In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel when I woke up on the Sunday morning of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival. I was excited about tackling the challenge ahead, but at the same time had no idea how my body would have stood up to running 10k and 5k the day before. I half expected my legs to have seized up or for a niggle to have resurfaced around my left quad. Yet somehow, I felt good. Despite having only had a fortnight of focused training for these events thanks to spending much of my post-Paris training time on my bike to prepare for the Tayside Challenge and Etape Caledonia, my body had decided that it was ready to go and wasn’t going to hold me back from accomplishing what I set out to do. So after breakfast at our hotel it was time for one last kit check before heading for the start line.
As it happens, sorting out my kit was the most complicated part of my plans as what I was planning was outside of what the race infrastructure would support. To avoid getting caught up collecting a bag after the half marathon, I gave a “drop bag” to the Macmillan team on Saturday so that I would have quick access to everything I needed before heading out to the relay changeover. I also decided to use a hydration pack and carry a few essentials with me throughout the day. This became even more important on the eve of the race when we received the following information from race organisers:
Just what we all needed to hear!
I was comfortable enough with the kit I had decided to wear, but had to make sure I would have access to warm and dry clothes at various points and a change of kit in case I was completely soaked, so I was glad I had prepared that in advance. Some might say I overpacked, but I prefer to think of myself as “prepared for any eventuality”!
I was by myself at the start line as the race has 2 start areas and Steve was at the other one, for the speedier runners, while I was at the the front of the second start. We were delayed for a few minutes while the first group got safely underway in the wet conditions (I used the time for one last toilet stop!) and then we were off.
The route covers the first part of the marathon route, with a turnaround at mile 11 to head back to the finish. For me, this meant it was pretty familiar, having previously run the marathon in 2011 and 2014 as well as the relay in 2010 and 2013. I tend to enjoy the first few miles as there is a downhill start before a run through Holyrood Park and some up and down sections by Leith Links towards Portobello Prom. The only thing that marred my enjoyment slightly was that I had somehow failed to set up my hydration pack properly and was struggling to get any liquid from it. Coming to the conclusion that I must have twisted or blocked the tube, I realised that I would have to go with Plan B: pick up water at the aid stations and waterboard myself every few miles! I also had a brief stop at the 5k water station to remove my waterproof jacket as the predicted rain had failed to materialise and even though it was an extremely lightweight jacket, I was beginning to bake!
Not being in any real hurry time-wise (my prediction was around 2:04), I opted to take walk breaks to take my gels at 5 miles and 10 miles. I wasn’t even too bothered about being overtaken by a carrot and a banana! Instead, I enjoyed the experience, focusing once more on just the race I was in and looking out for the Macmillan cheer squads so I could wave and get shouts of encouragement (nothing like having your name on your race top to make you feel like a rock star!).
A slightly disheartening section for the unprepared comes around mile 9 when the route passes close to the finish area, but instead of peeling off towards Pinkie School and the finish line, we carry on past Musselburgh Racecourse and are treated to the view of the faster runners heading back through their final miles, knowing that we have another couple of miles before we hit the turnaround and join them. I chose to run alongside the boundary line so I could watch out for Steve and any other runners I knew. When I spotted Steve coming towards me, I starting waving like a lunatic and got a quick high five before he ran on and I plodded my way towards the turn which seemed to be taking AGES to materialise.
After the turn it was was a straight run to the finish. Running by the racecourse again is one of the best bits as the crowds are starting to grow, especially right before the entrance to the playing fields which are used as the finish area, and runners get so many shouts and cheers that I can’t help but smile. It also gives an extra boost as we head into the finishing straight.
And despite my stop to remove my jacket, I finished bang on my predicted time with 2:04:18!
After crossing the line I joined a queue to collect yet another goody bag, medal and bottle of water before having my photo taken with my medal. I then made my way over to the Macmillan tent to find my drop bag. And this was when things took a surprising turn.
Steve was there.
I had been assuming that he would be back in Edinburgh ready to start the marathon, but it turned out that he had decided to end his challenge after the half marathon and not attempt the full marathon this time. He has written his own post detailing what prompted that decision, and I recommend giving it a read as I’m very proud of what he has achieved over the last couple of years.
He had been waiting for me as Lesley Martin, one of the photographers, was going to take some pictures of us both before I headed off to my relay changeover point. I’m really grateful to her for the fantastic photos she sent us:
I think the one with the foam hand is one of my favourite post-race photos ever!
I wanted to be away from the finish area by about 11 as I had to walk to my relay changeover point (there was no time for getting back to the centre of Edinburgh to catch one of the relay buses, so it was all down to me). I knew I had plenty of time, but preferred to wait at the changeover than be in a rush, so I had a recovery shake, grabbed some food to take with me, changed into a dry top and fresh socks, put some warm layers on and set off clutching a cup of tea. The best thing was, having expected a wet and lonely trek out to the changeover, it was now dry and I had company in the form of Steve who had decided to go with me.
We followed the route of the marathon, cheering on runners and catching a glimpse of the leaders heading back towards the finish. We even took the chance to stop for a selfie with everyone’s favourite picturesque power station at Cockenzie – always the highlight of the Edinburgh Marathon :-0
Shortly before we got to the changeover point, the 2nd leg runner from my team ran past us and a few minutes later we joined her at Port Seton. The wind was definitely much stronger by this point, so we found some shelter behind a tent to pass the time. There was around an hour to wait until the leg 3 runner finished, and it was time for me to get underway for one last time.
By now, I knew that I would be running straight into a
hurricane headwind and that the first part of my section would be slightly uphill. Not so easy on weary legs and I was conscious that most of the runners around me had run almost 22 miles to get to this point. I remembered being in a similar situation in 2011 and knew the struggle they were facing. For me, it was strange: ordinarily in the later stages of the relay I feel a little guilty about running on fresh legs when surrounded by marathoners, yet on this occasion I knew that while fresher than them, my legs still had a lot of miles in them from that weekend. I had also run 22 miles, they were just broken up into sections over the two days!
At first, it was tricky to convince my legs to move yet again, but soon I settled into my pace. It felt like my effort level should have been yielding a much faster pace, but that was more down to the wind than my weary legs. Besides, it was “only” 4.4 miles. For me, those miles just felt like something I had to do to complete my challenge. My team had done a fantastic job of setting me up to finish the event, and now I was “bringing it home”. I got my head down and ploughed on, enjoying the Macmillan cheer point for the last time and soon enough I was back on familiar territory with the racecourse alongside me and the now bigger crowds making me feel like even more of a rock star with their shouts and cheers.
Turning onto the finishing straight felt amazing. I may not have run a full marathon to get there (this time), but I had taken on a big challenge, a challenge I wasn’t sure my body would be up to, and I had done it. Grinning from ear to ear and four fingers aloft to signify my fourth race, I crossed the line for the final time that weekend.
Once more I collected a medal, goody bag and bottle of water. I then made my way over to the official photo area determined to have a photo taken with my bling haul from the weekend. The photographer looked a little stunned as I jingled over and posed with my 4 medals, but it was totally worth it!
I sent messages to the others who were on their way back to join me, and made my way over to the Macmillan tent for a hard-earned massage. I love the fact that runners are (quite literally) given the red carpet treatment at the end of the event and I was met by the charity cheerleaders to welcome me in:
The massage was fantastic, and it turned out my legs were in pretty decent shape – no knots or niggly bits. The massage therapist was quite surprised (as was I!) and kept making me repeat what I had done over the weekend!
When Steve arrived, it was time for a couple more photos then some food as by this point I was starving.
As one of the official EMF video bloggers, Steve was invited to the VIP tent and had managed to get me added to the list as well. Since we were getting a lift home with my relay team, we didn’t want to spend too long hanging around at the finish, but did make a point of going over to the VIP tent to say hello. It was right by the finish line so a great photo opportunity. They also had some food left, including a giant bowl of tiramisu. Well, it would be rude not to and I’d run a long way!
All in all, it was an amazing weekend, and not something that could be easily bettered. My strategy of focusing on the race I was in and not thinking about the ones I’d already run or had still to run really worked to keep me running well in each event, it was only later that night when I was enjoying a nice bath that the magnitude of what I had done really hit me. I was reading through all the messages we had received on social media and reflecting on the weekend and just burst into tears. I couldn’t stop crying and there was no real reason for the tears. I suspect a combination of emotion and exhaustion :-0
My EMF Extravaganza was certainly a great way to finish my spring challenge with a bang. I still can’t believe that in the space of two months I ran a marathon, completed an epic cycling event and then took on 4 races in 2 days at the EMF. I think I might be mad (and definitely think it’s time for a rest!).
I’ve had mixed fortunes in Edinburgh over the years, but this year was definitely a highlight. Edinburgh, I thank you.
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.