I had booked the afternoon off work in order to start the 2018 weekend off early. My thoughts were that I would take a leisurely bus ride and stroll to the village, grab my race pack as well as the Mini Mile pack for both kids, gently peruse some running gear, maybe have something tasty and nutritious for lunch and ease myself back gradually via the sites of Brighton and maybe the odd shop or two, before a healthy, alcohol free night and early to bed.
So, what actually happened was this. The conference call that I was meant to be on until 12 was moved to the afternoon when I was technically off work but it was one of those that you need to be on. Having earlier messaged my friend Mark, who was getting there around 12-ish, that I would miss him I now urgently messaged to say that I would be there at 12 but that I’d need to shoot off to get home and take the call. I had my QR Code printed out (admittedly this still said “Marathon” but I had another email from the office promising they’d swapped me to BM10K) and I had both my kids’ QRs too. The bus arrived promptly and I got off a few stops early to walk through Brighton to get my steps in and make sure my legs weren’t going to seize up through excessive rest.
The Village was easily found and, I noted with pleasure, well equipped with tasty food, craft beer and coffee. All the post race essentials. Pack collection was at the far end. As with my first ever experience two lines were to be formed, a BIG STRONG line for the heroic marathon runners and a WEEDY INADEQUOATE line for all those only doing the 10K. It turns out, though, that I should have been in the BIG STRONG line all along, since the office hadn’t actually swapped me to the 10K after all.
Despite my lack of training – I’d ran once in 2 weeks after a hamstring tweak and my longest recent run had been Brighton Half at the end of February – I was briefly struck by the thought “sod it, I can still enter the marathon after all, let’s do that”. The thought lasted about three seconds before common sense took over and I followed the directions of the volunteer to a young man with a laptop. Between him and another official I was immediately and efficiently swapped in to the correct race. Job done. Then another mild panic about the kids. My son is eleven but was in the under 13 race and my daughter, seven, in the under nines. Was this correct? A few moments of fretting later I was reassured by another helpful volunteer that it was indeed.
Then I had to rush back across town and talk to some people about a sales trip to Lancashire. The excitement never ends in our house.
So, it wasn’t in any way rubbish, but it was more stressful than I’d imagined. Which is possibly why I drank far too much wine with my friends that evening. Whoops.
I awoke, not fresh and raring to go but with a hangover Oliver Read would have been proud of. The day ahead was going to prove interesting, logistics wise. Kid one was doing football training until 11.30. Kid two had her Mini Mile debut at 12.15. Preston Park, home of both the Mini Mile track and the Marathon and 10K start, is the opposite side of town to both our house and the football club. Kid one then had his Mini Mile at 3pm. We decided we’d pick him up early from training and that I would be dropped with kid one to do her run while my wife took the other one to pick up a click and collect. She’d then pick us up, we’d get lunch, briefly go home before driving back over to the park. All this would have been fine if some bastard hadn’t left a massive great nail in the middle of Old Shoreham Road.
I digress slightly. The first part of the plan worked perfectly. Kid one – my seven year old daughter running her first BM Weekend Mini Mile – and I were dispatched in plenty of time. She warmed up while I remembered that, although I was supposed to be resting my legs, watching a child in this event involves the Mass Parental Dash across the park to see your kid halfway round. She bounced to the warm up and started and off we all went. Chaaaarrrgge! At half way she was definitely jogging more than running but she was also grinning and I felt a surge of happy pride. Then back we all went to the Finish Line. Chaaaarrgge! She set a PB (obviously) but had great fun and came a respectable three quarters of the way down or so. Not at all bad for a first effort against older kids. We took a photo and headed home for lunch.
Then, for kid two, a quick change and a lot of swearing over the shoe timing tag (why DO you insist on these Brighton, they are a total pain to put on quickly) and we were driving kid two to his race with no time to spare. Which was a shame as we ran over the aforementioned massive nail and the rear tyre of our car came flying immediately off the rim. Bollocks.
Within seconds a new master plan was conjured where my other half waited for the RAC and I took kid two in a taxi, promising him a tip if he got us there in time (the driver that is, not kid two who I wouldn’t trust to drive a shopping trolley). We made it with a minute to spare. And here’s where it was all worth it. Despite the fact that he’d done ninety minutes football training and we’d had the journey over from hell, he too set a PB (and this was his third year, and he also does the kids’ mile at Brighton Half). He did not look like he was enjoying it however. His red face was contorted in hell. It was a look I was to get used to over the course of the weekend.
During the course of Saturday various friends from some Facebook running groups I’m in had started to arrive. Steve had come from Oxfordshire, Tiff from Milton Keynes and Martin from Somerset. I had said I would meet them in town but the blow out had killed that off and I looked after the kids while my wife waited for a Kwik Fit Fitter. This had been a further stressful addition to the weekend’s plans but I resolved absolutely to have no alcohol in the evening and my kids made me pasta for dinner because it helps with running (I know it doesn’t actually help much with a 10K but sweet none the less, no?).
I managed the no booze, went to bed early in the knowledge that Nicki had been super organized and was going to pick me up in a cab at 7.20 and got a good lot of sleep. Then, at 5.43am precisely I awoke with more adrenaline than a fourteen year old shoplifter coursing through my body. Must be race day then.
Further confirmation of this occurred as I chugged a coffee quickly enough to hopefully accelerate my morning movements before any use of a portaloo was required and greedily scoffed porridge loaded with honey and a banana. On went my kit and……….wait a minute…………waaaiiit….why the FRIG is my hamstring so tight? Yes, I had pulled up lame with it on a six miler a couple of weeks ago but since then I had had it stretched and massaged my by Osteopath friend, done linesman duty at my son’s football match and run an easy paced five miler in the week. So it couldn’t possibly be hurting really. Could it?
I mentioned it on Facebook, just in case, and then again in the cab when the gang arrived to pick me up. And so it was that I had one of those “you know you’re a runner when” moments as we arrived in Preston Park, supremely early, and Steve rock taped the back of my leg, a manoeuvre that necessitated some bending and lifting of the shorts and the prayer that no one nearby has a camera. Obviously, this is 2018 so EVERYONE has a camera, but, luckily, that sort of behaviour just isn’t nearly weird enough in runner world.
As The Avalanches said (or rather sampled), it was purely psychosomatic. But now I had rock tape and I always find this makes you look a little tougher, craggier and more experienced.
What was giving me away as either a newbie or a restarter was my belly, however. I am unfortunate in that, when I run, I lose weight but in all the wrong places. It falls off my face and legs but won’t shift off my gut, giving me the appearance of a cyclist who’s smuggling a balloon in to a party. So what I actually looked like was that, only with my bright orange running shirt on underneath a disposable, bobbly old work jumper with added rock tape.
At 8am we all met under the big pointy clocky thing. Tiff and Martin were there, so was Mark and a good group of our friends from football who were doing the 10K, for many their first. Helen arrived from Hampshire for a day’s watching and cheering and we all had a chat and took some photos, promising to meet at the end of our ordeals. Then it was time and me, Nicki and the football fans headed to the corral for the WEAKLINGS START while the real runners spent the rest of the countdown queuing for a portaloo or something.
All thoughts of injury were gone. Adrenaline coursed through my veins. Though it had been a very social morning I was now in to pre-start mode in which, like Garbo, I want to be alone. I disposed of the bobbly jumper, worked out approximately where I thought the 50 minute starters might be (I am getting better at this though, in a mass participation run, with no timing guide other than over/under an hour, it’s always guess work) locked the watch on to GPS and told myself over and over “don’t start too fast”. The aim was approximately 50 minutes but I was determined to enjoy it.
Then, suddenly, we were released out of the corral and down to the path and the main start line. A quick shake out, a motivational clap, a jump and a silent “come on” and we were off.
The BM10K is advertised as allowing you to run part of the marathon course and it’s nice that it’s all the well supported bits. No clifftop or Power Station for us. The crowds come out early and there was a great atmosphere as I headed down London Road, though I was barely jogging, walking really, at least in my mind. On my watch I was running 7.45 minute mile pace which was too damn fast. I looked, and sensibly reigned it in. In fact, in ideal conditions and, having accidentally settled among an 8 min mile group the race was pretty uneventful.
By the way, I hate road 10Ks. Really hate them. It’s a six mile tempo run FFS, who actually enjoys THAT? So, it was a tribute to the BM10K organisers and the crowd that I only angrily swore three times. The first was when I saw the hill they’d plonked in off Lewes Road. ARGH. Tempo run? This thing was steeper than the beer prices. The second was when I nearly choked on my water and had to stop before I threw up. Sippy cups? In a 10K? REALLY? The third was all of mile 6. But, before you knew it I was over the line, clocking 50.28 and with a grin the size of Eastbourne. My God that felt good. My splits, well, they were a thing of beauty if I do say so myself. Per mile they were 8.09 / 8.08 / 8.09 / 7.54 / 8.04 / 8.10 before doing the last quarter mile at 7.38 pace. Ave it.
I waited for Nicki to finish and then we went to look for our supporters group to go cheer the mad men in the marathon. We found them, eventually, after several phone calls, in the middle of the road by the Sea Life Centre roundabout. It involved crossing the track and vaulting a barrier but we were reunited with our gang and went about making as much supportive noise as possible. Steve came past first, absolutely flying, then Martin, already dropping a little off, before Tiff who looked really strong. We *may* have missed Mark. Ahem.
What we didn’t miss were a brilliant family who squeezed in front of me to see their dad / husband / son. Three generations and all of them, I noticed, were staring at my 10K medal. “’Ave you already finished?” the woman finally asked in astonishment. “Er, no, I only did the 10K which goes first” I had to admit. Much laughing later I managed to help them work the tracking app and the bloke ran past to huge cheers from his whole family. The look on his face was priceless – exactly why we all do it.
Twelve miles was a brilliant place to watch. It’s where I hit the “sweet spot” on my marathon and there was plenty of energy on display there. “No one whoops and raises their hands round the power station” I observed needlessly to no one in particular. The noise from the crowd was amazing and it’s a great place to spot all the characters running round. There went Jordan, juggling three orange balls all the way round and putting up a very decent time. There was a Hungarian race walker, walking at the speed I sprint and flexing his muscles at the ladies. There went Elvis, a storm trooper, a man in a tutu, all running fantastically.
We got round the back of the now closed eastbound coast road and queued for the panda bridge, I bought the ladies a beer and the tracking app started playing up. Just as we got it back Steve came past to absolutely smash his PB and go sub 3.30. Then the others. Tiff still looking strong. Martin and Mark nursing themselves round with London next week in mind, though Mark still broke his course PB. Then Malcolm who smashed his PB by half an hour. Past they came, some sprinting, some jogging, some cramping and barely able to walk, all sporting a form and style that said “I am absolutely fecked but I know everyone’s watching me.”
Pub, goodbyes and stories shared on Facebook and a promise we’d do it again next year. I’m praying I make it to the start of the big one.
What Brighton Does Well
Almost everything. It is brilliantly organised with an army of mega-professional volunteers. From the village, which is huge, to the Mini Mile which is a totally inspiring family day, to the big screen, start, crowds, everything. The atmosphere in town is incredible. The organisers have listened with regards to the old entrance / exit pinch point at the end of the village and made the course wider. The car and hog cavalcade, the tunnel of noise at the end are now absolutely iconic. I was very impressed with how quickly they transferred me to the 10K but everything about the race is ultra smooth.
What Brighton Could Do Better
Not much. I’m going to put in another request to get rid of drinks cups and go back to bottles. I know it’s not eco friendly or cost effective and harder to clean up and I am therefore screaming in to a void but you can’t drink from a cup at pace, nor can you accurately ration when it’s hot, which it was last year.
It is (whispers) a bit expensive. But all that stuff they organise costs.
I don’t like the shoe tags, especially if you’ve got to pin on a number anyway. They may be better at actually timing, and I’d hate not to get a time, but they’re a pain in the arse to put on an eleven year old’s trainers when you only have ten minutes to get out of the door.
Other than that it’s just the hill. GOD DAMN YOU course designer. Although we’re runners. We all love a hill, really, don’t we?