On Sunday 9th April 2017 I ran my 4th Brighton marathon. A few more stats for you: it was my 2nd marathon in April 2017, 5th marathon this year, 22nd marathon I have completed, which joins 3 100k and an Ironman to make 26 towards the 100 marathon club.
I always travel down to Brighton on the Saturday for this marathon. You need to pick your bib up from the am expo anyway, so it just makes sense. A few tips if you are looking to book Brighton marathon 2018. First of all book accommodation early, the prices get ridiculous because of the weekend. Secondly book the marathon as soon as possible as the price keeps going up. If you haven’t already booked now for next year it’s going to cost you a tenner more than if you booked at the expo, this is not a cheap marathon so book early if you want to do it.
Having ran Brighton marathon three times before I already came with some preconceived ideas of what to expect. What I didn’t expect was the heat. The weekend was glorious, like a perfect summers day. The organisers moved the expo to the seafront this year which was a change and largely seen as a big improvement from the normal cramped space used. I did have a little think about the weather last year, and if it was raining this would have been a horrible experience. I would assume there were contingencies for poor weather, but this year it was nice having the expo on the beach.
I have been used to very long queues just to get into the expo, and I have to say, this year my personal experience was far better, I was in and out of bib collection in 2 minutes. I did however come down a little earlier this year but met numerous people so I witnessed the queue at about 16:00 hours on the Saturday. It was awful, no better than usual, and what frustrates me is that this could be organised so much better. They split it into coloured starts that people choose, but you all join the same queue at the beginning. What this means is the queue gets huge with most people going for the 3 slower times, meanwhile the 3 fastest times are left empty. Why not have separate queue which would significantly improve this experience? Or just do it alphabetically which you could allocate evenly to created an even spread.
One positive from previous years is at least you could get in the expo rather than joining this unnecessary queue on the street to get in. I spoke with a number of people who said they went into a faster colour slot once they got near the front so they could get through quicker, and who can blame them after a 90 minute queue on a hot day. This is very poor and could easily be organised more efficiently.
The venue for the expo was far better, as I’ve already mentioned, with much more room which is great. You really don’t need to be there long though as there isn’t a lot there. There aren’t any particularly good deals, and with London Expo in two weeks I wouldn’t waste your time here. Even if you aren’t running the London marathon, come along if you want to go to a great expo.
After a somewhat disappointing expo, which I spent most of the day at meeting people, I made my way for a traditional beer and burger. I know it’s not the best race preparation, but it works for me.
It was then time for an early night, sharing a room with David, what a lucky boy. First of all i got all my kit together to make sure I would have everything to hand for the morning.
Race morning was a bit of a rush this year. I received a white “elite” start owing to a qualifying time. What this basically means is you start elsewhere and the first mile is downhill. I had already planned to start in Red with Michael, as he asked me a few months ago to pace him to 3:20. I didn’t think it was an issue, in fact last year I got a white bib and started in red with a friend. White start is great if you are going for a PB, but if you aren’t going for that sort of time it’s not a good idea to start there. Unfortunately the bag drop was changed this year so it was colour coded, meaning I had to drop my bag in white. So I got up, had a banana and Grub bar for breakfast, then made my way 3 miles to the white start. I dropped my bag and took this opportunity to use the smaller toilet queue and then jogged back a mile to the mass start. Here it was great to meet up with some of the guys from UKrunchat. I saw Carl on the way, as he was heading to the 10k start. We then met at the clock tower for a photo, unfortunately Kev didn’t make it into the photo, and I’m sure others missed it.
I finally met up with Michael as we headed towards the red start. Now I pace a lot, and for a half 1:40 is my comfortable pace. I have however said that I am not interested in pacing quicker than 4 hours for a full marathon, as it’s important that the speed you run at is comfortable for you, and those running with you are confident with you. So when Micheal asked me a few months ago to pace him to 3:20, I said sure, but with the caveat that I will get him a good even pace to start but if I couldn’t maintain it he would have to go off alone.
It was a familiar start with lots of twists and turns, and lots of inclines for the first 9 miles or so. I must say if anyone is looking for a PB course then in my opinion this is not it. I am genuinely impressed with anyone that PB’s here. Brighton Marathon is a bloody hard course.
It was great running with Michael. The heat immediately hit me, and I’m so glad that I decided to wear my hydration vest. I’m not usually a fan of wearing a hydration vest for a marathon, but I knew the organisers planned to provide water in cups. From experience I know this is very difficult to take on enough water, especially on a hot day.
I wasn’t my usually chatty self for a lot of the race because of the heat, but Michael was great hi-fiving the kids and shouting out to the crowds. I usually like to do this, but I immediately felt the pace difficult with tired legs from Manchester Marathon last weekend.
The first half is particularly difficult with lots of inclines and limited support. But as we approached the half way point the crowds and support in Brighton are fantastic. It is also very beautiful with the lion share of the race taking place with a seaside view.
After the halfway point it is much flatter, but still lots of inclines. Michael and I got to halfway at 1:39, perfect for the time we were aiming for. We held this for another couple of miles then the slight inclines slowed me. By this point the heat was also getting to me, and I had drained the water from my hydration vest. The water stations were just not regular enough and it is hard to take enough on. I personally think it’s an absolute joke that a marathon of this size, with such heat, decided to provide water in cups. Numerous people collapsed from the heat and dehydration, and many will not have finished because of this. The organisers could have and SHOULD have done more. Very disappointing.
As I started to slow I urged Michael to go on ahead, he was still looking strong. He insisted he wanted to stay with me and time did not matter as he was enjoying it (I can’t imagine I was the best company clearly he has low standards 😂). We still maintained a good pace and by 20 miles we could have still hit 3:22, but my speed was now only going to get us in at about 3:30. I again insisted for him to go on ahead and he agreed to do so. Honestly, I used this as an opportunity to pull back even more. I was hot, tired and with London in two weeks I was happy with whatever I would achieve now.
The power station at mile 20 always greets you with the pungent smell. I dropped to 9-10 minute miles and was happy about this. This isn’t the best part of the course, but what was great was a water spray and some shade for a little restbite from the sun. These final few miles were tough. It’s hard as you can see the pier for about 3 miles, but it’s a long way. If you have a perfect race this would be a real opportunity to pick up the pace and really go for it. Today I was starting to get stomach cramps and feel sick. I knew it was dehydration related and as I looked left and saw people were only just passing the half way point I really felt for them.
I came in with an official time of 3:37:24 which I am more than happy with. I am disappointed I couldn’t hold the 3:20 pace but with tired legs and that heat it was tough out there. I wasn’t going to jeopardise London Marathon to try and hold it.
I met Michael as I crossed the finish line, and was pleased that he managed sub 3:30 with a 3:26. As always the finishing medal, tshirt and goody bag are of very good quality. The actual finish and bag collection is fast and great at Brighton. One thing that really let them down is I was given one 330ml bottle of water. The marshals refused to let me have a second bottle. In this heat, with limited water on the course… really.
Unfortunately once you have your bag this is where it goes down hill. You have to walk a long way, to get out of the race village, which is full of families which frankly get in the way of runners trying to get out. It is good if you are meeting family and not going anyone, but for everyone else this is a long difficult walk. The whole seafront is crowded and the bridge to get across the road is poorly organised.
It’s my 4th time at Brighton, I love the views, the route is mostly good, although tough, and it’s close to home. What let’s it down is how expensive the event and accommodation is. The lack of organisation at the expo and the lack of care for competitors regarding hydration really puts me off. Will I do this event again, almost certainly. Will I do it again next year, well unlikely at the moment, I certainly don’t have a desire to straight away anyway.
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