Indifferent. That is how I felt about this race. I couldn’t say I was particularly looking forward to it, excited or even scared, perhaps marathon fatigued after three last year. I don’t know if this was because I was busy working the days before rather than resting up-perks of a race being on a Saturday…not. For a while, I had just wanted to get this race out of the way, so I could take some time off running, burnt out, run down, string of injuries and high stress with studying and working meant I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this race as much as I did. I had a deep tissue massage mid week to try and alleviate the stiffness and soreness in my legs, but if anything it made me more sore, and made my leg look like this:
The race was a combined marathon and a half, with us marathoners setting off 30 minutes before the half, but going on a slightly different initial loop and then going back past the start. I thought I had never run in this part of the world before, but once we got going I realised I had run this route on my London 2 Brighton ultra last year!
It’s a lovely route along the Thames path, a mix of trail and road, and thankfully as the weather had been good it was pretty hard packed. When I did the ultra last year it was completely flooded and very muddy. It was a small field of under 300 runners for both races, which was a nice change from big city races, I always enjoy the atmosphere and the chat with other runners in smaller races.
After a few miles the fastest half marathoners started to overtake us, the path was fairly busy with other runners, cyclists, walkers and later on near the rowing clubs absolutely heaving with people and rowing boats- it was actually like an obstacle course in places. It was well sign posted though so easy to stay on track, although I saw quite a few half runners go way past the half turning point and have to turn around. After about 8 miles the half runners turned back and we were off on our own, I always had at least one person in sight in-front and behind me, we were like a steady stream of individual runners, exhanging a nod or quick hello.
I felt absolutely shit for the first 9 miles, my legs were heavy and sluggish, I was trying to figure out and understand what was going on with them, I’m hoping some blood work later in the month will help me discover that, as they just don’t feel right. I was really concerned that it was going to be a long, tough slog, although they started to improve from mile 9 onwards. I didn’t listen to music or anything at all for the entire race, preferring the peaceful sound of the river beside me.
After massively overdressing for the Brighton half and the mild temperatures lately I went for minimialism, but I was absolutely freezing, I didn’t wear gloves, and I was absolutely numb. There was a horribly bitter headwind, and I had to audibly say I was freezing to myself so many times.
I had my Garmin, but I ran the whole race on feel, not trying to hit any splits or anything like that, just pushing harder when I felt decent, and easing back when I didn’t, looking at my pace post race, it was incredibly consistent. I felt solid the entire way through the race, I never felt like I was pushing the pace at all, in fact I felt like I ran the whole race in a very controlled way, I hesitate to say I ran it well within myself, but on reflection (as usual) I felt like I could have given it a lot more, but I wanted to enjoy it, and that is what I did.
At one point around 18-19 miles, a lady came past me who I remembered from the Rail to Trail Essex, it was nice to catch up with her and have a good chat for a bit, and it gave me a bit of a boost. She was actually the only person who passed me from about the 8-9 mile point until the finish, I passed a lot of people in the second half though, which gave me a boost.
My legs were gone from about mile 21, they were getting even heavier, but I was determined to not stop at all through this race, not even for a second, and I didn’t want to blow up in the final quarter like all my other marathons. I did slow in the last 6 miles, but not considerably, in fact my only miles that weren’t under 10 mins were the last 2. The last 6 miles were tough, I had to break it down into how many parkruns or part of a parkruns left.
I finished in 4.15.26, I didn’t realise I was so close to sub 4.15 or I might have found a little extra in the legs for the last 2 miles! I was more than glad to be done though, crossing the line to a beautifully chunky medal. My brother turned up on his bike to watch about 3 mins after I finished- I should have run a bit slower haha.
I loved the race, although I hesitate to call it that, it was more like a glorified training run, with a bit more chat and banter. I enjoy running alone and running in beautiful places, so I enjoyed the route, but it was a big change from the big city races if that is your thing. I like that it was less crowded, flat as a pancake, had amazingly well stocked aid stations along the route-including loads of fruit/cakes etc at the finish-and very well organised. I would definitely recommend it, and they run it three times throughout the year I think, although maybe not as your first marathon.
I’m not sure I will run another marathon this year, I had all these grand plans to do an ultra, but honestly I enjoyed my running so much more when I was just doing the run streak and not training for anything. I’ve had more injuries during this training, a load of health issues which I’m trying to get to the bottom of, and I just think my body is telling me to take a break for a while- I can almost guarantee I will be doing the opposite of this in two weeks time, but I need to be sensible and just go with how the body feels, time to rest up for a little bit!