It's probably the most chilled out I've been before a marathon. It's the first marathon I've done since the last London in 2013 that I have haven't had to get on a plane to reach the start line. This meant that I could stick closely to my pre-race diet. We got up early early on the Saturday morning to drive up to Brighton. It kept turning from sun to fog on the way up and we spent the journey listening to the excellent pod cast 'Shit Town'.
This was the first marathon I've even been to where the Expo was outside. It was down by the seafront and as usual we had to walk to the end to get my race number, but it was pretty straight forward getting the number, and the weather was glorious sunshine. So because we couldn't check into our hotel yet we went and had a look round The Royal Pavilion. I've been to Brighton about half a dozen times and never visited the Pavilion, and very impressive it was too.
Pre-race the heat did worry me. The best running weather that I can think of is slightly cold, maybe with an occasional drizzle, in fact the weather I had when I ran the Edinburgh marathon would have been perfect.
So, all vaselined up I walked to the runner village for the start. I slapped some Deep Heat on and put my bag in the baggage reclaim. I was fifty fifty about putting a bag, I normally want to get back to the hotel, cold bath and get back out, but Sian said that she didn't want to hang around the hotel which is fair enough, but I'd come to regret it.
After a few trips to the bathroom - there were no where near enough toilets - we were off! The first few miles are I'm always checking how I feel. How is the pace? Any aches? Then you just get into the rhythm. There was a fairly steep incline at the first mile, but that wasn't too bad because that early on you can take it in your stride. After the second mile I was drenched in sweat. We passed the Pavilion at mile 3, I'd enjoyed it more the day before. I realised early on that I have selective amnesia when it comes to marathons, it's only when I started running it that I thought 'This is horrible!' but I soon got into the groove.
I wanted to catch up with the 3:15 pace setter as I thought that was a doable time and the 7:05 pace I'd set myself was okay. I caught up with him around mile 6, and then decided - maybe fatally - to overtake. Then it was just grinding the miles. I tried my best to take in the scenery but as ever with a marathon I was chasing a time so didn't take much in.
At mile 13 I remember thinking 'Jesus, I've got half more of this still to go.', but on I ran. Eventually I lose the pace but I thought I was doing well and if I could keep my pace until at least mile 17 I'd be okay. My Garmin tells me that I around mile 17 I was starting to drop to 7:33. At mile 16 I heard a band do 'Eye of the Tiger' and I hit my 7:05 for the first time in miles.
At mile 17 the 7:15 pace setter seemed to magically appear to my right. Try as I might I couldn't catch up with him and depressingly over the next few miles I saw him disappear gradually into the horizon, but my pace was respectable, it only really began to fall apart in the last four miles.
Mile 21 - 22 we found ourselves running around what looked like a lumber yard. In my experience wherever in the world you're running a marathon, at some point you'll find yourself running around an industrial estate as the organisers need to chew up the miles. Randomly they'd put a run through shower at mile 23, which for the one or two seconds I ran through it felt blissful.
I was running the Brighton marathon to raise funds for research into Prostate Cancer. I was wearing their vest onto which I had ironed my name, which is great because people can shout out their encouragement to you. Yet around mile 24 along the seafront, where the route seemed to be less well marshalled this felt like some kind of hell. I was just grinding it and people were shouting "Keep going Darren!", "Not far to go Darren!" and "Looking good Darren!" the last which I knew was a blatant lie. Also what didn't help at this point was that I realised that I wasn't going to get a PB.
I just ran as fast as my pain filled legs could carry me. I saw the Finish Line and did my best attempt at a sprint and got over the line at a respectable 3:24. I wasn't to know but the the temperature at midday got to 21C while I was still running.
I limped past the finish line, got my medal, t-shirt and goodies then went to pick up my bag which...they couldn't find. I remember looking at the concern on the young volunteers faces and thinking 'This isn't a good sign.' and lay my forehead down on the barrier. "We can't find your bag, you'll have to go to the event tent." I was told. I had to walk past the Prostate Cancer UK tent with their offer of a free massage so that my bag could be located. I sat down in the baking heat with some other blistered runners with lost bags and mournfully ate some of the free crackers that I'd been given. Eventually some lovely person gave me my bag back. It had been in the original bagage reclaim, the volunteers just hadn't seen it.
I may have been waiting for half an hour or so, but as soon as I could I had a dip in the sea. I should have just gone ahead and dived in but I had a little paddle (it was cold!) for a few minutes before meeting Sian in our pre-planned meeting point in front of Brighton Pier.
It wasn't the best organised race I've ever ran. In the two weeks leading up to the race the organisers had sent out a email with one QR code to pick up the race number, then sent another email saying that it was wrong and to expect a new one at 3pm on the Thursday which didn't arrive until 6pm, minor things really but post race I wasn't the only runner who had to wait for their bag or had been given the wrong information. .
Still, I enjoyed the event despite my disappointing time. Brighton is a great town, and Sian and I would go on to polish more bottles of Procecco off than we'd intended, but we were with a friend and having a good time.