A 6am departure in the dark with my trusty support crew of husband Paul and running friends Carol and Ali we set off in the car and the chat was non-stop (I think this was their distraction tactic) we reached the park and ride and boarded the bus to Preston Park with other nervous runners. The park was a hive of activity with runners preparing in their own way, luggage lorries waiting to take personal possessions and the inevitable queue for the toilets!
We immediately spotted the red hoodies of fellow Hedgies and Ali used her megaphone (yes, a megaphone!) to attract their attention. There is nothing better than finding fellow Hedgies and knowing you are' safe' and with supportive people. After our own personal routines we wished each other good luck and made our way to our starting pens.
This marathon was daunting for me. Yes, I had previously run two but alongside other Hedgie runners. A fellow runner was due to run with me but made a wise (and difficult) decision to defer until next year. Yes, there would be thousands running with me but I would essentially be on my 'own' today so this would be a test of my own mental strength not the strength in my legs.
So, after glimpsing the speedy, elite Kenyans pass our starting pen we were off and the inspiring Jo Pavey was at the start to send us on our way. I knew I would see my support crew at mile 5 and they didn’t let me down - I quickly spotted the infamous red hoodies and HEARD them (cheering, maracas and a megaphone) - what more could I ask for.
I had a personal goal for a finish time so unusually for me I regularly checked my Garmin to keep to my required pace and as it was a warm day made use of the majority of water stations. As Brighton is a 'loopy' course I used this opportunity to Hedgie spot which doubled up as a distraction from the mileage. I spotted all my fellow club runners and mutual support was given either with a wave or cheer depending on our own energy levels!
My last sighting of Hedgie support was before I entered my 'dodgy' territory (18 onwards) and into the miles of self doubt. This isn’t helped by having to run towards the power station/industrial area where support becomes sparse and quiet. Consequently the sound of fellow runners hurting becomes more audible and the smiles you had at the start have disappeared.
It's at this time that I read what I had written on my arm "All the strength I need is within me" (thank you Louise Gretton), draw upon my stored happy thoughts, two parkruns left, this is running by the chapel and into Bluebell woods, fun Sunday runs etc. Don't listen to the groans, run past the walking injured, and try not to be affected by the runner being treated by St John's Ambulance.
Back on the sea front and thankfully there are crowds again. A quick glance at my Garmin made me refocus on my finishing time. Could I still reach my target? It's literally a case of putting one foot in front of the other and repeat, repeat, repeat. Yes it hurts but keep going. I can hear the voice of Stephen Kivlochan in my head "Push, push!"
I could see the big wheel in the distance and knew the finish line was within grasp and I could see my support crew again still smiling and cheering. I checked my Garmin again and knew I could achieve my target time if I picked my pace up. Come on you can do this and I DID. My target was 4:20 and I crossed the line in 4:20:57!
I collected my well earned medal and found my fellow Hedgies. Even though I only know them through running we gave each other congratulatory hugs and shared tears of joy and relief without embarrassment. We were bonded by a mutual struggle and knew what each other had been through, created memories and fought our own personal battles and that's what a MARATHON does.
Would I recommend you run a marathon? Yes. Would I recommend Brighton? Definitely!