After last weekend I am convinced that the organisers of the Brighton Half Marathon have somehow struck a deal with the weather gods. This was the third time that I’ve run this race and the third year that the weather has been absolutely glorious. This year that was all the more remarkable as in the week leading up to the race the south of England had been affected by record breaking storms, high winds and crazy waves.
When we arrived in Brighton on the Saturday afternoon it was more than a little bit breezy. I had already decided that if the weather stayed the same for the race then my race plan would go out of the window and I’d just be happy to get around in one piece. So when I woke up on Sunday to blue skies and bright sunshine I almost couldn’t believe it. I was instantly excited – it was going to be a good day.
And what a great day it was.
My marathon training hasn’t exactly been going to plan. I’ve had an injury which kept me out of action for a couple of weeks. As a result of that and the most annoying training run ever, my longest run coming into Brighton was 9 miles. I wasn’t too concerned, knowing that if I kept to my plan and kept my speed under control in the first few miles then I’d get around fine.
However, my original plan of scoring a new half marathon PB at Brighton had been ditched in favour of running at marathon pace or better – 11:26 min miles to be very precise. With 8 weeks to go until M-Day a solid, consistent run was what I needed to boost my confidence going into the second half of my training.
There was a real buzz in the starting area as I made my way onto Madeira Drive. Thousands of runners and spectators all marvelling at the stunning weather. I’d arranged to meet Laura aka @thelozzatron in the pink start – we’ve been chatting on Twitter since we were both training for VLM in 2012 and have met in person twice – once during VLM on the course and then at the National Lottery Olympic Park Run last year.
Laura had also been out with an ankle injury and wasn’t feeling that confident about the race itself. I explained my run:walk strategy and said she’d be welcome to join me for the race – it’s always good to have company for all or part of a run. And with that team Lozzabeccx was formed.
It’s hard not to get carried away in the first few miles of this race and get swept along by the huge throng of runners. There’s always a great crowd out supporting and the course is lovely – running past Brighton Pavilion and then heading back towards the pier and the sea. We kept our pace in check as we headed out towards the Marina. I was in charge of the run:walk intervals – when my Gymboss timer buzzed I would shout “walk” to denote the start of our 60 second walk break and then “run” when it was time to get going again. I hope that Laura didn’t mind me barking instructions at her!
One of the features of this course is that it’s made up of 3 out and back sections. Slightly disheartening when you’re at mile 8 and can see the faster runners headed for home, but fantastic from mile 4-5 where you can spot your Twitter and now real life running friends as various parts of the course. Cue mad waving and whooping as we saw Hannah aka Duns, Leah, Lissy and Emma all looking like they were loving the race too.
Our pace had quickened a bit so we made an effort to hold back for mile 5 and 6. We passed the 10K mark in around 1:09 – I am still completely perplexed by my ability to run a better 10K time in a 10 mile or half marathon race than I have ever managed in a 10K race!
Mile 7 took us back past the pier and out onto the straight road towards Hove lagoon. We ran past The Grand where Mr J and I were staying – he was on the balcony cheering us on and managed to get a few snaps albeit from a distance.
Miles 8-10 of this course are mentally tough. You know you’re running towards a turn but you can’t see where it is. There’s not so much support and you can see all the faster runners headed for home. I’ve always struggled along this stretch. But my legs, although starting to tire, were still carrying me along and we reached the 10 mile mark not far outside my 10 mile PB time.
From here I don’t mind admitting things got tough. My hamstrings were hurting, I was feeling tired and we ended up taking some extra walk breaks. Our pace slowed a bit but I was still confident that we’d get around in time for Laura to clock a new PB.
Mile 12 was particularly challenging. You can see the pier in the distance and you know you’ve got to run that far and a bit more to get to the finish line and it feels like it’s a really long way away. We were both finding things tougher and digging deep. You can see the concentration.
Mile 13 couldn’t come soon enough and we were at last at the pier and into the home straight. I willed my legs to find something for a sprint finish, or at least a ‘faster than I had been running’ finish and they responded. Laura spotted her family in the crowd and went over for a hug. I decided to wait for her so we could cross the finish line together.
And that’s what we did. In 2hrs 30 mins and 15 seconds. 12 minutes faster than I ran this race last year and a course PB by 5 mins. We ran at an average pace of 11:25 min miles which is bang on my marathon target. Laura got a half marathon PB. Smiles all round.
As always I’ve learned a lot from this race. There’s still a lot of training to be done but I’m feeling good about my pace and the fact that my legs kept going despite the lack of training mileage. And I’ve also been reminded that it’s not always all about times, splits and PBs. Running by the sea in the winter sun with friends is bloody brilliant. Even if my time had been a personal worst I’d still remember the Brighton Half 2014 as one of my favourite runs ever.