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  • Writer's pictureDarren Last

Brighton Marathon 2022

Updated: Apr 14, 2022

A Town Called Brighton

Brighton, famous for its stunning seaside, the iconic Palace Pier, The Lanes, its bohemian atmosphere and the mods with their Vespa's and Lambretta's. A perfect backdrop to run a marathon hey? This weekend over 11,000 runners and I headed to Brighton to take on the marathon. Starting in Preston Park and winding through the (hilly) high street roads, turning east along the coast to come back past the Palace Pier, continuing out west through the Shoreham Port Industrial Estate AKA Hell. Then the final stretch back past the Palace Pier for the finish line. Sounds lovely, or as lovely as a marathon could be.

This is the second time I have run Brighton after getting a 'then' PB of 3:24 back in 2018. Back then I was blessed weather-wise with an overcast, no wind day. Perfect conditions. I was hoping for much of the same 4 years on for this year. The worry with any coastal marathon is winds, and the worry with winds and a marathon means that you are in for a brutal day. As I, and thousands of others, entered marathon week I was countlessly checking the weather forecast for Sunday. As standard part of any marathon runner in the taper period this is just one of the obsessive tasks carried out at least 20 times a day. With a few false dawns of rain, and cold it looked like the wind would be kept at bay and as the day got nearer it was even showing a bit of sun. Actually quite a lot of sun as it turned out (feeling my sunburn as I write this). Marathon week is exciting, but also incredibly nervy as you look to put the final plans together, leaving nothing to chance and mitigating the risks of stress for the day.

Am I eating the right things? When do I start carb loading? 😝

Am I hydrating enough? Or too much? 😥

Am I getting enough rest? Should I just have a little run? Or not? 🥱

How will I get there? Where will I park? Where will get to the start and finish line? 🤔

Have I done enough training? Why I am feeling unfit and clunky? 😵‍💫

How many gels shall I have? How many should I have? Do I even like gels? 🤯

Am I getting enough rest? Should I just have a little run? Or not? 🥱

How will I get there? Where will I park? Where will get to the start and finish line? 🤔

Have I done enough training? Why I am feeling unfit and clunky? 😵‍💫

How many gels shall I have? How many should I have? Do I even like gels? 🤯

These are the things that go through my/your head as the excitement builds and 'maranoia' kicks in. I get incredibly OCD about everything and anything. Even finding new things to get OCD about such as, 'is my race belt good enough' to 'what throwaway clothes are appropriate' especially given the fact that bag drop is now done days before the race. I dropped my bag and collected my race number on the Friday before the race. Brighton Marathon requires runners to travel down the the beachfront where they have the exhibition as such to collect your race number and drop your post race bag off with your change of clothes (another thing now to get OCD about). Coming from Kent I am able to get down and do this fairly easily but not sure how useful this is for those travelling further afield. With my race number now in my hands and the bag dropped I am ready, and another day nearer. I spend my Saturday getting my kit ready, resting the legs but also trying to tick them over with a few walks. I check my kit a few more times and spend way more time than you would think safety pinning my number to my vest, again, and again, and again. Just to make sure. Sunday comes finally, what a relief, its been a long week waiting for this day and now the culmination of my 3 months of training and focus is here. Its fair to say I am a pretty obsessed runner and with each marathon (this is my 9th) I tweak and look to improve the training plan. I'll save the detail on this plan for another time but my training included structuring more pace work into my long runs and specific tempo sessions. It all went nicely to plan staying injury and illness free. I was looking to beat my PB that I gained at Milton Keynes Marathon last year, 3:22. That was the main target along with trying to creep under the 3:20 mark. Ambitious? Maybe? Possible? Why not? My pal, Steve, and I set up at 6:45am to drive down to Brighton. We had arranged to park at a friend of Steve's located in-between the start at Preston Park and the finish by the pier, about a 20 minute walk both ways. This gave us a nice leg stretcher beforehand. Hopefully get a cab after.....worry about that then (we never did, we had to walk). It was pretty chilly when were arrived in Brighton around 8:15 but the sun was shining and this took the edge off the freshness. It was already be a beautiful day, with the sun shining. We took the walk to Preston Park and arrived without having to hang around too much before getting in to the pens and ready to start. There was a great vibe, all pretty well organised at this point with the park full of runners and family and friends as the excitement built.

In the pen; Standard backdrop pose; kit lay out.

At 9:45 we were ready to go, already stripped off from the throwaway clothes showed how warm it was already getting as the sun was beating down. The klaxon sounded and that was it, off we go, 26 miles/42k.

First things first was to tackle the hill around the top of Preston Park. Now I did this route 4 years ago and this was the only hill I remember. My memory was of a fairly flat course that was enjoyable, fast and perfect for a marathon. I knew that the industrial estate part in the last 8 miles of the run was going to be to be hell but other than that my summary to Steve was that it was flat as you like and barely any hills. Well, I may be getting old and memory not what or was, or that day I was a flying hill slayer because the first 8 miles of Brighton seemed to have far more hills that I cared, or maybe wanted, to remember. We got up that first hill taking to the pavement as it was heavy runner traffic. It was much steeper than I remembered. After the first mile I had parted from Steve leaving him ponder and be surprised, throughout, with the hilly course and wondering why I had lied by telling him it was flat. Once through the brilliantly supported town, the route turned left/east along the coastline out beyond the marina. My plan was to try and keep to a 7:30 min mile (4:40 min km) or just under, but importantly find a rhythm I could settle into (we all want this). The first 9 miles or so I was running under this but it was already feeling like hard work, despite keeping the pace down. Some days everything just feels easy and others not. This was not a bad day by any means but I wasn't finding the rhythm I wanted, marathons are not meant to be easy, and they never get easier. These were the cards being dealt today and I suspected I was in for a hard day. Heading up the coastal road felt like a slow incline with a headwind. On the other side of the road here was a nice convoy of vintage cars/mopeds/scooters which added to the vibe, closely followed by the elite runners heading backwards the pier. It was all looking downhill for them as I worked what seemed like a another steady incline. I couldn't wait to get to be coming back down that way.

It wasn't long before I had reached the turn point and running back towards the town. It is very well supported in the town itself but in the points out along the coastline is is sparse of supporters. As I ticked off miles 10, 11 and 12 I was amongst the crowds and the noise was incredible, the roads were crammed with supporters as I reached the halfway point. I was feeling it at this point, I wasn't going to be able to hold this pace so eased up a little to find a more comfortable pace that would mean getting to the end. I was confident in the training so had trust in the legs to get through (this is what I told myself). Just needed the mind onside.

Elevation doesn't tell the full story

Half way and feeling it.

It was at this point I reached for the music. I don't generally run with music, and not often in races. Its nice sometimes to have the option and can definitely take the mind off to other places. Straight away Paul Weller's 'Town called Malice' came on the shuffle. Perfect to give the me the lift I needed for a renewed boost as the run started to become fun again....for a short while at least. Most appropriate given Wellers' mod background in the backdrop of Brighton.

Happy as ever to pass halfway and start counting down the miles rather than up, the route took us through the well supported roads 14 to 18. This was a difficult stage as the legs started to really tire and the sun beat down. I knew once getting past this point it was on to the dreaded industrial estate to Shoreham and then then back to Brighton. Get to the industrial estate and then hang on for dear life. As mile 19 turned to 20 the industrial estate was here. This is a part of the route where the path is split with runners heading out to a turn point and then running back the same way. Its is 3 miles out, and then 3 miles back. 6 miles of industrial estate desolation. 6 miles of hell.

Enough to give you nightmares. Shoreham Port Industrial estate AKA Hell.

You enter at mile 19, you start to wonder how far this goes (I know from previous its a fecking long way), round the back of the timber merchants where the sweet smell of timber will forever remind you of this living hell. The turn point is just past mile 21 and then its another 3 miles back out. It's truly gruesome. Soul destroying. It's that point in the marathon where the legs feel every single step. And it goes on for an eternity. You could say it's the wall. In a marathon I don't think anyone gets over the wall. You always hear about hitting the wall and getting past it but I have never ever felt like I have got over the wall. For me you hit the wall and you go through the wall but you never get over it until you have stopped at the finish line. It's a continuous wall. It could be a 3, 4, 5 or 6 mile wall. Or longer, depends how lucky, or unlucky you are on the day. The wall and the industrial park only equals one thing. Hell. Coming through here was hard, I had to just keep the legs going over, everyone wants to stop, but I know that stopping means not getting started. Head down and crack on. By this point I am not too worried about pace, just keeping the legs turning over. This is where the training kicks in and it feels like you going slower than you actually are. Eventually there is light at the end of the tunnel and I ran out of the industrial estate for the last 3 miles back to the pier. By this point the sun is really beating down, running along the promenade there was a nice wind but having had the sun all day long was taking its toll. In the distance you can see the pier and it just seems so far away. Keep going, don't stop. Nearly there. Trust the training. In less than half hour I will be finished. I start to think of excuses, 'is that cramp I feel? I should stop', 'Little twinge in the knee? I should stop'. 'Feeling a bit nausea? I should stop'. Again, natural thoughts but as one of the signs I see stated 'Pain is temporary, Strava is permanent' and just need to keep going. The sooner I get to the finish line the sooner I can stop.

I picked lampposts, shops, landmarks ahead of me to focus on to keep momentum, reach and then pick out a new target. New songs kicked in. Counting to try and distract. Anything to keep the mind focused. Eventually I am running towards the pier in the last mile with the crowd roaring support. I can hear, but I am not listening as I just need the end. Everyone just needs the end. And to The Palace Pier comes and I know the finish line is soon, but not yet. The first time I ran Brighton I had thought the finish line was at the Pier. It's not, it must be another 500m or so after the pier. Feels like 500 miles.

Nearing the finish. The pain is real and not pretty 😫

Soon enough the finish line came, I knew I was not going under my 'ambition' of below 3:20 but could be on for beating the PB of 3:22. As I approached the line I tried to run a little faster but didn't care one bit. Everything goes out the window and you just want to finish and stop. I crossed the line in 3:22:21. I had no idea whether I had beaten my PB as I wasn't sure the exact second on 3:22 from last year. I couldn't care less at that point.

I stoped the Garmin, stopped running, took a breath. Felt like a might throw up, didn't see anywhere appropriate, then felt ok. Received my medal, grabbed a banana then awkwardly walked, quick pose for the finisher photo, and staggered to collect my post race bag. Once through I met with Steve, he had finished in an amazing 3:12. A 4 minute PB or him. Quite impressive. We then began the very difficult task of trying to cross the road and get back to the car. After 20 minutes of trying to cross we finally did and stretched the legs again with the 20 minute walk to the car in the meting Sahara heat, I mean Brighton sunshine. Ah, my PB, did I do it? I grabbed my phone, found Strava and checked the previous PB. It was 3:22:30. I had beaten it. A new PB, by 9 SECONDS. Every second counts.....literally. Again, at the time I didn't care too much as there is so much to comprehend about the race. Later on, I am over the moon. It's always nice to PB but not always possible. Every race has its own story, trials and tribulations. I have had races where I have not got a PB's, but have greater memories of how I overcome adversities and certain difficulties that happen in a race. Every race is different and very race requires 'Grit'. I think we are always just so happy to finish and that is the important thing about marathon. It is such an amazing achievement. Whether you are running in the 2 hour zone or the 6/7 hours. It's a long fecking way. Thats why the marathon is so amazing, you never ever really beat it. That's why I go back for more. This weekend at Brighton was great day. Brilliant weather and bright sunshine (I have nice sunburn to go with the tired body), fantastically supported, well organised with a superb vibe and a nice new PB to go with it.

A day to remember in a Town called Brighton.

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