer by saying that she’d wait until the first water station to wash it off. Very hardcore!
Miles Two, Three and Four seemed easier than I was expecting and I ran them almost a minute faster than my race pace. In hindsight this wasn’t the best decision because I tired too quickly, but my previous half marathon strategies have been geared towards survival rather than racing for optimum performance. I also started to feel annoyed that I’d decided to layer a vest over my long sleeved base layer top and contemplated ducking behind a barrier to take off the base layer, but when we turned the corner to run back towards Brighton pier the temperature dropped and I’m glad I kept the long sleeves.
Mile Five, Six, Seven and Eight were run at an even pace around 10.30 per mile, looking back I believe that the 8 mile marker was in the wrong place. My Garmin registered 8.4 miles by the time we got to it. At the time, I thought it was either a discrepancy on my Garmin or the result of all the weaving around people earlier in the race but looking back at race feedback it seems that a lot of other people noticed the same problem. This put me off slightly because I seemed to suddenly have slowed down quite considerably even though I was still trying really hard. The course also narrowed considerably around 6.5 miles which meant there was a lot of congestion.
We stopped just after the water station near the 8 mile marker to take on a Shot Block each and some water. The Shot Block was strawberry flavoured and as energy products go, rather palatable, but it was incredibly sticky and chewy and I think I would have felt sick if I tried to choke it down while running. At Mile 9, we both needed to stop for a quick stretch – my ITBs were screaming at me to do something about the pain they were in – and then we took the next mile at a slower pace (around 11 min per mile).
We got to 10 miles at 1hr 55mins, and were both thinking about breaking the 2 hour 30 min mark but neither of us wanted to suggest it. We made an agreement to “just run” the final 3 miles, however at each mile marker from 10 to 12 miles we had to pause for a stretch. Around 12.5 miles we saw Katie Price stretching by the side of the road (I later discovered it was because “both her knees went”) and we decided that we were going to finish ahead of her.
The final section seemed to go on forever. Every time I run an event in Brighton, I psychologically think that I should stop running when I get to the pier, and every time I get there I am disappointed that I still have a few hundred meters to go! Unlike at Longleat, I didn’t try to sprint the last 800m because I just didn’t have it in me. I switched on my iPod to find a good motivational song for the final push – I was hoping for Renegades of Funk but I got Flux by Block Party. It did the job and I even found an extra reserve of energy that I didn’t know I had to sprint the last 60m because I had a feeling we might just make a sub-2hr30 time.
I was utterly exhausted after I crossed the line. I hate finishing a run with the feeling that I have nothing left to give, even when it is a relief to finish I like to feel that I could go for another mile if I needed to. We limped to collect our Lucozade, bananas and amazing race medals, and then to queue up for a massage at the Studio57 tent.
There was a 30 minute wait for the massage but I used the time to assess the damage to my feet (no blisters on the right foot, but yet another blood blister on the left – it is definitely time to think about getting different shoes for longer distances). Rundancerun and another lady waiting for a massage were horrified at the state of my foot and seemed slightly amazed that I could manage to run on the blisters but I can honestly say that this is where Compeed plasters come into their own – I didn’t feel the blisters all the way around the course, it was only when I stopped running that my feet started to feel sore.
Then we scoffed our macaroons (the verdict was delicious – the raspberry & lychee flavour was the favourite) and enjoyed expert massages. My physio worked into my soleus and ITB (apparently I was the first person to request treatment on their ITB, and to ask for more pressure – a year of awesome treatment with my regular physio has toughened me up!). I felt so much better after the massage and apart from a little residual stiffness in my muscles, I haven’t noticed much pain.
We spotted a few half marathon runners on our way back to London who obviously hadn’t taken advantage of the massages or bothered to stretch properly, you can identify them by the penguin walk and the cautious way they tackle stairs and slopes!
Neither rundancerun or I were planning to race Brighton, it was a reason to do a productive long run and for me a good opportunity to get familiar with part of the marathon route. Even so, I’m pleased that we did beat the 2hr30 cut off (albeit by about 20 seconds) and I feel like I’ve picked up some good tips for my next race which is the Llanelli Half Marathon at the beginning of March.
These are: buy new shoes and don’t start off too fast in the first few miles. The idea of going slow to go fast still seems a bit strange but I think it will ultimately pay off.