Brighton has had a special place in my heart for quite a while, I’ve eaten chips on the beach in the freezing cold and spent hours on the pier in the arcade spending far too much money trying to win a novelty toy no one really wants.

I had if’d are ahh’d whether to enter the Vitality Brighton Half but for some reason never got round to it. Until the guys from Fitness Rewards (http://www.fitnessrewards.co.uk/a042) got in contact to see if I’d like a place – yes please!

Pre-race

I had done Royal Parks in October and since then I lost my mojo in December and since the New Year I’d only really done runs of 4 or 5 miles. At that stage Brighton was only four weeks away so I came up with a plan to get me from 6-mile up to ideally 10mile the week before.

I also spent a lot of time, probably far too much time looking at the stats from Royal Parks, picking it apart and getting an idea of what could do. Basically I set off far to quick – the first 10k was only a minute or two shy of my 10k PB.

In the final week I probably did a bit too much, totally 25 miles where my normal mileage had been 13-15miles. That week contained 3 miles with The Running Works, 7 miles run commute on Thursday, Parkrun Saturday and 10 miles Sunday – the 10 miles wasn’t quick and I struggled but I put it down to having tired legs from a tough week.

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Big Month!!
I decided I’d travel down the day before and spend the night in Brighton purely to keep my nice and chilled and not stress about getting there so early and have a nice day in Brighton on the Saturday.

 

Saturday was a pretty good day, checked into my place for the night, right by the pier and went off to find somewhere to watch the rugby and have some lunch. then it we off to Sainsbury’s to stock up on water, porridge and banana’s before heading off to meet Melissa (@Nameleimg_3323ssWitness) and Jon (@JonW_NewRunner) for a carb loading session.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well I couldn’t go t0 Brighton and not have a go on the arcade, so I sneaked off and got my 2P’s out for the pusher machines and won a plane! I could only see this as a foretelling that I was going to ‘fly’ come Sunday morning.

 

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My Lucky Plane from the Arcade

As always I give myself three targets for each race (one that should be achievable, one that would be good and one i’d be extremely happy with) which iI never really publicise pre-race, so here they are:

 

A) Finish and walk way from the race

B) 11-second PB – i.e. 3:29.59 (sub 3.30)

C) Sub 3:20.00 should be achievable on a good day

 

Race Day

I usually have a decent sleep pre-race but on a tiny single bed, with one pillow and snoring from my room mates I pretty much woke up every hour from 4ish – thank goodness I had an early night.

Morning ritual, porridge, coffee banana and just generally sort myself out and pack up my backpack. It didn’t look good as i stepped outside into the pouring rain and freezing cold wind – I made my way to the Vitality tent to drop off my bag and then head to the portaloos. They dont have a lot of room on Madeira Drive but they didn’t have anywhere near enough loo’s I was queing almost right up to 9am – I like the races that have portaloos for the ladies and urinals for the gents – it all works quicker for everyone.

Then it was to get in the pink pen, however i couldn’t get in. I had noticed that the pens seemed quite small, so small that people were queuing up just to get into the pen. As soon as the race got going it took no time at all to get in and get going. I had to re-tie my laces twice as they were too tight, in the end I did them quite loose and left it be, took me 10mins in the end to cross the start line.

I’d already been spotted by Darren & Craig rom Twitter and  Francesca & John from Windmilers but after running for no more than 2minutes something strange happened. A lady came running up beside me and said “You’re Carl-Warren Dudley aren’t  you?, yes i am” before she proceeded to lift her top up to expose her……….Windmilers top underneath…..(where did you think that was going?) before wishing each other luck and trotting off into the distance. Still don’t know her name but I will find out at club run next week.

Anyway, I was trying to concentrate on my pace and not getting carried away so for the first mile I was happy to let everyone come past and control my own pace – even letting the ‘duck girl’ (she was wearing an inflatable duck outfit) as i named her come past. 

Turning the corner by the pier it was up the “steady incline” as Melissa told us to the four mile point – some bits were not steady inclines and with the rain battering down and the wind pushing us from behind it felt more like the highlands than the south coast. I took to watching the leaders come down the other side and took my mind off things trying to spot Steve (Skinner), Jon, Melissa, Windmilers or any ukrunchat tops and having a little chat to Elvis and we got to the marching band (I was in Brighton right?).

The thing I like about back-and-forths is the support you get from people coming the opposite way, even managed an awkward thumb hi-five with Jon and a quick hello with Melissa and high-5’s with a few people coming in the opposite direction.

Just after 2 mile you get the first drinks station of just water – how the heck do these pouches work? I was told to suck and squeeze – excuse me? I tried squeezing and water spurted out of a little flap at the top, I just couldn’t run and suck at the same time, much rather have cups!

Reaching four miles and the weather was pretty atrocious, but I knew this would be the turnaround point and it’s all downhill back to 7mile, only turning the corner to what felt like being hit by a wall of wind and literally being stopped in my tracks – it was so hard to run. I tried everything, tucking my head down (cyclist-esque) drafting behind a lady in front, before deciding she was a bit too slow and cracking on. I couldn’t wait to get back into Brighton town off the top of the cliffs and into some kind of shelter.

A video from Sunday in Brighton
Around 7 you get back to the pier and the support was amazing and even a little ray of sunshine appeared and i was finally catching the girl in the Macmillian vest who I’d been chasing down since the turn at 4 mile. As i was making a move past “blue vest with a colourful owl” everyone gets a name when i’m racing. I hear “you’re Carl off Twitter”. It was Ali Trendy-Bowen, we had a little chat and confirmed that all we had to do now was 2 Parkruns – easy right?

 

I ended up in a bit of no-mans land, pretty much on my own, until a spotted duck-girl way off in the distance with a big group of others. Once you get out of Brighton town there isn’t a great deal of support apart from the marshals, so i took to 2min run, 1min walk, convinced that the wheels were going to come off again like Royal Parks and training run the Sunday before and my legs would go and i wouldn’t be able to run a step further. I still felt good and like i could run for much further, but there was still 1.5 parkruns to go and i didn’t want to count my chickens/ducks just yet.

I slogged on through 8 and 9 and was really looking forward to mile 10 as we’d really be heading back in the direction of the finish and the wind would be at our back. I caught the big group including ‘duck girl’ and ‘bosh run’ just before the feed station (not great planning), they were pretty much walking all the way from 9 so i shared some support, confirmed it was just 1 parkrun left and cracked on. With the wind behind me I felt amazing, again having to tell myself not to go too fast and tire myself so i took to running between the beach houses instead.

One big criticism of this part of the route was there was just one single line of bollards down the middle of the walkway, there were pedastrians all over the place with dogs on very long leads and brave Seagulls the stare you out and won’t move. But do you run on the left of the bollard or the right?, do I take the racing line of stick close to the bollard? There were also no marshals to direct which was particularly poor when we came to what was the split in the walkway and did know whether to get back on the road or get on the walkway on the right. I shouted to some Red Cross people and they directed me to the road.

Having the pier(s) in sight was the best feeling ever, still wanting to keep something back I took to running between the traffic lights but the support from runners heading home and spectators really kept me going.

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The finish was finally in sight and i decide i can run from here, hoping to keep something in reserve for a sprint finish. About 100 or so yards from the finish i feel this rather large thud on my back, just over my right shoulder -> insert confused face here <- I reach over and get a hand of muddy silt like stuff, convinced no one had thrown it, despite not turning around, i look up – SEAGULLS! One of the little gits decided to take a crap on me just before my moment of glory  -good luck they say, how that good luck ffs?

I wasn’t going to let it bother me and concentrated on getting to the finish, knowing i’d done a good time (for me) and was going to enjoy actually running through the finish, something I didn’t do at Royal Parks!
I crossed the line to see my time was way under what I even imagined – 3:20 on a good day. 3:16:48, first though, wow so happy with that, not far off 3:15 either…..

 

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Then onto get the fab medal, water, Lucozade, foil blanket, fruit/nut thing and then a plastic bag to put it in (other way round next year, or just pack it for us?) and NO ROCK? How they can put on a race in Brighton and not give rock out I do not know!

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how do they even do this?
Then it was back to the Vitality tent to pick up my bag, shove a few M&M’s in my mouth and have a drink of water before heading for my pre-booked massage. I pre-booked it thinking i’d need it, in all honest i really didn’t but it was nice to lay down for 10mins anyway.

 

The train ride to London was a case of unpacking my rucksack because i’d put my trousers and hoodie at the bottom, but most importantly kept the food at the top.and despite polishing off half a malt loaf and a Tribe bar on the train I still managed to eat a whole Sunday lunch with Team Katzenjammers at the pub #AllTheFood!!!

And that was it, Half Marathon number 2 done. And as someone on twitter said yesterday, don’t think of it as half of something, you’ve done the whole thing – and i kind of like that.

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In truth i feel like a half-marathon runner now, i felt like i’d kind of failed at Royal Parks, even though i did cross the finish line, it wasn’t how i wanted it to be – Brighton most definitely was! I felt amazing afterwards, such a high and even managed to walk back to the station instead of laying down for half an hour and falling asleep on a foam roller like before.

I was also chuffed to bits with my pacing – something I usually never get right. My pace at Royal Parks swung by over four minutes, compared to Sunday where it was a maximum range of 52 seconds, I definitely think there is opportunity to go faster, particularly without the vicious headwind (see mile 5).

 

 

The race, would I do it again – it’s a good event, few organisation issues to be sorted (portaloo’s, marshalling, directions) and a decent goody bag or a tee wouldn’t go a miss. It is a lovely and partly challenging course too that takes in lots of really good scenery (on a good day). So probably yes I would, any excuse to go play on the arcade I guess.

 

A couple of thank you’s: Fitness Rewards for me place & my super-awesome tee shirt that they got to me in no time & which fits perfectly.

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Everyone on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram: you’re support really did mean the world to me and I was relying on it should things get tough, fortunately I didn’t need it but I really did appreciate it and all the messages post race too.

Time to rest up this week, before chasing another PB with RunnersKnees next weekend at Victoria Park 10k (http://www.runthrough.co.uk/)

 

Next Up: RunThrough Victoria Park 10k (4th March)