Although I spent much of April writing a tutorial for .net Magazine, I did enjoy a brief respite while I ran the Brighton Marathon. Yep, it’s been quite the month.
I don’t say the word ‘ran’ lightly, either. I ran every single yard of the 26.3 mile course.
I have no idea how, especially as my training tapered off a little too much in the weeks leading up to the event. Thankfully, preparation for a half marathon in February (which I completed with a personal best time of 2:15:03) and my decision to run/walk/crawl from Brighton to Littlehampton a few weeks beforehand, meant I started the race with a degree of confidence.
Hoping to finish in under five hours, I crossed the line after 5 hours, 30 minutes and 16 seconds on the road. I may have been disappointed with my time, had I not ran the entire distance. In fact, I limped home feeling rather proud of myself.
Going the distance
Two factors helped me complete this event: shear mental toughness and support from the crowds.
I knew that to complete the race, I would have to set targets and continually review my progress. Getting halfway would be easy; after all, I had run this distance only a few weeks beforehand.
Getting to 18 miles would be unknown territory, although I should have reached this distance during training. Yet by this point, having soaked up the support of the crowd, drunk liquids (little and often) and nibbled on the odd snack, I still felt good. I resisted temptation to over-indulge, knowing what it felt like to run on a full stomach.
I needed to enact a few mind games to continue, and spent much of my time in Hove cheerfully looking forward to the section of the course around Shoreham Power Station. Not only is this industrial area unattractive, but it sees fewer spectators and much of course runs opposite to the finish line. It’s called ‘the road to hell’ for good reason.
On reaching this point, my legs had grown stiff and I anticipated hitting the dreaded wall. I’m not sure it ever came. There was a point where I thought I would keel over and be sick, however. Having run so much of the course, it was harder to give up; why go through all that pain to stop now?! Soon enough, I was back on the seafront and heading towards the finish line. Still, there were a few more miles left to run. It was a real slog, but the thought of finishing kept me going.
Eventually I made it. I was euphoric.
More than a race
Probably my best memory of the whole day was the roar of the crowds as I reached the seafront just before the halfway mark. Such was the lift here, I literally sprinted the next mile!
It seemed like a sense of community had awoken in the people of Brighton. Not only was I cheered along throughout the day (hat-tip to the family in Hove who set up an unofficial ‘Party Station’) but as I staggered home, passers-by continued to congratulate me, beeping and waving as they drove by. Such behaviour isn’t unique to Brighton – I enjoyed similar support during the Great North Run – but it demonstrates what events like this can do for a city. It’s more than just a sport.
Indeed, rather than just run a marathon, I also wanted to raise money for Action for Children, a charity that works hard to help vulnerable children and young families across the UK. Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of sponsors, I sailed past my original £500 target. With donations being matched by Clearleft, I ended up raising an amazing £1200.