It's been a couple of days since the Brighton marathon and I can barely believe it happened. For many years, the idea of me running a marathon was laughable. I've worked towards this for three and a half years. Injuries have beaten me a couple of times, but last weekend I finally made it to the start line and beyond.
Tom Roper recently wrote a post about running and memory, in which he mentioned how quickly memories of a run can fade. Late on Sunday afternoon I passed parts of the route and couldn't remember seeing them earlier in the day. Now, the day seems something like a dream.
Most of the course is spent travelling back and forth between Shoreham and Rottingdean, with various detours to make up the distance. While it was good to see people running in the opposite direction, some of the errands, particularly the hill after Ovingdean, seemed gratuitous.
Here are my feelings during the marathon, as best I can remember.
It took about 10 minutes to reach the start line, but we got to see the race leaders come by. Mile 1 was a lap of Preston Park, with an early uphill section. I started out running as slowly as I could. My legs didn't feel strong and with 26.2 miles ahead I had to be patient. Miles 2-4 went around the center of town then we headed out towards Ovingdean. Most of my training was along the seafront so this was familiar ground. At mile 8 I realised the remaining distance was longer than I had ever run before, and could feel the distance already done. Mile 9 I took a pit stop at the toilets at the Orpington fete, Mr. Punch squawking in the distance. Saw the saddest gorilla in the world. I walked most of the hills, stingily reserving my energy for later miles. At 13 miles I felt OK – I'd comfortably managed 10.5 minute miles – but I was definitely tiring. Through the center of town towards Aldrington, which felt a slightly pointless detour, running towards a stage then back again. Grateful for the spectator who sprayed me with a hose. Talked briefly with a friend was suffering from a busted knee. At about 17 miles I felt good for a couple of miles. Smiled, kept going. 18 miles – only 8 miles to go, I thought, I've run 8 miles before. 19 miles, the pain intensified, and I knew I would be walking much of the remaining distance. As I hit 20 miles the distance really hit and I was in a great deal of pain. It was hard to keep going when all I had to do was sit down and the pain would stop. Shoreham harbour was a weird section, few spectators or landmarks. I didn't mind it, as I've enjoyed running it in training. Passed a transport ship where silent spectators lined the rail. At 21 miles I almost burst into tears when I realised how close I was to completing a marathon, how unbelievable this would have seemed as a teenager. 23.5 miles, I passed an old flat so I was on familiar ground. I knew whatever happened, I would finish the marathon. The only question was whether or not I could do it within the 5 hours I'd set for myself. 24 miles, I stopped to hug a friend. Kept forcing myself to run sections, sometimes managing as few as 100 steps. On to Kings Road, the last mile, then the 800-meters-to-go marker. Determined to run the last section, buoyed by another friend's greeting. Then over the line and it was done. I'd run a marathon.
I'm signed up for the 2012 marathon and am also hoping to do one in the Autumn. I'm delighted that I've run a marathon but now I want to reduce my time. The discomfort is fading and I'm hoping to manage a very short run tomorrow. 1 year and three days until the 3rd Brighton marathon.
Some other recent marathon blog posts: