Brighton half marathon review

Challenge 9 of the 12 in 12 challenge journey is officially ticked off! This was possibly one of the hardest on the list so far, and that’s because of the weather we had to endure! I was invited by The Grand Hotel Brighton to take apart in the Brighton half marathon, so decided to use it as one of my 12 in 12 challenges.

The Brighton Half Marathon I’d heard of but never really thought to run it, it was quite a distance from me as I’m in Leicestershire. However, when The Grand Hotel Brighton invited me and it would be the 30th Anniversary of the race – how could I refuse? I was going to be joined by Charlie from The Runner Beans for the race, so was super excited to have someone help check the challenge off with me.

I’ll be going into detail about the hotel in another post. But let’s look at this challenge first.

Race preparation

I’d started going to a running club, Poplar Runners in December because I’d realised my running was starting to coast. I hadn’t been pushing myself to do any better and was finding I’d stay within my comfort zone. I needed something, or someone to push me. I just kept thinking of Ironman Oceanside 70.3 when I’d need to do a half marathon, after completing the swim and bike. I needed that run to feel comfortable.

Running better

I started out in the sub 11 group with the Wednesday running club, and gradually progressed to sub 10 group. The sub 10 group weren’t exactly staying within the pace, meaning I’d been going quicker without really realising it. I felt strong preparing for the Brighton half marathon, but I was still a tad nervous. My seizures have previously happened in random situations, but the only place during exercise they’ve happened is when running. I’ve had them during the running track of Body Attack, and races, like Nike Run to Beat in 2011. I was concerned it might happen again. I think that was worrying me more than getting around the course.

My race kit

I decided to run in my On Cloudflow* trainers after falling in love with them in the run up to the event. Something about these running shoes just seemed to tick all the boxes, from comfort, to support, to just being totally breathable. The realisation point these were my new best friends was going for a run and not having to think about my feet at all. As well as the On Cloudflow, I decided to wear my trusty Nike running tights, shock absorber sports bra, and simply layered up in Primark active base layers. I did have to do an emergency dive into Decathlon to pick up gloves and some compression socks. Luckily I’d already got a buff to keep my ears warm!

My nutrition

I just do not get on with gels at all, perhaps I haven’t found the right kind? I tend to use Clif Bar Bloks and I took a packet with me out on the run, which Charlie was handily telling me when I should be taking. If I’m honest, this made me realise just how clueless I was about getting the calories in whilst running, something I’m going to need to do before my triathlon.

Race day

I had been watching the weather tentatively, hoping the wind would just stop or at least slow down, but no. Someone mentioned it was around 35 mph at one point. I think the realisation this was going to be hard and any hope of my sub 2 hour run was very much out the window, especially when I saw the swaying lamp post. It was this point my pre-race fear really set in. I’d been so blasé about running a half marathon that this wind could actually push me back. What if I was going to end up being slower than my previous half?

I’d done two half marathons before Brighton half marathon, I took part in the Nike Run to Beat 2011 race and achieved 2 hours 40, then the Cambridge Half in 2012 and achieved 2 hours 20. The only half I’d done between then and now was during the Berlin Marathon 2015 when my half time was 2 hours 15. Sounds big headed, but I felt significantly quicker and fitter, so surely I’d be faster than these times? In the grand scheme of things I know there was nothing I could do about the conditions, everyone was in the same boat, I’d only do what I could do. But I still wanted to try.

Even though I knew from stalking Charlie’s Strava before we raced together, she could, in fact go far quicker than me, she wanted to run with me. I hadn’t realised at the time but I really needed that. I was originally going to seek out one of the official race pacers, but Charlie offered to run with me and keep me on track for my sub 2.

The photo says it all – windy much?!

Race day conditions

We had a strong start and I felt good, especially as the wind was behind us. I definitely tried not to go too hard but let the wind push me where it could. When we ran into the wind, that was a different story! My energy was being destroyed by the wind. This was evident as we took on the last stretch before running along the seafront towards the final 3 miles. That stretch felt painful, and somehow like I wasn’t going quick enough to get there.

When we got to the final 3 miles, I knew in my head I could run a good 5k. But the 2 hour mark was close. I normally leave a little to be able to push on but I was dry. There was nothing left I couldn’t go any quicker. Charlie was being so supportive, but I knew I was at my max when I was having to really concentrate on my breathing. It was heavy breathing, and I couldn’t even enjoy the cheering crowds. In my head all I was thinking about was chasing that PB.

That 5k felt long. My body posture had became everything I hated, shoulders were curled and I was slumped. In the last 800 yards I quickly realigned myself, rolled my shoulders back and down and began to pump the arms. And told myself to quite whinging and get on with it. I’d lost Charlie at this point because I’d slowed down, she hadn’t left me as she was running at the pace we were. I couldn’t see the finish line. This was a bit annoying because if I had anything left I know that if I’d of seen it, I would have pushed. The finish line appeared and I was over it to have Charlie cheering me!

Brighton half marathon finish

I’d managed 2 hours and 31 seconds. I was a little frustrated with myself because it was so close, but I knew I’d given it absolutely everything. Also, I’d safely say had the wind hadn’t been as it was, I would have got that sub 2. It was hard but I managed it. I did everything I possibly could and I could not have done it without Charlie, had I have been running solo I would have pulled right back.

Massive thanks to the volunteers, supporters, Brighton half marathon and Brighton Grand Hotel for inviting us. Huge thanks to Charlie for being an amazing friend, and for all these photos!