Brighton Marathon 2018 was my second ever road marathon and I entered it with the goal of running sub 3 hours, knowing that being on “home turf” I would have lots of support. I ran my first ever marathon in early 2017 which was a trail marathon in The New Forest. Shortly after the New Forest Marathon, I developed a tibial stress fracture, most likely due to increasing my mileage too quickly, running too much on road and possibly a Vitamin D deficiency training through winter. Following my stress fracture, I was very careful not to return to distance running too quickly and focused instead on triathlon.
My second marathon, and first road marathon, was very much a last-minute decision. I had entered Amsterdam Half Marathon for a bit of fun, planning on racing off the back of half Ironman training. The day before the race, I somehow convinced the officials to let me upgrade to the full marathon. I had not done the training for sub 3 hours or to run a full marathon, but felt fit so figured I’d give it a go. If I felt awful at halfway I would slow down at that point, before blowing up completely which is exactly what I did, finishing in 3:04:59.
Brighton Marathon was a much more calculated race. I began training around November time and ramped this up after Christmas. I was very focused and all my training was aimed towards running a sub 3 hour marathon in Brighton in April. Race day arrived and my training had all gone to plan. I knew I should be capable of my target, however was also very aware that anything can happen on race day. I was lucky enough to have my boyfriend pacing me so he also had to put up with all my nervous pre-race chatter and stressed mood. After freaking out because I only had 10 minutes to use the porta-loo and get my bag to the bag drop (my boyfriend is a bit too chilled out about these things), I was at the Withdean start line and the gun went off. As with any race, at the beginning I felt great (adrenaline surging, body feeling the effects of a good taper) and I was just conscious of trying not to go out too fast.
The race route heads south from Preston Park towards Brighton Pier and then heads East for a while. This was where I saw a guy who somehow juggled the whole way round the marathon, seriously impressive! It then heads back in to the centre of town where the support and atmosphere is absolutely incredible. It was the crowd and atmosphere at Brighton that made me want to run a marathon in the first place. At halfway I was still feeling good and easily on target to break three hours.
It is just after the halfway point that sticking to target pace became harder, for many reasons… Obviously number one being fatigue starting to kick in. The struggle for me was increased however by the reduction in support as the crowds thin out as you head away from the city centre. This is followed by the infamous section of Brighton Marathon which takes you out to Shoreham harbour which is grey, industrial, has very little support and tends to smell a bit weird. At this point I was very grateful to have my boyfriend running with me reminding me of all the hard work I had put into training and of what I was suffering for. Finally I reached the turnaround point and was heading back towards Brighton City Centre, and more importantly the finish line. I knew I had about 5 kilometres to go with a bit of a headwind but that as long as I kept moving forwards, I was well within my 3-hour target. As I reached the Hove area, I started to see people I knew in the crowds who were cheering me on which definitely gave me a much needed boost. I even had people tell me afterwards that I looked too happy whist running - I think they mistook my painful grimace for a smile…
Finally I saw the finish line approaching and pushed the pace a bit for the last 400m to ensure I held on to my 6th place position. When I saw the timer read 2:57:30 I couldn’t have been more happy! All my hard work in training and during the race had paid off and I had joined the sub-3 club!
About the author: Bethan Male is an Ironman triathlete and Sundried ambassador.