In short: Q: When is a half marathon not a half marathon? A: When it's the 2012 Brighton Half In full: I live in Brighton and entered this race months before the closing date. My race number never arrived, s I turned up half an hour early to collect a replacement race number in person. Sadly, it was obvious that many people did not received their numbers because I was still queueing up for my number nearly 20 minutes after the gun had signalled the start of the race!
The staff at the kiosk giving our race numbers were in utter panic: when I eventually got to the front of the queue (after 50 minutes of lining-up in the freezing cold in shorts & t-shirt), I had the man on the PA shouting that anyone starting the race later than 'now' would not be chip timed for the race, while the staff dispensing race numbers told those of us still in the queue that we had to wait another five minutes to get our numbers as they'd given out all of their existing ones! They'd given my race number to another runner, it seems. When I politely insisted that we couldn't wait five minutes for race numbers because the start line was about to close, I was told, 'Well, it's not our fault you didn't bother bringing your race number with you!'
Many runners in the queue gave up and ran without numbers, forfeiting their medals and chip-times rather than miss the race entirely. Eventually, I passed the start line at 9:20am (20 mins after the start time) still safety-pinning on my race number as I ran!
The upside of all this chaos is that I was running completely on my own for the first two miles of the race. Race marshals were packing the cones away and the traffic lights started to function again as I ran past them. Having the whole road to myself may have made me feel utterly ridiculous as I rand down the middle of the road by myself, but at least it meant that I got a good time: a combination of having no other runners in my way, trying to catch up with the rest of the pack so I felt less ridiculous, and worrying that I'd soon be sharing the roads with traffic, sped me to a personal best on this course. Starting well behind the back of the pack also meant I passed literally thousands of the slower runners which, while a little hard to dodge through the crowd, was extremely good for morale: I felt like an elite athlete! (I am not an elite athlete.)
Fortunately I know the layout well as this was not my first year competing, so I knew exactly how much I'd need in the tank for the final three mile sprint... except the course seemed to just go on forever this year.
Why? Because the race organisers had messed up the most fundamental aspect of putting on a half marathon race: it was the wrong length! They had actually measured the course out wrong!
They later accepted the mistake and adjusted everyone's times accordingly, but most people leave something in the tank for a last-gasp burst of speed don't they? These revised times will not take this into account as runners would have thought they were still half a mile from the finish line when the race really ended.
What a fiasco! Unbelievably, I'll probably still run it next year as it's my local race. :-( Date of review: March 26, 2012
In short: Brutal but brilliant In full: I'd heard there were a fair few hills on this course, but having run around the hillier areas of the south-east, came unprepared! Wow, this is a monster of a course, with uphill climbs for the majority of the first nine miles. At mile two I was on top of the world, running with the first fifty of the pack, but by mile four I was being passed by all and sundry and was thinking about quitting.
What made me carry on? Well, aside from sheer determination and the desire to rid myself of the poor taste that February's Brighton Half had left in my mouth (the Brighton course was a complete fiasco this year), the crowd support was utterly tremendous. Well done, people of Hastings!
The support was often directed at the Hastings Runners in particular, and I did find myself surrounded by club runners, so I felt a bit lonesome as an unaffiliated entrant at times, but with brass bands, orange segments, jelly babies, church choirs blasting out of local buildings and people blasting music and support out of their back gardens, I just don't think the locals would let you quit.
They fib to you all the way up the nine miles of long, grueling ascents, claiming 'the worst is nearly over,' long before it actually is and then when you reach the nine mile area, the local pub at the top of the last hill are playing motivational music and shouting out support over the PA.
There's then a quad-busting downhill section for about two miles before a long, hard and hot flat along the seafront to the finish. Despite being all flat it was still utterly energy sapping after the long hills and hot weather: the finish felt like it took forever to come and I nearly stopped and walked even at mile 12!
I'm glad I didn't though as I felt a true sense of achievement as I crossed the finish line that I haven't got from other half marathons. I came in at around position 350 with a time of 01:37, which while no quite a PB, I was significantly more proud of than better times in other, similar events.
Tough race. Great race... But maybe never again...? Date of review: March 26, 2012