Edinburgh Marathon 2013

[Sun 26th May] 


Well this marathon game certainly pulls you in doesn’t it? I am far from perfecting this dark art, but Edinburgh was my 3rd attempt to tackle the 26.2 mile beast and the goal was simply to move my PB nearer to some form of respectability, not easy when you haven’t ever completed a full mara training plan, and weigh more on the scales than you should, but they are just excuses so I pressed on.

My first marathon was here last year, and after a 5.48 heat oppressed result, I was elated/disappointed in equal measures. Elated, I’d just finished a marathon, quite a life achievement for anyone, but disappointed due to such a slow time, but I must be thankful though, because of that, and a 21 minute improvement at Rotterdam a month ago, it got me to the start line in good spirits on this warm but not oppressive day.

I’m really not sure why they call this the ‘Edinburgh’ marathon, as most of this course is played out away from the city, but standing at Regents Road (the start for slow people!), you were rewarded with a great vista of Arthur’s seat and the area adjacent to Scottish Parliament. As we waited for the 10am start, the atmosphere was jovial, and I had already found several people fatter than me – one proudly sporting the tag line ‘powered by Stella’ on his running shirt, although only ‘racing’ with myself, it’s always great to find a marker for later.

Faffing, prepping and a little stretching kept me occupied until the start, and then ten minutes after that I crossed the line as the Purple Zone plebs were released (me!). The Garmin was activated, we were off. At this point in any formal run I always get a sense on euphoria for just ‘being in the race’, and whilst this doesn’t last it’s a great ego boost as you settle in to the task ahead.

The course at Edinburgh has more descent than ascent in the first few miles, but then gives way to minor undulations to complete the course – a stark difference from Rotterdam last month which although not 100% flat, had more of a claim on this than Edinburgh boasts. This downward motion is always preferable to me, allowing the breathing to settle and the confidence to build, and as such is perfect way to start such a challenge.

Given the last minute entry to this event, I hadn’t really prepared properly, this was simply tagged onto my last marathon, so I allowed myself the flexibility of not taking a hard and fast plan into the race. Of course I wanted to PB, who doesn’t, but this run was to principally get the feel of that 26.2 again, and to build some intelligence into my tactics. With this in mind, I set out on my A plan, which would see me go sub 5 hours, something I’d tried in Rotterdam but was spoiled in the second half when demons took over my head!  That plan stick to 10.50 –> 11.05, relaxing back if the pace ever pushed on.

That none-planned ‘plan’ executed well all the way through to the end of mile 16, never really deviating much from this speed – slow and sure wins the (personal) race. Despite the 20 min PB in my last mara outing, the wheels had come off much earlier in Rotterdam, so this took me deep into unknown territory.

Interestingly I never really zoned out during this run, whereas last time I purposely did. This time, I was very aware of what was happening, monitoring my effort, and sucking up the atmosphere from the great spectators along the course. There were a couple of areas which were supporter-light as we went further down the road away from Edinburgh, but this didn’t bother me, I was in control, not others, this was a new feeling compared to the ‘hang on’ tactics I’d used previously. Last time I craved support, hoping people would shout me on with ‘Lee’ emblazoned on my shirt, but this time (and mainly due to keeping the heat down) I was wearing an anonymous shirt and whilst I received some support it was never personalised and bizarrely that helped me. No idea why, perhaps I’m just anti-social.

So back to mile 17, I was tracking well for a 4.45 finish, but either one too many gels or just the exertion to get to this point, brought me to a halt due to stomach pain. The heat was rising too, and I felt I needed to stop, consume a drink fully before moving off again, this mile slowed 12m/m due to this – it certainly recovered the feeling I had, but the pace never really returned. miles 18-22 brought down to 12′s and low 13′s due to the odd walk break. This part of the course is tough, most of the support have gone home until you get back to the towns, and I really think that stop in mile 17, as brief as it was, had broken the resolve a little. That said, within that timeframe, when the resolve had returned and I tried to push on, the body wasn’t a willing partner and threatened that bad stomach or another niggle once more.

With the above ‘purple patch’ over my determination set in from mile 23 again, buoyed by the short distance to home. With the exception of mile 25 which require a lengthy water pit stop, the other miles came in higher but much closer to that A target pace. Because of the walking, I knew I had said good bye to sub-5, there had been a chance late on, but I would have had to pick up the pace in the last three miles to 10 m/m, and this push was too much on the day. So, I reverted to plan B, keep it nearer the 5 hour mark, a massive improvement on last time, and guaranteed as long as I kept moving.

I did keep moving, and came over the line at 5.01, now whilst it didn’t have the same psychological boost as 4.59 would have done, this was a great day and a tremendous step in the right direction. Over 25 minutes off my time in Rotterdam, and over 47 minutes better than my last Edinburgh (and first ever) marathon a year ago – a bit of application, and I can see a massive slice off this time when I attempt the distance again next year – this time I will be lighter and more prepared…I promise.

As for Edinburgh Marathon, I think it’s a great event now, not sure I did last year though. The crowds were great, the medal and t-shirt are good quality, the only negative is the 30 minute hobble and big queue for the buses to take you back to Regents Road.

A good day I think, now to tackle this dark art some more......