Despite pledging some years back that I would never run another marathon again in my life, I set off on 9th April for Brighton. Steve, surprisingly, managed to spot empty seats on the already crowded train, it was packed with fellow runners even though just six-thirty on a Sunday morning.
Like our fellow passengers, boringly to non-runners, we spent much of the journey speculating on how it would all go. A good amount of my training had been on the golden, but extremely hot, sandy beaches of Muscat so I was comfortable that I would cope well with what we had been warned would be “Brighton’s hottest day of the year” thus far. The downside of Oman’s heat for me though had meant that I hadn’t exactly stuck to the schedule recommended in my training guide.
Getting to the start seemed to take an age with the crowds all converging along the narrow streets, not quite designed for around 12,500 people all intent on getting to the same place at the same time. We got there eventually anyway, quick hug and we went our separate ways. I joined the crowd expecting to finish within 4 to 4.5 hours. I really had no idea though how I would actually do.
My focus, unsurprisingly, was on my breath. In through my nose and out through my nose, ensuring to maintain a rhythmic flow. With Chi running principles also in mind, I was convincing myself that I was merely ‘falling forwards’ and, as I like to tell my beginner running groups “we are after all mainly air travelling through air”, so no hassles.
I was running at around a 6 minute per kilometre pace and feeling good, a little concerned though that my nice new Garmin was indicating a pulse considerably above my preferred training threshold (I try to stick with Phil Maffetone’s ‘180 formula’). Motivated by the crowds and the usual camaraderie, I carried on.
It is always so humbling to see the huge numbers of volunteers handing out water, electrolytes and gels along the way. The way was lined with bands playing an eclectic mix of music; kids were handing out sweets; enthusiastic supporters were cheering everyone along. Ambulance support staff and other officials evident of a well organised event. Though extra water had been provided to cope with the heat, it was still not quite sufficient. The organisers were sincerely apologetic for disappointing so many runners as they had neared the end of a gruelling few hours.
With the end in sight, I realised, that if I ever wanted evidence that all this breathing, nutrition and other stuff that I have established really works, I was about to get it. I crossed the finish line with an official time of four hours, 21 minutes; actual running time – four hours, 17 – thirteen minutes faster than I had run London twenty years before.
And, unlike the pain post London all those years ago, I was up and out running again the next day – magic.
If you enjoyed reading this article you might also want to read about Barbara’s other adventures, along the West Highland Way, or on the Camino de Santiago or preparing for the Comrades.