Edinburgh Marathon 29.05.22

The big day finally arrived last Sunday. I had followed a strict training plan for five months to prepare for the Edinburgh marathon. I had done all the scheduled runs three times per week, though unlike the training for the only other marathon I have done, I didn’t push myself much beyond the plan and my longest training run was only 18 miles (it was 21 miles in 2017). Anyway, I was where I was, and I felt I had a marathon in my legs come race day!

The journey to Edinburgh the day before with my friend Matt, was smooth and uneventful. The evening before we had a kebab (I’m not sure this is classic marathon training fuel!) then found a bar to watch the European Champions League final. It was standing room after we got kicked off the table in the photo below, only and my hip, which has been giving me chronic pain lately, really began to hurt. The piriformis syndrome, which I think I have, generally hurts more whilst walking or standing, rather than running, but having such pain the night before a marathon was a little concerning. We headed back before the end of the match and got in a good night’s sleep.

Pre-marathon relaxing with the football!

We woke up on race day ready for the run. It takes a while to get everything prepared on the day of a big run. Firstly there’s breakfast to consider. We opted for a banana, nuts, flapjack and coffee, all of which we had bought the day before and we just grazed on it in our hotel room as we got ready. Then there was the post-run kit to sort. The marathon finish line was a few miles out of town so we knew it would be at least a couple of hours after the run before being back in Edinburgh city centre. We packed more food, some cans of coke, and warm clothing, as despite it looking like a warm day, the chills can really kick in after a long run, and we were in Scotland after all! The final thing to get ready was our running kit and backpack. I was deliberating over whether to wear my headphones for the run. They are bulky and too big to fit in my backpack, so I would have to wear them for the entire race. In the end I decided to do so, as the prospect of running for over four hours with nothing to distract me from the pain wasn’t appealing! Before we set off I also took some strong ibuprofen for my hip and packed some more for the race – not ideal, but needs must and although I could feel tingling sensations in my hip, it wasn’t hurting, which was all I could hope for.

We arrived at the start line and after dropping our bags off at the line of lorries, we meandered our way down to the black zone to which we had been allocated as our starting area. As we walked there we were behind a small film crew and as we overtook them and they stopped to get set up we realised they were filming Mary Berry, so I took a rather cack-handed selfie with the nation’s favourite baker in the background! All the runners eventually congregated in the starting zone and we all waited for the official start of the race. At 10am there was an announcement and a cheer, though no immediate movement as we had to wait for several other zones to move before we began walking up to the start line! We eventually did and we were off. 

Fun, games, and national treasures at the start line!

We started in the Southside area of the city, running through Canongate, and around the edge of Holyrood Park. Supporters, spectators and passers-by created a really good atmosphere for the first few miles. I felt good, my hip wasn’t hurting and I was enjoying the fact that the race pack was quite crowded which forced me to pace myself rather than to come out of the blocks too quickly.

We eventually made it to the coast at around mile five and spent a good chunk of the race on the promenades and parallel roads taking in the lovely views of the Edinburgh coastline. At around mile eight I had my first sports gel to help keep my energy up. They are sickly sweet, and I don’t know really how effective they are as I didn’t use them for most of my training runs, but for the placebo effect alone, they were probably worth it. I took another at mile 14, and washed down my final two ibuprofen at the next water stop.

I was generally enjoying the run up until around mile 18. Just before that point, myself and another runner spotted a young lady crying and hyperventilating at the side of the road. We checked she was ok and tried to calm her to get her breathing back under control. She was fine but just a bit exhausted, overwhelmed and upset feeling that she couldn’t go on. Another lady who was walking by this point stopped as well and suggested she walked with her, and with that, she was back on her feet and back in the race. 

I continued on and it was from here that it started to get a bit more painful. I was stopping more regularly to stretch and was a bit nervous when I got to mile 21 as it was at this point during the only other marathon I have run when three muscles very painfully cramped up at the same time. However, I got through this threshold generally unaffected save for ever-tiring muscles with legs that I felt like I was dragging along the tarmac at times.

People often talk about hitting a ‘wall’ during marathons. I don’t think I experienced it this time, I just gradually deteriorated and got slower. At mile 23 I couldn’t continue running uninterrupted so started interchanging between walking and running just to keep me moving. I had realised a few miles earlier that it would be extremely difficult to beat my previous time of 4h:18m, so concentrated on just getting to the end in one piece and not injuring myself!

The atmosphere coming to the finish line was fantastic with crowds deep along either side and music playing. I felt quite emotional as I approached the end. I limped over the line, and it was all done. After collecting my medal and other little giveaways I made the short walk to collect my bag and sat down on the grass. This was blessed relief for my legs. I did a few half-hearted stretches but really didn’t want to move much! After putting on a fresh t-shirt and a jumper I got slowly to my feet and wandered back to the finishing area to look for Matt. After we had found each other, we went searching for beer and once again sat down and took in the atmosphere of the post-run relief and celebrations taking place all around us.

Job well done!

When we were ready to head back, we had a 30 minute walk to the pre-booked marathon shuttle buses to take us back to the city centre. It was a slow walk for everyone who did it! Why they needed to park the shuttle buses so far away was beyond us, but we eventually arrived and got back to the city centre and after a further short walk, back to our hotel. We only had time for a quick shower and change before heading out for a burger and beer to replace those lost calories and salts and give ourselves a fitting reward for our day’s efforts.

I’m in two minds as to whether I’ll do another marathon. The day itself is fun and exhilarating, but the hours and hours of solitary training are not! For now I will start doing other forms of exercise and let time tell whether I will miss running and the excitement of a big event, or if my marathon days are firmly behind me.

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