Last Saturday was always going to be a strange day. After a “normal” working week we were heading through to Edinburgh for what can only be described as an epic weekend of running: I would be jogging the 5k as a warm up ahead of the full 26.2 miles on Sunday, all the while worried about how my leg (in particular that pesky tibialis posterior) would hold up, and Steve would be embarking on his biggest challenge EVER with no less than 4 races over the weekend (and a cheeky wee motorbike trip to help make it possible!) totalling close to 50 miles. Not your average weekend!
We were up bright and early as Steve’s first race, the 10k, started at 9am and his brother was giving us a lift through. My 5k race (which Steve was also running) didn’t start until 11am so this gave me plenty of time to relax, get organised and catch up with a few other people beforehand.
When we reached the race HQ at Holyrood Park we went straight to the Macmillan stand to catch up with Rob, our Macmillan contact who we last saw in Paris. Steve then had to get himself organised to run. We caught up with Mark, who joined the Zero to 5k group in January and has since made super progress in the 10k group and was running his first race (also for Macmillan). I walked the guys down to the start line then found a place to watch the start and take a couple of photos, then headed inside to have some water and a cereal bar since breakfast had been a long time previously. Although I was “only” running 5k, I was conscious of my fuelling and hydration needs for the marathon the next day.
A few minutes before I expected Steve to finish, I headed back to the course and joined the Macmillan cheer point just before the finish line. I had a rather surreal moment when someone there asked me if I was running this weekend and as I replied, Rob said, “this is Allison – the one I was just telling you about!” I figured they had been talking about Steve (after all, everyone was!) but no, they had been discussing my fundraising challenge too! I spent a few minutes chatting to people and cheering for runners before Steve finished and I headed off to meet him.
The next part of the day is definitely the weirdest pre-race moment I’ve ever had. A few months ago we were contacted by the EMF organisers to ask if we would be willing to be interviewed. Local radio station Forth One had a DJ broadcasting live from Holyrood and they like to interview people with interesting stories to tell. We said yes as it seemed a great way to raise awareness of Macmillan and perhaps boost the fundraising pot a bit. As usual, I assumed it would really just be Steve they were interested in, however as we were interviewed by Grant Stott I suddenly found a microphone thrust under my nose as questions were directed at me too. It was exciting to be on the radio, but at the same time a little bit embarrassing – I hope I didn’t say anything too daft!
After that we really had to get organised to run so it was a quick toilet stop then over to put my bags into the baggage store.
After obsessive weather forecast checking towards the end of the week (whatever kit I needed would have to be with me as we were staying in Edinburgh overnight) I had opted for my Macmillan Tshirt, a running skirt, Bondi Band polka-dot calf sleeves (mainly to cover my support taping!) and my arm warmers since I thought it might be a little chilly.
Once in the start pen, I did a bit of calf stretching then got ready to start running. Although I was planning to take it easy (this had been the plan right along) I was still a bit nervous as this was going to tell me a lot about how my leg felt and how it would be likely to feel the next day. I know it seems a bit obvious to say, but 26.2 miles is a long way, especially if something is hurting!
As we set off, my leg felt ok. A bit of a dull niggle in the background, but nothing to worry about. What I was most interested in was whether it would get worse, better or stay the same.
The first half of the race is mainly uphill around Arthur’s Seat. After only a minute or two of running, the route veers to the right and begins to climb. Not a difficult climb for me, but fairly long for those not used to it and the field seemed to be a mixture of those warming up for the marathon (like me) and newer runners taking on their first challenge. It was worth it though as there were fabulous views from the top over Edinburgh and beyond. Those familiar with the marathon route will know *that* power station at Cockenzie and this could be seen from the top of the hill. Due to the way the land curves around the coastline, at first glimpse the power station actually looked like it was on the other side of the water in Fife! That is actually my least favourite part of the marathon route so I tucked that view away in the back of my mind for the time being and concentrated on the second half of the race which was mainly downhill.
If I had been “properly” racing then I would have used the downhill stretch to run hard and build up some speed, but on this occasion taking it easy was the order of the day so I held back and just kept going at my easy pace. Soon enough, I was coming into the last stretch and could see the Macmillan cheer point ahead of me. I got a huge cheer as I rounded the final bend to run across the finish line. On my race entry I had estimated 35 minutes for the race (normally I would race 5k in about 24-25 minutes) so was happy enough with my comparatively slow time of 31:55.Job done!
Crossing the finish line, we were then led into a very strange (but efficient) finish funnel which snaked its way underground into the car park at Dynamic Earth. I was handed a bottle of water, medal and goody bag (tech Tshirt, food, the usual assortment of leaflets and samples) before emerging into daylight again to meet Steve at the baggage store. Rob was there too and I was given my second goody bag (a Macmillan one) containing water, a banana, biscuits and some leaflets).
Steve had now completed 2 of his 4 races so we took some photos then had a “photocall” with the race organisers who wanted to put some information out that day. The focus was, of course, on Steve’s incredible challenge, but they photographed us both (in front of the dinosaurs, because…DINOSAURS!).
I was also able to catch up with my friend who was running her first ever race. I had been due to pace her round, but she had got stuck in traffic and was late for the start. Fortunately, she was allowed to run and was the last one over the line (after a bonus sprint of a couple of kilometres down the Royal Mile to get there!). I was so pleased she had been able to run as she had been on my mind the whole time I was on the course. It was only when I finished that I was told she had arrived and started the race. Given how nervous she was and the added stress of getting to the start, I am incredibly proud of what she achieved that day. Even better, she wants to keep running and step up to a 10k next. Awesome!
And with that, the first part of the weekend’s racing was done. The mild discomfort in my leg had been present throughout the race but as a constant which did not worsen and it settled as soon as I stopped running. It was not exactly ideal for a marathon, but then a high percentage of marathoners stand on the start line with some kind of niggle or worry from their training. I would simply have to start the race the next day and see what happened. Both my physio and my podiatrist believed I could do it, but would be sore afterwards. Nothing new there!
For the remainder of the day it was important to rest, hydrate and get some carbs in, so after a quick visit to the “pop up” running shop by the race HQ (where I bought a nice long sleeved top with the event branding) it was off to find our hotel to get showered and relax.
We spent the afternoon relaxing, blogging and hydrating before heading out to find a nice Italian restaurant to carb load for The Big Day – one of my favourite parts of marathon running – and returning to have a nice relaxing bath before bed. Because of my injury I was not feeling as calm as I would have liked, but there was nothing more I could do about it. There was a marathon to be run and valuable funds to raise. I would simply have to get on with it and deal with the soreness afterwards.
The 5k was a great event: well organised and a contained course with no traffic. The finish area was slick and race HQ was close by with friendly volunteers to look after bags (and plenty of toilets!). The medal is decent and there was a nice goody bag. I would definitely recommend either this or the earlier 10k race (or both!).
Next up, the marathon!