Brighton Marathon – 7th April 2024

Race report by Jeni Harvey

“It’s got the big city feel of London, but less faff. And you finish on the beach – which is much better than finishing at Buckingham Palace and having to try and make your way back to Kings Cross on battered legs.”

That was the thought process, anyway, when I signed up for Brighton as my choice of Spring marathon. London is great and all, but it’s a bit of a headache, especially with small children in tow. Whereas Brighton.. well, it felt like a perfect end to the Easter holiday.

Which is why, with family and friends in tow, we rocked up on the South coast on Sunday 7 April for what I hoped might be a PB and – if I was really lucky – a Boston qualifier as well.

The latest iteration of the Brighton course starts at Preston Park and meanders its way around the city centre before working down to the sea front for lots of out-and-backery, before finishing right on the beach in Hove. I was also glad to hear they’d cut out the worst of the industrial “wood yard” bit that had been no fun at all when I’d last run Brighton in 2022.

The training was in the bag (I hoped); the course looked better than previous years (great) but the one thing I couldn’t account for was the weather. Which unfortunately was not on our side.

Not only was Storm Kathleen raging but it was also weirdly, unseasonably, hot. I’d trained through months of Yorkshire hailstones and driving rain so was nervous to see the not-ideal combination of hot sun and strong winds, which I knew would get me once we hit the seafront.

Anyway, with sun cream slathered on, we gathered in Preston Park for the off. My husband (and former Strider) Al had a number and had long since decided he wasn’t running the full race, but set off with me anyway with the intention of pacing me for the first half or so. The aim was to run sub 3:35 (my PB, set at London in 2023) so that meant mile splits of just over 8 min miles.

I was very nervous about going off too fast after over-egging it at the Trimpell 20 in March and blowing up at mile 18 (that’s what these 20 milers are for though, right?) so set off steady and chatty, Al keeping me right on pace.

My watch was set to heart rate rather than to time, so I only saw each mile as it ticked off; the idea being that if my heart rate went anywhere near 170 I’d slow down.

Very soon, however, I realised the day was going to be a tough one. As soon as we hit the sea front, Storm Kathleen hit us in the face. Thanks, Kathleen. And I knew we had 20 miles or so of exposed, hot, windy, running to go.

Thoughts of a PB went out of the window at this point – the aim was to get round and try to enjoy it. Trying to keep to pace going into the headwind just wasn’t working, and I was worried about my heart rate rising too early in the game.

At eight miles Al (very sensibly) declared that this was not fun at all and he was off for a bacon sandwich and a coffee – so he jogged off to a café and left me to it, with the advice to try and find some people to stick behind.

Somewhere between the 3:30 and the 3:45 pacer I found a small group and stuck with them, with our pace slowing to 8:15 or so as we went into the headwind, and back down to 8 again as we turned around.

It was hot and hotting up further as we reached the furthest eastern edges of the course and turned around to come back into the city centre. I tried to take on water and electrolyte at every water station and keep my heart rate steady, but it was becoming more and more of a struggle. A couple of very windy miles at 17 and 18 meant my splits were up to around 8:20, and convinced my PB attempt was well out of the window, I was starting to lose my head.

But then I heard Al shouting my name (he’d had his butty by this point and was having a nice time on the beach, by all accounts) and I thought well, I’ve come this far, let’s dig in.

The whole route is lined with supporters, but the section around Hove is especially lively and noisy, which is exactly what I needed. Disappointment turned to a sort of mania as I waved and smiled at the crowds, taking all the jelly babies and jelly beans passed my way.

It was also heartening to see my strategy of running within myself and keeping HR under control was paying off. By mile 20 the course had become like the march of the zombies, as those around me who had tried to keep pace despite the conditions dropped off and started walking. Or vomiting. Or both.

Overtaking people and feeling strong, I pushed on and down to the seafront. Miles 23 and 24 were tough; but then they always are. I knew I was on the home straight by now.

So at mile 25 I did what I hadn’t done the whole race – I switched my watch to time rather than HR to see what I was on for. And at the 25 mile marker, it told me I was on 3:24. This was both good and bad -good because, to my huge surprise, I knew I could still pull off a PB if I put my foot down. Bad, because – well – it meant putting my foot down.

Letting HR go out the window, I gave it a proper push and made the last mile of the race my fastest, finishing in 3:34 and taking a minute off my previous PB.

And it was there, crossing the line, for the first time in the race I saw another Strider. HELLO STRIDER! I shouted at a very cheerful Ben Heller, who unfortunately seemed to be having a rough time with cramp (hope you recovered ok, Ben).

(Ed -Ben cooling down in the sea after the race. OK, possibly not)

Then it was time to dunk hot and blistered feet in the sea, realise I’d sunburned myself to a crisp, and reunite with Al, who had definitely had a more fun day on the seaside than I had.

That said, Brighton, it was a blast. I’ll definitely go back. Though hopefully not in storm conditions next time….


Striders Results

Position Name Time Category Position
100 (F) Jeni Harvey 3:34:53 7th M40
1845 (M) Ben Heller 3:43:28 12th M60


The race was won by Oliver Knowles from Petts Wood in 2.32.27.  First woman was Hannah McGowan Jones from Thurrock in 2.54.43

Full results: here

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