• Barry Gerhold

Brighton Marathon 2017



This was a day of very mixed emotions.

I had a few goals set for this event, all of which were probably ridiculous. That morning, I felt ok, so I thought I’d start in the front coral of sub 3:30’s, but expected to finish closer to 3:45. Why was this ridiculous? Recently, I have been ill with a chest infection and the days before the event my resting heart rate was still 35% higher than normal. It usually sits around 42. For the past week, it had barely dropped below 60. Also, I had run a 50 miler the previous weekend, which was the first time I had done that distance and illness has probably delayed my recovery. On top of that, it was bloody hot! Somewhere in the mid 20’s, it was the hottest day of the year so far.

Generally when running marathons, I like to keep my heart rate (HR) in the low end 160’s and if pushing hard, then mid to top end of the 160’s. The first mile had a bit of a slope, already my heart rate flew into the 170’s and it felt like I was moving slow. My average pace for that first mile was 8minute/mile, but my HR shouldn’t have been that high. Even on the downhill sections, I found it difficult to lower it. What was strange is that I still felt relatively relaxed.

Over the next few miles I was pre-occupied by trying to spot Natalie and the kids through the crowds of people. So many people had turned out to spectate which was amazing. My focus though was trying to find these three crazy girls. The plan was to see them around mile 3 and mile 5. However, as mile 3 came and went I did not see them and I became a bit confused, starting to doubt whether I had got the meeting points mixed up. The miles ticked on, mile 5 passed and I still had not seen them. As the course turned left onto the seafront and towards the Marina, I realised that they must have got caught up in the crowds and we somehow missed each other. A shame, but it did occupy my mind for a good few miles.

So the long drag up to the Marina... this was not steep but was a long steady climb. With my already elevated heart rate, I had no choice but to try to reduce my pace so that I didn’t stress my body too much. Doing so meant runner after runner continuously passed me, which I found extremely frustrating. As I passed the Marina, which was mile 7.5, I could see the elite runners hurtling along in the opposite direction. They were already at the 10.5 mile mark, which is just incredible! At the top of the climb, there were a couple of entertainers. One with a keyboard using the sound effects of a laser beam and someone alongside him with some maracas…? This was rather odd, but quite amusing and it did put a smile on my face. I hope this was the reaction they were hoping to get from runners? The course then undulated for a while along the seafront before taking a left at mile 9.5 towards Ovingdean. The Ovingdean section was only a mile long and here I saw the 3:30 pacer only 2mins ahead of me. This was surprising, as I thought that I was well off that pace.

As we hit the turnaround point and back onto the undulating seafront section chasing down the elite runners, I took another look at the heart rate data once more. I was touching on the mid 170’s now and I was in no way travelling fast. I was only at mile 11 and I was already starting to wonder how long my body can maintain this. Usually at this level my body is producing lactic acid faster than it can remove it, which becomes very uncomfortable. The calves were tensing up, but manageable… just.


As I approached mile 14, I saw Natalie, Kya and Juno. This was a much-needed lift and especially so because Kya passed me a handful of jelly babies. They went down a treat! I continued onto an out-and-back section near Hove and passed a stage with some attractive dancers wearing very little. I contemplated pausing here for a minute to appreciate the hard work that they must have put into their training, but thought I may have got into trouble with Nat and so I carried on. This out and back section was four miles in total and probably the hardest section for me. There were fantastic crowds and plenty of hydration and nutrition options here, but I was struggling. I hit my first walking section at mile 16. Not because I could not continue, but because my heart rate was scaring the hell out of me. This was the only option to lower it as it was sticking around the high 170’s - dangerous levels. After this enforced walking section, which was only about 100m, I managed to keep the levels lower (high 160’s).

I ran steadily after that for a while, passed Nat and the girls at mile 18 and grabbed another handful of jelly babies. The course would now head up towards the power station and at mile 21.5, turn back towards Brighton pier for the final 5 mile stretch to the finish line. There now was a lot of walking and people continued to pass me as they had for the whole race so far. I tried to stick with people as they passed, but I could never manage it. With about 5k to go, the 3:45 pacer passed by with a large group of runners in tow. Having this group of runners pass me made me feel even more disappointed with the whole experience. I tried to stick with them for a bit, but only managed about 50 metres. Other runners who were also struggling, tried doing the same and ended up falling off the back of this group.

The nearer I got to the pier, the bigger the crowds grew. They were amazing! So loud and so eager to be supportive of each and every runner. I tried to acknowledge each one that cheered me on and I tried to run, but I had little left in the tank. Miles 23-25, I probably walked more than I ran. I was holding back a little energy for the final mile. When mile 25 came into sight and the crowds grew even denser, I began getting into some sort of rhythm, attempting to keep on running and I found myself amongst about 5 other runners. Having that finish line getting closer was a relief and I kept those legs going until that line was crossed. Once I had crossed, it took a fair bit of concentration to make sure I was going to stay upright. I could quite happily of laid down there and then and rested my eyes. We had to walk about 400 metres to collect our medals, t-shirts, and various items to place inside our goody bags before exiting this zone and into the meet and greet area. At this point I was very disappointed with my performance and in a bit of a grump.

Gradually as the day went on and Natalie talked some sense into me, I was able to analyse what happened and also look at other people’s runs and see that they also suffered. So, although initially I saw it as a sign of poor fitness and that my performances were going in the wrong direction, it was obvious to see that I just had a bad day and that there were numerous factors preventing me from achieving them ridiculous goals.


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