Brighton Marathon 9th April 2017 By Victoria Jeeves
I didn’t plan to run the Brighton Marathon. In fact, I never planned to run any marathon – ever!
Those of you who run with friends or clubs will understand how easy it is to get carried away with it all, especially if you are running with like-minded people in similar positions to yourself. I’m a full-time working mother of three lively young boys. Fortunately, I have a supportive husband who is happy to do his fair share.
Just over 4 years ago, I was ‘talked’ into starting parkrun, next, I was ‘talked’ into joining the Flyers Southend. Before I knew it, I was taking part in the Brighton 10k run and then the Wimbledon Half marathon – I think I may be easily led! I enjoyed all of these races, but always finished knowing I would never run any further and that I was at my absolute limit, but with constant support and encouragement, I ‘upped the ante’.
I’d spent 40 years saying I couldn’t run and couldn’t even begin to imagine what would ever possess anyone to enter a marathon. Why would you put your body through it unnecessarily? I’d always quoted to my husband that I wouldn’t run a marathon even if you paid me, let alone PAY to run one. He had a vision of us running the London marathon together, he wanted to get a third medal for our third child after previously running London twice before. I made a pact with him that I’d run a marathon if he took part in a parachute jump with me, one of my previous enjoyable adventures, knowing full well that hell would freeze over before he’d ever jump out of a plane, he breaks out into a cold sweat just at the thought of even travelling on one.
So, what happened? In 2016, Southend decided to organise a marathon. I never knew then what an emotional journey I was about to embark on. It was on my doorstep, there wouldn’t be any need to book a Hotel or worry about travel or parking, I’d be familiar with the route, it was in March (I loathe running in the heat, so knew the climate at this time of year would be cooler), I could still juggle my work & family commitments – BOOM – I’d talked myself into it.
The Flyers Marathon training plan started in November, a month ahead of the Brighton plan. I was due to travel abroad with my job during December & January, so the timing wasn’t great, but I tried not to let that distract me. In fact, I remember forcing myself to do 10k on the treadmill one evening in the hotel gym in Istanbul, as the temperature outside was -10 degrees and it had been snowing. One of my colleagues sauntered passed me and was extremely impressed that I’d ran 2k by that point without stopping. When I told him what my plan was, he nearly fell over with shock! I found a lot of that, I’m fully aware that I don’t look like an endurance athlete, but I enjoyed having a laugh about it (and ultimately the last laugh!).
By February 2017, the training had gone pretty much to plan, I’d even managed to drag myself out of bed at 5.30am on Christmas Eve to meet up with a fellow runner an hour later “to get our miles in” before parkrun. I’d attended a very helpful Flyers marathon preparation session and listened very carefully to the nutrition advice, although in hindsight I probably overdid the carb loading just a little. I remembered the mantra of ‘one mile at a time’ and something else that stuck in my mind was being told that if I ‘followed the plan’, I’d be ok. To this day I still quote that to others following in my footsteps.
Three weeks before the big day (that I’d dedicated the last 5 months of my life to), I received a message saying that the Southend Marathon would not be taking place after all. Social media went crazy with a mixture of reasons why it had been cancelled, I’m still not sure I know the exact truth, but I was left completely deflated and I felt very let down.
Just a few days later, I was lucky enough to gain a place in the Brighton Marathon which brought my smile (and dimples) back. Brighton was a month later so I now had another 4 weeks to get some more miles in, which I was quite pleased with initially, thinking it would give me more confidence, but having covered between 30 & 40 miles a week for quite a while now, the extra training really took it out of me. As the 9th April got closer, I remember starting to feel paranoid about becoming ill and only the week before, I tripped up on a loose plank of wood and bruised my shin. I felt like wrapping myself up in cotton wool.
The big day soon came around and the road trip began. I was very lucky to be rooming with 3 lovely friends, two were also due to run the marathon and one ran Brighton the year before and was spending this year’s race as our support crew. We left Southend on Friday evening which meant the whole of Saturday was all ours. After a full English breakfast, we dashed off to the expo to collect our race numbers and spent the rest of the day shopping, carb loading and taking selfies. It was a beautiful warm sunny day, so warm in fact we started to have a mini panic, the forecast was due to be even warmer on Sunday. We’d done all of our training through the winter, sometimes in temperatures as low as -5 degrees and now the weather channel was forecasting 25 degrees heat. The afternoon was spent looking for running caps, sun cream and eating cake. The evening was spent with about 50 other flyers enjoying a pizza & pasta fest.
After a restless night’s sleep the night before, I slept like a baby. I woke up absolutely full of beans, I was so excited and not at all nervous, this day had been a long time coming for me and I was very ready for it.
We arrived at Preston Park in good time, meeting up with the rest of the orange army. We took lots of photos and had plenty of conversations about the length of the toilet queues. Then before I knew it, we were off.
It was a very steady start, we were almost right at the back and already people were walking in front of us but after a bit of crowd dodging and lots of encouragement from the masses (including our own support crews) we settled into a good steady pace. The first 13 miles seemed to whizz by for me, it was a carnival atmosphere and the crowds were on form. There were all sorts of bands playing along the way with dance troupes, fancy dress, you name it, we saw it. The next 6 miles were uneventful but the sun was unforgiving and the water stations were starting to dry up. By about 19 miles, my running buddy decided to drop back a little due to a slight injury and two familiar faces came past me, encouraging me to keep up – I was determined to stick to them like glue. The next milestone that sticks out in my mind was mile 22, coming back from the power station. The crowds had thinned out, water and gels were almost non-existent, & St John’s ambulance were attending to hordes of dehydrated & injured runners on the roadside. I knew mile 23 would soon be upon us, but it seemed like an eternity away, luckily I still had a drink and I was still keeping up with my fellow flyers.
I won’t lie, those last few miles were exhausting, my longest training run had been 20 miles and it was starting to show but with less than a mile to go, there was a big boost from our personal flyers support crew. I was concentrating on the finish line now which seemed to take an eternity to come into view and then even longer to reach. As I crossed the line hand in hand with my companions, I honestly felt like I could not have run one more step, I was expecting to feel emotional but I was just empty, the heat & distance
had completely zapped my energy.
I took my well-earned medal & goody bag and pretty much collapsed on the beach with everybody else. The task of getting up off the beach half an hour later was almost as difficult as running the marathon, my legs were saying “noooo.” – We finished off the day/evening with the rest of the flyers enjoying a Sunday roast, but I barely had the energy to chew. I found it bazar how much water I’d consumed since finishing, yet not needing to go to the loo, it just goes to show how dehydrated I was.
I can still remember mentally how those last few miles felt as though it was yesterday, but at the same time I quickly forgot what the physical pain felt like and although I finished, in 5hrs 37 mins, exclaiming I would never do it again, I find my finger hovering over the apply button on a regular basis.
Now, about that Parachute jump Mr Jeeves?