Brighton Marathon: the pain and the glory

Brighton Marathon: the pain and the glory

You may have heard that some runners had a very bad experience at the Brighton Marathon 2017. It was a very hot day, and in fact two of our lovely C25K graduates ended up in hospital having collapsed (one of them reached the finish before he went down, the other sadly did not). You also will probably have heard that some of the water stations ran out of the good stuff for a while, which was not right at all in that heat, and the race organisers have not apologised properly **EDIT they have just issued an apology**. I was not affected by this, luckily, and had a drink whenever I wanted one. I do also always carry my own drinks because at my first half marathon they ran out of cups! My main recommendation would be always to carry some liquid - my water belt is not very sexy, but it might have helped keep me upright on Sunday :) It was a hard day, but ultimately a good experience for me, and I will be returning next year. Here is my (extremely long!) report.

After months of training, it was finally the day! Husband dropped me off at Hove Park, and I walked the extra 2k (ish) to Preston Park in the delightful sunshine, joined by 10k-ers and other marathoners along the way. Met some "C25K Beyonders" briefly in the Amex area (i.e. special treatment for those of us who had booked with an American Express card, including, drinks, pastries, benches to sit and quaff, and "luxury" loos to visit afterwards) but had a bit of a rush to get out of my cover-ups (I'm usually cold at the start of races, but actually didn't need the extra clothes this time!), get the bag dropped, visit the loo, do my hair and makeup ;) despite having got there early. I was wearing the new official Beyonders green vest, with my new lovely orange shorts (with pockets!), and orange shoes (more on those later), and my trusty baseball cap (recommended). Chatted a bit to a lovely volunteer at the Amex entrance. Got in the corral, I was in the Blue wave, 3:30 - 4:00 - optimistic, but turned out to be a particularly excellent idea due to the heat of the day, and how much earlier I got to finish. I noticed later that folk in the Green wave had been passing the start line some 50 minutes after the gun, meaning that they were running in the hottest part of the day for that much longer. Waiting in the corral, a man flicked a wasp off my arm, and another (upon hearing it was my first go at the Brighton Marathon) dispensed information about the difficulty of the "Power Station" part of the course (more on that later). I was enjoying the announcing, and even the dodgy pop music, jigging along to it in a semblance of warm-up.

We were soon underway, about 15 minutes after the gun. People were popping into the portaloos that were dotted along the tunnel, I felt very glad of my Amex card. After passing under the starting arch, leaving the park, and doubling back North, I saw the Beyonder cheerleader with the cowbell alongside the park as we ran up the slope - I love me a cowbell :). I was surprised to notice some used gels on the road, were they someone's breakfast? It was nice to come to the first mile marker while we were still at Preston Park (having circled it), but I was quickly realising that the "Brighton Town" section of the race was going to be quite a trial because we were inland and therefore sheltered from the Southeasterly breeze, at the mercy of the sun's heat. That said, the crowds were marvellous, and a big grin was on my face as I passed the first of several drumming bands. I got very confused about where I was, looking down a lot is necessary, but still it was to my shame that I actually did not see the Pavilion - even though we passed it twice! The first half of the course has some undulations, which suit me better than the complete flatness to come later, and I took off pretty quickly, although feeling comfortable with pace despite the heat. That said, I was sipping on my Lucozade Sport (I had a half litre with me in the two bottles on my running belt) from the beginning, and I was starting to wonder when we would be getting to the first water station which I seemed to remember was at the 3 mile mark. Ah, finally! My first go at grabbing a cup of water on the go (yes, I hadn't bothered to practice this) - water went straight up my nose! I got the giggles and carried on. We went into the studenty Hanover area, and the only hill of any real steepness, but it was short, and of course followed by a lovely downhill section to relax on.

Finally, we came to what I thought of as the next section "Ovingdean and Back", via Kemp Town, where the crowd were particularly cheerful, it seemed to me. I cracked open the first of my gels (Gu, salted caramel, serviceable), and nipped at it as I headed up the coast road. As I was at around Mile 7 I saw the front runners coming back the other way! I gave them a big cheer, and felt glad because everything was going well. I liked the run up to Ovingdean, I haven't run on the top of the cliff before - I go that way occasionally, but always along the "Undercliff Walk", a nice flat path along the shore which goes a bit further than Rottingdean. But at the cliff top the view is lovely, and on the day we had the breeze in our faces as we undulated eastwards. Having said that, by the time we passed the Roedean School, I was starting to look up and see a seemingly everlasting river of runners up ahead, and wonder when we would get to Ovingdean and turn back for Brighton. At a roundabout we headed inland, and at that point abdominal cramp descended upon me. I get this sometimes, I'm not quite sure what it actually is, but this time it started to feel like a brick had been thrust into my ribs! I slowed my pace, and thought about stopping to stretch and walk a bit, but I just decided I should keep running - so I just did! At the turnaround in the village (bless all the high-fiving children of Ovingdean!) the pain eased, and the boost of starting to head back for Brighton was tremendous! I enjoyed some downhill running, but I could feel the force of the sun strongly, with the wind behind me, and I started to worry about how much sun exposure I would continue to get. If figured that, at least in Hove, we would probably get some shade after the turnaround... I came to the first water station where they weren't holding out the water to us, and made a quick decision to grab a cup from the table and walk while I drank it. This became my strategy for most of the rest of the race - I realised that with the heat I would have to rest more, and reduce my pace. I ate my Mars Bar Bites at that point - I'd felt very good on Mars Bars at the Beachy Head Marathon and was determined to have some with me for this one. Turns out that Mars Bars are indeed The Bomb when running a marathon! And they only melted a little bit :) We got back down to Brighton, and I remembered that some Beyonder cheerleaders had said that they would be at Mile 12, so I looked for them, but thought I'd missed them. I was really starting to wonder if I could finish the marathon at that point - not even quite halfway through! And it was so hot! But then I spotted three women dressed as witches, and wearing Beyonder tops - I shouted "Oy, Witches!!" and waved at them, and one of them saw me and yelled back. It gave me such a boost to see them, I can't tell you! I've not really been a regular contributor to the Beyonder group, but I got into the excitement of it leading up to the marathon, and I'm really glad I spotted those witches!

Onwards to the section we will call "Deepest Hove". Apparently my husband was there and saw me turning up Grand Avenue, and I was smiling. I didn't see him, but I remember I was smiling at some girls dancing on a stage. However, at that point I was actually thinking I might quit - it was only my massive Ego that drove me on. I was feeling ground down by the heat, so I turned to Jelly Baby power - chased down with some Lucozade Sport, I received a hit of citrus zing that picked me up and powered me forward. For a while anyway. The crowd in Hove were VERY noisy, and were out in force with Jelly Babies (I wonder if Brighton supplies of Babies ran dry that weekend?), sliced oranges, and hosepipes. But I struggled on New Church Road, yearning to double back and run in the shade I could see on the other side of the road. I was grabbing the High 5 drinks gratefully (I like that stuff, it turns out - hadn't tried it before). At Portslade I stopped to walk, and have a gel. I felt a bit sorry to be walking, because I run to Portslade often, and normally enjoy the slight downhill incline which makes the run feel almost effortless. However, I needed the break. And after the rest and food, the run back along to Grand Avenue was something of a joy. I ran through hosepipes, I bopped past the steel band playing 'Dancing Queen'. I was restored.

But, then we had to turn back into the sun, and head towards the infamous "Power Station" section. This was my first passing of my own abode (between miles 19 and 20, and later on between 23 and 24), and I had considered the possibility that I might just decide to go home and get in the bath at that point. But on the day the sight of our flat actually gave my spirits quite a lift - despite the fact that we seemed to be sharing the road with actual cars at that point (don't you love getting to run along roads that have been closed for you? I'd got pretty used to it by then!). And then, there it was, past Fatboy Slim's house, into the depths of Southwick's industrial area. I had a clear strategy for this part - I was going to love it! Actually, I go for runs up to the power station sometimes, and it's fun because the marina there is pretty (I love me a marina, and that one happens to be called Lady Bee :), and I get to cross the lock, which is fun. Obviously I couldn't cross the lock this time (although I did admire the marina), but I did get to run around the power station, which was new. What really struck me about this section was how many people seemed so defeated by it. Of course, that is the time when people "hit the wall" (or "bonk" as the Americans say - luckily there wasn't any British bonking going on as far as I could see, although some people outside a yoga studio were doing some pretty strange things!), some of them must have been suffering from dehydration/exhaustion, and the ambulances were certainly in evidence there. But I felt as though many had just given up, and I passed lots of people walking, as I continued to jog at my rather reduced pace. But there were fun things going on there - the LOUDEST drumming band of the day, they were making an incredible noise and I gave them my thanks - there were proper sprinklers set up, the water so cold it made us gasp, but so welcome! There were people at the turnaround to cheer us, and there was shade by the power station (where I did walk for a bit), and more shade along the return to the lagoon.

And then we came to the final 5k. Two men were singing "The final parkrun!!" to the tune of the Europe classic "The Final Countdown", so I joined in with that. And then I struggled mightily!! My thoughts about the last 5k have always been that, as my main stomping-ground, it should be a breeze. But of course it wasn't. And in fact the breeze blowing against us seemed so strong! It was difficult to filter past the crowds by The View (a horrid pub with a lovely sea view :). I did enjoy Hove Lawns, where a sort of tunnel had been made with barriers, lined with cheering Hoveites. I ran past the last few water stations because I had enough Luco left in my bottles, but when I came to the (tiny) incline by the Peace Statue (and the start of the final mile), I had to walk - it seemed so steep! After that, I managed to carry on jogging to the end, but it was hard going! My shoes had been irritating my toes for some time, and it had got to the point of proper soreness. The second toe of my left foot is looking distinctly unattractive today (tmi) - I will have to find some better shoes for the next marathon I think, Altras possibly. I felt as though I was right at the back of all the runners. I was running near a man called John, and everyone was cheering him on. I did not have my name displayed on my person so I stole a bit of "John" power from him, and managed a feeble extra kick towards the finish line. And then, there, I crossed it! I managed to smile and raise my fists, and then I just had a grin at the sky, and thought "Yeah!" :)

After some time spent collecting medal, goodies, baggage, and sorting out my cover-up top and sunglasses, I eventually found my husband in the "reunion area" on the beach (letter A, the furthest away!). We sat for a while on the pebbles, and I came to realise just how incredibly hot a day it was. It was a little after 2pm by then, and, well, phew! The space blanket they handed me was not needed, although our cats enjoyed playing with it later. Sick of eating sweet stuff all day, I grabbed the packet of crisps on offer greedily, but I couldn't eat them because my mouth was too dry. Luckily I'd put a bottle of choccy milk in my bagdrop bag, which really hit the spot and I recommend it thoroughly. Perhaps not so commendable was the pint of lager I had after escaping from the race village (very tricky, with so many people there!), but I enjoyed it very much :D

Today I am feeling fine, apart from a bit of a knee twinge, and the aforementioned toe. I used a MyAsics plan, hard level, three runs per week, and I do recommend it! I finished with a chip time of 4:16:53, and I feel bloody proud of myself.

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  • Well done roseabi, that's brilliant, on such a hot day too, so glad you got round safe and sound. Know what you mean about water, though, I tend to carry it more and more now, no matter what the length of my planned run.

    Nice bling!


  • Thanks Madge! xx

  • Lovely write-up on what must have been an extremely gruelling Marathon, Abi. That is a really good time in any circumstances and doubly so because of the punishing heat.

    I am, tentatively, planning to do the race next year and certainly hope for more temperate conditions.

    Very poor show for the organisers to not have sufficient amounts of water.

  • Thanks Dunder! I am going to do a rain dance for next year, so we'll be fine ;)

    Yes. I expect they will learn from it at least. It rather seemed to me that they'd put on some extra stations, although I haven't seen any mention of it, and I was probably hallucinating anyway! But if they did that could be a reason why some stations ran out for a bit...

  • Abi, this is such an amazing report, really enjoyed reading it :-)

    I ran a 10k once on one of the hottest days of the year , and the organisers ran out of water . It was just awful , there were runners passing out and all you could hear were the ambulance sirens going off, so to do a Marathon in those conditions must be extremley tough .That experience taught me never to run a race without my own water .

    Great pics and I love the bling.

    Massive Congratulations to you on such a fantastic achievement ! :-) xxx

  • Wow, thanks Poppy! xxx

    Yes, I would have felt desperate with no water. Although I hope I've not given the impression that our guys collapsed because they had none - that was not the case!

  • Wow just felt like a read War & Peace! great report and I think maybe the longest ever!

    Great time for the heat and it is a great experience and it reminded me of last year having the same struggles (apart from the heat thank god) but I am happy that I used an Amex card for 2018 which I didn't do last year. The toes will be fine they might go a bit black but wear your black toe nails with pride you earnt them!

    so under 4hrs next year?

  • Heh, thanks Ben! I remembered your report when I was climbing those speed ramps on Basin Road :)

    I'll have black toenails, but at least I've got a silver credit card - the Amex area was definitely a Very Good Thing, I couldn't believe the loo queues in the rest of the park!

    Under 4 hours indeed is the plan :D

  • Wow, what a result Abi, and I absolutely loved reading the race report. It's fascinating to follow you around the course like this!

    Totally agree that there is zero excuse for the organisers running out of water, even if the wise ones like you carried some supplies themselves. But the organisers really should have planned for a hot day and taken precautions.

    Amazing time, particularly given the heat on the day. Big, big congratulations! You're da star!

  • Awww it sure has taken me long enough to write it :D Thank you, Tomas!! xxx

  • Hard level! Good gawd! I use the easy one and it's doing me in ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

    Loved that report! Great stuff. I get what you mean about sweet stuff. By the end you feel your mouth is gummed up. I have tried to steer clear of sweets for that reason. On a marathon though you snaffle owt going ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

    American Express opens up exclusive doors doors does it! That's handy. I don't think I could get one of those, sadly. Unfortunately , I am with the bank that likes to say Tough Sh*t Baby ๐Ÿ˜Ž I could always apply. Worth it if it gets you access to a clean lav. The lady I run with only ran one marathon after being put off for life by filthy portaloos ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

    I hope your feet are ok.

  • I find it hard to swallow proper food during a race, in fact I was glad my Mars Bar Bites had gone so soft! There were actual sausage rolls at the Beachy Head marathon, which I was dying for, but I was too scared to try them in case they wouldn't go down!

    I must admit that, now I remember, the loos in the Amex area weren't all that (although they were proper loos, not those coffin things), and we still had to queue a bit. But still, far better than in the main park.

    Thank you very much xxx :D Feet are already much better!

  • Well done, Rose! What a fantastic time! I hope your knees and feet are healing fast.

    I loved reading your detailed report. I am not sure I would be able to remember that many details of a race. Everything tends to blur a bit when I start running :-) It sound like you had a great time. Love the bling too!

  • Thanks Iben :) xx

    I have been racking my brains for the last couple of days to remember as much as possible before it all goes!

  • Well done - well done! What a fantastic run report Roseabi and lovely photos too! Huge congratulations on a fantastic time on a really hot day! What an achievement! I am so inspired my all these marathon reports that are popping up at the moment. The sense of achievement must be amazing! Rest up well and wear your bling with pride!๐Ÿ™‚

  • Thank you Sandra :) xx

    The sense of achievement is amazing, I love it!

  • What a fantastic race report, and what a fantastic achievement in all that heat. And thankyou for the many tips on fluids, gels and snacklets... you must have been weighed down at the start with your provisions. So glad that you got round without ill effect on that very, very hot day.

  • Ha, thanks Marky! xx It was tricky running around with my pickernick basket ;)

  • Brilliant absolutely brilliant!!

    Well done rose!!!!


  • Hey Gra! Haven't seen you in a while, how are you? And thanks :) xxx

  • Hi rose

    Many congratulations on your marathon!!

    Be sure to nakecsure you recover properly!!

    I've been dogged by a calf problem since late January and the upshot is I haven't given it enough time to recover before starting again!!

    So my Physio said last week I must give it 4 weeks rest but I can cycle and swim


  • Ohhh sorry to hear that, Gra :( I'll be joining you virtually for the cycling and swimming soon, should be fun! Hope you can get back to running asap all the same xx

  • Well done Roseabi, a great time and a great breakdown of the trials and tribulations that we all encountered yesterday. I also completed it but was in the Green corral and fell victim to the water stations that turned into "mirages". I was going great guns till I got to around 15 miles and then (without sounding too professional) I hit the wall. It was an uphill battle after that with 75% of me was telling me to give up. Fortunately the other 25% won the day and I did finish it albeit in a slower time than I would have liked. Having said that, it was my first (possibly my last!!) so one chalked off the bucket list. I must try and grab my Marathon badge to go with my medal and x-small t-shirt (I'm 6' 1") that I was presented with at the end.....LOL

  • Oh wow, well done to you!!!! Much respect, you did amazingly - it was a hell of a day!

    Can you get the t-shirt over your foot, maybe? Leg t-shirts are all the rage in Brighton :)

  • Well done - sounds like it was a marathon baptism of fire. Glad the 25% won.

  • Well done - it was such a hot day, you should be very proud. I used to live in Brighton so enjoyed that little tour of the surrounds. Really not on to run out of water - the first station at my breakfast run the other week had none left and there were only 2 stations on an 8 mile circuit (which some were doing 2 and a half laps of). Didn't trouble me but disaster for some.

    Shame about the Pavilion, always next time. After the GSR I told my mate we hadn't run past HMS Victory, when I watched the highlights on TV I spotted myself running past it.

    Anyway rest up - hope your feet recover soon.

  • Thank you! xx Ha ha it's crazy isn't it! You do need to watch where you're stepping, but I definitely messed up there. At least I'm only in Hove, so I can pop into Brighton to pay my respects at the weekend :)

  • Wow! Congratulations what an epic adventure. You really did fantastically well, especially given how very hot it was. Great tip about the Mars Bar bites . :)

  • Thanks Mum! xx I just found and threw away the gooey ziplock that had held them :)

  • Wow! what a great report to read, and what a brilliant time to do on such a hot day!

    Congratulations, hope you are recovering well after such a mammoth run :)

  • Thank you, Ali!! xx I am beyond chuffed, and feel very good :)

  • And so you should be :) !!

  • Great write up and very well done you... in that heat too! Brilliant!

    I love reading the reports as this is something I shall never experience... (my choice) ... but it is wonderful to experience it through folk like you.. thanks for sharing your great achievement !

  • Oh thank you Floss! xx

    It really helps to write it all down, I would hate to forget the experience, and I can get a few tips for next time :)

  • I really enjoyed that write-up, Rosabi :) Congratulations, that is just AWESOME. I am waving my pompoms for you! What's the Beyonders?

    I had the water problem once, at the end of a 10k. They gave me beer instead. The result was not pretty.

  • Wow, thank you Mfam!! xx I've heard there are marathons with beer or wine all along the way - I can only imagine the carnage! Sorry to hear about your bad experience.

    Beyonders are the Facebook group called Beyond C25K, sorry I forgot to explain that in my report! I think quite a few of the folk on here are also on there...

  • Ooh! Is it a black tie and ball gown group? Do I need an official invite or can I tag along too?

    I only drink water on races, but my HM is a wine route (It's called the vineyard Marathon, so everyone is warned). I did the 10 k last year and steered clear of the booze; even if the wine is delicious I'll end up in a ditch if I drink and run.

  • Mostly a pretty scruffy bunch, but I'm sure you would be most welcome :)

    Zut alors, dans le vin est un fossรฉ! (said Google translate :) )

  • Google translate is not ready to put me out of business yet :D

  • I've heard that it has been the cause of many an embarrassment :)

  • Thanks for the link. I've now joined aswell (and they've accepted me๐Ÿ˜Ž). Will be a challenge to identify you all with your real names - but I've spotted a few already. Yet another running-related forum - I'm not becoming obsessed am I ?๐Ÿ˜ˆ

  • Fantastic report, and an amazing time, too! I was in the group cheering about a mile from the finish but I'm not sure if we spotted you or not - sorry if we didn't. We were getting difficulties with the tracker and seeing people.

    The water situation was terrible. I did the 10k and at the first water station we were turned away. They told us the next water station was 'just round the corner' but actually it was about 2km further on. That put it at about 5km which is normal for a 10k race but where we were standing to support, so many people were struggling at the end - we saw two people collapse, and so many were staggering from the heat. Many didn't have water on them - must have thought they'd be okay with the water stations :(

    The question is... have you signed up again for next year yet? :D

  • Thank you Annie!! xx No worries, I haven't been much of a contributor to the Beyonders group, and don't tend to put up photos of myself much, so it would have been surprising if you'd spotted me! Actually, it was funny, when I went to say hi to Andrew in the Amex tent, I introduced myself and he said "I'm Andrew" and then laughed because he had ANDREW written on his chest in huge white letters. And I laughed more because I've seen so many pics of him on Facebook that I knew exactly who he was! Bit weird, really :) Anyway, I very much appreciated knowing that there were people there cheering us on; it really helped keep me going, so thank you again!

    Jolly well done for getting through your race, it was a toughie for sure.

    And the answer to your question is... Yes I have!! :D

  • Wow and wow again, you did absolutely brilliantly, and that time too is amazing. You must feel so proud of yourself... I wish I was there too in my Beyonders t shirt ( which finally arrived!!) to be cheered on by the witches, I bet that was fantastic. You are amazing, huge well done ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ†

  • Awwwwww thank you Ju-Ju!!! I have to say, Brighton seemed very much harder than Beachy Head! I was thinking that a lot as I was running on Sunday, but I've only myself and my outrageous goals to blame, of course :) I think your marathon looked much more fun!

  • Awesome. That was a wonderful achievement roseabi, and what a good time! Super report as well.

  • Oooh, sorry I missed your comment before! Thank you Anne!! xxx

  • Congratulations, roseabi. What a brilliant time, especially in such trying conditions! I always carry water as well. It's nice to know that you have fluids, no matter what.

  • Thanks, 3PO :) xxx It certainly is nice to know that!

  • WOW!!!!

    well done!thanks for the great report here! you will be an inspiration for next week for me! :)

  • Thanks! All the best for your marathon - relax, enjoy, beat my time, and I look forward to reading your report :)

  • Thanks! I will do the relax and enjoy parts, not sure I am up to the challange of your time, as I usually hit walls around miles 22, but you never know what can happen ... I'll try to be more online and report the outcome :)

    all the best and congrat again on your mar!

  • Awesome

  • Well done you! If you do it again next year I shall cheer you on at the power station. We were down there with the dogs before it got too hot this year and no-one had got that far by the time we were leaving. Though Carats was doing a roaring trade with supporters and volunteers having breakfasts.

  • That was nice for Carats ๐Ÿ˜˜ I've not got around to stopping off there for a coffee yet... One time I was running past them and bumped into a triathlon that was partway through. I don't know who the organiser was but I did notice they had a jolly good cake table :)

    I have signed up for next year, so I'll look forward to seeing you there! Hope the weather's a bit cooler for it...

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