After finally completing my first ever 26.2 miles, here is my experience of Brighton Marathon Weekend 2022.
I felt like I was so ready for this marathon - my training had gone to plan, the weather forecast looked perfect and I was more excited than nervous heading to the start line. According to my Garmin my fitness levels were peaking. We arrived at Preston Park in good time, I had a last minute wee, and me and my running buddy set off just slower than my goal pace to hopefully ease ourselves into the run.
The first 5 miles flew by, looping around the city of Brighton and providing big crowds cheering us on. There were a couple of big hills but my legs were feeling strong and the downhills helped balance them out. Then we started heading east along the seafront on the first of the three long out and back sections of the course. The crowds started to dwindle, the sun started to feel hotter, especially as we headed slightly inland, and the first doubtful thoughts started to creep in. The 4:30 pacer group started to move ahead of us around 7 miles in, and I knew I would probably have to let go of my original A goal time. They were still within sight though, so I tried not to feel too defeated just yet.
By around 10 miles we were heading back towards the pier, but the half way point still seemed so far away. I was glad to be into double digit mileage, but with every mile that passed I was questioning my ability to finish more and more. I seriously underestimated the mental battle that I would face in this race. Maybe my mental strength was dwindling because I had had a particularly stressful working week in the final days before the marathon.
I made it to the half way point, really uncertain of whether I’d manage to run another 13 miles from there. The 4:45 pacer group had long since passed us. I was beginning to realise I’d soon need to give up on my second goal which had been to run the whole way. I started taking walking breaks from about 14 miles, starting by walking through the water stations, but finding it more and more difficult to start running again each time.
What surprised me was that it wasn’t my legs that were giving up on me, it was my lungs. My chest felt so tight, I was struggling to breathe deeply and I was unable to take on my next gel without feeling completely nauseous. I have never experienced that feeling in any of my other training runs. The worse it got, the more worried I became, close to tears at this point. But I knew crying would leave me even more breathless so I tried to hold it together.
Between miles 17 and 22 I really seriously considered giving up. I was walking more and more and it still felt like so far to go. I couldn’t keep up with my running buddy and eventually saw her disappear into the distance. The 5-hour pacer group passed me. That’s when the first tears came. I just wanted to be at the finish with my family but the course was taking me further away from any crowds into the gloomy and not so pleasant smelling industrial estate. At the turning point back towards the pier and the start of the final section towards the finish line I had a few words with myself and managed to get running again. I knew deep down that although I had not met my A or B goals, I would still finish. That was all that mattered.
For those final 4 miles heading back along the seafront, I just focused on keeping moving forward and ticking them off one by one. I thought about giving Max the biggest cuddle at the finish line and finally receiving the medal I’d been dreaming of adding to my collection. About a mile before the end I spotted one of my best friends cheering me on in the crowd. I started to feel more positive and even sped up for a strong finish.
I crossed the line in 5:24:30 - around an hour slower than the time I had hoped for. But this race was definitely more about finish lines than finish times in the end. I felt so deflated, both physically and mentally, but I had done it. I had completed a marathon.
After seeing the state I was in afterwards I don’t think my parents ever want me to run again. But I felt pretty similar after my first half marathon and I’ve improved so much over that distance in the past year. I just know I can do better over 26.2 miles. It’s time to step back, reflect, realise the feat I have accomplished just by finishing - especially after restarting my postnatal running journey less than a year and a half ago - and come back mentally and physically stronger when I decide to have another try.
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