Arrival and pack pickup
Ah, Brighton. I ran my first ever marathon here in 2014, with no preparation. I’d like to say that was the start of a wonderful relationship with running but I hated every moment of it and didn’t run a single mile for another three years. My time was 4:27:28.
I ran it again in 2018, by that time well into my running resurgence. That was a 3:18:51. Times change.
But I will always like Brighton. It was my first marathon, my mum’s first marathon, my sister’s first marathon and now Naomi’s first marathon.
We arrived on the Saturday afternoon, fresh from my half marathon that morning, and headed down to the sea front to collect our numbers. As always there was a queue but it moved pretty quickly. I like that Brighton let’s you choose your wave start the day of collection. It means you can fit into the right slot if your times have changed in the intervening months since registration.
What I like less is that they give you your t-shirt when you collect your number, rather than at the finish. It’s a challenger’s t-shirt, rather than a finisher’s one. I assume it’s so that people can wear them during the race, although I think that’s crazy. I don’t know why you’d ever wear something for the first time on race day.
Anyhow. With numbers collected we headed back to the flat to rest before going out for dinner. And then sleep.
We’d rented a flat just five minutes from the start at Preston Park so had plenty of time to get ready in the morning. The weather was typical Brighton. On and off cold and heat. So short sleeves and gloves.
My parents were down to support Naomi so we lined up for the photos before heading to the start line, while my parents went off to their first cheer point.
Preston Park was heaving as always. One long queue for the loo later and we made our way to the wave start. Naomi was nervous but I was running the entire race with her. We weren’t targeting a time, so I was trying not to let her notice the 4:30 Pacer nearby.
Ready, Set, Go…
As the different waves started we shuffled forwards. There’s this point at every race start where the shuffle turns into a walk and the walk turns into a jog, just as you cross the start line. And off we went.
The start is the one thing I really dislike about Brighton. For all “regular” runners, it starts by heading up hill for a lap around Preston Park. For the elites and “invited” runners it starts on a different road and heads straight down hill. I have no problem with the elites starting out front, but everyone should run the same course.
Anyway, we headed up the hill around Preston Park, dodging cars parked on the road as everyone was funnelled through narrow routes. Up, around and then down hill towards the city. The crowd support was great, building as we moved through the town.
Our pace was good. The first part is rolling hills and we took them easy, preserving legs as much as possible.
Out and Back
After the first loop through the city, the course hits the seafront and then heads East along towards Saltdean. Approaching the 10k mark we paused for a few minutes while Naomi queued for a loo. The 4:30 pacer passed while we we’re waiting. I hoped Naomi wouldn’t notice.
Naomi retuned. “The 4:30 pacer is ahead. I think I can catch it.”.
We weren’t racing and I didn’t want her legs to burn out early so I tried to make sure we took it easy. If our natural pace reigned the pacer in then so be it.
Up the hills we went, looping out to a small village and back. Heading down the hill we passed the 4:30 pacer again. Back along the coast, into the city with some of the slower runners passing on the other side of the road, passed the finish line (alas going in the wrong direction) and through the half way point where my parents were cheering again.
The Second Half
And off we went again. Further along the seafront before turning right back into the town. Turning West again, the course joins a long road which will at some point double back on itself. It’s not a pretty sight as it looks unending.
Half way along the road Naomi was slightly unwell, as she hadn’t been feeling 100% for a few days. A passing runner was kind enough to give her his remaining water from the last aid station, which got her moving again. A slice of fresh orange gave us both a boost.
Naomi’s legs were lagging a bit by this point. As we turned around at the end of the long road, we took the occasional moment to walk and recover. The 4:30 pacer went by again and this time there would be no chasing.
All the way back and down to the seafront once more, before turning West and towards the power plant in the distance.
Back out of the city proper and the course enters an industrial estate. This is my least favourite part of the course. Due to the nature of the area there are only a few people cheering runners on and the whole area is a bit dreary. We’d passed the 30km mark and Naomi wasn’t having the best of times.
The occasional walk to offer a rest opportunity – but no stopping. I was trying to urge Naomi on while having a chat with a few people on the course. Urging her on with a promise that the industrial area would end. And then it did. Back on to the board walk.
My parents were on the sea front, cheering us on again. I tried to keep Naomi’s spirits up, singing made up songs and generally talking nonsense. I’m not sure how well that was working!
And then, somehow, we were on the final (deceptively long) home straight. With a few hundred metres to go Naomi stopped. I grabbed her hand and pulled her onwards. No stopping at the end.
A little burst as the finish line approached and we crossed the line hand in hand. 4:48:08. Naomi burst into tears. I steered her through the finish area and found her water. And then the medals.
Just over a year ago I had paced her around her first ever half marathon. At the finish line I placed the medal around her neck. Now I got to do the same for her first ever marathon. I’ve never been prouder.
(And her second marathon is already booked…)