Edinburgh is a city where I’ve run in all types of weather; from glorious sunshine in January to downpours in May. This year, for my first Edinburgh Marathon, the forecast looked distinctly like the latter. When the organisers sent out a weather warning the day before, I had all but given up on my target time.
Sunday morning did not look quite as bad; blustery but dry. We had found a B&B right next to the London Road start, so after a short walk to the baggage drop, we still had a bit of time to reflect at home.
The atmosphere of the race began to have its effect, so layer after layer was discarded: first the jacket, then the hat, and even a last minute decision to ditch the long sleeves. I still felt unsure about my pace in the pen and stood quite a way back, but when the time came to cross the start line, I just did not have it in me to run slowly.
The first two kms involved quite a bit of weaving and sprinting, but once we got to Holyrood park, the field had stretched out enough to get into a rhythm. I followed a group of Spaniards who seemed to bring out cheers from every spectator – calling them crowds, even before we left the city limits, would be an exaggeration.
Once we hit the shore, the wind really began to make an impact – it was blowing mostly in our back, but whenever we got to sample the headwind after a turn, we knew we would have a battle on our hands on the way back. 10k were passed in about 41 minutes, and I decided that, if I wanted to have a go at running under 3 hours, I needed to build a cushion up to the turning point, and then hope for the best. I had taken two gels with me, as I knew there would only be water until more than half way – something that the organisers might want to reconsider. When we reached Musselburgh, the road was shared with the half marathon runners going in the opposite direction, and I got the first sight of a purple Striders vest – always a good sign. At this point, most of us must have thought “what a great day for a half marathon”, and we ourselves passed the half marathon mark in around 1:26:30, feeling deceptively fresh.
The turn came just after 28 kms, and immediately, the pace began to slow. I was desperate to find a group to run with, but although my own pace had dropped, everyone around me appeared to struggle even more.
Whenever I had made up the distance to a runner in front, he seemed to slow down to a jog, while every group I spotted far ahead on the road soon dispersed like a Fata Morgana once I got closer. At least battling with the wind, and picking off other runners one by one made the miles go by without too much time to think about what lay ahead.
At 32 km, I finally found a companion, and we traded the lead for about a mile, until he too decided to stay with another runner whom we’d passed, and I tried to press on.
Although my pace had decreased considerably, my Garmin provided some solace – I kept calculating the average pace I would need to run over the remaining distance, and while my splits into the wind were now a good 20 seconds slower than they had been on the way out, the cushion steadily grew. With “only a parkrun to go”, I was confident that I would reach my goal, and allowed myself to slow down just a little bit more – it never got easy, but spurred on by the now growing numbers of spectators, the last miles became almost enjoyable. The organisers had thought up one final obstacle in the form of a finishing straight made out of sheet metal, but that was safely negotiated, and I even managed a smile. No sooner had I crossed the finish line than my legs started to cramp up, but they’d done their job, and I was still glowing about my time.
I remember reading Gareth’s report about his first sub 3 in Edinburgh exactly one year ago, which together with the fast times run by other Striders like Stephen and Simon really made me think that I could do it, too. While you’re out on your own running, and perhaps never more so than during the last part of a marathon, I feel that being part of the Striders makes it as close to a team sport as it can be.
Inspiration doesn’t just come from the “fast lads” though, and thanks must also go to Geoff and Susan whose perseverance finally paid off, ensuring I kept running properly this winter and, not least, Jacqui and Alister, who drove me to my first parkrun, before I even joined the club.
|1 (F)||Joan Kigen||2:39:42|
|82||Till Sawala||Elvet Striders||2:56:25|
|3115||Jane Ives||Elvet Striders||4:05:04|
|4717||Angela Robson||Elvet Striders||4:31:41|
|5660||Brian Bill Ford||Elvet Striders||4:51:28|
|5851||Joanne Porter||Elvet Striders||4:56:11|