Best Finisher’s Shirt
The Paris Breakfast Run & Paris Marathon 2014 are my current favourites. To take part in the Breakfast Run all participants had to wear the technical T-shirt issued at registration. We teamed ours with kilts as we were encouraged to dress to represent our countries. It was amazing to see all the different ways this was interpreted.
I also really like my finishers’ top from this year as it is a female-specific fit and I actually got the right size (unlike in 2010 when they had run out of small by the time I finished and I had to take a medium).
Worst Finisher’s Shirt
The Edinburgh Marathon in 2011 definitely stands out for this one. Due to some disorganisation at the finish line, I was given the generic top intended for relay finishers rather than the one for full marathon finishers. I was promised one by post, however what eventually arrived was a cheaply printed replica in a completely different material and shade of blue. It was also far too big. Very disappointing.
The London Marathon also gets a mention for its “one size fits no-one” cotton T-shirts included in the goody bags. Generally speaking, I would expect to at least have a choice of size or fit (unisex or female-specific) from one of the Marathon Majors.
Best Finish Line
There’s nothing quite like the finish of the London marathon. Turning onto the Mall from Buckingham Palace and seeing the finish line ahead is simply amazing, and everything runs like clockwork once you cross the line – medal, goody bag, photo, baggage truck, meeting area. Brilliant! I recently re-visited this area and felt some of the race day emotions flooding back.
I also enjoy the finish in Paris with the Arc de Triomphe ahead, however you only see this at the last minute after winding through the Bois de Boulogne so the effect is not quite the same as in London.
Best Overall Swag/Gear
Got to be the Smokies ladies-only 10 mile race which I ran in both 2011 and 2012. At this time, there was a mini bottle of wine in the goody bag and usually some full-size toiletries such as bath foam or deodorant. Fantastic!
Best Crowd Support
Crowd support in the London marathon is amazing. There are crowds lining Tower Bridge, a wall of sound in Canary Wharf and the support along the embankment in the final 5k is fantastic. Flagging runners are carried along by crowd support and anyone who stops to walk is given so much encouragement from people shouting their name and spurring them on to the finish. I remember my legs screaming at me to stop and walk, but I knew I had to keep going when so many people were willing me on.
No contest here. We regularly take part in 5k races during our summer trip to Florida, however the Run Thru Hell is always the hottest. It has the latest start time of any of the races we do (usually around 8am) and takes place in a park over in Tampa which is nearer the coast. As a result it is much more humid with 100% humidity almost the norm and a number of sections through tree-lined trails which seem to hang on to all the moisture in the air. The first time I did this race I found it tougher than a marathon and sometimes I’m convinced it is more of a swim than a run!
The Edinburgh Rock ‘n’ Roll Half marathon in 2013 takes this one. It was a wet day (although it did stop raining by the time the race started) and blowing such a strong gale that the porta-loos were blowing over and the race start was delayed as some signage along the route had blown down so it wasn’t safe enough to start on time. I’m picking this as the coldest not because of the temperature during the race, but the temperature after. The windy conditions meant that changes had to be made to the baggage collection area which really slowed things down, and even wrapped in my foil “victory cape” I was shivering after racing in shorts and having to hang around without quick access to warm clothes (some of which were wet anyway!).
I’m adding an extra question to my round-up as I have to include the half Kilomathon in Edinburgh in 2012. It was absolutely pouring and by the time I finished in Murrayfield stadium I was totally drenched, but still had a brilliant time.
Most Beautiful Course
I’m going to pick the Aviemore Half marathon here for the absolutely stunning views as the course descends towards and alongside Loch Morlich. I’ve run this race 3 times now and set my current half marathon pb there.
The Stonehaven Half marathon is run over a very hilly course in early July. The year I ran it the race happened to fall on probably the hottest day of the year in Scotland so it was a tough slog and water stations were running out of water. Not only that, but I was really just relying on the last of the miles I had banked in marathon training to get me round, rather than training specifically for it. A hard run, but the free entry to the Stonehaven outdoor pool afterwards was brilliant to cool off and help the legs to recover!
Race That Took the Most Mental Strength
For me, the Lochaber marathon in 2012. I picked up an injury right at the end of my training, but my physio encouraged me to start anyway and see what happened. The first 16 miles were fine, but the last 10 were a lonely
run hobble/walk back into Fort William for the finish. There was little crowd support along the out-and-back countryside route and quite a small field. At points all I wanted to do was sit at the side of the road and cry so it took a lot of mental strength to keep going. I usually feel like crying at the end of a marathon but hold it together as I tend to be by myself, but this time Steve was waiting at the finish and as soon as I crossed the line I burst into tears. Not an experience I am keen to repeat!
Most Disappointing Finish
The Edinburgh marathon this year found me in a similar situation to Lochaber in 2012 with an injury rearing its ugly head. Both my physio and my podiatrist gave me the ok to run, but I knew it would hurt despite the strapping around my lower leg. I had a bit of a meltdown before the race, knowing it would be a tough and painful run. Mentally, it was easier than Lochaber as there was a much bigger field so I never felt alone, but I was disappointed in my finish as I had originally intended to aim for a pb at this race and instead found myself limping over the line. In hindsight, I know it was a mistake to go ahead, but I have learned a lot more about listening to my body and making tough calls as a result.
Best Start Line
I love lining up to start the Paris marathon on the Champs Elysées with the Arc de Triomphe at my back, the Place de la Concorde ahead and 26.2 miles of amazing Parisian sights awaiting me. Nothing beats a running tour of my favourite city!
I also enjoy the start of the Glasgow Santa Dash as it initially takes us uphill. The sight of a sea of Santas bobbing up the hill ahead and turning to see something similar behind is quite something!
Easily the London marathon. Everything runs like clockwork from the race expo to getting to the start area, from entering pens and getting underway, to the finish line. It feels like the whole city is supporting the runners and London on marathon day has an amazing atmosphere.
The Edinburgh marathon is billed as being fast and flat – indeed one of the fastest in the UK – so it most definitely has pb potential. I felt it was my best chance to nail a sub-4 hour finish this year, but sadly injury put paid to that.
Best Finish Line Food
The Watermelon 5k fun run in Winter Park, Florida. I LOVE ice cold watermelon after a hot run and this race has watermelon in abundance for all finishers alongside smoothies and sno-cones. I don’t like anything heavy immediately after running, so this one is ideal for me.
But if it’s a post-race bbq you’re after, head over to the Run Thru Hell in Tampa where you can tuck into a burger before 9am!
The medal from the Paris marathon this year is pretty unusual. It is designed as a continuous loop (including the ribbon) to represent the loop of the Paris course.
I also really love my Rock ‘n’ Roll Half marathon medal which is a pretty weighty bit of race bling in the shape of a guitar with a sparkling tartan effect behind it.
Most Emotional Finish
Every marathon finish is emotional, but I’m choosing both the Lochaber marathon in 2012 & Edinburgh marathon in 2014. The only times I have actually cried at the end of a marathon (rather than just thinking I might). On both occasions because of injury which not only caused physical pain but forced me to relinquish dreams of a pb. Both taught me a great deal about myself.
So there you go. If you fancy joining in and sharing the highs and lows of your racing history, then you can find out everything you need to know in Jessie’s original post. I’d love to read all about it!