After 15 weeks of training the big day finally arrived. Saturday saw a day of, frankly, pigging out on pasta! Porridge and toast for breakfast, then pasta for elevenses, pasta for lunch, pasta for dinner.
After an early night it was a reasonably early start at 6:00 for a final meal of porridge before heading on the packed train to Preston Park.
The first drops of rain fell as Andy and I left the train and made the old familiar walk to Preston park. Just forty-five minutes later we’d changed on the muddy fields, dumped our bags in one of the 9 lorries transporting all our bags to the finish line, chomped on a few jelly beans, taken a last wee and were entering our respective starting corrals.
Back in April last year I’d decided to play it safe and estimated 4 hours as my finish time. My training suggested 3 hours 30 minutes or a little quicker, but too late, I was stuck in the second group to go and what a big group it was.
After Matt Prior had started the race it was a good few minutes that we waited for the second group to start moving. A short walk to the start and it was over the line 5 minutes into the race.
The early miles were a little frustrating. So many runners to negotiate as I tried to reach and maintain my intended pace. Into the second mile my gps watch lost it’s signal and while it returned quickly I could not trust the pace it was showing, so time for a little mental calculation on passing each mile marker.
The course took us past St Peter’s church, up North Road, along a narrow road (where i was nearly tripped), down North Street, back along past St Peter’s Church, looping around and back to the Old Steine, squashed again up St James’ Street and out into the open on Marine Parade.
For the next few miles I settled into a nice rhythm, the only frustration finding myself caught against the road divider behind a pace group. After a few minutes behind I worked my way out to the pavement side and nipped past.
One of the highlights of the race as we headed toward Ovingdean village: a procession of Mods on Vespa’s, Rockers on Harley Davison’s and customised mini’s cruised past, leading the race along the route.
After that distraction we passed through Ovingdean village and toward Rottingdean, before heading back to Brighton. The sun came out fully as we ran along the coast road, through miles 10, 11, 12 and down past crowds lining Marine parade.
My parents, sister Kristy and her fiancee Jerome were along here somewhere. I didn’t see them, but heard a loud ‘there here he is!’ from a familiar voice. Too late! I’d passed them, and had no intention of stopping as I swept down to Brighton Pier (at least that’s how it felt).
Here I had my first reminder of the potential toll of a marathon: Twelve miles in and a runner staggering and collapsing by the Royal Albion hotel. Not long after I passed another runner, this time collapsed on the road, in the recovery position being treated by parademics. A good reminder to pace myself at only half way through.
In the warm spring sunshine flickering off of the calm sea we swept Westwards into Hove and onto Grand Avenue. The Tramps Disco Inferno blasting from a balcony sent tiggles up my spine: a nostalgic reminder of Starksy and Hutch night at the Zap years ago.
Here, from mile 15 to 19, it started to feel a bit tougher. I felt I was maintaining a good pace, feeling pretty comfortable and as I hit mile 18 in 2 hours 18 minutes I started to see that 3 hours 20 minutes or a little less was potentially in sight.
Moving into the most remote area of the course, out by the less attractive Shoreham Power Station, we hit mile 20. Now just a simple 10km run home. Through 20 miles in 2 hours 32 minutes I realised that a reasonable 43 minute 10km run (something I’m know I can do) would bring me home in 3 hours 15 minutes.
Running through shower-heads re-invigorated me for a moment as I began the final 6 miles, in a straight line from the Power Station, past Hove lawns, the peace stature, the West Pier, the Palace Pier and finally onto Madeira Drive and the finish straight. Miles 20 to 22 felt okay, 22 to 24 it really began to hurt across my thighs. But the last mile was the worst. The road stretched on and on, the sun blinding, but the cheers of the crowd, calling my name (printed on my vest) pushed me on. Turning onto Madeira Drive, just 400 metres from the line, it was still so far away, off in the distance. A quick burst, as much of a sprint as I could muster, to the line and I finished in 3 hours 15 minutes and 5 bloody seconds. At the time I didn’t know that, just that I had finished the race in just over 3 hours 20 minutes, but taking 5 minutes to cross the line told me my chip time (the time it took me to complete the course) was close if not under 3 hours 15 minutes. Maybe next year.
In terms of the race I finished 356th. But out of 9067 I’m pretty please. So my 16 week journey came to end. I collected my medal, fluids and a banana, grabbed my bag, met up with Andy, and wandered off to meet my family.
Many thanks to everyone who has sponsored, very much appreciated. Currently £105.00 for Cancer Research and £80 for Mind.
And if you’d still like to donate:
Cancer Research: http://www.justgiving.com/Antony-WoodruffeCR.
Distance: 434.58 miles
Hours: 58 hours 16 minutes
Average Pace: 08:13
Calories burnt: 42034
Ascent/Descent: 12946ft / 14251ft