The Edinburgh Marathon
Way back at the end of last year, Claire and I were talking about target races for 2014. Grand Prix races, obviously, and a couple of others we each like but the big question was the ‘marathon’ one. Claire’s 2013 marathon – Loch Ness - had been compromised by an injury which almost wiped out the summer for training and had resulted in a time of 4:03:58 which, while a major achievement off that little training (as well as a 16 minute PB), was frustratingly outside the sub-4 target. So that was unfinished business and while we were talking I mentioned that maybe it was time that I tackled another marathon. After all, it was three years since my last one and I had some bad memories to banish.
It didn’t take very long for that conversation to snowball into us both entering for Edinburgh 2014, new targets set and some proper training to be undertaken - and suddenly at the end of May it was race day.
Weather forecasts in the previous few days had been very variable but come the weekend and the BBC were warning of constant showers, some heavy and a north easterly breeze. Warned by this, our focus on the morning was on staying dry and not too cold once we had put our bags on the baggage buses. With about 30 minutes to the race start we were in the obligatory toilet queue and realised that Lauren had just got there ahead of us. Despite the impressive amount of taping on her knee, Lauren seemed really cheerful and positive – a real boost to see her there after her injury worry.
The start area seemed really well organised and – as a newcomer to this event – this seemed like a good sign. For those who don’t know the Edinburgh race, I should perhaps explain that there are two starts – London Road (supposedly faster runners, including the elite) goes off 5-10 minutes (it seems to have been 7 in practice) ahead of the rest who are on Regent Road. The first 5-6 miles then wind their way through the city to the coast, then it is about 12 miles due East along the coast, a loop at the far end and then about 7.5 miles back West (on the other side of the same road to the previous few miles) to finish opposite Musselburgh Racecourse. We had managed to get ourselves numbers for the first pen on Regent Road and were across the start line only about 30 seconds after the gun went, shortly followed by hundreds and thousands of other runners, many of whom seemed to be making the common marathon error of forgetting that their target time was supposed to be 4 hours or more and haring away at 8 minute miles or quicker.
Our plan was to try to stick to about 8:35 per mile for as long as we could, with a ‘best possible’ outcome being a just-sub-3:45. We managed to settle into that rhythm fairly quickly in the first few miles and were soon going back past some of those who had gone off so fast. The weather heading out to the coast was just about perfect for marathon running – cool with maybe a slight drizzle – but our first surprise came when the sun came out as we got to the coast – and stayed out. We hadn’t really factored in the possibility of a sunny day as well as a head wind (albeit not a strong one, by any means) for the next 12 miles but that is what we got, and it soon felt quite warm as well. With the course also quite congested in places – there were times when it was only wide enough for about 4 runners – we were working quite hard a lot earlier than we had bargained for.
Still on pace, we came across Phillippa just before half way. She was clearly having an issue with a calf that needed stretching and although she started running again as we caught her, the problem was clearly not going away and soon seemed to need more attention. It is always a bit odd for both parties when one of your club mates has to drop back unexpectedly and we spent quite some time hoping Phillippa was OK without ever seeing her again.
By the far end of the course, we were still on pace but working very hard and feeling very warm. The water stations seemed to be too infrequent and the road was constantly being blocked due to the limited width available and the numbers slowing down – we would still be weaving our way through for several miles yet. Just coming off the loop at the far end we saw Lauren, who was about to go onto it. Actually, when I say that we saw her, we heard her first as shouts of “Yes, Blyth – come on Blyth” suddenly filled the air. She still seemed to be in really good spirits and was running along with one of fellow MacMillan charity runners. Suitably cheered, we ground out another couple of miles bang on target pace and got to 21 miles within a couple of seconds of 8:35’s, but we both knew that we were starting to fade now.
The next big shock was that we got to the last water station only to find out that it had already run out of water (and we were only just outside the top 25% of the field, so that is unforgivable). With no water and still struggling with the unexpected heat, I think that we actually did really well only to drop 60 seconds against target in the next three miles and then a further 90 seconds or so from the 24-mile mark. Of course, in the last mile, it suddenly went very dark and we got soaked. At least it was dry at the finish, although it took us a very long time to stagger to baggage reclaim, the beer tent (of course) and the bus queue.
Despite the anguish of dropping off pace towards the end, that was still another PB by 16:20 for Claire, and after near-disasters at London in 2007 (heat) and 2011 (hamstring) I had at least managed to run the whole 26.2 miles again. The minutes immediately after finishing were notable for several exclamations which cannot be repeated on a reputable website such as this one but also included the phrase “never again” several times. A few days later Claire is, of course, planning her next few marathons already …….
My apologies for the rather personalised perspective on this race (and especially to Davina and Adele who we didn’t even realise were clocking up their nth marathon that day until we saw the results – they will already have been on the loop by the time that we finished it, so we never passed or saw each other). You will have gathered that I was more impressed with some aspects of the organisation than others, and others may not share these views. One other cause of intense frustration is that the organisers decided not to publish any results, allegedly to protect the privacy of the runners or some such highly unusual explanation! After much negative feedback they have since relented and published the full results.
Claire Calverley - 3:47:38
David Roberts - 3:47:39
Adele Lonsdale - 4:06:57
Davina Lonsdale - 4:12:59
Lauren Barrett - 4:20:30
Unfortunately, I have been unable to find a time for Phillippa, although I am told that she did confirm on Facebook that she had finished and was OK.
Well done in particular to Lauren, whose first marathon this was and who I am told has raised lots for her chosen charity.