After making light of yesterday’s forecast, expecting much lighter wind speeds and for the predicted rain to have passed over, I felt a tad embarrassed walking down through the cobbled streets to the start of this half marathon. We had decided not to try and drive into town, but leave the car at Leith and bus it as close as possible to Holyrood. With the start at just after 9, we’d been told to arrive an hour early to allow for any hold ups. Ordinarily this would have been fine, but today the weather was rebelling. Wearing only a soft shell jacket for protection, I was drenched by the time we reached the bottom of the hill. Not the best scenario an hour before a race and with no shelter to take.
As we rounded the bend at Holyrood Palace, the full force of the gusting wind hit us. This was not going to be a pleasant experience or a personal best race. My first stop was to visit the toilets whilst the queues were still short. After finding a portaloo that the wind hadn’t already blown over, we headed across to the field.
I had filled a rucksack with as many things as I could think of that might help me at the before the start and at the end of the race. Nestled at the bottom of said bag were a couple of foil blankets collected from previous races and stored away for days such as today. Amazingly warm for such a thin piece of material and waterproof. Result.
We sought out shelter behind the Run 4 It tent, along with a few others, and waited for the start to be called. A very long 40 minutes later I stripped down to my vest top and sleeves. Looking around me, most people had opted for long sleeves, several layers and waterproofs. I was there with no sleeves, one layer and three quarter leggings. Was I mad? After kissing hubbie goodbye and giving my shivery, wet dog a pat, I headed off for my corral.
Finding my corral proved difficult and I ended up in corral 7 by mistake. The guy beside me assured me that it wouldn’t matter, so I stayed put. I wasn’t alone. I didn’t realise, but our numbers started with our corral number and there were many others in corral 7 with numbers starting with 8, 9, 10 and even 11. I stopped worrying. With the weather conditions taken into account, where I started was insignificant.
I had Jeff Galloway’s Half Marathon app playing on my iPhone and my Garmin for back up. Our chips were in our numbers, which meant that there was no faffing about with lace chips, far easier. When I crossed the line I hit my app/watch and I was away.
Starting in the faster corral actually worked out better for me. I tend to run faster during my run intervals than other people running the same overall pace as me, so I found that I was better paced being further up the field. I made sure that I kept right out of the way during walk breaks, because I know how annoying it is to be confronted by a line of walkers. I also quickly realised that my vest and arm sleeves were perfect. I was warm within minutes.
Mile 1 : 9:44
Even in the town the wind was dreadful. Combined with rain the conditions were some of the worst I’ve endured. In terms of people running, it was certainly more comfortable with only five thousand runners on the roads, rather than almost forty thousand in the Great North Run. Mind you, I still managed to get tripped up around mile 2, although how it happened I’m still not sure. I was going for a space, got through it and then all of a sudden someone ran right into the back of me. I’m fairly sure that I am easy to see, so how she managed that I don’t know.
Mile 2 : 9:56
What I soon discovered was that my trip had caused my juice bottle to fall out of my waist pack, a bottle full of SIS juice designed to last me the entire race. I was annoyed and a bit worried. I couldn’t remember what isotonic juice was on offer and wasn’t sure how it would suit me. Perturbed I stopped to collect water from the first station and, in an effort to calm myself down, I stopped at the portaloos behind the water station.
Mile 3 : 10.10
I was pleased with my pace, despite stopping for a toilet break (although the watch may have auto-stopped for this, I didn’t check and can’t until I get home.) However this joy was soon to cease. We had reached the shore and the wind and rain were waiting for us. The route took us down onto the promenade. I didn’t think the wind was too, too bad, but the long hill before dipping down to the shore was relentless.
Mile 4 : 10:09
I took my first energy gel at mile 4, following the pattern I’d set down at the GNR. The Powerade gels were a little thicker than others I had been having and needed washing down with water. Around mile 4 we were offered isotonic juice IN CARTONS! I’ve never seen this before. They were terrible to use, with juice spilling out from the open top. I quickly emptied my water bottle whilst on a walk break and filled it with the juice. I don’t drink a lot on runs these days, but I needed to know that I had enough to see me through.
Once we turned off the promenade the wind hit me. And so did the hills. Oh, and the rain, I almost forgot the rain. This combination was a killer. We hit hill after hill during mile five with the wind hitting us face on. My pace showed the effect.
Mile 5 : 11:21
Mile 6 was no better. Hills, wind, rain. Lots of all of these.
Mile 6 : 11:37
On the downhill stretches, and there were one or two, I just went with it and ignored walk breaks in a bid to regain some time. I knew I was going to be close to my GNR result by now as I was averaging a 11 minute mile. Knowing that I needed to speed up when I was confronted by the elevation and the weather was starting to get to me. I had to focus on running for four minutes as close to my race pace as I could, even when I was running up hill. Not easy.
Mile 7 : 12:14 (my worst mile)
As I finished mile 7 I took another gel, and on seeing that the organisers were giving out the same gels, I snaffled one to replace my bought one. Cheeky! By now we were climbing back up towards Arthur’s Seat. It’s a long and steady climb, eventually rewarded by a long downhill stretch to Holyrood Park. I, again, ignored the walk breaks and used gravity to push me on down the hill. I could hear Jeff Galloway counting down the miles and it sounded as if I wasn’t far off pace, but as I’d lost sight of the 2:15 pacer, I didn’t know how far away from this I was.
By now I’d decided that finishing below 2:30 would be nice.
Mile 8 : 11:31
We hit the town again, which meant more hills. Yaay.
I will never moan about the Great North Run course again.
People had generously dotted pretty much the entire route, offering encouragement as these mad runners ran past. Considering the weather, I think that these folk deserved a medal as well!
Mile 9 : 11:32
Have I mentioned the hills?
We ran down through the Grassmarket and, inevitably heading down will mean that we will have to climb again. By now I was totally pissed off with the hills! I just couldn’t get a good pace going and I knew that I still had it in me, just not uphill anymore.
Mile 10 : 12:09
By the time I reached the town centre I was glad of some level running at last. My legs felt tired out by all the climbing they’d done, but were happier to run on the flat for a while. I was starting to yoyo with the same people, all of us were doing a combination of running and walking. I was pleased to see that there were running club people around me, making me feel a little less useless! I knew, as well, as I had about half an hour of running left, so I tried to up my pace.
Mile 11 : 11:51
Running across the Royal Mile meant that I wasn’t far from the finish. The course the took us down past The Mound, past Waverley Station and into Princes Gardens. I have to say that this is one of the nicest routes I’ve run, if you disregard the hills and the weather! The architecture and the sights were lovely, taking me through areas of Edinburgh that I didn’t know at all. I spotted some lovely looking restaurants, although I doubt I’ll ever find them again!
Mile 12 : 11:46
From mile 12 on the going was easier, mostly downhill and sheltered. I started looking out for hubbie and dog, but didn’t really expect to see them until the end. As I headed down Cannongate I knew I was nowhere near my Great North Run time of 2:22. I was disappointed, but it was a tough race and I’m not going to give myself a hard time over missing a PB. Doing a sub ten minute mile at this stage of the race was fabulous. I felt strong at the race end.
Mile 13 : 9:58
As I passed the palace the wind hit me again, but I pushed on through it, distracting myself by looking for my family. I found them just before the finish straight. I was aware of someone trying to overtake me and, spurred on by the sight of the finish, I sprinted for the line – which probably surprised me as much as the other runner!
Mile 13.13 : 9:08
I crossed the line at 2:25:10, well I think I did. There were three lines! I didn’t know which one to stop my Garmin at, so I went for the last one, just in case. Bearing in mind that I’m not sure whether my watch kept going when I was on the loo, I don’t think it really matters! I will get my official time in due course, but whatever it is, I’m happy with what I did.
I enjoyed the run, but wasn’t expecting the hills. The weather made the hills impossible and apparently everyone was affected with even the elite runners coming back slower than expected. My medal, well, see for yourself!
I’m tempted to say it makes up for the hills and the weather.
After the race it seemed that the weather had caused far more chaos. The bag check tent was in danger of collapsing, so no one was allowed in. Instead bags were being collected by staff members and handed out, so you can imagine the huge resultant queues. The stage for the after race concert had been devastated, the wind having ripped the stage sides to shreds. The concert was cancelled. As I passed the portaloos I noticed that even the massive urinal loos had been blown over.
Luckily I’d given my bag to hubbie to look after so I only had to collect my tee shirt. The organisers had done well offering a Brooks technical tee, which is wonderful.
The walk up to Leith Walk for the bus was hard work! As if I hadn’t seen enough hills!! The bus journey back to Leith was wonderful. I had a seat all the way home. Warm and comfortable.
Sitting here now in the caravan, having enjoyed a hot shower, a lovely lunch and the Chinese Grand Prix, I think we’ve got a great set up. We leave tomorrow for home, not racing home tonight because I don’t work on a Monday. I’m looking forward to vegetable frittata, new potatoes and salad and a nice glass of wine in celebration of the toughest race I’ve run…so far!
I’ve just sat and read this through and realised that not once have I mentioned the bands that were playing along the way! Just about every mile was marked by a rocking band, spurring us on. It was great to listen to and I just regret that we weren’t able to enjoy the concert at the end.