Brighton Marathon 2021

On 12th September 2021 I took part in the Brighton Marathon. Brighton Marathon is one of the largest marathons the UK has to offer, with a beautiful seafront finish, and plenty of fantastic cheering points for spectators. This is the 5th time I have completed Brighton Marathon, but I have not ran it since 2017. This is the first time I have been an Official Pacer for Brighton Marathon, and because of covid this is the first marathon I have paced since Miami Marathon 2020. Today was my 89th time as an Official Pacer, 28th pacing a marathon, and my 88th qualifying event towards the 100 marathon club.

Weekends flatlay

It wasn’t the most conventional warm ups for an event, with an action packed weekend. On Saturday I took part in the Kew Gardens 10k (check out review HERE) and the Richmond Sundown 5k (check out review HERE). I took these events as solid training runs rather than going all out, ensuring I had the energy for Brighton Marathon, as I would never do anything to risk my pacing.

The sub 4 Pace Team

We had a good group of pacers for the Brighton Marathon, and Jason and Pete joined me to lead the Sub 4 #funbus. I was fortunate to get a lift to the start from my wife, and I was there nice and early. There was a lot of waiting around as we went off by wave, but it seemed to flow, and there was a great atmosphere in the race village. It must be the largest event that has returned to the UK since covid. When it was our time to make our way to the start, we went out to find the blue wave and get into place.

Brighton Marathon Pace Team

It was a great feeling being at the start. As our group grew I stopped and gave everyone a race brief. Explaining how we would be pacing, providing information about the course, and just trying to motivate and build confidence in general. We had a large happy group, including lots of first time marathoners, lots of new Brighton Marathoners and many aiming for sub 4 for the first time.

The sub 4 #funbus

Before long we were off, and I forgot about the huge hill at the beginning. But as always I explained we would run to effort up hills as it evens out going down hill. We were ticking off the miles nicely one by one. You spend the first few miles in the town centre before heading out to the seafront for the first time. It was a particularly hot day so I spent my time reminding people to take nutrition and take water at the water stations. Water was in cups so I encouraged people to slow down to ensure they took enough on.

Enjoying the funbus

At each mile marker we were within a few seconds, and I was really impressed at their accuracy. At mile 9 we were 22 seconds ahead of schedule, then suddenly mile 10 came in at 10:46. I initially thought it must have been a missed placed marker, but then the next couple came in the same 11:46, 12:46. I decided I would wait until half way, as I knew where the half way point should be, and it would be accurate. Unfortunately the half way point was the same. I knew then what the problem was. This wasn’t an issue of misplaced markers, and the course is accurate. What is a shame is someone had put the turnround point going out Rottingdean in the wrong place. I had thought that we didn’t usually go that far out but we did, and so did everyone else. Usually I tell runners that we could end up running an extra half a mile because of GPS or not taking the right line, but this was different. The Brighton Marathon was about 700 metres long.

At this point I went to go and chat with the other pacers. It was clear we were just over 3 minutes behind schedule, and we would definitely go long. But we are there to deliver sub 4, regardless of length of course, so I explained to all the runners around us that we would be picking up the pace by about 15 seconds a mile, and taking advantage of any down hills, in order to get us back on pace. This is far from ideal, and we did lose a few on the way who not run the slightly increased pace, but we had no choice. If we stayed at correct pace we would have been 3-4 minutes behind schedule.

We increased the speed, and I kept assuring everyone around us. Each mile I let everyone know what progress we had made. And as we crossed other pacers we exchanged and it was clear everyone realised the same thing. We read mile 21 around about the right pace, and then mile 22 just a few seconds ahead of pace like needed. This gave me the opportunity to slightly ease the pace to 9 min miles. It was such a shame that we lost some on the way, especially as the sub 4 pace, in real terms would have got runners a sub 3:56.

Sub 4

Nevertheless I knuckled down and delivered 3:59:44 on a tough warm day, running 26.77 miles, an extra half a mile because of the error at one turn point. It is worth noting that all the markers were in the right place, and if it wasn’t for this one error it was an absolutely fantastic day. We had a great crowd of runners from start to finish. The finish line was great, and the finishers tee and medal were good quality.

Finish and I still have my balloon

Well done to everyone who took part in the Brighton Marathon today, it was a great day. If you weren’t at Brighton today where were you running this weekend?


19 thoughts on “Brighton Marathon 2021

  1. I just read about it being long and immediately thought of you and the other pacers. What a nightmare and well done on your quick thinking and mental arithmetic out on the course!

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  2. Thanks for pacing… I managed to join your fun bus… something I wanted to do for a few years but the heat and hills got the better of me… and by half way my pace had dropped… I thought it would be safer to slow it rather than risk injury. I’ve never seen so many receiving treatment by the amazing medical teams out on the course. I loved your prep talk and chats as we ran… it made it feel like a proper team effort. The way you and the others pace is simply amazing.

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      1. I had a shocker in the end… underestimated the heat and hills… I did VLM in 2019 in 4:16… Brighton 2021 in 4.52!!!! The wheels definitely fell off but I’ll find another event, approach my training with a bit more core to make me a bit stronger work and try again. I did fancy Manchester in a few weeks but last minute prices put this as an expensive marathon. I know I have a 4 hr in me. Cheers pal

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  3. I wish I spotted you later on! I did the Marathon in 3:56:55 but the extra half mile time made it 4:01:01, I felt I was on pace but once I got nearer the finish I then thought I must’ve just gone slower on the day and my watch pace was out a bit but at least in my mind I did it!

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    1. You absolutely did… so your official time is not sub 4… but you know you can do more… on an accurate course that is around 3:56, take out the hills and heat and you are on for mid to low 3:50’s… Well done

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  4. Such a great read from the POV of the pacer. It was my first marathon and I had my garmin set up to “pace” me in a huge window from 4:15 – 4:40 per/km. I had definitely overcooked it on the way out and the 3:15 pacer came past me after the turnarount (the chap with the beard in the left of the photo and I thought he was proper shifting it but tried to stay with him as long as I could despite being beaten around the head with the balloon several times a minute LOL. All that said though, you pacers did a stellar job out there

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  5. Very grateful for you blog post Paul. As someone with an ambition of running sub 4, I wish I had been part of your funbus tho I probably wouldn’t have stayed with your pace. I missed out this time alas running on my own but as I’m hoping to do sub 4 next April, do you mind posting your split times for your 3:59 this time alongside your split times from a correct length pacing job you’ve probably done before in Brighton? Would be much appreciated and helpful for my preparation next time

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    1. Hi Steve check it out on strava, not sure how to post on here. I would usually aim for between a 9-9:05 min mile and was consistent up until half way at which time I sped up to accommodate the extra distance.

      Sorry you didn’t hit your time, but we’ll done on your marathon

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      1. Thanks Paul – if I could just ask then what time did you go through halfway? I’m always puzzled whether pacers aim to do the first half quicker to give tired legs more leeway in the second half, or do you aim for an absolutely even pace all the way through?

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      2. Steve, I would usually go through half way at around 1:59:40… I always aim for consistent splits.

        At Brighton we ended up going a third of a mile lone at mile 9 to 10… so at half way I went through approx 3 mins slower, hence why we had to make this up. This is not usual

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      3. Apologies I don’t know what Strava is, given my age I’m pretty pre-digital when it comes to my running tech know-how! lol

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    2. Hi Steve, if it helps you, I used an application called TrainerRoad because I’ve got an endurance cycling event in 2 weeks so found myself having to train for both at the same time. The training programme I used was for an Olympic full triathlon but with the swimming sessions removed. I used the McMillian running website to try to work out what my pace windows were for the RPE (Rate of Perceived Effort) in the training programme and put faith in the plan it gave me.

      Hopefully this will help for your training also. I need to up my strength and conditioning because my quads at mile 22 had turned to mush so I had to take a walking break

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      1. Thanks for that Dave, will look up the McMillian site as I’ve been quite confused about “correct” pacing. Huge thanks to Paul for his informative replies about the desirability of doing even pace for 4 hours. I actually went through halfway on Sunday at 1:57 (so 1:54 really) and was absolutely devastated as was aiming for 1.50, thinking that would be my only chance of making the sub-4 hours. Alas I ended up a DNF as felt ill at the 16-mile mark. Will process all this for next April and definitely try to find whoever is doing Paul’s job that day with the 4 hour balloons!

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