Furness in the Brighton Furnace
Brighton Marathon – 9th April 2017
by Michael Furness
The Brighton Marathon was going to be my first marathon for five years, having previously done London and Milton Keynes. My PB stood at 3:34, which was achieved at the 2012 MK marathon; remembered by all who attended as being the wettest and coldest April Sunday ever experienced.
Training had gone well during the weeks and months leading up to the race so I was reasonably confident I could get another PB and break the 3:30 barrier and possibly even 3:20 if everything went was well as it could do.
The Brighton Marathon is a big event with over 12,000 runners taking part. Getting a hotel or B&B in Brighton the night before is nigh on impossible so we stayed at a lovely pub in Offham (about 10 miles away) the night before. The race starts at Preston Park, to the north of the city, and I was dropped off there at around 8am on the day with the race due to start at 9:15.
It was already very busy by then with the queues for the toilets stretching off towards the horizon and the usual sense of nervous anticipation palpable in the air. It was also becoming very clear that the weather was going to play a fairly major role in the race with unbroken blue skies overhead and the temperature already in the high teens.
I was in the first pen of runners to start so I set off about four minutes after the clock started. The start of the race takes you around the park and the into some of the roads away from the sea front until mile 6 where you join the coast road which takes you westwards for about 3 miles until you get to Ovingdean where you then turn round an head back to the city again.
It was at this point where the nature of the course and the impact the weather was going to have truly revealed itself. It must have been twenty degrees by the time we got to Ovingdean and there was no shade at all. This, coupled with a consistent incline during miles 6-9, was pretty tiring and even at this stage some people were beginning to walk.
Back to the city centre for miles 11-17 and the very large and noisy crowds definitely helped to keep everyone going. I got to the halfway point at 1:40; on track and feeling OK. I managed to keep a decent pace going until the race changed completely in character and took the runners to the east of the city for miles 18-22. The crowds immediately dissipate in this area and there is no shade at all. The heat was continuing to rise and I began to get a bad feeling that at some stage I was going to blow up.
I kept going at a relatively decent pace until mile 21 but then I really started to feel awful. Hard to describe really; I’d never experienced it before but I was getting nauseous, exhausted and the thought of having to run another 5 miles seemed almost impossible. At mile 22 there was a wall that provided some shade so I walked for about a hundred yards next to that and then ran to the 23 mile marker where again I slowed to a walk for a minute or so.
I was now seriously considering pulling out I felt so unwell and looking around me there were plenty of people who were doing just that. It seemed that every 50 metres or so someone had collapsed and was getting medical treatment. The constant stream of runners had begun to resemble a forced death march. Spirits were low!
I can’t really remember much more until we all joined the very busy promenade road again at almost exactly 25 miles. You could actually see the finish line from there and, looking at my watch, I realised that I had ten minutes to get there if I wanted to break to 3:30 barrier. Focusing entirely on the distant blue banner I somehow managed to force my legs to move and started on the last mile. Knowing that it was nearly all over – and the really loud support from the crowds – helped a lot and I got there in 3:28, immediately collapsing into the arms of a St John’s Ambulance volunteer.
Clearly I was exhausted and suffering from some sort of heatstroke so she transported me to the medical tent where I was really well looked after and, having had my blood sugars, temperature etc. checked, I was allowed to leave and meet up with Jo and lie on the beach for a bit before we started the journey home.
Looking back what would I say about the race? Its very well organised, very well supported and most of the route is hugely enjoyable. Be prepared, however, to dig in when you get to Shoreham Harbour as that bit is grim. I’m very happy to have got a PB but you always think you can do better though don’t you?
There were two other LBAC runners there that day, although unfortunately I didn’t bump into either of them. Katie Stanton finished in 05:11 and Rob Elmore managed 2:50 (37th place!).