So here we are 6 days on!! I can honestly say that running the marathon was unlike anything else I’ve ever done, and that’s taking into account half marathons, 10 mile races, 10k races and everything in between. Here is my take on the whole experience: beware, it’s a bit of a marathon in itself……
SB and I arrived in Edinburgh the day before the event. I had worked in London the week before, and since I arrived home on the Thursday and began my carb-crazy preparation, I had become really nervous. I hadn’t yet run the full distance – and this distance has so many variables that you really need the stars to align to have a good race.
We ate an early dinner at an Italian place called Contini – we had to eat early as the place was fully booked with other marathoners! Spotting the runners vs the normal Saturday night crew was easy: the runners looked underdressed, they ordered diet coke or water, and they looked very pensive!
The next day, I walked the short distance to the starting line feeling really nervous. I had my priorities in order: my nails were painted the same colour as my shirt (it’s pleasing to look down mid-run and see the colour match).
The marathon started on two different roads, which meant that there were fewer crowds congregating in each starting pen. That made me feel a lot better, as there was space to stretch and prepare. The weather had been really rainy that morning, so I was wearing a bin liner. That is a secret runners way to keep warm pre-race, but to everyone else it must look ridiculous.
My pen was the second from the starting line – which surprised me as I’ve never been that close, but was also good because I crossed the first timing mats within 10 minutes of the race starting. In my mind I had broken the race into three segments: 9 miles til we pass the end, 9 miles running one way, 8 miles running the other way.
I tackled miles 2 and 3 pace of 8:51 and 8:53, and needed to step up the pace if I wanted to make my Plan A goal. So miles 4-10 ranged from 7:59-8:20 pace. I felt strong and light on my feet, but I found the pacing really hard: how do you know how fast to run at mile 6, knowing you have 20 miles to go???
At 5 miles, the route goes along the coast, and it was magic to run so close to the seaside, with the salt breeze and the crashing waves not 20 metres from us. By this time the sun was shining too – a change from 60 minutes ago!
From there, my pace was kind of consistent, with miles 11-20 falling between 8:32-8:43 minutes. By mile 16 I was very aware that I wasn’t able to control the pace much: I had fallen into a rhythm where all efforts were directed towards was maintaining that rhythm. I even chanted ‘main-tain, main-tain’ when I struggled. Mile 14 definitely felt like it lasted an hour: I was over half way, but still so far from finishing! I must have checked my Garmin about 20 times during that mile.
Miles 14-20 are on a country road and through the grounds of an 18th Century house called Gosford House. Visually it was stunning, with views of the sea, blue skies, green trees and golden rocks.
At mile 18, the course turns back on itself and you head back towards the finish line – and there was a crowd of people applauding as you ran around the witches hat to the other side of the road. I am always so appreciative of people who take time out of their day to clap, cheer, applaud, provide jelly babies/oranges/water!
By mile 20, I knew there was a reasonable chance of me hitting my Plan A goal if nothing went wrong. The weirdest thing was that I still had to be so present in the moment that it didn’t mean much! Marathon running takes so much energy to concentrate on what’s happening right now (ignoring aches, measuring your thirst, maintaining speed, being aware of other runners). However, I stepped it up a bit, and miles 21-23 were all under 8:30.
And then my Garmin died.
Finishing the race without knowing the pace, or how far into each mile I was, was surprisingly disconcerting. On every single long run I play mind games: counting down the miles, measuring the time left vs the time to go, and even telling myself that I only had less than 30 minutes to go didn’t help: it’s actually still quite a long time!
The out-and-back route actually helped, because once I started to pass familiar landmarks, I knew the end was near. The path narrowed at mile 25, and there were lots of people cheering. After 25 miles of running in my own head, it was quite overwhelming, and I found myself really fighting to stop the tears.
One thing did make me smile though: my vest showed the name of my running club (Elvet Striders), and people would shout ‘Come on Elvet!!’ thinking it was my name. Close I guess..
Then after the 26 mile marker, I heard one very familiar voice shouting at me, and I saw SB’s smiley face. I knew then that the finish must be close, and sprinted to the end! As I stopped, I was doing the cry-deep breath thing that you get sometimes (do people get it? Or is it just me?), and doing my best not to be sick. Then I got my medal, which immediately cheered me up, and had the all-important post race photo (which costs £19.99 to download!! Isn’t that crazy?).
I finished in 3:43:31. My goal was 3:45, so I am over the moon. And it gives me a good-for-age entry to the London marathon too.
Here is what I learned during the whole thing:
- You experience every emotion along those 26.2 miles. Happiness, excitement, depression, determination, sadness, pain, anger and then elation. It’s a proper rollercoaster.
- Being short means people don’t see you when they spit to the side, or when they put their hands on their hips. I almost had both phlegm and an elbow in my face during the race. Pleasant!
- A lot of the race is trying to calibrate your stride so you can run with ease, pretending you don’t have aches and pains. I can see now why marathoners need good core stability.
- There are two sides of you during the run – the adult, and the child. The adult talks to the child to keep you going: ‘just wait 2 more miles until mile 20, and if your foot still hurts then, we’ll stop to adjust your sock’.
- At the end I was as mentally tired as I was physically: I kind of turned into a zombie until about 45 minutes after I stopped running.
- Being in a running club kicks ass: At mile 13, someone who was spectating from my club spotted me, and gave me a high 5. And I saw a fellow Strider on the course as well (who had a sub-3 finish!!!). That community feeling is great!
At the end I wasn’t sure if I would do another one. The time, the commitment, the physical and mental toll…. But then we went back to the hotel, watched Jurassic Park 2, and went out for a fab dinner. And now I’m looking forward to London!!