Just to warn you, this race recap is probably going to be very different from my previous race reports, but here goes.
If you follow me on social media you will probably be aware that my mum died on the 15th of February. This was a complete shock to us all and I am currently still trying to process it all.
My mum was my rock and the thought of her not being here anymore scares the hell out of me. I’m not sure how you go on, but I know you learn to cope. I learnt that when I lost my dad back in 2010. So why am I sharing this, in this post? Well, I have run the Brighton Half Marathon every year since 2014. (Read previous race reports here 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019). I love this race, my mum even came with me back in 2016.
So deciding to even turn up for this race I was in complete turmoil. Who runs a half marathon the week after they lose a parent? What will everyone think? Will they think I have just moved on? Will I even be able to run it? What if I cry all the way around? Shouldn’t I be with my family?
There were so many things going through my head. Then I remembered something that my mum had said to me when we were in Chicago. We were having dinner and I was talking about running – like you do! It must have been so boring for her, but she said: “Ruth, don’t ever give up running as your face lights up whenever you talk about it.”
Remembering that, made up my mind, I was running it and I was running it for my mum. I kept questioning if this was sensible, especially when the weather forecast was predicting 45 mph gusts of wind. Part of me wanted the race organises to cancel it, as I knew that there was no way I was not going to show up. Well, they didn’t cancel it, so show up is exactly what I did!
It was a very early alarm as I was getting a lift down in the morning, which is different from normal as I usually stay over. I was surprised that the weather didn’t appear to be that bad, but it was early so who knew how bad it was going to get. The journey was fairly easy and we parked at my friend’s friends house and then he drove us into Brighton.
As we walked towards the start line, I did find myself get emotional. The wind on Maderia Drive was insane. It was VERY cold and I needed the toilet, so we went in search. We didn’t need the bag-drop and we saw a LONG queue for toilets but we had plenty of time so just joined it. After about a 5 minutes wait, other runners, shouted to say that there were more toilets further up the road, so we headed for them. I’m not sure we gained any time as the queues were still LOOOONG there too.
We made it to the starting pen with about 15 minutes to spare. I think a lot of people had decided not to travel as it didn’t seem as busy as it has been in previous years.
Standing in the pens was very cold and I couldn’t make up my mind when to remove layers, if at all. I had a long layer on, my MND vest, a long sleeve London Marathon rejection top (that I was planning to throw away) and another jumper on. A buff around my neck, a buff over my ears and a hat. Is this helping you to picture how cold I was feeling?
Let’s just say that I only removed the top jumper and the rest stayed on. There were sections when we were out of the wind that I considered discarding layers, but I knew that the last three miles along the promenade may make me regret that, so I didn’t!
Being completely vain, the only problem with all those layers and the silly hat meant that my race photos were shocking! Hehe
Due to the high winds, the race organisers hadn’t been able to put up the start/finish gantry, so from the start pens, we couldn’t see how far away we were. We crossed the start line fairly quickly. I knew that there was a point just past the start line, where my mum had stood years back. I looked for her and the emotion started. But as I started to get lost in my own emotion, the gusts of wind started which took my mind off my own grief.
As we headed up and out towards the marina, all the runners looked drunk. The wind was blowing us all over the place. Luckily for us, the wind was behind us, helping push us up the hill.
The speedier runners were already on their way back down the hill and you could tell by their faces that were having to work hard running into the wind.
Usually turning at the top of the hill, knowing that you have downhill for a few miles is great. Well, the headwind made the downhill harder than the uphill. It was quite nice when we turned to run past the Brighton Pavillion as we were sheltered from the wind for a while.
Turning on to the Kings Road was crazy. The wind was so strong and blowing straight into our faces. The route changed slightly this year, with us running around Bedford Square and Grand Avenue; both were very welcome breaks from the headwind I would love to be able to share a route plan with you, but I managed to leave my Garmin on charge in my kitchen that morning!.
At one point running along the Kings Road, there was a break in the buildings. The wind blew so strong that it moved my leg, almost making me fall over. It was insane!
Turning at 10 miles with ‘just a parkrun’ to go, I was starting to flag. I walked a little but then the wind blew behind us. 3 miles with the wind pushing me felt far more appealing than a headwind.
Listening to the wave crashing against the sea wall was amazing. The sea was so ferocious that the waves spilt over on to the promenade. I had to stop and take it all in. It was then that running the race just felt fitting.
My mum loved the sea and once said to my Aunty, ‘When I am gone, I would like people to just walk along the beach and remember me’.
As I crossed the finish line, the tears came. I wasn’t sure if that was due to relief or sadness for my mum, but I found it hard to hold them back. Funny enough, as I crossed the line I tried to stop my Garmin, only to remember that I had left it on charge at home! It was probably one of my slowest times, but I really didn’t care, as this race was not about times.
My world has been turned upside down and I currently can’t think too far ahead. I have the Official Big Half this weekend, which I am currently planning to run. But beyond that who knows.
Also, I am in the process of changing the look of this blog; it’s helping me occupy my mind! So if things aren’t where you think they should be, please let me know.