Brighton, the place of festivals, fish’n’chips, gay pride and tiny doughnuts. Also the place where PBs are made, fun times are had, and where all the good races finish. I ran my first, and so far only, marathon here in 2012, a mixture of pride and defeat all placed on just over 7 minutes. I also cycled here with my fiancé and two of our friends in 2013, a ride that took us at least 3 hours longer than planned and ended with sleepy heads on a coach home with someone who had clearly had too many energy gels. But those are stories for another time.
Today, I’m here to tell you about the Brighton Half Marathon.
Running the Brighton half with Elle and Bethan made me realise just how fun races can be. They don’t have to be all pain and seriousness, and what’s more – you can actually set a PB time and have fun – the girls both proved that on Sunday. Bethan had planned to pace Elle to a new PB of around 2hrs 10mins and with my own target of around 2hrs for a training run, I decided to tag along with them. Thankfully they let me!
The route covers much of the same ground that the marathon itself uses; looping from the start near the Brighton Wheel, up through the town and past the Royal Pavilion (which looks rather like the Taj Mahal!), then back onto the Parade to do an out-and-back towards the east, then another out-and-back to the west, past the lawns and back along the seafront. Most of the route is fairly open to the elements, but we were lucky with the weather and didn’t get blown about too much – in fact, what breeze there was, was welcome!
Though most of the roads we were navigating were closed, there were sections that were still open, and so in places the course was fairly narrow. This is fine if you’re a speedster, or fairly near the back, but in the main pack of the run it became a little congested and cones that were separating the out-and-back loops became obstacles to avoid. That and the camber in the road along Kings Road made the course a little challenging on the legs and ankles.
From the very first mile we kept a consistent pace of around 9:15 min/mile. Only Bethan and myself were recording our pace, Elle just had her watch set to distance covered, but she was smashing her target pace of 10 min/mile. Running by feel we chatted our way around the course, spotting friends (Mollie, Lucy and Charlie – also running, Becca – supporting) along the way. The eastern loop was pretty much completely un-supported, but there was a band on the hill, which broke up the sound of feet hitting the pavement and people clearing their throats/burping/blowing their noses on the ground (all common sounds in races unfortunately).
Thankfully the rest of the route was much better supported, with locals banging wooden spoons on saucepans or offering bowls of jelly babies, friends of racers cheering and carrying paper signs, and loads of kids holding their hands out for high fives.
Around 8 miles in I had to stop for a comfort break (does this happen to anyone else mid-run??) so I told the girls I’d try to catch them up. Heading back out into the masses, I picked up my pace but it took me so much longer than I thought it might, over a mile in fact, to catch up with them. By the time I did we were turning back towards the final stretch.
Along this section was a steel band, and more of the fantastic support. It was at this point, with 5k to go, that Bethan and I had a cryptic chat about the time we thought we might get. Elle was doing so well and didn’t even realise it.
Along these final few miles we had only a barrier and small width of pavement separating us from the beach and the sound of the waves was comforting and cooling all at the same time. The faster section had made me hot but luckily I was wearing my adidas zip-off gilet/crop jacket so I stripped off a layer and tied it round my waste. It’s a good idea to wear layers for races so you can make sure you’re comfortable for whatever the day throws at you.
Clearly not the most flattering photos!
We turned the corner into the finishing straight to where the support was heaviest and picked up our pace to work our way to the finish line. We’d picked up to Elle and Bethan’s fastest mile of the race (mine had been trying to chase them down!), which had brought on the occasional grumble from Elle that she was dying. We crossed the line in 2:01:33, 30 seconds off of Bethan’s PB and a whole 20 minutes off of Elle’s! I was so impressed with how the race went, it just goes to show that having fun doesn’t have to mean sacrificing pace.
The medal was fab too, so big and chunky – and even has the “25th Anniversary” special embossing round the edge, and room for a time tab on the back if you want it. I celebrated with post-race fish’n’chips (of course!) and a bubble bath my fiancé had kindly run for me when I got home 🙂
What: Brighton Half Marathon (that’s 13.1 miles, if you don’t already know)
When: 22nd March 2015, 9AM
How much: £35
10 Tips for a Fun Race
Here are my top tips for making every race that little bit more fun:
1. High five ALL the kids
2. Dance to the steel bands (other genres are available)
3. Cheer on all the super-heroes (all charity heroes alike)
4. Stop clock watching
5. Talk about anything and everything
6. Eat jelly babies
7. Take in the scenery
8. Smile for the cameras
9. Coo over dogs
10. Sprint for the finish like you’re an elite