The Brighton Marathon proved to be a hot one for many Kent runners and more than lived up to expectations for those taking part.
I for one went into what was my second time of running this great event, full of excitement and anticipation.
Having taken part there for my first ever marathon back in 2015, I was determined to beat my time then (5 hours exactly). Being coy, I tried to avoid telling anyone what my plan was, so as not to raise too many expectations and put myself under any unnecessary pressure. In the back of my mind I knew I wanted anything under four and a half hours.
The day began nice and early. Too early for my liking. Getting up at 5am is so unsociable and meant I had a largely sleepless night, probably along with around 12,000 other people.
Having picked friends Catherine and Emma up en route, we got to Brighton with plenty of time to spare, meeting fellow Kent Sports Trust runners Lee, Nicola, Brendon and Kay.
Now, a phenomenon with running is the amount of times you need to pee before a big race. I just can’t explain it. It doesn’t matter how much you consume in the previous twenty four hours as you will need to pee about twenty times on the morning of a run.
The queues at the portaloos were something else. Thankfully the organisers had put in some urinals for us fellas, whilst some un-named female friends elected to avoid the queues and did some watering of the bushes…
With Ben Rogers (running 365 marathons in 365 days) meeting us at Preston Park, the eight of us filled the time before the start taking the obligatory pictures and spotting people wearing the most unusual costumes.
The temperature was already rising and it’s fair to say running in a rhino or panda costume isn’t something I’d ever be keen to do.
All departing in the same wave was our plan and we executed it to perfection. We all set off about 9:45am with the sun already blazing down and without a cloud in the sky.
Leaving the park we were greeted by thousands of vociferous spectators, cheering us all on. That’s what makes running a marathon special. You just can’t explain it unless you’ve taken part in one yourself.
Complete strangers giving you encouragement when you need it most makes such a massive difference.
The first five miles or so are largely a blur as we all got into our stride and soon split into our own little groups. Ben, Lee and I found ourselves leaving the city up a hill following a guy wearing a mankini.
On the hottest day of the year it was either a smart move not wearing many clothes, or he was going to have the worst case of sunburn known to man. Where he put his race number is anyone’s guess.
Needless to say he got plenty of attention from the spectators on the way round and plenty of ladies were happy to see his “buns”.
As the miles ticked by and we headed East, Ben spotted someone he knew coming the other way, complete oblivious to the traffic cone in front of him, ending up face first on the tarmac. This is where I think Lee and I should have dispensation to have our times reduced for peeling the old boy off the road.
Brushing himself down and getting moving again, Ben soon sped off into the distance as Lee and I made the most of every water station on offer. With the temperature rising by the minute, I must confess I found it hard to cope with. Not only was it burning my shoulders, but the sweat was pouring down my face at an alarming rate.
The turn about mile nine saw us heading back to Brighton and gave us a chance to see lots of familiar faces coming the other way, reassured by a thumbs up or a smile.
Those next four miles seemed to go on forever and I for one was finding it harder to keep up with Lee who was clearly finding having run a minimum of 10km a day for the previous 99 days had stood him in good stead.
Seeing the pier and Brendon’s wife and daughter, Diane and Caitlin, gave us a huge lift and clearly spurred Lee on as he was off! I tried to keep up, but soon gave up and opted to ditch my running glasses as I couldn’t see anything through the sweat.
Running almost blind, I could no longer spot any friends or family in the crowd, but was reassured that lots of people were shouting “Come on Steve”!
Now, as I return to an earlier issue, I’d started the race having already peed for England, but couldn’t hold out any longer and a stop in Hove must have added two minutes to my time as I passed about another twenty gallons.
It’s at this point I must pay credit to the great steel bands and drummers on the course. They really do give you a massive lift and I must confess I like to have a good “air-drum” when running. It’s got to be done hasn’t it?
Miles 16-20 were where I really struggled, but was buoyed by seeing Jo Kingston from MoJo Runners who gave me another lift.
A couple of paracetamol also helped as I found the soles of my feet were struggling with the relentless pounding, whilst I found other distractions.
Now this is the point where anyone with a nervous disposition should look away. A unique injury sustained when running is nipple chafing. Yes, that’s right, nipple chafing.
It’s got to be one of the most uncomfortable things ever and clearly a lot more painful than childbirth (Joke).
Thankfully, the run through showers seemed to soak my top enough and keep the chafing from getting any worse. Either that or my painkillers had stopped me from caring.
Seeing Ben and Lee heading back from the dreaded power station and into Brighton once again gave me the kick up the backside I needed and I was soon back into my stride and following them along those final five miles into the city.
For some unknown reason, either the energy gels, the protein shakes I’d had days before, or stupidity saw me get faster and faster the closer I got to the finish line.
Dare I say it, but I actually began to enjoy the final five miles.
One thing I didn’t enjoy though was seeing the amount of runners lying by the roadside, clearly having struggled due to the oppressive heat and seeing the amount of ambulances was a real concern.
That’s where the marathon got a bit real for me. Is anything ever worth putting your life at risk for? It really dawned on me that I felt fine, but at any moment I too could be struck by heat stroke or sun stroke.
Trying as best as possible to put that to the back of my mind, I checked my faithful Garmin for aboout the 368th time, just for reassurance and to see what sort of time I was on for.
Realising I was set to be under four and a half hours, I just kept on going.
The most cruel part of a marathon is when you see the 26 mile marker. Those final 385 yards seem to go on forever. Running down the finish straight fills you with so many mixed emotions.
I was running in the memory of my cousin Luke Razzell, who sadly died last year, and I acknowledged that fact as I crossed the finish line.
With a lump in my throat and a medal around my neck, I was ushered into the medical tent as I’d agreed to give a sample of blood before and after the race for a medical study.
Once done, I was keen to get into the event village to catch up with everyone as they arrived back. Lee was already there making the most of a spot of shade and somewhere to sit. It’s at this point I have to say how proud I am of Lee.
Not only has he raised thousands of pounds for Kent Sports Trust, but he’s really grown as a person in the past year or so, but shrunk in other ways. Having lost about 38 pounds, he’s literally a different person and I was so chuffed to hear he’d come home in a time of four hours and twelve seconds.
My time of 4 hours, 12 minutes and 31 seconds was my personal best marathon time by a long way. I’d recorded four hours and fifty six minutes in London last year, so was thrilled to find I’d knocked about 44 minutes off.
With aching limbs and tired minds, it was great to soon be joined by Emma and Catherine who had both run for Macmillan. The pair had set off and ended together, doing all 42 kilometres together and again I can’t say how proud I am of these guys.
Again, their running journey started only last year and already they’ve shown how far you can go if you apply yourself. I was once told that running’s not for me, but these lovely ladies have proved anything is possible.
We were soon joined by Kay and then a “broken” Brendon who had clearly stuggled with the heat. Saying he’d let so many people down, Brendon felt he just hadn’t lived up to expectations, but the look of adoration on daughter Caitlin’s face tells a completely different story.
Brendon is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet and I’m proud to call him a friend.
We were joined by my daughter Ellie and I don’t mind admitting her saying she was proud of me brought a tear to my eye.
Last but not least back was Nicola and she was rightly chuffed to have got back within six hours. For someone that’s really taken to running and is doing a minimum of 5km a day for 366 consecutive days, she’s epitomised what can be achieved with some application, hard work and belief.
Our post race ritual always involves lots of pictures and the Brighton Marathon was no different.
With some rather disgusting spicy crisps inside me, I was determined to eat something different to the 3,000 plus jelly babies I’d consumed in the last 26 miles.
For Lee, Nicola, Diane and I, our next race began about 4pm as we set about making it to Chelmsford for the second leg of the play-off final involving ice hockey side, the Invicta Dynamos.
I’m pleased to say we all made it, in time to see the side go on an win the final and lift the trophy.
That really did cap what had been a wonderful day.
Now, I’m not going to lie. Running 26.2 miles does hurt. It hurts a lot. I’ve spent most of Monday walking around looking like John Wayne without his horse.
Reflecting back on one of the proudest days of my life, I can’t thank everyone enough that’s supported me on this journey – those that have supported me via sponsorship, those that supported us on the day including all the fabulous people from the running club I’m part of, the Rebels Runners, to the spectators I didn’t know, to the organisers…
I could go on and on and this would be like an acceptance speech at the Oscars.
The biggest thank you though has to go to those seven people that ran with me. so, thank you Ben, Lee, Catherine, Emma, Brendon, Kay and Nicola.
To the next marathon…..