With marathon madness well and truly underway, Team Panda had an amazing time at the Brighton Marathon 2015. Here is what one of our first time marathon runners, Greg Campbell, thought about the day.
I had previously thought about doing some sort of big challenge like a marathon but I never had a compelling reason, other than the fact that I wanted a challenge. When I got the opportunity to run the Brighton marathon for Team Panda, I jumped at the chance! Before I knew it, I had committed to running 26.2 miles and only had a few months to train. Was this even going to be possible?
There’s no other way to put it, training for a marathon is tough. Although I must say, a great bonus was the fact that I was fitter than ever and sleeping like a baby. On the down side, there were times I’d miss social gatherings to wake up on cold February mornings to run for miles and miles. It was harsh and lonely at times and really tested my character. But I just kept thinking about that finish line. How proud I would feel to be able to say ‘I did it. I ran a marathon!’. Even then, there were times I wanted to quit. In those moments of doubt, I’d think about all the work we do. All the incredible conservation work by such committed, passionate people from all over the world. I wanted to be support that. I had to soldier on for Team Panda.
The day had finally arrived. I’d followed my training schedule, I’d eaten the right foods and I was on my way down to Brighton. The sun was shining and it was set to be a sunny day. When I got there, I stood in line waiting, warming up and stretching, ready to start with all the other participants. I jokingly muttered to my dad “Is it too late to back out?” as he looked on from the side-lines supporting me.
The countdown began and everyone started cheering. All the runners were inspiring to be around. There were so many costumes, so many moving messages on people’s shirts, so much enthusiasm. We were all about to do something incredible. The atmosphere was electric. 3, 2, 1… GO!
The crowd erupted and we were off. Before I knew it, I’d clocked a few miles and the cheering crowds made it feel easy. The training had paid off and this was actually a lot of fun. The sun grew stronger as the miles slowly racked up. The crowds were out in the thousands and their smiling faces and amazing cheers helped us all keep going. I helped myself to jelly babies and gummy bears here and there. The water stations were a very welcome sight.
When I approached the halfway point, I was making good time. I saw the panda bridge up ahead and spotted the Team Panda supporters. I smiled and jogged along as they shouted my name. I waved, proudly showing off my WWF vest. This was great, what was I worried about?
So, a few miles later the crowds had thinned out for this particular portion of the route. I had not prepared for hitting what runners call ‘the wall’ because by mile 18, if I’m honest, I was ready to quit. I should have done more training! I knew I was almost two thirds of the way through but the thought of another 8.2 miles felt impossible. It was around this time that I saw an inspirational banner reading ‘Pain is temporary, pride is permanent’. Although I’d slowed my pace to a walk, I told myself not to worry about my finishing; I just needed to make it to the end. I walked as fast as my legs would move, which felt very slow indeed. Another banner read ‘Wow, that’s a lot of work for a free banana!’ which made me laugh.
The final stretch
I could see Brighton pier in the distance and I knew the finish line was just beyond that. As I shuffled along the coast it felt like the finish line was getting further away. I was getting overtaken by people decades older than me, people in hilarious and clearly uncomfortable outfits, and one barefoot girl who was smiling! I had nothing to complain about; if they could do it, so could I! I was part of Team Panda and I couldn’t let them down. I put on my bravest face and picked up the pace.
I knew that soon I’d be crossing the Team Panda bridge once more. As I passed their friendly faces and motivating cheers, it made me realise I was almost done. It was a much needed boost. My legs felt like jelly but the crowds provided the energy needed to make it through.
I could see the finish line! At that moment I heard familiar voices shouting out my name. It was my mum, dad and brother. I was so proud that I somehow found the energy to sprint the last 200 metres, just to show off I guess. I stormed passed the finish line. I’d made it!
Beyond the finish line
When I crossed the finish line I was in a daze. I hobbled over to get my medal which felt very heavy. I just about made it to the Team Panda tent where I was offered some food and a foot massage. I cannot explain how good that was. Thank you Team Panda for organising that, it was heavenly. As tired as I was, I couldn’t stop smiling. Everyone congratulated me and my family came to take me to a restaurant. ‘Did I really just do that?’ I thought to myself. Yes I did! OK, so I was in pain, but that banner echoed in my head that my feeling of pride would last forever.
My five top tips for marathon running
- Do it! Run for Team Panda
- Run with a partner or as a team. The company of a friend or a team will help at the points of the route where the crowds subside.
- Sleep well in the days leading up to the race
- Enjoy it! Smile when you can and accept the motivation of the crowd
- Be prepared to be very, very proud.
Would I do it again? I may be crazy but yes! It was an amazing day and the feeling of accomplishment is tremendous. Brighton Marathon is fantastic and I can’t recommend it enough, you can sign up to 2016 today. Team Panda made my efforts feel valued and it’s great to know that I did it for a great cause. Thank you to everyone who was involved in making it a day to remember.