Brighton was my first marathon and it seemed the marathon started on Saturday as I joined the enormous queue for my race bib. I'd paid for my entry using my American Express card, which was meant to speed me through. However, for today at least, the sheer number of people arriving on Saturday afternoon meant that all that had gone to pot. I'm not sure if there were particular problems that year, or it was just because I arrived in the peak time, but this was not a good introduction to marathon events.

Sunday morning was much better. I made my way to Three Bridges station to catch a train. The Gatwick Express was making extra stops to pick up runners and then it whisked us into Brighton station. The marathon starts back at Preston Park, which has its own station but it doesn't open on marathon day! So instead, a long line of runners went out the side exit of the station and walked our way to the start area. This wasn't too far and the weather was pleasant. Later the weather would be really hot - perhaps not as hot as 2017 by all accounts.

My AMEX payment got me into a special area with dedicated loos, baggage drop-off and refreshment tent. Not much in the way of seating, but a lot nicer than the cattle herding that appeared to be going on in the main area. There was however a downside: as I was not in the main corral, I had no way to find the pacer that I intended to follow. In fact, I never saw a pacer for the whole race - I don't think they wore balloons or banners like other races. And to put my pacing strategy under even more pressure, we were let into the stream of runners at the front of our colour band. That meant I went off with the 3:30 runners, when I was thinking of running more like 3:45. As it was, even that was probably optimistic and so I did what everyone does on their marathon debut and went out way too fast. It all felt good, but when I went through half way at close to a half marathon PB, I knew there was no way I'd be able to keep that up. At the 35km mark the wheels started to come off, as they say. I ended up walking the section near the power station. Everyone says this section is the worst, with a lack of support and dreary view. However, I thought there were quite a lot of people out supporting us and the crews at the refreshment tables were also enthusiastic.

I'd set my new Garmin Forerunner 235 to give me an estimated finish time. Every time I walked it would say 4 hours something and every time I ran it would drop just back into the 3 hour something zone. I reckon this is what kept me going. In the end I jogged over the line in 3:59:11. If you watch the video of my finish, you'll see all the runners around me travelling about twice as fast!

I wish I could tell you about all the sights, such as the Pavilion, but I was so focused on running that not only did I miss them all, but I also missed my family on the two or three times that they saw me go past. The organisation at the end was good, my bag was ready for me as the man in the truck read my number as I approached. It was nice having the reception area on the beach, but it was a pain to get off due to the limited access across the miniature railway line.

If you are looking for a well supported race without the hassle of a ballot entry, then Brighton seems to be the one to go for. I'm glad this was my first. The Morpeth 2 Newcastle was going to be, if I didn't get in to London. Knowing that people will be disappointed not to get a London place, Brighton offer a few thousand extra places shortly after the ballot result. I probably paid over the odds as a result, but ultimately I don't regret it. The Morpeth 2 Newcastle Marathon 2016 was going to be something quite different and could have been much tougher if it had been my first.

About Matt

Not known for sport at school, I took up running in my mid-forties. Very soon I caught the running bug and progressed from the Couch to 5K programme, via parkrun, various 10k races and the Great North Run to running marathons and beyond in the UK and overseas. Now in my fifties, I still run fast enough to impress my friends and family, but not fast enough to think I've missed a vocation as an Olympian!

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