Racing at Edinburgh Marathon Festival

For all I hate running – this weekend I loved it!

Its been a pretty epic weekend in some respects. My mate and I pulling in 5 medals between us.

I’d heard good things about the Edinburgh Marathon Festival from friends who had been and I never need much of an excuse to go north so cutting a long story short (the full story of the weekend is content enough for a blog post in it’s own right), there was four of us heading to Edinburgh to race.

In the end, it ended up being just the two of us racing as the other two were genuinely very poorly.

The racing started on Saturday. I was only down for the 5k but one of my mates was down for the 10k before hand. Feed and watered at breakfast we headed down to the start line – and I watched the start of the 10k race, and waited/watched for my mates return. So far so good, with a cheeky second climb on the 10k – my mate came in with a respectable time and we promptly headed for a cheeky coffee before the 5k.

Racing a 5k…

This seemed odd to me – being a distance I had never raced, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The route takes you around Arthurs Seat – my observations?

  • If doing a short race – such as a 5k, put down a faster than usual time. I tend to plod out a 5k in 32 to 35 minutes – although my last park run was 31 minutes. Anyway – I found myself near the back with all the runners who were clearly not runners, or just starting out. All kudos to them but I found because there were 1500 of us – and the route quite narrow, I struggled to run between to get myself out.
  • This was more of an issue in one respect as the route was a slow gradual pull up hill – so people who could possibly have run were walking – it was a tough pull in that respect but I know I could have slow run it quicker than walk it.
  • It’s over so quickly!
  • The views at the top are just amazing. The most scenic 5k I’ve run.
  • Benefit of a long slow climb at Edinburgh 5k? An awesome down hill which lead to some PB times on Strava in terms of 1km/1 mile etc distances.
  • I reckon, if I had put a faster start time and started further up, I could have smashed my 5k PB.

Did I enjoy it? Yes! Very much! And it was so well organised too!

Perfect racing conditions, good company and well organised. So far EMF was looking like it was going to be a lot of fun!

The Half Marathon..

I cant say I slept well Saturday night or that I was feeling particularly prepared (LSR anyone?!) but I knew that the course was flattish and had PB potential.

Nerves where there but the bigger debate was what to wear. The weather forecast kept changing and although I had brought a waterproof and clothing for post race – it was still all changeable.

Morning came round and I was sort of thankful I had liberated some instant porridge from Sainsburys the night before. Getting up at 6am and eating breakfast I was a little quite when my mate walked into the kitchen. Him contemplating his marathon and me my half. I was more than happy to know he was planning on coming down to the start with me. The forecast had changed and the rain was just drizzle (it saved the torrential for the start of the marathon!). Deciding against the waterproof – we wandered to the start – the hostel perfectly placed close to the start – and I dropped my bag off. I decided NOT to queue for the loo but I wish I had now – which will soon become clear as to why.

Theres not much to say in terms of the waiting and hanging around. It was so busy and so wet! It really was just a quiet waiting game. Thankful for my mates forethought on the bin bag raincoats!

I was near the back – think think id put down a 2:40 time – but my plan all along was 7 minute Ks – so I wasn’t worried about being so far back – it did mean though that I had a 15 minute wait from the gun time to actually getting over the line!

The start of the race though through Edinburgh is just lovely – downhill and down the Royal Mile too! Seeing the city from a different angle was really cool – I didnt over cook myself either. The first 5k flew by but this is where I kicked myself. I decide rather than queue and miss the start of the race (in hindsight a daft idea), I’d go at the 5k mark – but this lost me time that, if I had gone before, would have seen the official time be sub-2:30.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing though.

Anyway, back to the race – I managed to keep a good pace – right through to the 6 mile mark my head was in a good space and my feet still holding up. Breathing was perfect and I suspect that the slow runs on the treadmill really played a part here.

After the half way mark my feet, or rather toes, started to get sore and I knew I would get blisters. The second half of the race took us out to Musslebourgh and Preston Pans – fairly familiar places as I’d been to watch the half-iron last year. The atmosphere was good though – all the way round. The route fairly flat and my pacing consistent – I was even in a pretty good place mentally and enjoying it, but by the 8 mile mark I was trying to work out the maths as to how far was left in kilometres as well as how long it would take if I ran at a certain pace. I never quite managed to work it out (I spoke to my mate about this and he does the same in races). By mile 10 my right hip and glute was starting to complain too!

Either way – we reached the part of the course that had the switch back.

I hate switch backs. So the marathoners 10 mile switch back must be horrific.

The turn around point seemed to take forever to get to and my feet were so sore by this point. I kept glancing at my watch – I was looking at a negative split – my pace increased and I was feeling mostly ok.

I managed to work out that I might be able to get the sub 2:30. I know thats not fast but I was on track for a half marathon PB.

I still done know how I managed to push the pace at the end to the extent I did. At the switch back point it was sheer determination and a bit of run/walk strategy and clock watching that got me to the end. This wasn’t helped by the headwind that all the runners encountered on the switch back – I dread to think how demoralising this was for the marathoners (my mate and many others commented on just how awful it was!). The sign for 25 miles for the marathon appeared and I knew that there was only 1.2 miles between the finish and me. I went for it.

The finishing shoot appeared and I tried to sprint finish but as soon as I pushed harder I could feel that I might just be sick and eased back – just enough not to be. It was awesome! I had got round a half marathon, with very little walking and knew I’d got a PB! I was incredibly happy about this but I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet.

Walking through to retrieve my medal and goody bag was well organised and clear. I really couldn’t fault the organisation. I went and retrieved my bag (very quickly – I genuinely was impressed with this!). Next priorities were actually getting changed and getting food. Next time I am taking a towel. I could have had a proper shower!

I got changed and had a bit of a chat with some of the women in the changing room and went in search of food – I had at least a two hour wait for my mate. A peanut butter and banana waffle and a cup of tea later, and I was sat chatting to some of the marathon finishers as well as a couple of blokes from Doncaster who were supporting their wives. Thankfully by this time the sun was shinning despite the wind. Now was just the waiting game – but a chance for me to contemplate how much I had enjoyed it – and how much my mindset had changed when it came to pushing (I think a lot of this is to do with racing TTs and my stubborn determination to push through the pain on them – I think its helping my running mojo).

The marathon… 

I didn’t do the marathon but I did go to watch the finishers and to keep an eye out for my mate. Time ticked by and I genuinely started to worry that I’d missed him. Thankfully I hadn’t – and I genuinely was relieved to see him come in. The headwind had had an rubbish impact on his race but such is life – that switch back was never going to be pretty.

The best thing about racing with mates is the post race review and chat – it is so much better when you’re with mates.

Once changed and ready – then came the worst bit of organisation/lack of local knowledge/only annoying bit of the whole weekend happened. There were a load of buses sat outside the playing field/school where the finish was. These were apparently the local and spectator buses.

We had a right walk to get the buses back into Edinburgh and paid £5.50 for the privilege! Then there was a faff sorting out which buses we needed to be on. Getting back to the hostel and talking to another lad who had done the marathon, what we should have done is just get one of the local buses back. £1.70 and less hassle/walking.

Despite this, on the bus back into Edinburgh, I was seriously contemplating and discussing doing the whole lot again next year!

So it must have been good!

And I have (temporally at least), found my running mojo again!

Rock’n’roll Half Dublin anyone?!

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