A Blowy Brighton Half

Contributor Lou Haylett braved the bleak winter months to train for the 30th edition of the Brighton Half, and the weather proved appropriate race day preparation!

I am not a regular long distance runner – so a half marathon is a big deal in my much more leisurely, shorter running world. I signed up for The Grand Brighton Half 2020 in February to give me some winter motivation to keep getting out and about during the chillier, bleaker months. This it did – sometimes with me cursing, sometimes with more of a spring in my step. Overall my training plan of 3 runs a week, increasing my longer runs each week by a mile – starting from 5 miles and going to 12 miles seemed to work.

As race day arrived, it was clear the weather was going to be both a blessing and a curse. Initially I was slightly dreading the stormy conditions predicted, with heavy rain and winds. Fortunately on the day it was mostly dry and the wind was downgraded to just 40mph! Given the course essentially goes on 3 out and back loops, I reckoned half the time I’d be battling the wind, and the other half I’d be blown around the course. It seems some were put off by the weather forecast as although over 12,000 runners had registered, only about 8000 ran on the day. It still felt nicely busy on the course and despite the weather, there was good support from lots of hardy, wind swept souls.

Brighton Half supporter
The supporters weren’t put off by the weather

Overall, the Brighton Half race organization and lovely volunteers all along the course were excellent. There was a great atmosphere heading into the race village on the morning. My only gripe was the way the start was set up. Thinking we had left plenty of time to get to the start and drop off bags, go to the toilet, get to the right timing pen – everything suddenly clogged up with runners and spectators and we became stuck in a human jam. We were not alone in almost missing the start. But an unceremonious flinging of myself over the barriers got me in position just in time! A little more stressed than I would have liked to have been, but then we were off and that was all forgotten.

Embracing the wind!

I really enjoyed the course. The first ‘loop’ headed up and out of Brighton towards Ovingdean (probably the biggest hill in the race) and magically the wind was behind us all the way up. It made what could have felt quite a challenging initial climb up the cliff tops, almost exhilarating. Helped by chatting to a lady who had a massive breast filled with balloons strapped to her back running for Breast Cancer. Throughout the course there were lots of charity runners which is always great to see and know money is being raised for lots of good causes. On the way back down the hill, we were running into the wind, but that’s fine when gravity is helping you along. At the bottom of the hill we came back past the start area and headed into the Brighton centre loop running past the Brighton Palace Pier and Brighton Pavilion. There were big crowds all along here, I particularly enjoyed reading the signs people were holding, my favourite being ‘You’re Running Better than the Government!’ At the end of this loop, we were about half way and we headed out along the front towards Hove. This bit was definitely the hardest bit, as we were running into the wind which was pretty feisty and at the time it did seem a long never ending road.

Live music around the course really kept the runners going

However there were supporters all the way along, and there was some great musical moments along here… The Grand Brighton Hotel had lots of live singers including The Sundaes looking and sounding splendid! There was also an amazing drumming band which I would have happily had following me the whole way round. I especially appreciated seeing my husband and boys braving the blustery weather along here – it lifted me at just the right time. Finally we made the turn back towards Brighton and past the Mile 10 point. Luckily the wind was behind us for the last – and arguably hardest – 3 miles. We were running along the promenade, past all the colourful beach huts, with the waves crashing right next to us. Still more supporters all along here, and it was great to finish the race back where we started, in the heart of Brighton.

At the end I was lucky to have access to The Sussex Beacon’s tent which had a great atmosphere full of Beacon runners and supporters – the cup of tea, and bacon roll were much appreciated. The Sussex Beacon are the race organizers, a charity offering vital care and support for people living with HIV. Whilst seeking refuge from the wind in their tent, I had a text confirming my time 2:11:39. I’d been hoping for sub 2hrs30 so I was really pleased with my time – the wind had definitely helped.

Overall the Brighton Half was a race I really enjoyed and would definitely do it again.

Find out more about the race and find out about 2021 entry soon here: www.brightonhalfmarathon.com/