The problem with training for both half marathons and marathons is that you have to focus on the training requirements for the longer race which means that….you end up utterly knackering yourself out. I discovered this a week before the half marathon when I crept over my 80th kilometre for the week and my knee shouted something back at me which rhymed with ‘clucking bell’ and meant ‘stop now’.
Thankfully, some of the more helpful advice I’ve found in running books (next to all the complex diets which even Posh Spice would struggle to stick to) is that if your body says stop….then stop. A few days of rest and a week with little running meant that I reached the starting line in relatively good shape. However, the exhaustion from the slight over-training ahead of the marathon had affected by running confidence and running is just as much about the mind as it is about the body so I wasn’t too happy ahead of the race.
My knee injury which had been bothering me since my return from Uganda turned out to stem from my IT band which, in my physio’s own words, was chaffing against my knee. A few exercises later and that problem was more or less sorted. The only other injuries incurred since early March were a very bruised foot (FYI: fitness skipping exercises in old running shoes is not a good idea) and tender muscles from over-exertion. In the grand scheme of things, nothing too bad.
Also, in the good news department, my little African alien seems to be calming down a little which made it easier to do long runs! Hopefully it’s not a hibernation before the mass spawning….
So, the snow had melted by now, although winter was far from gone. Actually, the race day was to be on one of the first days of the year when the temperatures finally reached double figures. We are still only talking 11C, we’re not talking ice cream weather (unless it’s deep fried, in which case the Glaswegians will come out in force)…
However, this relative ‘warmth’ from the South came at a price as the day started with what could best be described as a mild hurricane with gusts of wind recorded at over 50mph. As a budding meteorologist, I spent most of the previous night looking at the forecasts and working out which strips of the course would be most affected by the weather. I was unfortunately right and we’d have the gales in our face for the full 7km climb between Portobello and Arthur’s Seat. As one commentator put it, unless you had been ‘training in a wind tunnel with someone throwing buckets of water in your face, you couldn’t be prepared for this’. Thankfully, living in Edinburgh … I had!
The start of the race was actually delayed because of the bad weather which meant we stood there shivering for a good twenty minutes before the whistle went. In the meantime, the wind actually blew one of the portaloos over ….with someone in it. Oops. She looked like a smurf from the chemical products all down her legs and had to go to hospital for check ups instead of running: I guess it was somewhat of a ‘crap day’ for her. Ho ho!
(heading off under a rainbow)
Despite registering for what was meant to be the fastest group, there were a lot of slower runners who’d sneaked into my group so I spent the first couple of kilometres grumbling to myself like an old man and overtaking people. In my excitement and in part to help defrost the icicles growing from my nose, I went a lot faster than usual and reached the 5km point in 18.30 (which was probably an involuntary PB!). In hindsight, I must have actually been near the front of the pack around then although I was unaware of it.
After a few kilometre trundle along Portobello beachfront (which is much nicer without the wind!), you start the long (and slow, although this might have just been my body fighting back from the fast first 5km) slog uphill through Portobello (where not much happened apart from seeing an old lady and her (grand?)son sat looking miserable under covers but cheering everyone on by banging wooden spoons on their pots), then Duddingston – running past the Duddingston Kirk (which has been there since 1124!) and the Sheep’s Heid Inn (which has apparently been serving kilted patrons since 1360 – those 236 sober years must have been tough…) and up to Pollock Halls next to Arthur’s Seat. By this point, your face looks it’s been mummified by the wind and the only thing which keeps you going is the knowledge that the next 2km are on a steep downhill road which takes you to the Parliament.
(Is this rain? Is this sleet? Is this snow??)
The relief is short as you’re straight uphill again (which is very much a theme in Edinburgh) up through the Cowgate, Grassmarket, around the Meadows and across George the Fourth bridge. It was during the Cowgate climb that the 1h30 pace makers overtook me and made my heart sink. However, it was probably a good thing as I did my never let them get far out of my sight in order to overtake them at the end.
(I was just THAT fast: the picture my Mum took of me running by)
That’s exactly what I did on the final stretch down the Royal Mile where the adrenaline of nearing the end gets your legs pumping. A big smile on my face, I was cheered on to the finish line in glorious sunshine by my parents and Pippa. Kidding: it was still chucking it down.
The wind’s final act was to cancel the arrival concert although, to be honest, I was more than ready to go home for a bath by then! Rock ‘n’ roll indeed.
Final time: 1h28.46 (57th/4,361)