Culture

What It’s Like To Race In England As An American

Racing in a foreign country is an experience like no other.

There’s two main things I love about running races in foreign countries: The first, obviously, is seeing a new place using my own two feet and really getting a feel for the area; the second is hearing the things that spectators yell at you while you run, because they’re always different. While in England this past weekend celebrating my dear friend Lisa’s 100th (and 101st!) marathon, I had the opportunity to run the Brighton Marathon Weekend 10k in Brighton, England, right on the southern coast.

The famous Brighton shore and pier!
The famous Brighton shore and pier!

The air gun went off to start the race and runners took off as best they could through the muddy grass in the corrals. Runners did—I did not—because I had lost track of time and was still waiting in line for the porta potties. I quickly abandoned the line, but picking my way through the mud all the way to the start took a lot longer than I expected, and nearly 8 minutes had passed by the time I crossed the line itself. Oh well—that’s what chip timing is for, right?

A very muddy and deserted start...oops.
A very muddy and deserted start…oops.

The course wound through the seaside town of Brighton, which has an atmosphere that is simultaneously reminiscent of Atlantic City, Asheville and London all at once. Sidewalk cafes, bohemian boutiques and high-end retailers coexist on each of the streets in this university town, and you couldn’t run more than about 30 yards without seeing another traditional British pub.

Beautiful streets of Brighton.

Now, I’m not a fast runner, but when you start at the very back of the pack and have the adrenaline of missing the race start propelling you forward, you feel fast even when you aren’t. I don’t get to pass people in races very often—maybe I should start doing some speed work—but I couldn’t help but stop every half mile or so to take a picture. I mean, how often do you get to run a race in another country?

And the award for best pub name goes to...
And the award for best pub name goes to…

We soared under aqueducts, past the Brighton Royal Pavilion and down sleepy streets awaiting the start of the marathon a half hour later. I’m not sure if there were no markers at each kilometer or if I just missed them as I happily took in my surroundings, but it didn’t matter. Some things are more important than mile markers.

Brighton Royal Pavilion - You can't miss it!
Brighton Royal Pavilion – You can’t miss it!

The crowds grew as we turned onto the beachfront road and shouts of “Well done you!” and “Splendid! Just splendid!” filled the air. Something about those cheers made me feel like I was doing a great job and also like I looked really good, too. Perhaps we should institute these more formal cheers in America because I really DID feel splendid.

Well done, runners! Well done!
Well done, runners! Well done!

Since I was running without a watch and had started so late, I had no idea what my actual time was. I was gunning it whenever I wasn’t taking pictures and high-fiving small children (which is to say, about 50 percent of the time). We crossed the finish line right next to the crashing waves and rocky beach and I threw my arms over my head, celebrating a finish time that I wasn’t yet sure of.

Celebrating on the rocky beaches of Brighton!
Celebrating on the rocky beaches of Brighton!

Yes, there’s something magical about running a race in another country—especially one that is as well organized and beautifully executed as the Brighton Marathon Weekend 10k. The best part? There was still a whole marathon to spectate after I finished! Beautiful scenery, friendly locals and the best post-race entertainment you can ask for? That’s what I call an international adventure.

Ready to spectate!
Ready to spectate!

Have you ever run an international race? Tweet us at @womensrunning and share!

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