I had absolutely no plans to do the Grand Brighton Half Marathon a few weeks ago, especially considering I had the East London half and the Seville Marathon in the last 15 days. That and I’d also aimed to lower my number of races in 2019 after 2018 and the 76 race challenge I set myself.
I always have an issue turning down a race though, and when the guys at the Sussex Beacon, a charity providing specialist care and support for people with HIV, invited me over to take part, I couldn’t really say no. It was also an opportunity to have a nice mini break in Brighton, a place I’ve actually visited very few times.
I had actually run in the Brighton Marathon about four years ago and wasn’t a massive fan of the event. As a marathon course the outlying two ends of Brighton picked up a lot of the miles and I didn’t enjoy the monotony of running down a long country lane or an industrial estate and then turning around to do it again. The Brighton Half Marathon was a chance to head back to the place and see if I’d find the shorter distance race more palatable.
Brighton Half Marathon: The first 10k
The start line and finish line of Brighton Marathon is just a short way off Brighton Pier, the same place that the marathon and the London to Brighton cycle ride finish. As far as half marathons go it was one of the most efficiently set up locations for an event of this size (about 12,000 people) that I’ve seen. Turn up, wander down the road for five minutes, drop off your bag, then nip through the fence opening into the wave allotted to you based on your finish time. Simple. Loved it.
Conditions were ridiculously good for February. No clouds in the sky, you could walk down to start in a t-shirt and the views across the Channel were phenomenal. To be honest, it may have actually got a bit too sunny by about 11am, but I’m not complaining about that when it means you can sit in a beer garden afterwards. Sun cream isn’t the sort of thing on your checklist before a race in February though. Probably a good note for any races going on at the moment.
Once the race started (dead on time – heaven), the route heads out east along Marine Parade for about 5k. To the right, you’ve got the sea as well as the impressive white cliffs in the distance. A fair chunk of that section is uphill. A tough start, especially considering that it can get a bit congested in the first couple of kilometers. Luckily it does mean that you’ve got a fairly nice downhill once you’ve turned around. That rather nice 5k takes you back to the start area and halfway.
Brighton Half Marathon: The second half
I really struggled with this section. Perhaps largely due to the fact that my legs were still a bit tired from the Seville marathon, it was starting to get hot and, once you’ve gone out about 4km to the west of the center, you’re greeted with the very nice but massively daunting view of the pier in the distance. When you’re 16km in it seems like a ridiculously long way away, and takes a seriously long time to get closer.
Before that bit there’s a nice section that actually takes you inland for a couple of kilometres. Nice because, although the sea is very enjoyable to run by, it adds a bit of variety that I found helped to break up the race nicely.
The final couple of kilometres was a real slog, but by that point I just had my eyes locked onto the pier, forcing myself to maintain a pace at the end. The last stretch is by far one of the nicest I’ve ever taken part in. Yes, I know it’s the same as the marathon but I remember that being a painful experience whereas I really enjoyed the crowds in half, along with the fact I was pretty much running alone for most of it.
Brighton Half Marathon: The crowds
I remember the crowds during the marathon being impressive, but I also remembered they were only really around the central area and not the 30km or so outside of it. The result of that was a race that was massively weighted towards a part of the race. The large outlying areas had hardly any people watching at all and I remember those sections being really tough, mentally.
The half marathon has very small outlying areas, so the race is very heavy on the crowds all the way around. And man alive were they good. Maybe it was the sun, maybe it’s the Brighton vibe, but crowds that come to cheer runners on in the half and the marathon really go for it. Nobody there had come to watch me but everyone cheered me on. Lovely bunch of people. Especially on that final straight towards the finish. I remember looking around wondering who they were cheering for and realised I was the only one there.
Brighton Half Marathon: The organisation
I mentioned before that the start area was a very simple and efficiently run process, but the same can be said for the rest of the race. Everything from the strict marshalling to the handing out of medals and snacks was spot on. The only thing I thought may have been lacking was another one or two water stations, but that was probably due to the unplanned heat above anything else.
How did I do?
Well, glad you asked. To be honest I wasn’t expecting to try that hard. After a half marathon, a marathon and daily CrossFit sessions, my motivation to push myself was pretty low. Despite that, and this is probably a testament to the race, I actually gave it a damn good go. My PB at the half distance is 1.31 from about four years ago. In this I got 1.34, which I was ridiculously pleased with. I’ve been expecting my times to start going down since lowering my running, but I seem to be hanging on in there. Here’s me on the beach after a killer avo on toast AND a follow up fish finger sandwich.
It’s a great event with a really nice community feel to the whole thing. It didn’t hurt that it was amazing weather but I think it would still have been a great day even if it was raining. Well done to all you lot that took part, and if you haven’t tried it yet and you’re looking for a memorable half marathon where you can bring the family as well, it’s spot on.
A big thanks to the Sussex Beacon for the race spot. Click on the link to find out more about them and how you can help out a great cause.
For more info on the event, head over to the website here.
Picture Credits: The Brighton Half Marathon