Okay I don't actually expect anyone to read this, but feel free...
On sunday I made it through the Brighton Marathon.
Pat and I had travelled down the afternoon before, and, suitably breakfasted, we joined the early-morning stream of runners making it's way up to Preston Park. We met Joe and Emily & Seth amidst the tents and toilet queues, and had a while to chat before the start. Wandered up to the Charity Village and had a look for the (absent) Water Aid desk. Plenty of time to apply sun cream, which was definitely a good idea. No nerves really. I stripped down to my vest and shorts.
I took my place in the 'Pink Start Corral' (as determined by the predicted finish time each runner was asked to predict upon race entry), right next to the geezer dressed as a pair of big hairy balls. It seemed a bit more serious now. I wasn't sure how far my ankle would allow me to travel, so was determined to take it very steady and not bugger it up too much too quickly. A brief lull in the pounding music in which the gun sounded, and the front runners were off, way out of sight to the south. I still had time to run off for one last piddle, and twelve minutes later I was off, plodding slowly down through the Park. Other runners began whizzing past me from the start, but I fought to resist being carried along with them.
At the last minute I'd decided to run wearing an ankle support that I'd picked up the day before to give me a bit more support before the race. It really seemed to help while walking and sitting around, so I thought I'd try it in the run itself. Completely untested, it was a bit of a risky move. However, as soon as I set off, my foot was painful. Instead of the tendon in the top of my ankle though, this was hurting the bottom of my heel and the body of my foot. It must've just been changing the way my foot fell slightly (as the fabric was fairly thick), and putting some new and unwelcome strain on it. Every fall of my right foot hurt like hell, so a few hundred metres in I stopped at the kerbside to take the thing off. The pain then reverted straight back to my troublesome tendon. I was far more fearful of the latter, knowing how quickly it had stopped me in my tracks the last time I'd run. So, as I finished the lap of the park, I stopped where Pat & co. were waiting to see me pass and put the support back on. I'd chosen my option, and now I was properly on my way.
Throughout the first 10 miles my optimism undulated. Each time I began to think I'd be able to make it, I'd speed up a bit only for the pain in my foot to suddenly intensify, so I'd slow back down to a plod and return to doubting I'd last until the next mile marker. So I carried on like this, always focussing on the next landmark.
I wasn't really taking a lot of notice of what was going on around me in the early miles, I was so preoccupied by my foot. I chatted to one of the Water Aid toilets briefly. A woman running up ahead was suddenly startled by the ringing phone in her pocket. In her fumble to answer it, she dropped it on the road and had to pause to retrieve it, then answered on the move: 'Yeah where are you? I'm just going past the Bat & Ball'.
The crowds were amazing; an unbelievable amount of people had come out to watch, lining the roads and shouting throughout almost the entire course. Apparently 80 000 spectators turned up, double the expected number. The blazing sun helped a lot, no doubt. It was only as the course headed out past the Marina after 6 or 7 miles that it began to get a bit quieter. By this point I was way down the field. Part of me was frustrated that I was still being passed by scores of runners I knew I was fitter and faster than, and thought 'It's fine, I'll just pick it up and catch 'em all in the second half'. But the other part of me knew I'd have to keep it steady if I wanted to finish the race.
I passed halfway in about 2:27, and still thought I could put in a 2 hr second half. At this point the course came back past the pier, where the crowds were at their most massive and loudest. This is also where Pat and a few friends were placed to cheer me past, and this carried me on, and I began to pass people. As the course swung up onto Hove's Grand Avenue, a whisper of the need for a toilet stop began to grow. There were portaloos at every water stop, and queues at all of them. I really didn't want to commit to this timewasting, so decided I could carry on and ignore it. I'd underestimated the length of Grand Avenue. Lined with trees and filled with a river of runners as far as I could see, it reminded me of the Champs Elysees in the Paris Marathon. On the way back along it, around mile 17, I reluctantly had to commit to that pitstop.
For the past few miles I'd been more bothered by the need for that loo break than by my foot, but as I sped up to make up some time and places, I was a bit surprised by how forcefully the pain in my heel was coming through. I was really staggering now, and couldn't even keep up with the slow runners. I focussed my thought on Shoreham Power Station at about 21-22, the furthest point on the course, thinking that if I could make it there, I'd be alright because I'd be on the way back. But it hurt a lot. I was tempted to stop to remove the strap again, but I had the strong feeling that it was the only thing holding my ankle together.
The power station was really weird; bleak and horrible. There was one entertainment point there where a voice from a hidden DJ shouted encouragement, and told us that Fatboy Slim was only a little way ahead. 'How did I end up behind Fatboy Slim?' The most frustrating thing, I think, was that I couldn't even keep up with the walk-and-runners. I overtook the same walking people repeatedly, only to be overtaken by them a couple of minutes later as they'd started running again, and my limping, grimacing gait wasn't fast enough to keep up. I knew that I couldn't let myself walk though, that was the most important thing. I knew I wouldn't feel I could say I'd 'run a marathon' if I'd walked so much as a step. I did take the ankle strap off again towards the end, only to quickly put it back on again. These little stops did however mean I had to pass Norman Cook and his accompanying chorus of 'Go on Norm!' three times.
Running the last couple of miles, I knew Pat would be positioned near the end, so I'd only have a short distance to go after that. The noise from the crowd grew more and more deafening in the last mile, and I broke in to a bit of a proper run again on the home straight. The 0.2 miles after the 26 seemed like nothing. I made it across the line in a couple of seconds' space to myself, with a chip time of 04:53:54. Pat had managed to sneak into the Charity Village area at the end, and found me staggering around laden with my bags, a medal, a T-shirt and a banana. I met the rest of my posse and went for fish and chips on the beach.
About an hour slower than I'd always been hoping for and expecting, but I was immensely pleased to get around at all. And I didn't walk any of it. Looks like I'll have to do another one, although I don't think I'd do it again unless completely injury-free. I couldn't put any weight on my right heel for a day or so after the race, but that's already faded a lot.