Jon Laing had this to report:
I was very excited to be a part of the new Scottish Half Marathon which held its inaugural run on Saturday 6th September.
The race started at Meadowmill sports centre in Tranent which proved to be a reasonable place for a well organised start. There is a large grassed area next to some fenced off hard surface playing fields where runners and families gathered before the start. The start pens were laid out in parallel on the adjacent hard surface, colour coded and well marked with large flag banners, so very easy to find.
Could have done with a few more loos. There looked to be about ten or so, which was not quite enough as the pre start queues rapidly grew enormous. Baggage handling was in the same area, and was very organised and slick, and the sports centre playing fields were very close so runners could warm up for the race. I did a couple of circuits of both playing fields then a good stretch up, which was adequate, then it was time to gather for the start.
Interestingly, the PA system was directed toward the large grassy area and was practically inaudible from the start pens, so it was hard to hear what was going on. The elites were led out to the start, and the start horn sounded. As the elites headed out, each pen was released to follow and we were off amid lots of encouragement from friends, family and other spectators, so a good start!
It was a beautiful morning, and the running was easy up the gentle hill to the main A198 which was closed for the race. The course followed the A198 to Longniddry, where it turned left down Dean Street, onto Kings Avenue, then Kings Road. The first water station was located at 3 miles on Dean Street. Pleanty supporters were out on the streets all through Longniddry which was a wee boost to the runners, then the course turned left onto Lyars Road and on down to the sea where it re-joined the A198 and headed out toward Gosford House.
It was here, in my opinion that is all started to go a little wrong. From this point on, the race followed the exact same route as the EMF which is actually quite a long, lonely and boring grind, not very inspiring at all, especially as the race is advertised as following the picturesque John Muir Way!
The turnaround was close to the main gate to Gosford House, which is where it all went properly wrong! Up to Mile 5, the mile markers were spot on with my Garmin. By Mile 6, the markers were out by .25 of a mile which suggests that the turnaround cones had been wrongly placed. This trend continued for the rest of the race, with the overall distance showing as between 13.3 and 13.5 on just about everyone’s GPS device.
At first I thought it was maybe just my watch throwing a glitch, but I checked with other runners around me and theirs all read the same. There was, of course, a mahoosive post race furore about it as many had missed a PB because of the added distance. Sadly the SHM organisers have wooden headedly stuck to the line that the course certified as a correct Half Marathon distance and 2,500 GPS devices are wrong. Runners are contending that the distance might well have been certified correct, and accepting that GPS devices can be inaccurate, but they are rarely quarter of a mile out, thus the turnaround was clearly not correctly placed on the day!
The finish was very good, well organised, lots of cheering crowds, slick medal and goodie bag distribution, plenty room to stretch down and meet relatives and supporters, and photographs and baggage services were well organised and slick.
Unfortunately the enjoyment of the race was once again marred at the end by an absolute shambles around the car parking. Some folk that I had been running with were gridlocked for 90 minutes trying to exit the Musselburgh Racecourse car parks. There did not appear to be any traffic management in place at all. Eventually, we all abandoned our cars and went for a post race lunch in Musselburgh!
In summary, the start was well organised, the course could have been more interesting, the marshalling and water station management was exemplary and the finish was well organised. Unfortunately, there was very little spectator support throughout, just one trumpet player and a drum band to encourage the runners, with a few pockets of supporters for specific charities. Apparently some runners were harangued en-route by locals who were annoyed at the road closures on a Saturday which would have done nothing to encourage them.
Sadly, the event was somewhat marred by the debacle with the distance, the attitude of the organisers post race, and by the car park fiasco.
Given that Edinburgh and the surrounding area is so beautiful, for the life of me I cannot understand this obsession with race organisers in Lothian that every race has to go out to East Lothian and finish in Musselburgh.
So…..would I recommend this race? Not really. It is pretty uninspiring, has major logistical difficulties associated with it, and is clearly organised by people who have no regard for what the runners are feeding back about the event. I certainly will not be back. There are plenty other Half Marathons that are better organised and run in nicer locations.
To take the edge off this somewhat disappointing event, I have signed up for the Great Scottish Run on 5th October. Glasgow seem to manage to put on a city centre run with no problems, which runs slap bang through the middle of the city and enjoys huge support, so looking forward to it!