I think there are at least 2 ways to approach marathons. One way has you studying your pace putting it all out there and running for the absolute best time you can in your own little bubble. The other is more social, almost a day out with friends doing what you enjoy and loving every minute of it. Brighton for me was definitely a social affair. I didn’t find out that I could run it until just a week before and I was delighted, while I had been focused on Manchester pretty much everybody else I trained with was doing Brighton, so this was my chance to finish a glorious winter of training with friends properly.
One of my training partners wanted to get a sub 4:30 and after my sub 4 I felt fairly confident that I could pace her for 10 min miles for at least the first 18 to 20. Even though this was a social affair I still like to have a plan to stick the fuck to, and 10 min miling was simple and consistent enough to be a good Brighton mission. If it worked out I would not only have got a sub 4 but the week after run a marathon quicker than my previous PB, smug little prick that I am. Knowing looks and nods of approval sealed the deal and, with my borrowed name for the day ‘Kate’ was ready.
On the morning of the race three of us made camp and waited around for some friends to find us, taking it in turns to have the obligatory pre race piss. The first friend to find us is a master of endurance racing, he has done 100 milers over hill and dale, 10 in 10 challenges and all kinds of amazing running feats. For brighton though he was going to top the lot, he ran the whole thing in a pillar box. Obviously I use the word ran in the loosest sense of the word, 8:10 was certainly a record for him but not of the PB variety. Still looking at the thing it was an epic acheivement. In fact that pillar box featured quite strongly pre race as we spent half our time trying to stop people using it as a bin. Eventually the call came to get to your pens and after some last minute panic with getting bags back to put extra kit in them we made our way across the park and the day proper began.
Brighton’s start leads onto a residential street on a hill, being fairly narrow it is quite crowded and so it’s a while before you can settle into your stride. The friend I was pacing and myself ran a 10:14 so we were not too far off pace. As with last year the crowds at Brighton were amazing, I myself was a little more subdued but we had a really good time spotting signs and chatting. There were 4 of us at the begining and I spent the first 2 miles telling 2 friends in front that they were going to fast. This was to be expected because that is my role in our little training unit. I am the annoying arsehole who tells everyone to pace themselves becasue they will pay for it later. From mile 3 on I kept my gob shut and just let them drift ahead, I had made a deal and 2 of us had a plan for Brighton to stick the fuck to.
From then on everything went gloriously according to plan, we even spotted a wonderful sign that could have been made for me. Somebody had cut out a penis shaped piece of MDF and written Go Kate Go on the side. Well as far as I know I was the only Kate with a cock running that day. How they knew I have no idea but we saw them a few times and it never failed to make us smile. On the out and backs we saw friends who were also running and generally everything felt comfortable and good. At mile 14 though I thought things were starting to change, my partner in crime just didn’t seem quite so comfortable and by mile 18 we had to adopt a run walk strategy. For some inexplicable reason her hips had given out and even with 2 miles of running stretching on the conveniently placed lamp posts and then walking we could not keep it up.
At that moment we had a choice, it was obvious that the sub 4:30 was not going to happen so the only options were DNF or make it through to the end in whatever way we could. My role changed, from 10min pacer to chief distraction, I was not going to let this be a DNF day, we would both get our medals and T-shirts. After a brief strategy meeting we decided that the only thing we could do was simply walk the remainder of the race and so we set off telling each other stories of misspent youth and other exciting things. Although there was dissapointment we changed our headspace and decided to enjoy the sights and sounds of Shoreham. Unfortunately an industrial estate and a lumber yard are not that enjoyable to look at, so we settled for chatting with a couple of other runners and greeting all our friends who sailed past us enthusiastically.
By mile 23 we were running out of things to say when we were rescued by a scruffy little guy with a gob on him. “Up to the corner and turn left, you can’t miss it. If you go right it’s all gone wrong”. Nice chap, we had a bit of a chat and started to carry on walking, after a 100 metres or so we looked at each other and said “We should go back and get a selfie with Fatboy”. Yes we had the privellage of being heckled by Brightons No1 celeb. Back we trotted and apologised for taking the piss and went to take the photo. At this moment the phone rang and it was my buddies husband wondering where the hell we were, she answered with an “I can’t talk right now I’m chatting with Norman Cook” To which Norman responded with “What kind of an excuse is that, talking to me is not good enough, you could have said I can’t talk I’m running a marathon”. It’s a fair point well made.
The last 3 miles was fine, the event could have been something that got everybody down and turned into a blah occasion but the selfie with Fatboy changed the day into one to be remembered. Sad, shallow, maybe, but I don’t care it lifted us both. By the time we got to the last mile many of our friends who had already finished were in the crowd and we stopped to chat and gush over our pic. It had been a long day but as we crossed the line picked up our medal and T-shirt it was apparent that two things were true. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan and it needn’t be a disaster. It is worth gritting your teeth and just finishing, there is no point quitting just because things are not working out how you want, sometimes when you persevere Fatboy is waiting round the corner to have a selfie with you and, at the very least you get a T-shirt and another piece of bling.