As the sun set on the Fowlmead 12-Hour Challenge, we began the long drive back to Lisa and Graham’s house. Dinner was delicious but late, and we ended up getting something like 5 hours of sleep before waking up bright and early for the Brighton Marathon and 10k the next day. We were able to take a train from right near Lisa and Graham’s house in East Croydon down to Brighton, right on the southern coast! Lisa had arranged for race day packet pickup through the press coordinator, and I was lucky enough to receive a last minute press entry! The 10k was set to start at 8:30 and the marathon at 9 am, but since I didn’t have a watch, I was well into the porta potty line by the time the race started. So I’m thinking “Ok, no problem, I don’t have to go that bad, so I’ll just head to the start and get going.”
Uh…yeah…except the whole corral and start area was thick, deep, very slippery mud. I was picking my way through there just praying I didn’t fall! I started the race about 8 minutes after the actual race start, so suffice to say, pretty much in last place.
There is something to be said for starting a race in last place, I’ve got to say! I felt surprisingly good for having run 18 miles the previous day and I was raring to go. Plus, there’s just something special about running in a foreign city, and I wanted to soak up the magic. I started off at a pretty quick pace, knowing I would be taking a lot of pictures along the route. The course definitely did not disappoint.
We ran under beautiful arches and past colorful pubs on quaint early morning streets. I found myself wanting to stop about every 30 yards, so the race was very stop-and-go. I basically sprinted from one photo opportunity to the next!
In between sprinting and pictures, I didn’t notice where any of the kilometer markers were. Not that it mattered anyway! There were way more important things to pay attention to, like the Silver Sounds percussion band! It’s a percussion group made up entirely of senior citizens and I may or may not have verbally squealed when I saw them. They were amazing!
After seeing the Silver Sounds, I ran pretty hard for awhile. I had no idea of my pace and didn’t have a goal for the race, but I did want to push myself while I was actually running. I got kind of caught up in the energy and thrill of passing people, and since I had started so far back, that actually happened a lot. I didn’t get passed the entire race!
We turned down towards the beach onto a long out and back and I really turned on the steam. We only had a mile or so to go and I wanted to push myself! I had no idea what my finish time was as I ran under the clock (it ended up being about 1:01), but I was excited to get my medal and start the search for my friend Nic, who was supposed to be waiting for me at the finish. Having run a marathon the day before (that she hadn’t trained for!), she was pretty sore and slowly making her way across the city.
Although the temperatures were comfortable while I was running, as soon as I was done, it was cold. I walked back and forth along the finish area looking everywhere for her and was almost in tears by the time we finally found each other! It turns out she was, too, because she was so sore from the race that she was hobbling along and panicking that we would never reunite. The first order of business was obviously to go get Mexican food. I’ve taken on the unofficial mission of eating Mexican food in as many foreign countries as possible for no reason other than it is delicious.
After that, it was time to spectate! Lisa was running the full marathon, and this was her first ever double. We knew she would be chat-running and had now idea how long it would take her to finish the race, but it didn’t matter because Nic and I absolutely love spectating. We bought a bunch of Jelly Babies, which are British candy, to hand out to the runners along the course. The closest thing I can think to describe them is that they are basically like Sour Patch Kids if Sour Patch Kids weren’t sour. I couldn’t remember the name of the stupid things for the life of me, so I kept yelling “Jelly Bellies here! Jelly Bellies for runners!” sending Nic into fits of hysterical laughter.
I take my race spectating very seriously, and let’s just say I made my presence known. I figure that Americans have a stereotype of being loud for a reason and if there was any time to live up to that stereotype, it was in the late miles of a marathon where people need a pick-me-up. I think probably some (most) people were picked up and some probably thought I was having a psychotic break, but either way, it gave them something to briefly take their minds off their aching muscles. I even got into a cheering/yelling match with a British guy with a megaphone who was doing his best to out cheer me. Sir, you have no idea who you’re dealing with here. I will not be defeated.
We kept our eyes out for runners who looked injured or particularly down. This was late in the race – probably at least 5.5 hours in, so people were starting to really struggle. We tried to offer as much encouragement as possible without ever using the dreaded “You’re almost there!” and I walked and ran with several people for a few hundred yards just to cheer them up. We went through about 7 bags of Jelly Children, which people were either immediately repulsed by (apparently there were a lot of them on the course) or super excited about. There was nothing in between.
We were having a blast and jumping around all over the place by the time Lisa showed up. Sure enough, she had made some new friends along the way and was walking along with Diana, a first time marathoner who had injured her knee, and another man who was also hurt. We greeted them all with enthusiastic hugs and cheers (but sadly, no Jelly Babies/Bellies/Children) and started walking along. Lisa and the man headed off ahead, while Nic and I began walking with Diana. Despite her hurt knee, she was in unbelievably high spirits. “Today has been so incredible,” she said. “It would probably be one of the worst days of my life had I not met Lisa. I was in so much pain at mile 8 and I thought there was no way I could finish and I was so upset. But then I met Lisa and we started talking and the miles have just flown by. I never thought I’d be so happy to be taking almost 8 hours to finish a marathon, but this has been one of the best days of my life thanks to her!”
You know, I really can’t say I was surprised. Lisa has this effect on people – she makes lifelong friends everywhere she goes. It’s no surprise that she has so many incredible stories in her book, honestly. Nic and I kept walking along with Diana, who decided that she wanted to try and run the last part of the race. Nic and I ran with her almost to the end and then peeled off so she could cross the finish line by herself. She had so earned that moment! It was a thrill to watch her and Lisa finish the race and get their medals.
We then met up with Lisa’s friends who live in Brighton and had a drink at a nearby pub before catching the train home for a late dinner, drinks, and celebration. I had about half a day in London the next day before catching my flight home, but that night was all about enjoying the amazing company, celebrating Lisa’s accomplishments, and reveling in the friendships we have formed through running. Although the weekend was short, it was powerful – a testament to the many wonderful things running has brought to my life. This, my friends, was 60,000 frequent flyer miles well spent.