Brighton Marathon – Alexandra Oliver

From roof top runner to ultra runner and back via a marathon.

The lead up to Brighton Marathon.

I am the storm…….this is my mantra.…

I’m getting ready for my first “real” marathon event. Yes, I’ve done a few trail runs of this distance, I’ve even done an ultra marathon recently. Who would have thought it? Who knows what the future holds? I have some ideas….some irons in my fire. From  trail to road on Sunday….I’m scared. I read this quote in a book given to me by an  amazing, inspiring friend. It’s from the ultra runner Azara García. It’s funny as I love  that it’s Spanish!

El diablo me susurró al oído, no eres lo suficientemente fuerte para soportar la  tormenta. Le respondo en un susurro: ¡Soy la tormenta!

Such beauty…..Translated it means

“The devil whispered in my ear, you’re not strong enough to withstand the storm”.  I whisper back, I am the storm!

I’ve felt for a long time now that I had been in training for someone else’s race. That  perpetual drive for getting faster, those goals, the medals, the achievements, the self gratification. Then when you’d get there, starting all over again with the same  ambitions. I cant remember when it happened but there was a realisation that I was  missing something. Maybe it was one of those events you can never get into like the London Marathon? I couldn’t put my finger on it. I entered all the ballots, got my  times up, pb after pb, training 6 days a week and I had notions of a good for age place but why? Was I strong enough? Could my body handle the demands? Then  right back to the why?

Having so much time living in Spain afforded me the ability to try new ideas, test kit, experiment but I never really considered anything would come of it. After all, I’m running for pleasure right? Then, the pandemic and now more questions. Will I  survive it? Will I stand on a starting line again? Will I want to? What should I do?  What should I strive for? Surely I have to have an end goal? Maybe? Maybe not…too  many questions, then bam! The road marathon. 26.2 miles on tarmac. Really? It  turned out that this race was a race that was on the bucket list I never knew I had.

The morning of the Brighton Marathon

I remember the excitement of standing in the park with thousands of others, socially  distanced, wearing my mask. It was a beautifully cool morning, a light breeze,  whisps of white clouds in the azure sky. Almost like home I thought. Perfect for a  race. There was a soft murmer of voices everywhere. People warming up. Smiles,  nervous looks, a real mix of emotions etched on other runners faces. I stood alone in the middle of the field turning slowly in a circle, taking in the panoramic view of life. A snap shot in time.

The athletes field was very well organised and I was feeling excited, nervous but lonely, so very lonely. How can you be lonely among so many others?

The announcement came to move down into the starting area, keeping distance as much as possible. Runners gently filed through the starting pens. It was a calm affair, not that manic feeling one usually gets of being so close to others at a mass start. In fact I crossed the start line on my own. I’m off! Watch started, a few easy strides and up the hill and around the park.

I’m doing this!

The race started really well but what a shocker, it ain’t flat! I settled easily into a  comfortable pace well ahead of the 3.45 pacer. It wasn’t on purpose. I was running  my own race, he just happened to be there, but his constant talking and whipping up the crowds did keep me entertained for a good 20 km!

At almost the half way point, the heat had risen significantly. It didn’t feel gradual, it felt sudden. My legs were burning in my black compression socks, the sun intense on my body, sweat dripping from my brow. I’m not sure any of us were really prepared for this. Runners were now scrambling for water at the aid stations, grabbing two  and three cups at a time, people were tripping others over, I helped pick up two  along the way…The showers on the side of the course were full and you had to wait  your turn for a dousing. At this point I lowered my pace in an attempt to control my heart rate. I am the  storm I kept saying, you’ve got his, keep a calm head, you’ll make it over the finish  line, for you, for your support, for your love of running and your freedom.

At around km 24 the thirst was burning, there just wasn’t enough water available, so I left the course to get a lucozade from the news agent. The owner wouldn’t accept a card and I had no cash, so a kind young man behind me paid, talk about the  kindness of strangers. My saviour and I never asked his name..

At km 28 I walked and ate and drank. Total bliss! I remember thinking of another  quote I’d read from my book about ultra marathons being food stations with a little  running thrown in, that made me smile as I do love my food. I was living in the  moment, happy in my thoughts, but all around me it was carnage, runners were  dropping like flies. The St John staff attending to mostly heat stroke victims… was  actually quite terrifying. I remember thinking why don’t you just slow down? Stop  pushing? Walk! Come talk to me, I’d love company. Nothing is that important that  you need to push on..…

At km 32-34, we were battling to get out of the way of ambulances on the quite  narrow course when a young girl stepped off the curb in front of me, fell and was writhing in pain. I stopped, called for help, suspected broken ankle, poor girl. Really not what you want on a day out, supposedly for fun.

At km 42 I couldn’t even see the finish line. I wanted it over, my watch told me I’d  done it. I picked up my pace for that strong finish. I came through that line at km 43  thinking, crap that was too long! I saw later that the organisers had issued an  apology that the course measured an extra 568m…

Anyway, it doesn’t matter much to me…I still did well. I did my best. I completed a  road marathon. I got my sub 4:30hrs,( 4.28) that was always my aim and I did it. I  don’t care what’s on an ” official ” results table, I know…I know.

I learnt a lot from this event, about myself, my training, my strengths and  weaknesses, about my love for running, and I’m still processing that information.

I know what’s next for me, I’ve known for a while. So a little break, time to chill, to  reflect and refocus…

I won’t let that devil whisper to me as he won’t win! I am the storm!

I’m so grateful to Annette and Gary Lee for support on the course. They always seemed to be there, just when I needed a boost! They were the breath of much needed fresh air! I thank you with all my heart.

My last thought on this particular run…

Is all the training you do just for the one event or is it for the evolution of yourself as the runner? To this question, I know the answer.

Alexandra Oliver September 2021

Posted in Runners Blogs.