Running My First Marathon

After 16 weeks of training, the big day was finally here!

by Clive Walker in Life

Me with medal after the finish. Looking a lot better than I felt at the time!
Me with medal after the finish. Looking a lot better than I felt at the time!

Well, that was a massive day for me. Running my first marathon at Brighton on Sunday 12th September. How was it?

It was very tough. It was hot. It was exciting. And a lot more besides!

I finished in 4 hrs 52 mins although the course was measured wrong. What a mistake to make by the organisers! My accurate marathon distance time was 4 hrs 46 mins so that's what I'll be using as my PB.

My target time was 4 hrs 30 mins. I missed that but I'm not too disappointed now. It was a hot day, my first race at the distance, and I made some mistakes. I'm just very pleased and relieved to finish. It's a "monkey off my back" because I've started several marathon training plans previously and not completed the training. And I booked this event in December 2019 so the day has been a long time coming.

The first half of the race

It was a sunny morning in Brighton as I waited for the start. I thought it was an ideal temperature but the day warmed up and it became quite hot. I wasn't nervous because I just wanted to get running!

I started at an even pace (slightly quicker than 10 minutes/mile) and felt comfortable with this. I never felt I was running too fast. It felt steady. I was happy. We progressed through the centre of Brighton past a lot of noisy supporters including my sister Lynette and brother Alan. I saw them three times in the first five miles.

I felt like I was running with a good rhythm.

As we headed out towards Ovingdean, I felt like I was running with a good rhythm. Although, seeing someone in distress at the side of the road with an ambulance in attendance wasn't a great experience. I hope he/she was OK.

We reached Ovingdean and, suddenly, I didn't feel too great at mile 10. Perhaps the heat and some hills had an effect on me at that point. I ate an energy bar and felt a bit better but I walked a few short distances at mile 11. I never expected to walk so early because I've run 18-19 miles in training without. But, I got some energy back, saw my mate Matt and his girlfriend Becky at mile 12, and reached mile 13 in 2 hrs 10 mins. I was pleased with that despite my walking a few short sections.

Back into the streets of Brighton we went....

The second half

Despite my best intentions before the race, I started feeling like I needed to walk as we entered the city centre again. I was very disappointed. I was able to keep the walking to a minute at a time but it was a real downer. However, I saw friends in the crowd and was able to run past them but still felt a bit rubbish. My legs felt OK, certainly nowhere near as tired as some of the training runs, but I felt like I was overheating and decided that walking short sections was best.

I never felt like I would stop or fail to finish but my pace slowed a lot.

Despite this, I reached mile 18 within my target time. After this, however, I decided to continue walk/running. It was hot. I still felt I was overheating. The following streets were long straight sections and my run/walk strategy meant that I lost time. I never felt like I would stop or fail to finish but my pace per mile slowed a lot. At that point, I knew I would finish, just not within my target. I was very determined not to stop or take a backward step. Just keep moving forwards!

A friend went past me. She ran a more consistent, better race than me. The 4 hrs 30 mins pacer went past with a crowd of runners. Even though I thought about trying to keep up, I couldn't.

It was incredibly hard to finish the last few miles.

It was incredibly hard to finish the last few miles but I walked/ran it at 11-13 minutes/per mile. Every water stop was a massive boost. I saw my friends Roger and Catherine several times and took energy gels from them. My brother and sister gave me jelly babies. I must have looked terrible because I felt very tired.

Eventually though, the end was in sight. I was still walking a lot, and so were a lot of other people, but I managed to run the last few hundred metres. Boy, oh boy, the finish line was a very welcome sight! I've completed a marathon!

Final thoughts

I am very, very pleased that I've finished a marathon. It was a thing that I built up in my mind for the last couple of years. And, I put a lot of training into it.

Thank you, thank you, to everyone who supported me on the day. You were fantastic!

Looking back on the race, I think I started strongly but was affected by a warm day. I didn't get my target time but I did keep going. I'm happy that I was able to do that. Perhaps, I didn't allow for the temperature at midday when we started at 9.45am. I should have allowed for this and ran the first half slower - but, hey, it was my first time!

Also, in hindsight, I'm not sure I have found the best race nutrition yet. I tried a few things in training and stuck to those. But the energy bake/bar was very dry and difficult to eat. Perhaps I should just stick to gels and sports nutrition drinks and jelly babies!

Will I run another one? that's the question that everyone asks. Yes, I think I will. Perhaps something different to a big city marathon. However, if I was lucky enough to win a place in the London Marathon, I would want to run that. I would like to run another and improve my time, that's for sure.

For the moment though, I'm planning to run for a few weeks without any "pressure" and without a plan. Turn up and run how it feels on the day!

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