Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Edinburgh Marathon Report

Sorry this has taken a bit longer than it should have..

I've been trying to get my thoughts together about Sunday's race but it would all appear to be a bit of a blur (oops), even before the heat really took its toll I was just focussed on my own race and my own running.

The official results:

Overall - 4:16:24
10k - 00:55:44
Half - 02:02:07
30k - 02:55:47

3632 out of 8257, which I think is possibly the first time I have ever finished a race in the top half of the field.

An early night at 10pm, which in Scotland was broad daylight rather than dusk so felt a bit weird. I had set my alarm for 5:50 am on the morning, I can't remember the last time I voluntarily woke up at that side of 6am. I actually had a pretty good nights sleep getting all the tossing and turning and missing the start nightmares out of the way on Friday night it would seem. Jez made me breakfast and made sure I ate it! (He's seen me try to miss breakfast before). Then it was into the car and off to Edinburgh.

The plan was to park up at Castle Street car park just off Lothian Road. Staying at the West End on Princes Street should hopefully avoid any problems with the tram works. We would then walk to the start at the other end of Princes Street then Jez could either get the bus/train or drive out to the finish at Musselburgh. However the tramworks destruction has advanced somewhat since I was last in Edinburgh and we just couldn't see how to get to Lothian Road at all from where we ended up, with hindsight we maybe should have tried to get to the Western Approach or come in via Fountain Bridge (assuming they haven't dug all that up too).

There actually was a way through a convoluted diversion (I spotted it on the walk to the start) but none of the diversion signs gave a clue as to how to get anywhere. We ended up near Frasers and were about to do a u-turn to see if we could find another way to Lothian Road when we saw some runners parking up in some on street parking and thought we would join them. It would be a simpler walk to the start from here anyway. As the parking wardens in Edinburgh are legendary I headed over to the meter but found parking there was free on a Sunday, fantastic. I didn't think free parking existed in the centre of Edinburgh.

It was just after 7am ish, I think, I really didn't have much grasp of time all day. I was relieved to find it was really cold in the shade, I put my spare t-shirt on for the walk to the start. We were just off the start of Princes Street so it was an easy walk along the ruins of Princes Street. What a mess the tramworks have made, I hate to think how bad it is when the construction machinery is giving it laldy.

Most people out and about seemed to be runners, it was still quite cool, particularly in any shade and the breeze had the familiar fresh from the North Sea nip to it. I hoped the breeze would make its presence felt for the race but it didn't. Milled around the start area for a while, stood in a very slow moving queue for the loos though I had plenty of time. As the loos were in a sheltered courtyard the sun's strength was becoming obvious and I could feel it burning the side of my neck and it wasn't 9 am yet.

Jez took my bag off me and dumped it in the truck whilst I headed into my start pen and milled around drinking some fluid. I had made up some drink for this part but left it at my folks so had picked up a freebie bottle of Lucozade Sport instead to spare the water I was carrying. I hoped it would settle ok as I really don't like the stuff. I had a rucksack on with a litre of water in, all my gels and some jelly babies. I saw quite a few other people with bladders too. My plan was to miss out most of the first water stations then start picking up water later when things calmed down a bit. I was going to take gels at 5 mile intervals. I changed the water station part of the plan quite early.

The elite race kicked off at 9am on the dot and I think I crossed the timing mat at the start at about 5 or 6 minutes later. I was able to run straight away and as it was downhill I took it nice and easy. I had picked my place to start well as I was running at the pace I wanted to, not passing many people or being passed. I ignored the first water station and kept on running. Temperature was still reasonable at this point.

As we arrived at Portobello prom there was another water station but I passed that one too. The breeze was pretty good here and really cooling. I could see Cockenzie power station and it looked miles away. I knew we had to run past it twice. Not long after passing the water station I realised the temperature was really climbing and decided I would pick up water at the next station, drink some and pour some over my head to help keep my head temperature down. I had my first gel at five miles and it went down ok.

Instead of pace I was keeping a close eye on my heart rate, it was sitting around 170 at the 10K point which was ok, a bit higher than I really wanted even allowing for the fact it always sits higher in an event but I didn't want it to go much higher so decided to keep an eye on that rather than my pace. I ran on, staying fairly comfortable effort wise and enjoying the breeze. I started picking water up from the stations, they were only 250ml bottles which I have to say was smaller than I was expecting. I drank half and wore half. I really settled into my stride around the 10K marker.

I passed Jez at about the 12 mile mark, he said I was looking comfortable.

The course is an out and back from about mile 9 so I knew I would see the elites coming in and sure enough as I was just about at the half way point the two lead men came steaming past. They were way out in front of any one else. Worryingly some of the very fastest runners heading back were stopping to take walk breaks - it's not something I expected to see and I didn't think it was a good sign of things to come. I passed half way in just over two hours, I knew for definite I wasn't going to be chasing 4 hours.

I continued on in much the same vein until about 17 miles, passing the power station for the first time. The course turns round at 18 miles, before that it does a little loop round Gosford House. It was on this little loop that the temperature really seemed to take its toll. The temperature had obviously been really climbing all day but on the outward leg there was at least a little coastal breeze but this loop moved in from the coast and it was like running in an oven.

People started walking, it didn't help that it was a gravel track. I slowed my pace down even further but managed to keep running without the tell tale pounding in my head which means the heat is getting to me. Back out to the coast and along briefly before turning round and seeing how far away the power station was again!

8.2 miles to go and what little wind there was was now a tail wind, it seemed to have really warmed up a lot but I kept my pace for a while. I was starting to get a little of the pounding but up ahead I could see the road descended slightly so I thought I would keep going and use it as a break. I could see a lot of people walking up ahead....then I passed a lad unconscious at the side of the road, the first aider trying to get a response out of him...I had a walk break.

I calmed down really quickly and started running again, I decided to run to the next water startion and take a good walk break through it then run to the next one etc. I had a little water left of my own but I was saving that for the 20 mile gel. I got to the water station at mile 19 and drank most of the water with only a little on my head as it was boiling. I did wish the bottles were bigger but decided against taking two.

I had to do a bit more run/walk than I wanted but at this stage it seemed more people were walking than running anyway. As this was my first marathon I had nothing to compare it with but I wasn't expecting to see so many walking. Keeping a pace going running involved a fair bit of dodging! I had my gel at 20 miles and used the last mouthful of water I had to wash it down. I hoped it was enough to avoid any stomach problems, not that the Torq gels have ever given me problems even when I take them without water but this was a bit out of the ordinary.

Any teensy bit of shade was hunted out by the runners then I realised we were getting near the power station again and hopefully a water station at about 22 miles. I passed a few more runners by the side of the road, some in much worse state than others but any bad cases were thankfully being attended to. The next water station came up and it was dry! This kind of messed things up for me, however, this was the only station that didn't have water when I got to it a lot of runners behind me were not so lucky. I was out of water completely and I felt like a wrung out sponge.

Nothing for it but to keep moving on. A lot of run/walk like everyone else and I could feel my abs threatening to cramp??? All the things that had bothered me on my training runs - tight hamstrings and glutes and left knee were absolutely fine, I was having no problems getting running again after walking but the abs thing was a new one (guess who needs some core work?). In fact I was quite pleased at how my legs felt and I was almost enjoying the event, it helped I was getting close to the finish and the crowds were building up.

I got to the last water station and it had water, hurrah!! I drank all of my bottle but really wanted to put some on my head but due to the last station running out I didn't think it fair to take another. Lucozade sport was on offer but I knew that would make me sick so I declined it. As I was moving off I saw lots of people dive over to the other side of the road and come back with water, one of the water stations from the outward leg still had water on it, all the runners were through so I took a bottle and dumped most of it on my head. That really helped perk me up, as did the 24 miles marker. I was able to start running again then it was the 25 mile marker and I passed Jez around here somewhere:

The crowds were fantastic all the way into the finish, I ran all of the last 1.2 miles lifted by the crowd, the last sting in the tail was the temporary surface they had put down on the race course. It felt like running on a trampoline, not what my legs wanted at all.

Over the line in 4:16, glad to be finished. I got some water, more lucozade sport, the marshal made me take two? I drank all the water whilst another marshal took my chip off then I shuffled over to the queue for the goody bag. I didn't feel well at all so found a place on the grass to sit and get myself together. I drunk some of the Lucozade, yuck, good plan not to have it whilst running and watched someone being stretchered away. I did wonder where the first aid tent was as if I didn't start feeling better soon I may have to make my way there.

After another five minutes I started to feel better and ten minutes later I did the queues and picked up my bag and headed out the race course to find Jez. He looked a little concerned and asked me what I had to drink, apparently my lips were grey. I knew they were dry but didn't realise how dry. He had brought the car to Musselburgh and it was parked about a mile away so we started walking. He had some plain water and I remembered I had some Nuun tabs in my kit bag as I was still struggling with the Lucozade. I dug some out and chuked it into his water bottle, conveniently it had 500 ml left.

The Nuun was fantastic, I felt a lot better after drinking it. The walk to the car wasn't too bad really, got my legs moving. The A/C was cranked up full then we drove back to my folks. It was quite an easy drive really, not much more than half an hour and I was glad I wasn't having to wait on a bus or train.

Back in the house I had some recovery drink, then up for a shower and into compression tights then I really wanted a bacon butty (salt?) which Jez sorted out for me, then I had a full roast dinner and some pudding, lots of water and a bit of wine. An early night, taking a couple of ibuprofen meant a good nights sleep.


  1. Yet another very impressive and hard run.

    Well done!

  2. it just sounds so horrible! give me wind and drizzle any day. well done again :)
    do you have another challenge lined up?

  3. Well Done, sounds like you were really sensible and had a great race!

  4. Well done you! An amazing achievement in my book. I'm with Kate; running in the heat is hell and I've heard from friends how hellish it was there on the day.

    Hope you recognise how well you've done and have given yourself time to recover properly. Your efforts have inspired me to try and not be such a wuss running in the sun. I'll be emailing you for top marathon tips when I have a go at my first one next year.
    Brilliant and well done again. RB

  5. The reason I picked Edinburgh was to get the usual Scottish weather! I'm not a heat lover either and I learned last year what happens when I push too hard, I think it would have been a different story if I hadn't had that experience to fall back on.

    I'm currently in a "reverse taper" and enjoying short runs!

  6. Congrats! great result! I have no idea how you do it. I couldn't run round the block without being in pieces.

    (pedalling polarcherry)