My legs hurt. Which is not to be unexpected, of course, after another brilliant (and brutal) Grand Brighton Half Marathon.
This year was the event’s 30th birthday so the FOMO was fierce – there was no way I was missing out on my favourite race’s big birthday bash. The weather got the memo too and came along for the party, treating more than 8,000 runners with 40mph winds and gusts of upto 80, and a wee bit of rain to spice things up.
I’ve run Brighton Half seven times now and I reckon this was my hardest one yet, as the windswept exhaustion slapped across my face in the official photos show. I only got my phone out once during the whole 13 miles – you know it’s a tough race when I’m not prancing about taking selfies and making videos along the way.
Despite the absolute battering I still really enjoyed the sufferfest in that self-indulgent, masochistic kinda way that endurance runners and cyclists will know all too well.
The struggle vs stubbornness to carry on to the end even though all you want to do is stop; the heavy legs and stinging of pain in your soon-to-be-blistered feet, pushed aside for just a few… more… miles by the pride of knowing you can’t possibly stop in front of all these people. They came out to give you jelly babies, after all.
Can she Jeff it? Yes she can…
I wasn’t fit enough for a PB this year, and I was nervous, but the bad weather offered a welcome respite from the pressure of chasing numbers in vein.
After chatting to running and cycling friends, I decided to have a go at a run-walk race strategy, or “Jeffing”, as named by the man who coined the technique, American running coach and former Olympian, Jeff Galloway.
? Windproofs/waterproofs reeaaaddy! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀? Gladiators reeeaaadddyyyy! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀One undertrained & medal-hungry…
The premise of Jeffing a race is simple: you do run-walk intervals all the way to the finish, to save energy, finish injury free and sometimes, even grab an unexpected PB! You can run/walk at varying ratios – anything from run 60secs / walk 30secs or run 30secs / walk 30secs right up to run a km or mile / walk a minute.
Whatever you do you have to start from the beginning of the race or it doesn’t work, so you’ve gotta leave your ego at the start line and just stick to your plan.
I chose to run 10 minutes / walk a minute, which apparently isn’t strictly Jeffing but it worked for me (just) so happy days. There was no way I would’ve got round in the time / state that I did if I’d tried to run the whole way. Those lovely little walking breaks were like an oasis in the desert and I counted down each 10 minute segment until they arrived with gusto.
The great thing about run-walking a race is you don’t fixate on the number of miles left to go. Instead you break the event down into small manageable chunks, focusing on each one as it comes and goes, and before you know it, you’re done!
If you want to read more about Jeffing read my friend Maria Pali (a Brighton sports massage therapist and wellbeing practitioner) has written a more detailed blog.
Never underestimate the power of a tailwind!
We had a nice tailwind out to Ovingdean before turning into a solid six or so miles of 40mph headwind along the seafront down to Hove Lagoon. The course nips in off the main drag for a few loops around the Pavilion (obvs) and The Level, and a couple of the big squares on the seafront, but for the most part until the turn point it was into the wind.
Going past the Brighton Centre and Grand Hotel the gusts were really giving it some. Some of us got stopped in our tracks so I tucked behind the biggest men I could find which definitely helped, along with the intermittent walking breaks, high fives from kids and cheers from friends and soggy, windswept crowds and volunteers.
As we approached the Lagoon (mile 9) I had a slightly longer walking break to recover from wtaf just happened and then there it was. The turn point. Never underestimate the power of a tailwind! I don’t know where it came from but the pain in my legs subsided, my blisters eased and I was gone – a surge of speed powering me through, overtaking people left right and centre, arms swinging, both feet off the floor, weaving in and out of people with the home straight in my sights.
It’s always doable at the turn point…
This is it. This is what it feels like to be an elite.
Oooh that tailwind is DELIGHTFUL. I am no longer inhaling wind. I can move. I’m moving fast!
I must be doing 4min/miles. Go go gadget jet pack legs.
Come on! Yess! Keep breathing. Pump those arms. Run Run Run!
Along the beach huts by Hove Lawns, waves crashing on the shore, a few hardy members of the public huddled by beach huts cheering us on. There’s a photographer! Quick – look strong, look focused! Usain Bolt mode: activated. He takes a shot. Yes, that’ll be a good one for the gram. I’m literally invincible. I laugh in the face of walking breaks…
…oh shit. Can’t keep this up. I’m not an elite. My feet hurt. What time is it anyway? Watch buzzes. Time to walk, lovely. Slow back down, enjoy the ride home. No need to show off. Don’t let anyone you just overtook overtake you, ffs.
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After my little surge of stupidity the stretch from the Peace Statue to the finish was a pretty painful plod, but I soaked up the cheers and the lessons learned and bumped into the mate I was meeting after for lunch as we finished.
Picked up my bag, downed a coffee and declined a bacon bap in the Sussex Beacon tent (looked good though!) and nabbed myself a lift to the pub (cheers Frase x) for a banging refuel roast with double cauliflower cheese – winning!
No sticky toffee pudding on the menu this year though so I’m afraid to say the six year streak has been broken. Sad times.
Until next year…
Special big ups to the team at The Grand Brighton Half Marathon for pulling yet another brilliant event out of the bag in difficult conditions. It’s always a great atmosphere whatever the weather. Also massive big ups to my Brighton Mitre CC buddies who battled on their bikes to support the lead runners. That would’ve probably been even harder than running in that wind!
Catch up on previous Brighton Half recaps:
2013: My first Brighton Half
ENTRIES OPENING SOON FOR 2021, KEEP UP TO DATE AT BRIGHTONHALFMARATHON.COM