Edinburgh Marathon, Sunday, May 31, 2009

Shaun Roberts

Getting to the start line for this one has been surprisingly difficult. Paul Evans and Graham Daglish pulled out early on, and with a week to go Jean Gillespie had to do the same having picked up an injury. Very sadly, Phil Owen, too, had to give it a miss due to the death of his cousin. Two friends of mine also had to cancel – bad back and Piriformis Syndrome (ache in the bum: see Debs for details). So only Dave, Dougie, Steph and I were left to have a go – and Dave wasn’t in great shape either, having bruised his chest in a fall at the Windermere Marathon a fortnight earlier. But Dave isn’t in the habit of pulling out of races…

'Temperatures of up to 22 degrees Celsius took their toll. Ten people had to be taken to hospital, after collapsing due to heat-related problems and 160 were treated by medical staff at the scene. Some water stations ran out of supplies and staff used motorbikes to distribute water to runners who had missed out.'

Well, my training had gone well, I hadn’t picked up an injury either, so what could go wrong? Well, only the one thing I really didn’t fancy – the day turned out to be one of the hottest of the year … doh! I looked out the window at six in the morning – not a cloud in the sky. And just one magpie to be seen. I hate omens. Off to the start, where I’d managed to wangle a place in the front pen, normally behind elite Kenyans and the like – but here it was behind a very noisy group of Spaniards who the commentator goaded into shouting, singing and dancing like maniacs for an hour before the start – they must have been knackered before running a yard!

The finish, at last ... in home-made Striders vest. We got underway, onto a broadly-downhill six-mile stretch down to the coast, and I was a bit disconcerted to find myself sweating profusely within a mile! Nice easy going, though, and by the time we got to the coast I was three minutes ahead of the 7.5-minute miling pace I was aiming for overall. I’d been hoping that the coast would bring some form of breeze – but there was hardly a sniff – though luckily it did pick up a bit later on. I thought I was definitely going to blow up in the heat, as I’ve done a few times before, unless I did something about it. I remembered the Great North Run from a few years back when it was *really* hot – fatally so, sadly – and I got round then by going over the top on drenching myself in water at every opportunity. So at every water stop, I drank lots, and then all the rest went over the head and down the back.

And it worked. Went through 10K in 42:42, halfway in 1:35 and 20 miles in 2:29. Waited for the grief to start – but it just didn’t happen, and I finished in a shade over 3:17, nine minutes better than last time! To say that I was well-chuffed with that result in the conditions would be a huge understatement. Pleased, and relieved to actually get round.

Saw Dougie on the return leg, looking cool in his new Scottish Buff and shades – think he was well-pleased with the time, as he was over half an hour faster than last year. Steph fell on a discarded water bottle at 15 miles and had a few grazes but came in a great time for her first marathon, which she was very chuffed with. Dave was pacing another runner, and was pleased to get round ok – he managed to sort his chest out by wearing an extra base layer, though that was the last thing you needed in the circumstances.

This was a day when everyone was pleased to get to the finish line. A lot of people were upset that a number of water stations – at 3m and more seriously 15m to 20m – ran out of water. The organisers did manage to get water out there eventually but not until after lots of runners had gone through that stretch. Ten runners ended up in hospital – thankfully, no one died.

Sheikh ma Bahookie adds …

Yes, it's Dougie.

The day before the race found me (rather disbelievingly) reading texts from Shaun who advised me that what I needed in the hot weather was something called a ‘buff’. After checking that he’d not misunderstood my question I hot-footed it to the nearest buff-store and got myself a natty little number. Thinking I’d thought of everything I stood at the start and switched on my Garmin to discover the batteries were flat. This was serious. No watch, no pace band, I would have to run Alone.

I passed Steph around the half-way point and was grateful to see a familiar face. I was still very comfortable and had a good rhythm going. At mile 15 I heard my name shouted and glanced up to see Shaun at mile 20. I knew I was running well and Shaun was 5 miles in front of me so he was clearly on for a flyer. At mile 16 my legs began to hurt. At mile 18 they really began to hurt. But my rhythm and breathing were good so I ploughed on. Expected to blow around 21 mark in line with training runs, and pretty much did so but not as severe as I thought it would be, especially with it being a hot hot day. For the last 10 miles I ran with my head rather than my heart as it was scarily hot. Every time I eased on the throttle I felt lots of warning signs and eased back as I didn’t want to end up like the many who had, literally, fallen by the wayside.

Funnily enough, I was pretty much exactly on what I thought I’d be at the finish based on a few rough calculations on the glimpses of timing clocks that I’d got on the way round. It’d be easy to be tough on myself and think I could’ve sub-foured (is that a verb? [No, Ed.]) but I think I pretty much raced it about right. Maybe I could’ve squeezed another minute or two at great expense, but that elusive sub-4, which doesn’t feel too far away, will have to wait for another day.

The race was let down by a few inexcusable schoolboy errors on the part of the organisers. The water had ran out at the first drinks station, and I only later realised how lucky I was to get to the later ones before it ran out there too. ‘Race-Side’ at the finish was a muddle with little indication on how to escape, and then into a claustrophobic bottleneck before spilling into the street. The Shuttle-Bus tickets may have been beautifully printed in full colour but the return after race buses to the city were a shambles. We hobbled to chaotic queues for non-existent buses before being directed back to where we’d come from to stand in long slow-moving queues with sore legs and short tempers.

The organisers got a couple of things right. I bumped into Steph at the finish next to the beer table where we were happy to accept a glass of cold lager. Nice touch. Steph had grazes to her face arm and hand after a fall on a discarded water bottle but seemed in remarkably good spirits. This was probably because she’d finished in 4.21 for her first ever marathon and it would take more than a mouthful of tarmac to dampen her spirits.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Martin Williams Dudley M 2:18:24
28 Holly Rush Bradford Upon Avon F 2:41:38
377 Shaun Roberts MV50 26 3:17:12
3065 Dougie Nisbet MV40 723 4:08:21
4035 Stephanie Barlow FV35 337 4:21:26
7151 Dave Robson MV50 461 5:20:21

8258 finishers.

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