Way back in the spring of 2008, I ran my first marathon in Edinburgh, finishing in a rather modest time of 4 hours and 30 minutes. People who know me now would probably assume it was then that I ‘caught the bug’, but those people would be gravely mistaken. I hated it. Never again I told myself. This running lark is not for me. I went off to university to drink beer and eat takeaways, forgetting about all things running for a few years, until the flame was rekindled when I realised I was getting fat again.
Fast forward to today, and after 8 further marathons and various other endurance events, I found myself signed up for what would be my return to the streets of the Scottish capital. As many will know, as I don’t shut up about it, I’m now signed up to an ironman triathlon, which is quite worryingly just 8 weeks away. So back at the start of the year I thought I’d sign up for Edinburgh as some sort of ‘training’ run.
Marathon preparation took a back seat on the Saturday, as my dear Mother would be taking part in her very first parkrun! Now, she has no previous sporting achievements, and until recently, flat out refused to walk the 7 minutes into the town centre to do her shopping. However, things have changed dramatically in the past 2 months, and she’s been on a strict(ish) training plan to get her from a fitness level of below zero to being able to complete the 5km course.
We headed down to Portobello parkrun, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, which I’d actually ran once before over the New Year’s period. Mum was understandably apprehensive, having never ran more than 8 minutes continuously (ever, in her life), but for me, getting her involved is exactly what parkrun is all about – encouraging people of all abilities and walks of life to get fit and stay active.
We started right at the back of the field and made our way around the 3 lap course. Quite amazingly, Mum got all the way to the halfway point without having to walk once, more than doubling the amount of continuous running she’d ever done in her life. We had a few walk breaks during the second half, and despite a few protests, made it to the finish in great time. I have to say, I was immensely proud, as I never thought I’d see the day my Mum completed a 5km run. Hopefully this is just the start of a new lifestyle!
We spent the morning wandering around Edinburgh before I put my feet up in front of the TV for the rest of the day, eating a mountain of carbs (the best bit about running a marathon, surely?). After an early night, it was one of the easier race mornings as the start was just a 15 minute walk from where we were staying, and I had nothing to do apart from eat breakfast and hang around.
I’d already labelled this event as more of a ‘training run’, to get the miles in as part of the preparation for ironman, so I was determined to not run too hard and trash my legs. I’d met a chap, Brian, from Reading, during the Bramley 20 earlier in the year, and we’d been in touch and I’d agreed to pace him to around 3 hours 10.
We met up easily enough, had a quick chat and made our way to the starting pens. Edinburgh is a much smaller event than London and other major city marathons, so everything was a lot more laid back and easy – you could get into your pen a couple of minutes before the start which makes things much less stressful.
Brian and I chatted in the minutes before the start. I think he might be one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met; really genuine and super friendly, so I was really hoping we could go around together in a good time. We exchanged a hand shake as the starting hooter went off, and were over the start line in about 45 seconds.
The first few miles weaved their way through the city centre before the route headed out towards the coast and the lovely town of Portobello. At this point I was dutifully doing my job as a pacer by constantly reminding Brian to slow down. During the day, I must have said ‘there’s still a long way to go’ around 25 times, which he probably found annoying but hopefully eventually appreciated when times got tougher later on.
Unlike other marathons I’ve done, I was having an absolute whale of a time, sharing a bit of banter with watching spectators and chatting to other runners on the way round. Brian was having as good a time as I was, and we were happily joking around and cheering on the half marathon runners coming the other way (they’d started a good hour or so before us).
We hit halfway in around 1.33 – well up on our scheduled 3 hour 10 minute pace, but I was doing as much as I could to try and hold Brian back, he was just always brimming with energy! We saw the leading runners coming the other way as we followed the coast all the way to the turnaround point at mile 17.
From here, it was a long straight run back to the finish in Musselburgh. I’d seen the family on multiple times along the course, and I spotted them for a last time, letting them know all was well and dishing out a couple of high fives.
I’d already told Brian I was going to stretch the legs in the last few miles and have a little fun, so we parted around mile 23, but whenever I turned round I could see him pressing on behind me, looking strong and holding it together. I passed a fair number of people in the last 5km or so, feeling strong and just enjoying being out running in the sun (believe it or not it was actually sunny in Scotland).
I hit the finishing chute and acted like a moron as usual, high fiving the crowds and just generally grinning like an idiot. I crossed the line in 3 hours and 4 minutes exactly. Not bad for a steady training effort! 12 months ago I tried to run a similar time in London as a max effort, and only finished in 3 hours and 13 minutes, so things are definitely on the up!
Link to strava file here.
I turned and waited for Brian to emerge, and didn’t have to wait for long, as he crested the tape (there was no tape obviously, figure of speech) in 3 hours and 6 minutes, a huge personal best. I was absolutely made up for him, and although he might not admit it, he definitely got slightly emotional as we said our goodbyes at the end..
Another marathon down, and what a difference 8 years make. Back then, I was a chubby, teenage lout, with absolutely no idea what he was doing. Now I’m much slimmer, still a bit of a lout, and still with absolutely no idea what I’m really doing. But now I can run a bit faster.
I was really pleased with how quickly I recovered (in fact I was back in the swimming pool and on the bike the very next day), and as I’m writing this the following Sunday night, I’ve done two 80 mile bike rides this weekend, both followed by short runs off the bike. However, I now have the issue of not being able to move from this chair without wincing.
The action never stops, and next weekend I’ll be in Chester for a half-ironman distance triathlon. Dream.