AKA the windiest race I’ve ever run.
45 mile per hour winds along the coastline is no joke. At one point I looked over to my right just in time to see a couple of runners get pounded by one of the waves breaking over the sea wall!
I’d been invited down to Brighton by Annie, having met her at a couple of blog events, and inadvertently been involved in one of her challenges last year. Annie was diagnosed with epilepsy a couple of years ago and has been tackling a series of 12 challenges in 12 months to raise awareness of the condition. She was taking on the Brighton Half Marathon as her 9th challenge, and generously hosted by The Grand, Brighton.
The Grand Brighton, the half marathon’s key sponsor, kindly put us up pre-race and gave us our bibs. Although we didn’t feel quite so lucky when we exited the hotel’s revolving doors into what felt like the apocolypse. With wind so strong that the lampposts were shaking, we wondered whether anyone would notice if we slunk off back to our bedroom and into our robes.
The blustery 15 min walk to the start line made me very nervous that I was wearing totally the wrong clothes: New Balance 1080’s, Lululemon leggings, a long sleeve top and a gilet. None of it was wind or waterproof. And looking around the tent before running it was clear that no-one had any idea what to wear either, with a mix of shorts/tanks, to full coats being worn by runners.
We tried to duck down in the corral behind a group of boys running for a Rugby charity and keep warm with little success so we forged forwards towards the 2 hour pacer. Annie had told me that her goal was to run a sub 2, but with the weather being so dreadful, she was going to be happy with just running strong. I wasn’t aware until the night before, but Annie has experienced seizures whilst running and so on top of the weather, she was incredibly nervous about having a seizure during the race. My plans for the race had changed on hearing this and my only goal was to stick with her, and get her as close to 2 hours as possible. I love pacing, and can do a pretty good job (when it’s not for me…then I just seem to go out hard and try to hold on for as long as possible!).
With the wind on our backs for the first 3 miles, it was hard to comprehend just how tough it would be when we turned around. My long suffering mum and stepdad were at the turnaround point and said that one of the wheelchair racers had to scream at everyone behind the barrier to move out of the way as she couldn’t stop as she crashed through the cones.
It was carnage out there.
Turning into the wind was laughable, my legs were being pushed into one another and I felt like I could trip at any point. Water from the cups were being blown over us and sprayed all over the volunteers. It might be miserable to run in this sort of weather, but volunteering must be even worse…so thank you so much to all the medics, water station staff, photographers and spectators etc on Sunday. You really helped cheer our spirits despite the gale forces.
We walked through the water station and I told Annie to take 2 shotblocks. We were burning more energy staying at sub 10 min pace than usual given the wind, and I knew that the colder we got, the harder it would be to fuel.
The race route took us back along the coast, then into the city, past the infamous Pavillion before looping back out onto the coast. The course is designed to be flat and fast, which I can imagine it would be on most other days! And I can totally see why so many people run the Brighton Half and Full marathons for PB’s. We ran through the first half in 59 minutes, perfectly on pace but knowing there was still a long way to go.
Back out on the coast and I tried to block some of the wind from Annie, but there was almost no-where to shelter from it. We ran on the far side of the road as much as possible to put a buffer between us and the sea/wind although I’m honestly not sure how much it helped. Annie was starting to struggle and breathe heavily, I kept reminding her that challenges are supposed to be hard, that this day was tougher than usual but that we were still on track for that sub 2.
Everyone around us was willing on that final turnaround and to have the wind on our backs again. When it came at mile 10.5 we were more than ready for it. Instantly our pace picked up and we were clocking off sub 9s. The wind was still swirling around us and we now had the added challenge of the sea breaching the sea wall, but the promise of the finish line was enough to keep us pushing.
I was doing a LOT of mental maths, trying to work out just how tight it would be. I ran ahead, telling Annie to come with me.The finish line was a little disappointing, with no arch, only a checkered flag. However, now, thinking about it, I bet an arch would have blown away so perhaps it was not put up for that reason. I also think the 13 mile marker came a little early. Given our pace we absolutely should have been under the 2 hour mark if it was in the correct place, which was a little disheartening to see that 2.00 tick over in the final stretch. But Annie finished strongly and ran a huge PB.
We grabbed foil blankets and headed back to the VIP tent where we were treated to bacon sarnies and hot cups of tea. It was the dream considering we were shivering pretty badly by then.
Why is the trudge back to the hotel always the worst part of a race? Luckily The Grand was just a mile from the finish line, and hot showers and a slap up Roast lunch were waiting for us, plus the glass of Prosecco that Annie kept talking about mid-race.
Brighton Half Marathon is a great spring marathon tune up race, and usually a perfect PB course. I cannot fault the organisation, volunteers or course directors for pulling off such a fantastic event in less than ideal conditions. Add this race to your bucket list…maybe we’ll have a heat wave next year?!