You will remember that last week's race at Tunbridge Wells almost broke me. Too fast a start and a couple of monster hills sending me as close to runners' hell as I'd like to get. I promised myself that this week would be different. Brain and not brawn would tackle the slightly flatter Brighton course. Stick to marathon pace I thought that would be the plan.
Brighton is as close to home turf as I am going to get and there was certainly an air of calm as I parked up at the marina and walked along the seafront to the starting area. I noted two things on that short walk 1) it was a lovely morning to run and 2) Brighton has a naturist beach. Perhaps this might not be such a bad day after all.
After dropping my kit bag off and making sure that the pot of Vaseline (see previous post) had been put to good use I lined up at the 2 hour marker position and got up close and personal to a number of my fellow competitors. Now it takes a big man to don tights and squeeze into a t-shirt one size too small, a really big man, and he was standing next to me - up close and personal. Perhaps today wasn't going to be that great after all. I plugged in my iPod and waited for the countdown.
Off we go! 3,000 runners ahead of me shuffled over the line and within 5 minutes I had crossed the line myself and set about running at marathon pace. Then it dawned on me, Nuts! in all my forwarding planning I hadn't actually decided what my marathon pace was. The best laid plans etc. So, once at a steady pace I looked at the speed on my watch and plumped for between 7 and 7.5mph - slightly punchy but brawn had triumphed over brain in the final showdown.
The first couple of miles took us away from the seafront and up past Brighton's famous Pavilion. We carried on through back streets lined with some of The Laine's best eclectic shops and then back down to the promenade where a cool sea breeze welcomed us to the 3-mile marker.
Being a sailor and having spent many a summer on the beach at Broadstairs I couldn't help feeling comfortable and ever so slightly nostalgic as the sea gently rose and fell away through the shingle with rhythmic persistence. My knee had warmed up and stopped aching (if only I could say the same now) and I settled in to enjoy the first half of the run towards Hove. I felt good.
There is plenty of time to 'people watch' on the run so every now and again I pulled up next to a runner and struck up a conversation. Up ahead one particular t-shirt took my interest "George 75 +". I found out that George was indeed 75 years old, soon to be 76, and surely the oldest competitor on the day. He had run over 100 marathons and recently decided that half-marathons were the way forward. I asked him what kept him running. He said; "At my age there isn't much else to do" - no arguing that kind of logic. I bid Happy George 'good luck' and set off in search of the six-mile marker. Several other attempts to strike a cord of good cheer were met with a variety of grunts, shock and mild suspicion so after a short pining for Happy George I popped the earphones back in and cocooned myself in the world of The Doors with 'people are strange' and 'riders on the storm'. Aaahhh! Too downbeat again
...'click'...Music...'click'...Albums...'click'....Wham...'click' - now we are talking, ahhm, well, I mean we are in Brighton after all. Yes, well...best move on.
Miles 7, 8 and 9 passed without issue and the crowd lined walkways cheered us on as we approached Brighton Pier for a second time. Not all of my fellow runners were in quite as good a shape at this point and there were many casualties in the arms of the support teams and ambulance staff.
Miles 10 and 11 brought with them the two short but steep cliff climbs and final rapid descent to the Marina. At this point I thought it a little unsporting to chuck such a spanner into the works but after that brief pain we were back on the seafront and looking for the home straight - now were exactly was that Naturist beach again?
Home straights are always a little tricky, just as you think you are approaching the Nirvana of adoring crowds and a finisher's goody bag they whip you back on yourself for an extra half mile circuit. Just what my battered knees were hoping for! On the last loop back and with half a mile to go my iPod clicked on to "Alive and Kicking" by INXS. This sent tingles up my neck and whilst too far (and too tired) for a kick finish it was certainly an apt and emotive song to carry me home.
I crossed the line in 1 hr 58 min and this time I think there may even have been a smile on my face.
For those with interest I have hopefully attached the two BBC Southern Counties Radio news clips. You never know which bits they are going to use but I hopefully got some good air time for PCUK.
Don't forget the Sussex Express article on Thursday and now just three weeks until Hastings and Marlow which should give me enough time to extend my longer runs past the half marathon mark.
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