Brighton marathon - the sub 5

Rather lucky for me my sister and her partner live near to Brighton. This therefore gave me the perfect excuse to see my sister and take part in the Brighton marathon. With accommodation therefore taken care of all we had left to do was the usual marathon formalities, starting with number collection.

Whilst the process for collecting numbers was straight forward the whole day was just stressful. Starting with a queue for the car park and traffic getting into Brighton, over 2 hours had passed with us just sitting in a car before we even managed to start walking along the beach front. Next the weather in Brighton decided to treat us to hail stones. Trying to run whilst carrying a 3 year old along the pebble beach front of Brighton was an interesting experience let's say. Then came decision time, choose the queue of your predicted finish time for number collection. I decided to be optimistic and went for the 4.30-5 hour line. 

Number collecting and I was therefore starting with those also wanting to break the 5 hour barrier. Right I thought, let's do this. I ran with three very wet and tired kids in tow to the nearest restaurant for dinner. I best carb up and i'm doing so in style with a Jamie's Italian.

Dinner sorted, the drive home was much quicker and even took in part of the marathon route. I took in the power station and how far from the start line it was. Home and an early night for me, due to the very early start. 

I had paid for park and ride as didn't want the stress of having to find somewhere to park and I am so glad I did. Although the sat nav wanted to take me to park in the middle of an A road, which wasn't correct. Luckily I saw a park and ride bus go past me so followed that to where I needed to be. It was only a short journey and we where making our way to the start line.

A nervous wee stop, it has to be done, and I had a chat with a lady in front of me who was running her first marathon. I hope she did ok. There wasn't really much time for anything else and so I made my way to the start pens. 

It was cold so I made the decision to start with my jacket on, knowing full well I could take it off if I got to hot. I was anxious as I stood on that start line, I did not want to screw up another marathon. I had to do this. I knew I was capable of it, even if training had gone to pot. I stood starred and just thought about what I needed to do. Take it steady, stick to plan and you'll be fine.

I set off and it seemed to take forever to get to the actual start line. Narrow street and upward climb, I was frustrated that I couldn't get into my stride. Up hill and crowded starts are never the best. Eventually the downhill came and I could relax a bit, on wards in to Brighton we went.

I kept glancing at my watch, pace wasn't to target it was far too slow mainly due to the crowds and I did my best to speed up just a little. I was comfy and relaxed and taking in the crowds of Brighton. I began to get hot and tried to take off my jacket but got tangled in my headphones and bag. A fellow runner helped to untangle me and I tied my jacket round my waist to continue. At last my pace was spot on but my heart rate simply wouldn't settle down. It was far too high, but nothing I did seemed to lower it. I abandoned the plan, deciding it was causing me too much stress and instead ran to how I felt. My goal was to keep it steady and not screw up. Run comfy, that's what I kept saying to myself.

Brighton is rather hilly, up some short sharp hills and down again to recover. Trying to keep it steady and not get carried away with the downhill sections. The course wound round the city and I enjoyed seeing the upcoming mile markers several miles in advance. It sort of spurred me on as I knew what was coming. The crowds were simply fantastic and so supportive, before long I was approaching the sea front for the out and back section.

Undulating is perhaps the best way to describe this section of the course. Up it went and then down at least it wasn't flat. I quite enjoyed it, nothing too challenging but just enough to keep using a variety of muscles in the legs and stop the monotony of flat. The front runners were on their way back in and it is always a boost to me to watch them run past us. 

I started chatting to team CALM, they had the most amazing support around the course and one of their runners gave me their t shirt to put on. I did so and became part of team CALM for around half a mile. It was actually really great fun. I then got talking to a lady pushing a buggy and offered to push for a bit so she could stretch her arms, I hope it helped her. A turn around approached and we were running down a hill with the most amazing views of Brighton. I knew what was to come now having seen it on the way out and I was feeling rather relaxed and happy.

My spotify playlist played Queen 'Don't stop me know' and I felt strong. I then also burst out laughing as a runner dressed as a phone ran passed on the opposite side of the course at the most appropriate point in that song. He could not have timed it better if he had tried. In fact Brighton had its fair share of interesting costumes let's say.

The pier was fast approaching and the half way mark, I felt good I was bang on time for a 5 hour marathon and the winner was just about to cross the finish line. The crowds were back in full force and I was high five the supporters as I went past. Another out and back section now. I decided to take a drink of water at one of the stations rather than the electrolyte drink I had on me, only it wasn't water. It was a lemon electrolyte drink. I had to control my panic, and hope it didn't contain caffeine. I really hoped I hadn't screwed things up. 

The miles were been ticked off at a constant pace. I was overtaking tired runners, catching up and over taking pacers and I was just feeling comfy. The support in Brighton was fantastic, one of the best I have experienced. In my head I knew I had two main sections to go, one to the power station and the other round the power station. The last section home didn't really feature in my plans. 

The run up to the power station was a real drag if I am honest. A few supporters and unable to see the front runners on this part it felt rather lonely, even though you had people around you. It was only a few miles I told myself and focused on the power station ahead. I wasn't sure what to expect when I got there but had heard stories from runners in the past.

Here it was the power station. I knew mile 20 was approaching and was surprised at how good I felt. I could see the 23 mile marker to signify the exit to the power station, could I run the 3 and a bit miles here within 35 minutes? I was willing to give it a go. I hit mile 20 at 3hours 30, exactly where I wanted to be. I could do this. I knew I could do it and with my music pushing me in what was a rather difficult part of the course I got round the power station and hit mile 23 at 3hours 58 minutes according to my watch. Whatever happened now I had an hour to do the last 3 miles, my legs were starting to feel it a little but I knew as long as I kept moving forward I was going to break the sub 5.

The second I left the 23 mile marker it hit me. The headwind was horrendous. I felt like I was not moving forward and so now I began to panic. I had an hour but the wind was pushing me backwards. It was tough work. The mile markers had disappeared so I had no idea now how much further there was to go. The crowds once again out in force and showing support so I figured as the people had increased the finish must be getting closer. 

I didn't want to push too soon though, just in case. I really didn't want to mess it up, I had to do this. 

Then I saw it. 

I saw the finish

The finish was there ahead of me, I was going to do it. I knew I could do it.

26 mile marker went past.

OK I thought push it a little bit, still worrying I might collapse before I got there.

I saw the gun time, it was approaching 5 hours. No I thought, I am going to do this properly. Sub 5 on all accounts gun and chip time. So I ran. I ran as hard as I could to get over that line.

4 hours 57 min 19 sec Gun time
4 hours 37 min 50 sec Chip time

I had done it. I had broken that 5 hour barrier, I broke down in tears and the poor lady handing me my medal didn't know what to do. I just said they are happy tears, as I have worked so hard for this.

A 31 minute personal best, the first time I had broke sub 5 and my 16th marathon/ultra 

Brighton marathon taught me so much about myself. It taught me to listen to my body, I ran to how I felt and I ran with my heart. I might not have followed the heart rate plan but I knew when it was time to ease back, I had learnt when to push it and when to maintain pace. I resisted the urge to run quicker on the downhills and walk the hills. I ran the whole thing from start to finish and paced it to almost perfection. I used only my electrolyte drink, took on board no other foods and suffered no stomach issues for the first time in any race. I set off steady and stuck to my pace, not anyone else and it paid off. Could I have done it quicker? Yes I firmly believe I could have broken the 4hours 30 barrier, but that wasn't my goal and I wasn't deviating from my goal of a sub 5. I wasn't going to risk that. 

Brighton marathon left me on a huge high, I know I can go faster over the marathon distance and am hoping my training goes well for my next ones in October. The course suited me and I have to say it is up there as one of my favourite marathons, not only for the route but the support and organisation were also spot on. 

I finally did it, I broke 5 hours!

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