On Sunday the 26th of February I took part in the Brighton Half Marathon. It was my first ‘A’ race of the year and a good opportunity to see where my fitness levels are leading up to the Boston Marathon in 7 weeks’ time. In February last year I ran the Old Deer Park Half Marathon (1:16) before the Cardiff Half (1:13:27) in March. I decided to aim for sub 1:15 in Brighton mainly because I wanted to achieve Championship entry for the London Marathon next year. It felt like it had been ages since I’d raced a half marathon properly. I was excited to see what I was capable of but nervous at the same time as in training for the marathon I’ve either been doing track and tempo sessions (much quicker than HM pace) or long steady runs (much slower than HM pace). I was worried I wouldn’t be able to hold the pace required to go sub 75 (3:33min/km), however I tried to remind myself that I didn’t train specifically for Cardiff Half last year but felt good then.
My girlfriend Lorna, and Alex (one of Lorna’s brothers), had also signed up. We travelled down to Brighton on the Saturday morning so we could relax and do some sightseeing.
Once we arrived Lorna and I headed in to town for some food and a look around the shops whilst Alex had a nap. Having only been to Brighton once before, for the marathon, it was nice to explore and go in some of the quirky independent shops. Alex then joined us, despite the cold and windy conditions we walked to the pier to try and win some prizes. We had a bit of a shocker, Alex and I couldn’t throw for toffee and we weren’t much better with the football.
Being competitive I was really annoyed and we decided we’d go back for another attempt after the race. As the weather was rubbish we went for dinner at Bills earlier than planned. Suitably fuelled up we got back to the hotel to prepare our race kit before watching some Saturday night tele and getting an early night.
As is often the case on race morning I beat the alarm clock. We were up around 6:30 so we could get ready for breakfast. I opted for toast and a coffee despite being tempted by croissants and all of the nice food on offer. Alex had brought his own slab of Soreen (see pic above), like he’d said the previous day “proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance.” Having woken up nice and early we had plenty of time to don our race kit and make our way down the road to the race village. As we were heading to the hotel door we had our fingers crossed for calm weather, we knew we’d be in for a tough run if the wind was up. It was a bit gusty which was a shame but I guess that was to be expected post Storm Doris and being on the seafront. Having not really looked at where the bag drop was situated on the map, none of us realised we had to walk through the start/finish line and through loo queues. Fortunately we’d given ourselves enough time to get there and negotiate our way back through to the right start pens.
I wished Lorna and Al good luck and headed to the sub 1:20 (grey) pen. My legs were feeling fresh after a couple of easy days and the coffee had kicked in, I was ready for the challenge.
I caught up with a couple of friends on the start line (Enrique, Dominic and George) and then we were sent on our way. It took a little while for everyone to spread out so the first kilometre was marginally slow. I worked my way past a few runners and was soon tucked in behind George and a couple of others for a few kilometres. It was good to be shielded from the wind for a while and ticking the kilometres off comfortably. As I previously mentioned I’d run the Brighton Marathon in 2015 so I knew where the inclines and turning points were. We made the turn at mile 4 to start heading back West towards the city centre, unfortunately the wind was against us and we had 5 miles or so to make the next turn. I was still amongst four or five other runners but as we had completed 8k or so they seemed to be dropping pace slightly so I had a decision to make: a) stick with the group for a while and then try to pick up enough time in the final 5k or b) go it alone and try to hold around 3:33min/km pace. I opted for the latter as my legs were still feeling good and there was another group ahead which I thought I could close up on and tuck in behind after a while.
Around the 10k point I saw Alex and then Lorna; we gave each other a shout knowing we wouldn’t see each other until the finish. When I’m in the same race as Lorna I always worry about how she is getting on so it was nice to see her looking good and with a decent group around her. I knew she’d run well as her training has been great over the last month or two. I went through 10k in 35:25, not far off my current 10k PB (34:50). It felt quick but my legs were ok, my breathing was a little heavy but that was always going to be the case running into the wind. I kept ticking the kilometres off counting down until the turning point where I’d finally have the wind pushing me to the finish. I had gained on a group of four or five runners and was alongside them between mile 8 and 9. They were slowing up so I went straight past, unfortunately meaning no rest from the wind. The crowds were starting to build, my legs were tiring but I knew I’d soon be on the long home straight.
I took the turn at Hove Lagoon, immediately breathing was easier, the wind was at my back and the crowds were making more and more noise. After 10 miles/16k I looked at my watch to start working out how much time I had left to go sub 75 minutes. I figured I had 18 minutes to make it, so if I could maintain my pace or pick it up to closer to 3:30min/km I’d be home and dry. I was soon passing the beach huts along the seafront, my legs were tired and I was just about holding it together.
It felt like deja vu as this was exactly how I felt running the same section in the Brighton Marathon. That day I managed to run 3:03 and qualify for the London Marathon through GFA (Good for Age), this time round I was closing in on qualifying for a championship entry. The final few kilometres seemed to last forever; I tried not to look at my watch too much and tried to focus on racing a couple of the runners nearby.
The final kilometre arrived. The support was awesome and then with 400m left I could see the clock, it had just ticked into the 1:14s. I sprinted through the line knowing I’d achieved my goal: London Marathon Championship entry. Job done!
I caught up with George (finished in just over 75 minutes, as part of a long run) and Dominic (71 minutes, well done mate!) and then went to the bag drop to get some warm clothes on. I met up with Alex who’d just crept under 1:30 and Lorna finished in 1:33:55, well inside her target of 1:35. Overall it was a great race for all of us.
When you’ve been out in the cold for a couple of hours the hot shower and nice food is so rewarding. As we failed to win anything on Saturday we went to the pier to try our luck again. With the advice of the man running the tin can place, I threw my first bean bag like a dart knocking the bottom right can and subsequently flooring the rest of them, winner! I was handed minion Stevie which I rightfully (unwillingly) handed to Lorna.
After attempting to eat a couple of scoops of ice cream (so full from fish and chips) we picked up our bags from the hotel and made our way back to London.
It was a great little weekend in Brighton, over the next few weekends Lorna and I are in Colchester for the Essex 20 miler and Colchester Half. We then have Hampton Court Palace Half before winding down for Boston. I hope those of you that raced over the weekend got your times and enjoyed it. A massive shout has to go to James Poole for smashing Transgrancanaria 360 in 72 hours placing 8th. Well done to the Advent Running collective for finishing various transgrancanaria races as well as everyone completing the Tokyo Marathon. I’ve seen some great results posted!
See a lot of you soon.