So I did it, I completed my eight marathon and here is how it went.
I arrived in Brighton on the Friday before the race having driven half way down from Lancashire on the Thursday, stopping overnight in Strafford-Upon-Avon. This helped to break up the travel and ensured I didn’t spend five+ hours sat in a car. Friday was also the day I chose to go down to the event expose heading there after six, which ensured there was very little queuing and I was in and out with my number within 10-15 minutes.
Unusually Brighton has two start points, one for faster runners, which gives you a most downhill start to the race and a second start for everyone else which sees you running up hill for a large proportion of the first mile. I was luckily enough to given the latter start point…..bugger. Two positives came out of me being assigned this tougher start, firstly the Preston Park start is just two miles from the sea, which is where I was staying, so walking distances. Second, that it made me rethink my race tactic and drawing on the experience of Boston, a hilly marathon in hot conditions and the Wales marathon, an extremely hilly marathon. I decided that rather than sticking religiously to a pace plan, that I needed to be smart and run the route, not the plan. This meant I would easy off on any hill climbs and make up for the lost time on the descents, using gravity to speed up.
The start being within walking distance also helped with Breakfast, as did my hotel Room With A View. Which turned out to be the nicest guest house I have ever stayed in, not only is the hotel done up to a really high standard but the guy the runs the place came in early on the Sunday to make breakfast for people doing the marathon. Which was really good of him and made a huge difference to my race. As thinking back to Boston, another race with an early start, I stayed in a fantastic hotel, but they wouldn’t do an early breakfast which meant I had a really poor breakfast consisting of one of those pot of porridges you buy from a convenience store, a flapjack, an energy drink and an energy bar….not good. Whereas thanks to my hotel in Brighton I had a nice big bowl of porridge, toast and a coffee and an energy drink.
In terms of carb-loading, Brighton is an easy place to do this as there are restaurants and cafes everywhere. So I was having pasta for lunch and rice for my main meals with the two best places, in my opinion being Donatello for pasta and Pavel for rice meals. My pre-race meal was Chicken Tikka Biryani, with Bombay potatoes and garlic nan on the side, so plenty of carbs there!!
I arrived at the start around 8:30 which was just enough time to join the huge queues for the portaloos and head to my start zone just in time for the race. Clearly, the organisers need to hire more toilet’s in future, which a 10k race and marathon both starting at the same location the park heaving. I am glad I wasn’t one the unlucky runners who choose/had to buy breakfast in the park before the race, as the queue for the porridge truck was just as big as the queue for the toilets.
When the race eventually got going, I set off at quite a fast pace, possibly too fast as I just dipped under 6 min pace, but I knew a hill climb was just around the corner and I was would easy off on that and sure enough I easy back to 7 min pace on the hill climb and so the race began.
I continued this system of easing off on the hills, speeding up on the descents and trying to hit my pace plan of 6:40 on the flats for the rest of the marathon, but it wasn’t all plain sailing. The tendonitis in my left foot played up which forced me to stop three times to loosen my shoe lace and then around miles 22-23 we hit the headwinds I had feared ahead of the races. Granted they didn’t last two long nor were they the worse headwinds I have ever faced, but they were strong enough to slow you down, which was quite frustrating as this was a fairly flat section of the course and I had hoped to take advantage of that, as the last three miles were mostly slightly uphill. Heat also played a major factor in this race as temperatures reached 17 degrees whilst I was running, almost as hot as Boston was. Luckily, I didn’t realise this as the forecast was for temperatures of 13 degrees and physiologically this probably did me a big favour as I reassured myself that it wasn’t that hot. Annoying I also picked up mild cramp in both calf’s from mile 15 onwards, now this cant be due to hydration as I because really good at taking on water every day, so it looks like more work is needed on the training ground (read more about cramping here).
Despite all these things, I was able to push onwards and maintain a fairly fast pace, even if I didn’t manage the fast final six miles as I had hoped for I did manage to find myself being helped/raced/supported by another runner in yellow over the final two miles..i have tried to work out who he was from the race photos but its proved impossible I have managed to be pictured around two runners in yellow over the final mile of the race and the race numbers are blurred in the pictures…..Anyway thanks to him (Thank you whoever you are), I was able to pick up the pace once more, particularly over the final 600 metres to finish the race in 2:55:32 a new PB, although technically as with Boston I ran further than the marathon covering 26.4 miles this time so my estimated marathon PB on smashrun is now 2:54:18 but my official time of course 2:55:32 and I am very pleased with that.
I have spent the last three years doing pretty much the same training, but I have continued to make improves by adding simple things such as core work, weekly spinning classes, strength work, regular stretching, foam rolling/other massage tools, off road running and joining a running club. But now I think its time to shake things up. I am currently working through the Advanced Marathoning 5-week recovery programme but after that, a new training regime will gradually be introduced. I cant keep doing the same kind of running and expecting results, there is nothing more I can add to my training programmes, so its the running that must change if I am to continue to see improvements. It will be a gradual thing, but hopefully, by June I will be fully on my new programme and its going to be the kind of twice a day training system you see in books such as “The art of running faster” and I will go into more details soon.
So its an easy five weeks after a long 11 weeks of hard training which paid off with yet another marathon PB and a fantastic medal to add to my growing marathon medal hoard. Bring on the summer, bring on race season!!