Oh what an adventure I set up for myself – 4 races in 2 days and one of the biggest logistical challenges I’ve ever faced. The idea had been in my head for so long that I was almost (almost!) blasé about it, yet as the last weekend in May rolled around, I found myself unsure of how my body would hold up given my injury earlier in the year and the consequences for my training. I also found this particular challenge captured the imagination of those around me far more than “simply” running a marathon, despite the fact that my longest single race would “only” be 13.1 miles, and I received far more messages of good luck than I’ve had in a long time. Perhaps they just all thought I was a bit mad. Perhaps they were right…!
An early start was in order on the Saturday morning as the first race took place at 9am. Steve’s brother kindly agreed to drive us through to Edinburgh and we arrived in plenty of time to catch up with our friends at Macmillan who were already set up in the event hub, before dashing off to take our things to the bag drop (first making sure that the bag tag matched the race number I was actually wearing at the time!).
The 10k was up first (numerically, that seems wrong, but it was far preferable to have the shorter of the day’s races second) and the start line was on Queen’s Drive in Holyrood Park. I knew that the first half of the route would take me up and around Arthur’s Seat, just like in the Great Winter Run, but had no idea where the route would take me for the bulk of the second half until it came back into the park for the finish. As I made my way to the start, I realised that I was in the front wave and had my usual panic abut what exactly I’d put as my predicted finish time, but I don’t think there were many waves and mine probably had everyone who predicted less than an hour. I knew I wasn’t on form, but I still expected to be round in roughly 57 minutes (or less if things went well).
Crossing the line, I made sure to set off at a comfortable pace as I knew that within about half a mile I would be climbing. Not only that, but I would have to repeat the climb later on in the 5k! This was my third time running on Arthur’s Seat, so I knew what to expect and just got my head down and got on with it. It was rather “breezy” at the top, but I knew that by the time I was around a mile and a half in, there would be a lovely descent before some mystery miles.
Those mystery miles took me out of Holyrood park in the opposite direction, and it seemed like I ran away from the finish area for ages. The route was pleasant, though, and reasonably flat for the most part as we made our way around Duddingston Loch. We emerged onto a section of main road (which was closed on the side we were using) until we rejoined a path which once formed part of the Innocent Railway and is now one of Edinburgh’s many cycle paths. I noticed a sign as I ran by, but had no time to read about it as I was a little busy!
Soon, I was heading back towards Holyrood and found myself confronted with a bit of a last-minute lung-buster of a hill which Steve had failed to tell me about! Once up the hill, however, I was back on familiar ground and within a minute or two was on the fantastic downhill stretch that allowed me to speed up all the way beyond where we had started and around to the finish, enjoying the shouts of the crowd and very vocal support of the Macmillan cheer squad.
Once over the line, we wound our way down through the car park for Dynamic Earth which made for a great finish area. I was handed my medal, water and goody bag before emerging back into the sun to return to the event hub next door and find Steve so we could take some photos. It was definitely going to be a highly photographed weekend!
Quite quickly I got a text with my time – 55:44 – which was faster than I had expected. The official stats later revealed I was 662nd out of 2366 runners and 29th out of 229 in my category. Not bad given my less-than-perfect training!
And then it was time for some logistics: collect my bag, refill my water bottle, change race number, change bag tag, hand bag in again and nip to the loo. The 5k was due to start at 11am, which meant I had around an hour between finishing one race and starting the next to get myself sorted out. Of course we also bumped into plenty of people we knew so between getting organised and chatting to people, the time passed by really quickly and soon enough we were heading for the 5k start which was just a little further along Queen’s Drive (closer to the hill climb!).
Whilst we waited to start, the announcer was welcoming everybody to the race and getting us hyped up. He asked if anyone had already run the 10k that morning and I raised my hand along with one or two others. I was amused to see a guy in front of me take a look around him first, see some hands up, then raise his own. As I raised my hand, a couple of girls next to me said, “really?” and I nodded. They asked if it was windy at the top and I had to give them the news that yes, it was. We chatted a bit and conversation turned to the following day when the girls were due to run the half marathon. “You’re not running again tomorrow are you?” they asked. And I told them my plan to somewhat incredulous looks. I was getting used to that look!
By this time, we were moving forwards ready to start so I focused instead on the race ahead. My strategy to avoid feeling overwhelmed by it all was a variation of the marathon advice to “run the mile you’re in”, except on this occasion it was “run the race you’re in”. In other words, I had to forget the previous race and give no thought to the races ahead. All I would think about was the 5k I was about to run. I’d felt no discomfort or issues from the leg which had been injured (although recovered, there had been one or two minor niggles over the couple of weeks I had been running again prior to this event), but my legs were a little weary. Still, I knew that it was less than half an hour of effort and that after the halfway point it would be a lovely downhill stretch towards the finish.
So off I set back up the hill again, with my weary legs starting to feel better for the movement. If anything, it was windier than it had been earlier, but I kept on running and soon found myself at the top of the hill again. Time to put my foot down and speed my way to the finish past the same crowds as earlier on.
Back I went through the Dynamic Earth car park for another medal, bottle of water and goody bag. This time, I bumped into a colleague on the way out so had a brief chat before going in search of Steve, who I found chatting to Roary the Lion from the Crohn’s and Colitis charity (it turned out they knew each other!).
Whilst chatting to Roary, I received the text with my 5k results – 28:40 and roughly what I had predicted given the incline, wind and the fact it was my second race of the day. Stats-wise I was 216th out of 833 runners and 6th out of 66 in my category. A pretty decent morning of running all things considered.
Running for the day done, we headed back inside the event hub to take photos by the podium with our bling!
And we couldn’t resist a bit of messing around with the photo props at the Macmillan stand:
Having drawn quite enough attention to ourselves(!), it was time to head off to our hotel, clinking like a medal stand at the end of a race. In fact, walking near Waverley Station I heard a little girl turn to her mum and, with reference to my medals, exclaim, “look! She’s got two!” which made me smile. Then shortly after that, one last photo op for the day as we visited a bus stop on Princes Street carrying an advert for the Edinburgh Marathon Festival which featured a rather familiar face:
All that remained was some time to rest, refuel and recover ahead of our Sunday extravaganza….and a look at the goody bags, of course!
Still to come – my roundup of day 2!
I ran 4 races in 2 days partly because I’m crazy, but mainly to raise valuable funds to help Macmillan support those affected by cancer. You can still donate to my page by clicking on the link below and helping me to make a difference. Thank you.