Brighton was the most nervous I have ever been for a race. It had been a tough few weeks with the loss of my darling Nan, and her funeral just a few days prior, to be honest I think in any other circumstance I wouldn’t have been running. But knowing I would see my wonderful group of ‘bugs’, running and supporting, and the fact I had been fundraising as part of my bigger three-part challenge, combined with my own stubbornness, meant I would go and drag myself across that finish line if I had to. There was no way I would let anyone down.
Arriving on the Saturday, I went to the Expo on my own, and of course got sidetracked by beautiful trainers…the perfect distraction pre race. Soon I had met up with all the Running bug group, and seen all the lovely UKRunChat crew for tea and nervous chit-chat. Dinner with everyone that evening distracted me long enough that I didn’t think too much about what was to come, and despite some VERY noisy male occupants waking most of us in the early hours in the Hotel, I got an ok nights sleep.
Waking on Sunday, my main focus was food. All my race kit had been prepped long before I went to bed, so it was a case of dressing, grabbing food in the hotel (the porridge by the way was dreadful!) and heading on my way.
Walking to the line as a group was a new experience, my two previous Marathons I had travelled to on my own. I have to say it was a welcome distraction as I was petrified – emotionally exhausted, mentally in the wrong place, I knew this would be tough. Never before have I felt this kind of nervousness, I hid it as much as I could but my confidence had gone. Why was I doing this? How could I do it? Memories of my second marathon GFA time vanished, I was mad thinking I had the mental or physical strength for a marathon, this was a bad idea.
Having dropped my bag and stood in a toilet queue for a good 10 minutes, I realised there was no way I would make it in time to get to my pen before the start. At this point I made a judgement call and ran to the edge of Preston Park, found a tree that vaguely hid my now bare bum, squatted and relieved myself, weeing in full site of the thousands running that day, with Maria stood over me giggling. I couldn’t have cared less at this point, and in hindsight, pretty funny!
I then headed straight for my Pen, which was completely full and dispersing out onto the grass at the side. Stood there, completely blocking out the noise of the runners, I wondered how I would feel once I got moving. This was the first time I had no concept of what to expect, but I battled with my brain and remembered I was strong and I COULD do this, and most importantly, yes I was doing this for charity but also, I love running!
As the race began, I ran as only I know how. Tried my best to take in the route and maintained my own pace without being distracted by others around me. This is something I learnt last year, and I am pleased to say I managed not to get swept away in the initial sprint off that invariably happens at these events. Within a few miles I was feeling great and maintaining a fairly even pace, feeling comfortable and enjoying it already. The hill that seemed to worry everyone before hand was ok, and any undulations after were noticeable, but a welcome challenge to add to the route. Having made a decision (that I highlighted to everyone pre race) to just go and enjoy it, somehow ‘race Lana’ had taken over and every now and then I was checking my pace rather than my heart rate to ensure I was on track for a sub 4 again. This is why I got into trouble.
Nearing mile 15 my Garmin decided it would no longer track me, or my Heart rate. It dropped to about 40 beats per minute and I was tracking at 15 minute miles, and then 3 minute miles. It was impossible for me to know how fast I was going, or whether I was pushing too hard for not enough. I lost all sight of my initial ‘enjoy’ plan and got panicked. This was made worse a mile or so on, hearing someone cheer ‘go Nan’ next to me. Emotions took over and tears filled my eyes. This is when my angel Sarah appeared (Satay, Darah or Crunning as she is also known, who deservedly got her GFA time at this event). She spotted immediately that I was not my normal chirpy self, gave me a good talking to, told me to turn my watch off and just enjoy. She doesn’t realise how much she helped me that day, but quite honestly, without her, the entire run could have been ruined for me. I did exactly that. Watch off. Stop worrying. Walk if you have to. Who cares?!
And remarkably, I started to feel ok. In fact I felt good. No idea how fast or slow I was going, and nor did I care. I got a wonderful wave from Dan who was busy sipping from a beer bottle after his epic 10K, and as I started to near the dreaded section leading to the Power Station I remembered why I do this. I love running. I love the challenge. The only real pressure on me was what I was putting on myself, and as soon as I relieved myself of my own expectations, I was enjoying it, even the pain!
Nearing Mile 21 I caught sight of lovely Caroline, grinning from ear to ear, waving and cheering. I asked where the others were ‘around the corner’. This was the bit everyone dreaded, but what I was most excited about. In true bug fashion, there was Nelly, Pauline and Di sipping fizz, cheering on with Mark’s gorgeous wife Sharnie and daughter Keira. Pauline cheekily offered me a sip from her glass as I ran towards them. Well I said I was going to enjoy it..I am not sure she expected me to stop for a swig or two, but I did. Much to the delight and entertainment of the others!
After this it was up to the Power station and back past the bugs, a wave (no secondary prosecco sadly) and down to run along the seafront. The cheering got louder and the crowds busier, until before I knew it, I was running past Alexandra, Chris and Steve on to the home stretch. I crossed the line with absolutely no idea what time I had done, I hadn’t even looked at the finish clock, but presumed I had done just over 4 hours or so.
As soon as I got hold of my phone I looked at my notifications from people who had been tracking me. I had so many I didn’t know where to start, friends and family had been watching my every move, and updating one another on my progress. It was such a touching and wonderful thing to see. I had to ask what time I had done and thought I had surely imagined the time of 3 hrs 47.21. Not only that, my pacing was near perfect, with a slightly negative split (second half marginally faster than the first). To say this was a shock was an understatement. I had stopped for prosecco, I had run at a comfortable pace and not over worked, and managed to get a great time whilst still enjoying myself! What a revelation!
I have learnt so much from this race. I trust my running ability much more. I clearly know how to pace myself and actually ran stronger without my watch on (though I can’t say I won’t be using it in the future!), maintaining an almost identical pace in the second half without it, to what I had achieved in the first half with it on. But also, its only me stopping myself from enjoying it. It doesn’t matter what other people’s expectations are of me. I am never going to win any trophies, but my goodness I have come a LONG way in the two years I have been running. Not only that, despite all the emotional battles I was having on the day, I enjoyed the majority of the run, and my goodness did I enjoy that party afterwards!