Marathon day. Up at 6:30am for a light breakfast. Peanut butter and banana on toast and good to go. Bag packed with dry clothes for the finish line as the weather looked extremely changeable. 9am; time to go.
We’d arranged to meet a friend at 9:30. It had been decided that myself, Stuart and Gary (aka the Lone Wolf) would run together. As we walked up to the centre of Edinburgh the streets became busier and busier with runners heading to the start.
There were two different start locations and we all had different starting points and pens. Donning a black binbag would keep us warm and dry and hide our numbers so we could start together without any hassle.
The sun disappeared quickly and down came the rain. Times well with putting out bags on the vans and the start whistle blowing. Nothing like a good soaking before a long, long run. The start crew were keen to get bags on vans and people into pens. People were milling around everywhere, many looking for toilets. Queues were extremely long and toilets few and far between. Mens’ backs could be seen lining streets everywhere.
Heading to a pen near the start line and I was in need of a toilet. There wasn’t enough time to queue and I didn’t fancy doing a Paula Radcliffe. Oh, well! I’ll just have to man up and get on with it, there’s bound to be toilets throughout the course…
Countdown and we’re off. Loads of legs and feet getting in the way. This part involved not being tripped up as people weaved in and out, not so carefully.
Passing Arthur’s Seat and a few family and friends and onto a downhill towards Leith. Cones lined the middle of the road as they tried to keep runners to one side. Crash! A lady tripped right over a cone and I’m sure many followed. 5 minutes later I almost did the same myself as I tried not be taken out by other runners. Now, where were the mile markers? Surely we’d done a mile by now. Feeling as though I was going fairly quickly but wondering about the distance covered I turned to Stuart asking him to check his RunKeeper Pro app. Stuart’s response was that we were going ‘slow, very slow”.
The Wall!! Could this be it? So early on, right at the beginning. Not even sight of a mile marker! If I was going very slow and felt that I was working hard how on earth could I run 26.2 miles? I’d keep the boys back and wondered if I really had gone too far by opting to do a marathon.
Then the voice of reason kicked in. I’d come too far to fail. Failing, stopping, whatever you want to call it was not an option. The money raised for Alzheimer Scotland was over £1500. Training had taken over my life and my mind had focused solely on finishing this.
Before I knew it we’d covered the boring part of the run and were heading towards the promenade at Portobello. Plucking up the courage I asked how we were getting on and couldn’t believe what I heard. Just short of 6 miles and a really good pace around 8:30 min ml!!! This was not slow! Well, not to me!
Now I felt good. Comfortable. Able to keep the pace up. Enjoying the run. This section was daunting as you could see the coast stretch out in front. The monstrosity of Cockenzie Power Station loomed ahead. It seemed a long way off. Yet the course would continue a lot further. The Power Station was to be passed on both the outward and inward legs and it’s size seemed to distort perception of distance.
Relay runners had signs on their backs. Just as well as fresh legs fleeing past at later stages would have been soul destroying. I”d split the race into four sections in my head in line with the relay race. Eight, five, eight, five. As the first relay changeover point came up my knee twinged. Please, let this just be in my head. I’ll run through it and think about something else. It’s bound to go….no, it didn’t. Back to the power of the mind and time to think about something else……family and friends again, cheering, this time with a banner! There were lots of people out on the street at Musselburgh and this was a great help. I was really enjoying this run even thought my knee hurt. Knee? What knee?
The carbohydrate gels definitely helped but having a selection in a bumbag did nothing for my runner’s physique, making me look quite distorted. They also felt a little bit heavy. Today we’d also brought Nuun tablets to put in the water to prevent cramping and help with hydration. Water stations were well placed. Adamant about visiting each one, at no point was I gasping for water. (Isn’t it miraculous how you can go from being desperate for the toilet to no longer needing!)
Half way. Feeling great. Enjoying every moment. It’s amazing how many people run for charity and how many different charities there are. Many I’d never heard of and reading the backs of people got me through a few miles. Out onto the Bents at Longniddry. On route to Gosford House, the turning point.
Up to this point I’d only seen two miles markers – one at six and one at thirteen. The Lone Wolf spoke, “if this isn’t mile sixteen, I’m stopping!”. Luckily, it was. Sixteen to eighteen is where I’ve always found it to be the hardest but checking in with myself I still felt comfortable which was a great boost to my confidence. This was going well and I was loving every minute. At this point Stuart was bounding about like a puppy waiting for a stick to be thrown. Forward and back, forward and back. He was itching to go, to pass others. His competitive nature was kicking in. “I could run this backwards” he declared as he came back to see where we were. As we approached Gosford House Stuart started picking up his pace and moved ahead.
Myself and Gary were caught in a hailstorm as we passed the entrance to Gosford House. Hang on, was this not the turning point? In my head it was but now we had to run on a bit further to make up the distance. Right on the turn there was a sharp pain at the bottom of my heel. I yelped slightly. Not my achilles! It seemed to pass. With a sigh of relief I concentrated on my footfall. This helped although there were a few twinges to follow.
The path through Gosford House started off fairly picturesque. Gosford House itself was very impressive and the ground were enjoyable. Just as the road became rough and difficult to run on my hip decided it was no longer playing. Mile 18. Hanging back a bit Gary moved further forward. He remained a few metres ahead for the next few miles, always in eye sight though.
Somewhere around mile 20-21 was another ‘add-on’ for mileage. Up and down the same street. Not the most enjoyable. By this time I was in agony. As I headed up, Stuart was heading down. He had no idea I was injured but it became fairly apparent as he passed by shouting words of encouragement. At the turning pint at the top I caught up with Gary and on reaching the road at the bottom again Stuart and his twinging hamstrings, was waiting for us. Stuart had considered going for it and trying to get a decent time but felt because he’s trained with me he should finish it with me, besides his hamstrings were hurting. Altogether again.
It felt strange running past people who were heading out towards Gosford House. At this point one runner offered me some tablet, which I took then panicked my blood sugars would drop. Hearing another runner struggling I decided to speak to him. This took my mind off my own challenges and although the runner rudely put his earphones in, his embarrassed friend spoke to me for a while.
The last lap. Back through the coastal towns we’d already passed through, which seemed like hours ago. By now the pain was excruciating.It hit me that although I had the energy the pain was going to stop me. Was I really going to have to walk? I urged Stuart and Gary to go ahead. I could finish it running but it would be slow, very slow. They wouldn’t have any of it. I fought back tears the first time I had to actually walk and kept trying to run.
The next few miles became a repeat of Gary stopping, us running (limping) past urging him on. Gary going ahead then waiting for us. Trying to keep running I eventually had to walk / run for about three miles. Just as the weather turned. It was cold and the wind picked up. I was able to kind of run but pushing into the wind hurt way too much and walking past the Power Station hurt in more ways than one. Then the rain as we headed back through Prestonpans. Much of this was a blur until suddenly a work colleague appeared with his whistle. Although he’d come to look for us he’d been encouraging everyone as they headed for the home stretch. This was such a lovely gesture I felt compelled to run again.
To cope with the remaining miles and the pain I had to switch off and retreat into my head searching for the power of my mind to move me forward. I thought about moving my muscles, a technique I’d learned when studying Kung Fu in China and focused on various thoughts I’d used before which always raise my level of determination.
Mile 24. “Let’s see what Rocky has to say about this!” Gary growled as he plugged himself into his pink IPod. Unbelievably our possible finish time was still good. With walking we wouldn’t conquer four hours but we were still on target for hammering four and a half.
The home straight, streets lined with people. No way could we walk now. A last gasp and we ran through the cheering crowd. Knowing my family and friends would be around I just set my focus on the finish line. As it loomed ahead I turned to Gary asking “is that the finish line?”. “Yes”. “Are you sure?”. “Yes”.
Then came the sprint. For some reason it’s become my trade mark to find energy from somewhere to put on a final sprint. In this case I could no longer feel anything from the waist down apart from pain. Using my arms to power me on my eyes focused solely on that finish line and I was off. As I crossed two things went through my mind. Firstly, there was no way my legs would have done another step and secondly…and surprisingly, was my reaction to finishing. Everyone had said that the moment you finish the feeling is so tremendous it makes everything worthwhile. Why, in that case, did I feel totally deflated?
(Breakdown of min/ ml for race to follow)
Full marathon: 4 hours 15 mins 07 secs; 10k: 54 mins 06 secs; Half marathon: 1 hour 54 mins 44 secs; 30k – 2 hours 45 mins 30 secs.