I hadn't run a marathon for 15 years since my last London. A few years later, in 2010, the thought of doing another one appealed and I got lucky in the ballot. However, work was v busy and the training wasn't going to happen either that year or the following year. With my place torn up it was certainly a low point for my running, and two years would pass before I entered anything more (long before discovering parkrun). I think the London Olympics of 2012 must have helped inspire me to do something!
Fast forwarding to last year, a fellow Hoopster asked me if I was going to do a marathon. On sensing that I had nothing planned he retorted: 'Why ever not?'. Could I still do such an event if I was struggling to keep going to the finish, even in half marathons?
Then, in the autumn, other Hoopsters began rolling out some amazing times for novices and veterans alike. From then, marathon fever was building in QPH, with so many entering Paris and other spring marathons. Would there ever be a better to time to attempt the 26.2 miles again? No—it was time to drag myself out of retirement, so I entered the 2019
Asking a few people what training they had done and the discussion always seemed to be about 'Hansons'. I would have to cope with SIX days a week training though, when previously I would only put in miles three or four times a week. It did make sense, however, and to succeed I knew that one should follow a system with proven results. Also even when doing quite a bit of training alone, I could think that others would be doing something similar at the same time, which definitely helped me to get through those Thursday tempos! We would also support each other on Sunday long runs, coping with the adverse elements of the wind, rain, snow and ice.
So to the day itself, and many thousands converging on Preston Park. Somehow, Maciej found me before heading off to get a start at the front of his pen. With the chill in the air I left all the changing to the last minute, just getting my bag on the truck in time before jogging to the back of my section. The buzzer went and the elite runners were off—this is real now! With Gloria Gaynor's 'I Will Survive' being blasted out, I jogged closer to the start line and the long journey started.
I wanted to treat the opening five miles before arriving at the seafront as a warm up. We would see beautiful scenery heading east towards Rottingdean, Roedean and Ovingdean, and could enjoy it not being at all tired. Then I saw Maciej shooting down the hill having already completed this loop. Coming back towards Brighton, the i360 tower came into view in the background. Time for my first sports drink (after missing the five-mile station).
The long downhill towards the town was really enjoyable. Once there, I really appreciated the incredible support from all the locals lining the coastal road several deep. After a lengthy loop away from the sea, it was time to head west again towards the power station. I was losing track of the mile markers, not seeing any from 17 to 21. This was starting to get hard...but a least the breeze got rid of any smells from the industrial estate!
A few of us had been running together for quite a few miles, but on hitting the 23 mile-mark all this would change. We came off a relatively sheltered bit of road and turned sharp right onto the top of the promenade and suddenly we faced the killer easterly breeze. The force of that wind almost stopped me dead! Somehow one would keep going....a few more beach huts passed....a few more steps closer. Getting passed by quite a few others, including a 4.30 pace group, was really tough. Then, a chicken overtook me!
Someone once told me: 'If you stay in the race you will finish'. With the engine spluttering I came to a water station—although too late to make any difference, the distraction was welcome. A friendly local was handing out oranges...I'll have one of those, I decided. And there was a gel station; got to try something to get moving again! The i360 tower still seemed far away, the pace group was disappearing out of sight.
And then, something happened.
Two runners trotted by me, with one saying to the other: '4.12 on the clock, with two-and-a-half k to go.' Really? Were we that close to getting over the line? The run rate to get inside 4.30 was only just under 12 min miles...surely this was possible, as no part of my training had been quite that slow...?
Somehow I started passing a few runners. Then it was the 40k point, and it felt so different from literally a few minutes previously. Quick time check again...can't read the Fitbit due to the sun...doesn't matter, as I sense that I am going quick enough now!
Inspired by Natalie's Berlin finish, this is time to use any reserve fuel I have left. Now I can see the 25 mile mark, I am going to do this! Time to PICK IT UP! All the training was worth it just for this last Brighton mile. I knew the route well from here, having walked it to register beforehand, and I was nearly home. The Brighton Centre and The Grand quickly came into view and the crowd was going crazy as two animated charity runners were sprinting along encouraging the spectators to raise their voices at the same time. This was truly awesome! Time to whizz past the Palace Pier and a canter down the final 385 yards to the finish—I've made it!!!
'It had been an incredible day of racing. Maciej flew round the course smashing his PB, while Joao completed his 10th Brighton Marathon and continues to be an 'ever present'. Sipping a pint of (non-alcoholic beer) on the pebbled beach, I reflected that this marathon has been so so worth it. I'm back!
Maciek Kolterniak 2:53:05 Joao Diogo 4:17:43 Charles Tatham 4:26:14