Brighton Marathon – 17th April 2016

Trek and Run were supported during this event by;

Salba Chia 

&

Scimitar Sports

Part 1; by Dave Sherman
Before we get started with our reviews, here’s a film I made about the event from a runner’s perspective…

Following my first marathon back in 2012, once the pain had worn off I set myself a goal of running as many marathons as I could but, as there are so many marathons out there, I planned to avoid running the same marathon twice. This lasted for 4 years (and 17 marathons); however when I’d tackled Brighton in 2013 I’d had a dreadful experience due to serious stomach cramps for the last 6 miles robbing me of what should’ve been an awesome experience running along the promenade and through the finish line. Because of this I decided to break my own rule and tackle Brighton again in 2016…

The day before the event we travelled to the expo to collect our numbers and I have to say, this was a major pain. As I live in East Anglia, travelling to Brighton meant getting a train into London then back out again, or anything from 90 minutes to 2 hours on the motorway depending how the M25 feels… For most entrants however, it will involve a much longer journey or an overnight stay and while I understand the desire to encourage tourism, I feel the race organisers could’ve easily posted our numbers and so the whole journey felt unnecessary and incredibly bad for the environment. The organisers give an option for a friend to collect your race pack (if you have friends who are also racing, of course) and the expo itself wasn’t bad with a variety of stalls selling merchandise, promoting charities and advertising other events and a seminar stage set up with a packed programme of talks and presentations, but the queue to get into the expo was huge and I felt travelling to Brighton and visiting the expo should’ve been optional rather than a requirement.

It’s also worth mentioning the issue with the luggage bags as at the expo we were handed a small white drawstring bag for the baggage drop which was barely big enough to fit a change of clothes in. Races with compulsory baggage drops usually supply a large drawstring bag so I’d planned to take my DryRobe and a change of clothes, but this definitely wasn’t the case here, so I had to make some last-minute changes to what I’d planned to take.  On race day we discovered we’d been handed spare bags which were slightly bigger than the official bags as they’d run out, and the actual bags could barely fit a pair of trainers in them – this was blamed on an order issue with the bag suppliers… To get round this problem the baggage trucks were allowing people to drop their own bags off instead of forcing them to use the smaller bags, but this wasn’t communicated out and I’ll bet a lot of people brought much less than they needed to as a result.

Race day arrived and we left home at 5:30am (I really don’t trust the M25!) and made our way back down to Brighton… The car thermometer showed -1 degrees as we left home but thankfully by the time we reached Preston Park it had rose to 8 with hardly any clouds in the sky and, as I’d totally forgotten to arrange parking, we were very lucky to find a space on a side road just a short walk from the race village.

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After meeting some of our friends from ‘Havering Tri’ we sorted our baggage, visited the race loos (thankfully they had urinals as the queues for the portable toilets were huge!) and made our way to the start pens. The race had been split into 5 corals which we’d chosen from at the expo ranging from Red for under 3h30m, then in 30 min increments up to Green for over 5h. Les and I plus our friend James would be setting off from the Blue wave (3h30 – 4h) but when we got into the pen the mud had been badly churned up making for a very slippery and messy start! Waves were called through gradually from this holding area into the main start funnel and eventually we left Preston Park (with a high-five from Zoe Ball if you were on the left side of the path) and headed out into the streets of Brighton!

Start

Brighton Marathon’s website states ‘150,000 spectators’ and I honestly believe this may be the case as we were surrounded by cheers and claps from both sides of the road throughout the majority of the route. It also helped that I was wearing an awesome ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ running vest from Scimitar Sports so every few minutes I’d hear a shout of “Go on the turtle” from adults and children (as you’ll hear quite a few times in the video!). There were some quieter patches when we passed through residential side roads and during parts of the long undulating road towards Rottingdean and back to the pier, and unfortunately the worst of these quiet sections was when we passed the 20 mile marker and headed through an industrial area towards Brighton power Station – the section of the race where you most need support to get you through those tough final miles! Admittedly this section only lasted 3 miles so it wasn’t long until we were back among the crowds again, but those miles really dragged on and this section was out-and-back along a single carriageway road (with speed-bumps, I should add…), so you were constantly passing people on their way towards the finish-line and thinking ‘when the hell do we turn around?!’ – it really was soul destroying!

Industrial area

At mile 23 we re-joined the promenade for the final stretch and I’ll admit I was majorly flagging at this point! I like to think I understand race nutrition by now so I’d started popping caffeinated gels at mile 19, but the mental battle had kicked in and my head was screaming ‘Slow down – you can still get a PB if you just jog to the end’!! I was looking at my Fitbit GPS watch with a foggy brain trying to calculate what splits I could get away with while still coming in under 3h38m - every part of me was frantically looking for a way to reduce effort while still hitting my goal, but the cheers from the crowd, especially as I entered the final mile, really pulled me on and helped me push myself when my body had all but given up. I passed through the finish line in 3h35m – a personal best by 3 minutes!!

While my time put me in 1,274th place out of 10,936 runners – just outside the top 10% – one of my running club friends completed the course in 2h59m putting him in 94th place which is an amazing achievement and goes to show that not only is the course fast, but it’s also a good opportunity for a fast runner to achieve a great placing in the event (the equivalent time in London this year would’ve put him in 1915th place out of 39,109!). The race winner, Duncan Maiyo, stormed home in 2:09:56 – just 31 seconds outside the course record of 2:09:25 set back in 2014!

As I passed through the finish chute there was quite a long walk to get to the baggage trucks - especially difficult as my legs weren’t quite working properly now I wasn’t running anymore - and after collecting my medal, a goody bag, some snacks and a small bottle of water I eventually reached the baggage trucks and collected my bag.  After passing through the end of the finish chute a walkway along the beach led from the finish area back towards the Big Wheel and constituted the ‘Beach Village’ with a number of charity tents, food stalls and merchandise vendors. At this stage I just wanted to keep moving and find my family, but the sheer volume of people trying to pass through this area meant again we had to wait in queues which was agony when I just wanted to sit and relax, but eventually we made it through and headed to a local pub to share our stories and celebrate our achievement – and nearly all of the people I knew running at the event had achieved personal bests in perfect running conditions, so we had plenty of reason to celebrate! Brighton Marathon and my mission to make up for my poor performance in 2013 – done!

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Part 2; by Les Nottage

I have been secretly wanting to do a stand-alone marathon for a few years just to see how I was in comparison to 1993 when I last did a marathon, so when I was offered the opportunity to run the Brighton marathon, for me it was a great chance to see if this 46 year old could beat my previous best of 3.46 when I was 23 years of age.

Registration was simple and in no time I was a runner in the Brighton Marathon. I also received various updates via email and through the event Facebook page so felt well informed as to the schedule of events leading up to race day. The cost of hotels in Brighton was staggering and the decision was made to drive down for registration and race day. The decision not to send out the race pack was apparently an environmental decision (really) causing 1000’s of people to drive to Brighton to pick up the pack instead!

Registration 

Queues, queues and more queues was the order of the day. We got to the registration building about 3pm thinking that most people would have registered already. How wrong we were. The queues went 1/2 way round the block, luckily it wasn’t raining as I think there would have been some big issues raised. It took about 1/2 hour to get inside the building and then more queuing inside. Once upstairs we went to our predicted finish time of 3.30-4.00hrs. We later heard stories of some runners not being able to get their time slot as these were all gone. Not what you want to hear if you have been training for months and going for a PB. The bags given out for your race day clothing were a disgrace. One reason given on pre-race info was security (don’t think so somehow). These bags were about the same size as a Tesco carrier bag. You could just about fit a pair of trainers in it. Eventually we got our race packs and headed to the expo. Well that was mainly disappointing as they nearly always seem to sell the stuff they can’t shift in the shops etc. My friends from 2xu were there and they did have some bargains for sale (you need to know prices before you go to these) and a great pair of compression tights were bought so it was not a complete waste of time.

When we left the expo the queue for registration had got BIGGER!!! We were not really sure that all runners would complete the pick-up process before the 6pm shut down. We met up with some friends who were running the 10k race and when we then headed back to our car the queues were still just as long. Hopefully (very hopefully) the organisers will change this for next year.

Race day

An early start and we were on our way back down to Brighton. The roads were due to be closed at 7pm around Preston park but the traffic marshals must of had their watches set fast as by 06.45 they were closed. A parking space was found and we headed to a Sainsbury’s local for a last minute top up. Watered and fed we now headed to Preston Park where the event starts from. One very important item the organisers got right was the amount of toilets available and in particular had provided urinals which freed up the toilets for the ladies. The weather although sunny was very cold and the grass on which all runners would start their race journeys was badly cut up and very muddy due in part to the children’s race and rain the previous day.

Once the 10k had started it suddenly warmed up but the ground conditions were appalling. Mud everywhere. Not ideal if you’re wearing race shoes. By my calculations it took 9 mins to get to the start line after the gun had been fired. All I can remember running around the first 10k was the amount of mud on the road.  Running through Brighton in the early stages was really good with crowds 2-3 deep and lots of cheering.  I had looked at the course profile before and thought that after the main climb about 8 miles in then we were basically running down-hill. That was not the case as the hills seemed to last for a few miles more. Once running back into town the crowds got bigger and never stopped all the way through to the finish. Running along the sea front was excellent and showed just why this event is so popular. From about 14 miles we headed back into the town centre and ran along what seemed to be a never ending road but the crowds gave a great atmosphere to which the runners responded. At the end of the never ending road we had a quick turnaround and then headed back along the never ending road in the opposite direction. The reward for this was to run along the seafront again but soon we headed to an industrial estate which was the low point of the course. Running on an industrial estate!!! Come on. After this section finished we had completed 23miles and back along the seafront we went. You could see the piers in front and the crowds were getting bigger. The aid stations kept on coming up if you needed a last minute boost of energy but the finish was calling me so that was all I needed. Sprinting the last 3 miles and taking in the great atmosphere from the crowds made this event a worth-while event to do. The last mile and the crowds were behind barriers. I decided to get them going by making some noise and getting them to join in. This not only helped take some of the pain away from my legs but also helped my fellow runners.

Running

The finish line appeared and a sprint finish was tried but failed to materialise. Crossing the line and my medal was placed around my neck. A new PB by 15 minutes proves that youth is wasted on the young. As you walk along to pick up your bag you are given lots of freebies but only 1 bottle of water. That seriously needs to change as dehydration is more important than eating some crisps. The bag pick was easy but no showers were on hand for what I could see. As there were previously problems about the size of bags given out it was surprising that people were allowed to use their own bags. Why not advertise this in the pre-race briefing?

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Verdict.

This is a great event with spectacular crowds and atmosphere but if the weather had been like the previous day then the whole event would have felt different. The bag issue and registration seriously needs sorting and more fluids should be provided at the finish.

Overall I would give this event an 8/10 because it was sunny but it would’ve received a 5/10 if it had rained.  I would recommend this event but would love it if the issues raised were sorted.

Next year’s Brighton Marathon and BM10k will take place on the 9th April 2017 – to find out more about the events and to register for the 2017 races, visit: www.brightonmarathon.co.uk

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