This week I completed the 9th week of my training for the London Marathon. I'm amazed that it's come around so quickly. I've come a really long way in that time but there is still much much further to go but I am feeling excited about the next 9 weeks and ready for the challenges that I know it's going to bring.
This week was all about the Brighton Half Marathon. I entered this race last year before I ever really thought about getting a place for London. So it's always been there in my head and my calendar as my next goal. Brighton is somewhere that we love and have visited a lot so I was excited to be running my first ever half marathon there.
Since getting my place for London the Brighton Half has taken on much more significance, not just my next goal but the halfway point in distance to my bigger goal. A chance to put my training to the test and see how I'm doing, a chance to try out my fuelling strategies and a chance to run with one of the people that I'll be running with for the London Marathon, the amazing Darin McCloud. If you've not read his story you really should - it's all captured in his blog here and it's one of the most inspiring stories I've ever come across.
After a week of tapered training Mr J and I travelled to Brighton on Friday night and booked into our favourite B&B The Twenty One. On Friday night we had dinner and a couple of drinks and then on Saturday we had a relaxing day wandering around town and a lovely lunch at Dermot O'Leary's restaurant Fishy Fishy. When we left the restaurant at about 3pm the weather, which had been cold but dry, took a serious turn for the worse. The rain was pelting down and the wind was really strong. I had heard horror stories about freezing cold, soaking wet Brighton Halves in the past and started to get seriously concerned that we were going to have awful weather the next day.
Thankfully when we woke up on Sunday morning the sun was shining and the sky was blue. It was cold but it was great weather for running. I was feeling a bit nervous but mostly excited about my first ever half marathon. After an early breakfast of porridge and banana we met Darin and his partner by the Brighton Wheel - a new addition to the Brighton skyline since the last time we visited, and something which would become a bit of a landmark for us throughout the race.
We established our post race meeting points and then got into the queues for the toilets. There were several other people who were making use of the local facilities!
Having said goodbye to our other halves, Darin and I made our way into the crowds to get ready for the start. With around 7500 runners and what felt like as many spectators it was quite a spectacle
After an aerobic warm up it was soon time to start. I wasn't feeling too nervous, I knew that I had trained properly and would be able to do the distance. This wasn't about time, it was about getting around comfortably without killing myself and giving myself the confidence to move into the second half of my training knowing that I had got halfway.
The serious athletes at the front of the pack got underway at 9am.
Soon the pack had moved forward enough for us to start running and we crossed the start line at about 9.07am. Amazingly Mr J managed to pick us out among in the crowd and managed to get a photo of us starting - I'm in the light blue top.
The first mile took us up into Brighton town before turning us around and heading back towards the sea. It felt comfortable. Both Darin and I were conscious of not wanting to run too fast and so were keeping things at a comfortable pace. We have both trained to a 9 minute run, 1 minute walk strategy and implemented this from the start of Brighton. We were both amazed to look at our Garmins at the end of the first mile to see a 10.34 figure staring back. It's one of the fastest miles I've ever done. I knew we needed to slow down a bit, but we both felt good.
We dropped the pace a bit for the next couple of miles knowing that we had a long way to go. As we headed out towards the marina the sun was beating down straight into our faces and I began to regret my layering. It was getting quite warm and I was very glad of the first water station. Around about mile 3-4 we noticed that our Garmins started to get a bit out of sync with the mile markers and by mile 5 the Garmin thought we had run 5.4. It seemed really odd, I knew it wouldn't be totally accurate as each course has a racing line which we couldn't have been following the whole time, but 0.4 of a mile felt like a lot extra.
By mile 6 we were headed back towards Brighton town with the wind blowing in our faces, I was now very glad of my extra layers, it was cold. I was feeling pretty good, our pace had been reasonably consistent and still felt comfortable. At the 10K mark Mr J popped up with the camera and some encouragement.
Miles 7 to 8 felt really hard for me. My hanstrings started to complain quite a lot, not something that has happened to me before and we took a few more walking breaks that we had previously. At around mile 9 I took my second energy gel which helped a lot and we got the the 10 mile mark (on the Garmin) at 1hr and 55 mins. We were delighted - a whole 7 mins off my time for the Great South Run and a whole 16 minutes off for Darin. Amazing progress in just 4 months.
Miles 10 - 12 involved quite a lot of walking. My hamstrings were playing up and Darin's calves started to cramp. We decided to be sensible and listen to our bodies, no point in pushing things when we still have another 9 weeks of training to do. So we walked and then ran, ran and then walked. Darin was brilliant at this point, gently pointing out how long we'd been walking for and checking if I was OK to run. I am sure I would have walked more if I had been on my own but with his encouragement I managed to get running again.
At mile 12 the Brighton wheel was in sight and we knew the finish line wasn't far beyond it. Up popped Mr J once again with the camera and more cheers of support
We were really nearly there. The Garmin was still showing that we had covered 0.4 of a mile more than the mile markers which by this point had started to get a bit disheartening. We had a final walking break, knowing that we still had another half a mile at least to get to the finish line and then picked up the pace to cross the line with smiles on our faces in a time of 2.39.50. I was delighted with the time, although we'd had to walk more than I wanted I didn't feel like collapsing, I felt pretty good all things considering.
We picked up our medals, bananas and much needed lucozade and made our way back to our meeting point. We were feeling pretty proud of ourselves - does it show?!
So that's it - I'm officially a half marathoner. Who'd have thought it. Halfway through my marathon training and able to run half the distance. And I'm also delighted to add, over halfway to my fundraising target. Quite a day.
It was brilliant to run with Darin and test out the strategies that we've both trained with. It was so great to have someone next to me, going through the same thing as me and there for encouragement when it got tough. I know that I did better for having him there so a huge 'thank you' to a quite remarkable man.
On Monday through various updates on Twitter and Facebook I realised that a lot of people thought that the course was too long. The organisers published an official apology confirming that due to human error the course was actually 13.42 miles rather than 13.1!! My official finishing time was adjusted to 2.36 - not that it really matters.
After getting back to London on Monday Mr J treated me to lunch at our local pub which just happens to be on the London Marathon route. As we left I noticed a sign outside which confirmed what I already knew. It's happening and it's happening really quite soon. Bring on the second half of the training. I'm ready!