I’ve never had a Brighton Half like the one I did last Sunday.
It was the usual, beautiful blue sky weather that we’re always treated to in Brighton for my favourite running event of the year. The new blister-proof socks and trainers were broken in, knees securely taped and I was very excited about the bright pink visor I’d bought especially to see me over the finish line.
My usual pre-long run breakfast had been shovelled in with gusto earlier that morning – black coffee, two slices of toast with peanut butter and a banana – and as we locked up our bikes and walked along to drop our bags, I was excited.
But something was different.
I do this thing when I’m really nervous. I like to make noise. Anyone who knows me personally will know this about me. The better you know me, the more noise you’ll be subjected to, whether that’s constant chat, rudely interrupting people when they’re speaking because I just HAVE to get out what’s in my head RIGHT NOW (sorry guys), constant singing (usually kept for home and BFF time with my wife) and bouncing around like a child screaming about how excited I am.
This is what I was doing with Chris as we made our way to the press tent.
Are you excited, Chris?
It’s gonna be great.
How excited are you?
I‘m so excited.
I can keep up with the pacer, can’t I.
I’m excited. Really excited.
I love Brighton Half.
Yes Tess. Shut up now please.
In the back of my mind I think really I was using my bouncing around to mask how nervous and unprepared I was. I had only ran three times in the past two weeks and my knees had only stopped hurting the day before.
Usually when I’m training for Brighton Marathon, by the time I get to the half I’m at my peak, ready to smash out a strong run and sail towards either a new PB or a nice strong marathon pace run. But this training cycle has been a bit different.
I’ve enjoyed most of the long runs (predominantly the hilly trail ones, concrete not my jam RN), with the chat and support of RunBrighton keeping me going but I’ve not been into it enough to make the weekly sessions a priority, and my running has suffered.
My freelance work has been so busy (and amazing) with lots of travelling and new clients that needed a lot of extra brain space this past couple of months, and the energy I thought I’d have to dedicate to my training has been spent working hard or chilling TF out when I’ve needed to just rest and recharge.
So it was always a bit touch and go for this year’s half. When I got to the RunBrighton tent last Sunday the first thing I said to the 2hr pacer Daz and RB big cheese Mike was “I’m scared”. After a few mental back and forths over the last few weeks I’d decided to start the race with Daz and see if I could get close to my PB of 2:02:53.
I thought if I lose him that’s OK, I’ll just hang back for a comfy marathon pace run and finish strong to give me a confidence boost for the full marathon just six weeks later.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Plan A: Stick with Daz, have a laugh like we did last time when he paced 2hrs15 in 2017 (but run a bit faster, obvs), get another photo like this one, get my medal and usual sticky toffee pud, job done.
Or plan B: Run a comfy marathon pace half feeling good at the finish, a nice confidence boost for the full distance, thank you very much.
Spoiler: It didn’t go to either plan, guys. But that’s OK.
The start was really crowded, more so than I’d ever felt before – maybe it’s just because I hadn’t run it in a couple of years? – and I lost Daz and Steve pretty early on as they weaved in and out of the crowd to try and get up to pace. I get that when running with the pacers you’re always gonna have a bit of a crowd around them but we were literally running on top of each other and one girl even tripped over behind me (she was helped by other runners, thankfully), and caught up with us later.
I just found it really hard to run so close to people without any view of where I was going, and then couldn’t weave in between people to catch the pacers when I lost them so Plan A was foiled by mile two.
The course has changed since the last time I ran Brighton Half – now it takes you straight out towards Ovingdean as soon as you start, before than the loop around Old Steine to warm you up, rather than the other way around.
I had no idea this was the case, having not looked at the course map at all this year… note to self: don’t get cocky just because it’s your home race that you’ve done several times.
So yeah the crowded start and unexpected course change threw me a bit and by about mile four I was running alone, watching the 2hr flag getting further and further away, out of water (it was hot) and wishing I had set my music up beforehand in case of a hard time.
I got to about six miles just after the second water station (thank the lord) before sticking some drum n bass on to keep me moving because it really wasn’t going that well.
Respite from the hip pain that started to show itself around mile seven came in the form of glancing up at The Grand Hotel’s balcony to see a drag band playing, touching hand-made signs for power and high-fiving kids whilst shovelling in jelly babies taken from their tiny hands.
That’s the great thing about Brighton Half – the crowd support is always amazing, it’s always a brilliant atmosphere, with lots of entertainment and it’s usually a pain-free, PB-shaped event for me. My favourite event, in fact.
So why were both of my hips being absolute dicks this time?
By the time I got to the lagoon I’d already had a few walking/swearing/stretching breaks and I just wanted it to be done. I think I decided by the second one that I wasn’t going to do the full marathon this time. It’s a decision I’ve been struggling with over the last few weeks as I knew my training wasn’t up to scratch and I didn’t fancy dragging myself to the finish line and being out of action for a week to recover.
The last couple of miles home from the Lagoon turn point were a mix of walk-run whilst shovelling in sweets from my BTRS buddies at their beach hut party (I so wanted to stop and join them). I’ve never walked in a half marathon before, and certainly not Brighton Half, but both of my hips were being dicks and then my knee decided to get in things and it just really wasn’t happening.
I managed to do some sort of impression of a run for the last stretch to the finish (which is always so much further than you think), and swore my way to Chris before downing a couple of Life Water cans (water in cans, about time this existed, well done Brighton Half / Life Water!).
He ran a comfy 1:40 after a few weeks of injury (of course he did), so was pretty happy with that. How this boy does it I’ll never know. He’s an amazing runner – must be all that climbing trees he does for a living. My body hates running unless I dedicate myself to it, and this time round, I didn’t do it.
I can confirm that bringing leftover pizza slices to eat straight after the race definitely helps:
Looking back on this now I can see that I did enjoy it really, underneath the pain and disappointment of setting myself a goal and ‘failing’. Even with the walking and stretching breaks I still came in 2:10:29 so a little quicker than 2017’s marathon pace effort, but a world apart in the comfort stakes. The annoying thing is, if I’d just said to myself to do a marathon pace run rather than try to run a PB I would’ve probably been OK as I’d ran a half marathon for the previous three weekends, but you don’t know until you try, do you.
I’ve realised that pavement pounding for distance isn’t really doing it for me right now. Brighton Half will always be my favourite race, as will Brighton Marathon, and I’ll come back to them when I’m feeling the road running love again.
It feels good to say it out loud that I’m just not into it enough right now to do the full 26.2. I’m gonna see if I can either change to the BM10k (which is great btw, watch my video here), or take on the new closed-roads bike ride on the course on marathon morning.
It’s OK to follow your heart and not just carry on with something you’re not enjoying so you don’t lose face. After all, we only do this for fun, right?
It’s made me think of that betting advert on the radio: when the fun stops, stop. And this time round, it has, so that’s what I’m gonna do. For now.
Catch up on previous Brighton Half recaps:
Disclaimer: My super-speedy husband and I were gifted our half marathon places. Check out www.brightonhalfmarathon.com if you fancy a bit of this blue-sky Brighton race day action!