I am normally a VERY good sleeper. I jokingly tell people that I could sleep on a clothesline, and despite the weighty logistics of this, I imagine it’s true. But the night before the Brighton Marathon this was certainly not true.

We had travelled down to a beautiful little B&B in Eastbourne for the weekend (Seaview Guest House, on the sea front, immaculately clean and the breakfasts are delicious.  It also happens to be owned by my big sister, so these comments are hugely unbiased, though click through the links and you will see the amazing reviews!).  I wanted to take the opportunity to spend time with my family and treat the kids to a little weekend by the seaside, and being en route to Brighton, Eastbourne was perfect for this.

For two days I battled with my thoughts.  This was the first marathon I have competed in, I really did not know what to expect.  I was constantly checking the weather updates, checking my race number, the time of the event etc.  Then I would relax, the jitters making way for excitement when I would tell myself to “Just ENJOY the experience”. This quickly darted to one side whilst my mind began to panic about the day ahead. So despite my comfortable surroundings (seriously, check out this B&B, did I mention its number 12 on the Trip Advisor B&B’s in Eastbourne?!), my reassuring husband dealing wonderfully with my snappiness to ANY question (“No I DO NOT want a coffee! Do I sound like I need caffeine??!”) and the glass of wine I had (purely medicinal, you’ll never imagine the shakes you get pre marathon!), I lay awake most of the night, on a night where rest was probably the most important factor to completing a 26.2 mile run…!!

It was a sketchy and rushed start to the day but we were Brighton-bound by 6am. After realising that time really wasn’t going to stand still for me, and that I WAS actually going to have to do this marathon I relaxed and started to suck in the atmosphere of race day.

So as I took my position at the start line (well I say line, the start Corel….I was in the pink one where I had predicted my finish time to be between 4 and 5 hours). I shivered my way to the start dome and prayed that I would get through this injury free.

The first of my niggles began half way into the first mile.  This was something I did not account for. My running tights were catching on my bright orange Multiple Sclerosis Society running vest (worn for the first time). The constant snagging between the good material and the bad got to me until about mile 5 when it became the least of my worries. The sun began to come out.

If you have read my previous posts, you know that all my marathon training has been done in winter conditions.  I have dodged snow flakes, endured awful wind and got soaked to the skin with rain showers.  One condition that I did not train however in was the sun, or rising temperatures.  This was one of the main things about the event I was dreading knowing it was in April and the weather being predictably, well, unpredictable.

You could feel the sense of doom around me.  The first murmurs of “uh oh, here comes the sun” were heard around mile 5, and as the hazy cloud made way for the bright sunshine, we were sweating our way up to mile 13 with not even a whisper of a sea breeze we were promised.

But I was feeling positive.  I was having a strong run and the energy in the crowd was tremendous.  I had managed to get myself in with the 4.30 hour pacers (these guys must be able to do two hour marathons with how cool and composed they were all the way round!) and they kept the mood jovial and the chat chirpy.

Reaching the half way mark was a relief.  Anyone who has run distances will tell you that for the most part the battle is in your head.  And this begins at the half way mark:

“Ok Cols, half way there”

“You are over the half way now”

“It’s only a 13 mile run”

“One and a half hours to go, you can do this”

“Keep thinking of how you will feel when this is all over”

And of course the crowds were beginning to thicken.  This is something that I have never experienced before - literally hundreds of people calling my name and shouting encouraging things to me.  And the boost I needed at that point, my husband shouting the loudest at me and snapping the cheeky picture you can see at the top of this post!

You meet many people on your journey through 26.2 miles yet I could not tell you their names.  I spoke to the experienced marathon runners at the beginning with their Garmins poised for their split times. There were an abundance of charity runners in tutu’s, nappies (yes really – he ran past me!), wigs and morph suits. There were the extreme charity runners in donkey costumes. I passed a man running in flip flops, several people running along with wheelchairs and perhaps the most inspiring, a blind man with Multiple Sclerosis, being lead round the course by two helpers all proudly wearing the same vests I was.

I was lucky enough to see the elite men and women go sprinting along the other side of the road, but my next glimpse of them was to be on telly a week later –sensational finishing times!

Near the beginning of the race, I had been chatting to another runner who had done the Brighton Marathon a few times before.  I asked him where he thought the “wall” was and he said it was around mile 19-20.  It wasn’t so much that I hit the “wall”.  I wasn’t particularly tired, I knew I was near the end (“only a 10k run to go Cols”) and although it was warm, it wasn’t stifling or too uncomfortable.  But there were things bothering me: I was bored, I needed the toilet and I was feeling increasingly sick from all the sugary “energy” drinks and gels I was taking on.  I needed this race to end.

Up until this point I had been ahead of the 4.30 hour pacers I mentioned earlier, but I could hear them gaining on me.  I would be damned if I was going to run all that distance and not get under 4 and a half hours so I drew up as much energy as I could muster into my legs to stride out those final miles.

It was in those final miles the crowds got even thicker, the cries of encouragement became louder.  Runners grabbed their children from the crowds and carried them to the finishing line and tears of joy, relief and pain were pouring out.  All through this I pounded on.  Looking animatedly from left to right for a glimpse of my family but it was just so busy.  I had seen my sister at mile 25 which had encouraged me to run faster, this was a moment to make my family proud.

The 2013 Brighton Marathon welcomed 9,011 runners; I finished in position 4,362 so just about in the first half of the finishers! My finish time was 4 hours and 27 minutes.

I completed my day with proud hugs from my supportive family and after a long drive home, a very large glass of wine!

This was the first time I have ever run a marathon distance, and it certainly will not be my last.  The bug has well and truly been caught and I have found myself frantically looking for the next marathon event to train for. So watch this space……!

*For those of you who wish to still sponsor me for this event I have been raising money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.  Please click here to visit my fundraising page.

**My next charity event is on 11th May 2013 and is the London Moonwalk. This is raising money for various cancer charities and involves walking 26.2 miles round London, in my bra through the night! If you would like to sponsor me for this please click here.

***And finally, my sister and I will be running the Eastbourne Race for Life on 23rd June for Cancer Research.  Our team name is the Seaview Sirens and you can sponsor us by clicking here.

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