WARNING: This is an epic post so if you don't want to read all of the following waffle here's a spoiler - I did it! The end.
For those of you still awake, please read on....
Last Sunday marked 1 year, 11 months and 21 days after I entered the Brighton Marathon in a moment of pure insanity. It was also the day I conqurered my 26.2 mile nemesis!
I can't say I completed it with elegance, finesse or speed for that matter but I did wobble over the finish line with my legs and dignity mostly intact!
The day itself began with an early wake up and a lot of nervous dithering around the hotel room while I squeezed into my running gear and barely managed to eat a banana and half a bagel. This was followed by more nervousness in the car before my long suffering partner dropped me off as close as he could to the start line in Preston Park, Brighton.
The first thing I did was head for the longest porta potty queue I have ever seen as is traditional at these kind of events then after about half an hour headed over to the warm up area to join in with the mass warm up to get my body moving - after that my legs felt even more like jelly but I headed over to my starting corral. It was easy to spot as it was the one full of people dressed as clowns, giant telephones, elephants, Elvis etc, so I fitted right in with the comedy runners. Despite the hilarious costumes though, every single person in that group of runners was in there to raise essential money for a charity that was close to their hearts and that is no laughing matter.
As the corrals filled up with 15000 eager runners waiting to start the gun finally signalled the start of the race at 9:15, I didn't actually cross the start line until 9:34 due to the sheer volume of people!
Once the race was under way, the sun was shining bright and it felt good to be finally there. The nerves had settled nicely so I soon relaxed into a nice slow pace and enjoyed the sights and sounds, the roar of the ever supportive crowds and some smart kid who shouted "...only 25 miles to go!" as we passed the first mile marker, thanks for that fella!
I was soon passed by a man dressed as a rhino and another dressed as Spongebob Squarepants but this didn't deter me and I carried on at a pace of 12:30 minute miles concentrating on not falling over. This approach worked well for the next 7 miles until I needed to stop at yet another porta potty queue which took 10 minutes to reach the end of. This resulted in a 22 minute mile coming up on my Garmin which threw me off course and left me feeling a tad deflated but a lot more comfortable as I no longer needed a wee! The next part of the race was a long, slightly lonely trek out of Brighton towards Ovingdean where the supporters dwindled down to nothing and other than open green fields on one side and the sea on the other it was just fellow runners and the odd excitement of a drink station to keep me motivated. It did get better towards the turnaround for that stretch as there was a band which got my feet moving a bit faster! The sun by now was getting pretty hot and the small stretch inland where the sea breeze couldn't reach me was tough going unfortunately my genetic heritage is entirely Northern European so I never cope well with hot sunshine!
The course then headed back into Brighton with a nice downhill stretch and a bit more support as I made my way towards the big wheel that never seemed to get any closer! Once I was back in town, I could see the halfway point which I had mixed feelings about. Part relief and part 'oh my god I've got to do what I've just done all over again!'. For someone that's only ever run half marathons that would normally signal the end but not this time!
The good news is that there was another band doing Beatles covers which gave me a short boost onwards to the second half of the course. Unfortunately that boost didn't last too long so I fumbled around in my running belt for my phone and headphones as music was probably the only thing that would get me round.
I stuck my iphone on random and it started with an upbeat offering from Kylie Minogue, which was fine, but then it selected Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd which is most certainly is not running music but weirdly made me smile as it was quite an apt description of the increasing lack of sensation in my lower limbs and my fat swollen fingers from not keeping my arms up enough! Next up was something along the lines of All Cried Out by Alison Moyet followed by Aqualung so I removed the headphones and kicked myself for not preparing an emergency motivation play list!
The miles that followed were probably my darkest point of the race, my Garmin decided that it would stick at 14.78 miles. Its hard enough being so slow anyway coupled with the fact that there aren't actually markers for every mile of the course (plus the ones that are there are easy to miss with all that is going on). This meant that until I saw the 19 mile marker with my own eyes I had begun to believe that I wasn't actually moving any more and I came so close to giving up.
Giving up was not an option, the three weeks of missed training and the week out later on for that calf strain were beginning to take their toll and as mile 20 approached I was almost done for and there was still the long lonely run out to Shoreham power station and back to go. My Garmin had briefly sprung back to life saying I had completed 16 miles but I just turned it off as I'd had enough of its lies by then! By this stage it was more of a walk than a run on my part and everyone around me was struggling as well. There were so many people fighting muscle strains, blisters and fatigue but as rough as I felt at the time, I didn't have intense pain coming from any particular part of my body and for that I was truly grateful.
The end of that stretch of the course was marked by a big screen at mile 23 where a man with an iPad and a microphone read out my name as I passed the timing chip reader and signalled the beginning of the last 3.2 miles of the race. I had somehow regained a bit of motivation and started to jog again which I mostly managed to maintain for the last bit of the course. All I could concentrate on at this point was that finish line by the pier and as I passed mile 25 I knew that I was so near but also way off my goal of finishing in under under 6 hours but was past caring about that and just wanted to finish.
The last mile took me back into the heart of busy Brighton and I was surprised to see so many people still shouting words of encouragement, albeit a bit slurred by now after a day of drinking in the sun!
|Screen shot of me crossing the finish line on the Brighton Marathon 2015 app|
|My finishers T Shirt and Medal :)|
But what does the future have in store? I'm not convinced that I'll attempt a 26.2 again (as I'm writing this 5 days after the event - my muscles are still complaining and the blisters are far from healed!) but I will definitely carry on my tortoise style running and will most certainly enter more half marathons as the difference running has made to my overall health and happiness is not worth giving up on.
Finally, I can't say a big enough thank you to EVERYONE who has supported me over the past couple of years, friends, family, work colleagues, not to mention the lovely people at The Urology Foundation and also to all of those who have laughed and shouted rude comments as I have hauled my big body out on public runs - you have helped my toughen up no end :)
Oh and there is still time to donate to The Urology Foundation (www.theurologyfoundation.org) at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/caroline.gower1 as all donations, no matter how small will make a big difference :)