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Brighton Marathon 2022

Today was the culmination of several months of preparation - my first marathon!

Training

My training for the 2022 Brighton Marathon started on 12 September 2021 - the day of the 2021 Brighton Marathon. Since that date, I have run 2,800+ kilometers, over nearly 300 hours.

I've been really fortunate to not suffer from any major injuries during my training block, although I did encounter a couple of minor niggles along the way - likely owing to the fact this is the first time I have ever tried to run for a long distance.

I very deliberately decided to incorporate parkrun into my training schedule to keep an interesting focal point to my training, and the fact that I have been touring different places has also helped, as I've used those events as reasons to explore new and different places, while encountering new and different terrain along the way!

Looking back on the training block as a whole, I think I managed most aspects quite well. If I'm being particular, the one thing I would perhaps have done differently would be to give more/closer focus to my diet. I did lose weight throughout the block, and I didn't think weight was a particular problem during the race, but I think that is perhaps my biggest barrier to progression at the moment, and likely something I'll look to improve for the future.

Race pack collection

Unlike other events, the organisers of Brighton Marathon had decided that race packs must be collected in person on either the Friday or Saturday before the race, instead of posting them out in advance, and that there would also be no bag-drop on race day itself.

I didn't think too much of these facts before the day, apart from the inconvenience it would cause (effectively forcing an overnight stay for those of us travelling some distance), and so I had planned to travel to Brighton on the Saturday, collect my race pack, drop off my bag, and then catch the train to Worthing where I had a hotel booked for the night.

There were a few things I hadn't accounted for though. First was the distance from Brighton railway station to the race village at the beach (approximately 2km each direction). Brighton is also definitely not a flat city.

Brighton Pier from the race village

I also didn't realise that it was an hour's journey from Brighton to Worthing by train, before another 1km walk to the hotel, although it was situated very close to the beachfront, and would make a very convenient base for a stay in the area, although if their piers are anything to judge by, Worthing is definitely the more modest of the two areas. All of these factors didn't make for an ideal pre-race day!

Worthing Pier from the near the hotel entrance

The hotel also overlooks an ornamental green, surrounded by historic buildings, and the route to the hotel led me through some outdoor bar areas, which would definitely been worth exploring further if I was here for a more relaxing experience.

Steyne Gardens

Arriving

Race day got off to a less than ideal start. I had planned to get the 7:59 train from Worthing to Brighton, which would mean arriving with enough time to get my bearings before the race. Unfortunately for me (and the other runners planning on doing the same), the train was cancelled! After a few minutes exploring options, including getting the bus, which would arrive around the same time, or taxis, which were at least 1 hour before they were expected to be available, I decided to wait the 30 minutes to the next train, which would mean arriving with virtually no time to spare.

I was fortunate on the trip to Brighton to manage to snag one of the few empty seats on the carriage, which was very busy with others who had seemingly had similar plans to mine foiled. On arrival to Brighton railway station, it was simply a matter of following the stream of people to Preston Park for the start line. On the way, we passed a convoy of Mini Coopers, which would later serve as the lead cars for the marathon itself.

Mini Cooper Convoy

The park was already bustling with runners and their families when I arrived, and a tannoy announcement told me that my wave of runners should now be in the upper field ready for the pens to open, so I made my way to what I thought was the upper field, changed out of my extra layers of clothing, and was immediately told that my wave should now make our way into the seeded pens.

Runners at Preston Park

The race

There was only a very short amount of time between reaching the pens and the start of the race, and so without too much fuss, we were away!

The rush of the morning meant that I hadn't had time to absorb the atmosphere at the start, but the support along the route meant I had soon caught up! The support from the crowd was immense through the town, with what seemed to be a wall of people surrounding the course for the first few miles. I knew that there was some elevation in the first few miles, and so I tried to run to feel rather than maintaining any set pace, especially up and down the inclines and declines.

Afer the town, we headed towards the seafront, and east towards Ovingdean. This is the first of the several long straights that make up this route, and I was maintaining a pace slightly quicker than I anticipated, but still managable. It was around 10k that I grabbed what would be my first drink, and while I had accustomed myself to drinking while running in my training, I hadn't quite mastered drinking from a paper cup while running - something to practice for the future!

I knew that the Ovingdean and Rottingdean areas involved some inclines, and so I deliberately slowed myself slightly to compensate, before returning to running by feel once we had set off back to Brighton. I had heard about the course last year being long, and the reason being the course was slightly wrong at the Ovingdean turnaround, and so I was reassured when other runners commented on it, and I saw the chalk markings on the floor marking the proper route!

As we passed the half marathon point, I was still feeling strong, although my quads were starting to ache slightly. The sea air was starting to heat up, and with another incline ahead, I decided to slow down slightly.

Ian running towards the finish

It was unfortunately around 26k when my right hamstring began to cramp. I tried running it off initially, before eventually having to stop to stretch it out. While I initially felt ok to continue running, I think the stopping and starting to stretch, coupled with the heat, incline and perhaps dehydration (although I don't think I was particularly dehydrated) created a chain reaction, which ultimately meant I had to run/walk the final 10k around the power station and back to the finish line. I also tried to start running at roughly the same pace as before cramping too, instead of easing off more, which was probably also a contributing factor!

The final 10k of today's run was probably some of the mentally toughest running I've ever done, and while I still managed a fairly respectable time of 4:16, I wouldn't wish to repeat those kilometers any time soon! Fortunately for me, the final straight from the power station back to the finish line was filled with people cheering runners on, and the final 200 metres were a complete wall of sound.

Recovery

After the run, I collected my dropped bag, and relaxed on the beach for some time; absorbing the sun as I gathered myself. I eventually changed into some dry clothes and slowly made my way back to the train station for my journey home, arriving home around 8pm (I deliberately let the first train leave without me, as there were no seats available), and I thought standing for several hours was perhaps not the best recipe for recovery!

Finisher's medal, tshirt and race number

Lessons / reflections

As this was my first marathon, there were a number of things that I learnt from the experience:

  • Prefer events which post race packs to you before the event - unnecessary long walks the day before racing aren't good preperation!
  • Prefer events which have a bag drop on the day - unnecessary long walks the day before racing aren't good preperation!
  • Book accomodation close to the start/finish line (don't rely on public transport) - it's not worth the stress if it goes wrong, even if you can start with later waves!
  • Book accomodation for the following night / don't spend 3+ hours travelling after the event! Walking after an event can help avoid muscles seizing, but sitting/standing/walking for so long wouldn't typically leave me with a spring in my step, even without just running a marathon!

What's next

Overall, I enjoyed the marathon a lot, despite things not quite going to plan in a few dimensions. My first half was basically exactly as I planned, and the atmosphere was awesome. I managed to set new PBs at 10k, 10mile, 20k, half-marathon, and 30k according to Strava (more a sign of my lack of focus on those distances), as well as a default PB marathon time - this being my first. As with parkrun, I don't know that I'll repeat Brighton Marathon (there are so many others to choose from), but it has sparked an interest in me running other marathons (and other races) in the future!

Links: Results | Strava

References: Brighton Marathon | Course Map

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