Hairy Haggis Marathon Relay
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The morning of Saturday 29 May 2016 5am and it is time to rise for the EMF Half Marathon. Having now been a member of ERN for just over a year, I knew that this was the event in which I would be applying everything I had learnt to date and hopefully put into practice to ensure a successful and enjoyable run.
I started off by ensuring bags were packed night before, number already on vest, well hydrated and well fuelled. I knew what kind of pace I was hoping to do per mile to ensure a magical sub 2 hour finish. I had planned on when to take gels. All boxes ticked.
My arranged meeting with Krista at Starbucks at 7.15 started the day on a comical note. Krista was inside from about 6.55 waiting for me whilst I was outside at 7 waiting for Krista. We did eventually meet and headed down to the baggage trucks, meeting Kirsty on the way before heading for our Purple Regent Road starting Pen.
I was delighted to be starting this event with Krista as, not only did she introduce me to running for which I am forever grateful, I knew she would also help rein me in from my over exuberant start which normally causes me to burn out early.
The hooter sounded and off we set. Just being part of that start as we headed towards Abbeyhill was a wonderful feeling and for the first time in any event I didn’t feel any pressure at the off. Making our way down past the parliament we were chatting away whilst maintaining a planned comfortable 9.45 min pace. After making the loop at the roundabout at Dynamic Earth we wished each other well as I moved on to my game plan and Krista to hers. Progressing through The Park, as the pavement was clear on the left I headed for that to be greeted almost immediately by Mike Newton and his trusted camera. A few clicks and cheers and next thing I know the turn for Meadowbank approaches. The turn was tight as a result of me being on the inner most side and the traffic still flowing forcing those on the right to compact towards us. I normally dislike that little hill that takes you round the back of Meadowbank but we were on it and off it almost immediately and I knew we had the wonderful drop of Lochend Road coming next.
I had pencilled in an 8.30 min mile for this stretch so had to pull back when seeing I was doing 7.50 on the watch, it felt really easy but I kept telling myself stick to the plan. Now onto Leith Links and there are small crowds scattered around, small in numbers but very vocal. I’m almost certain there was a water station here which I thought slightly odd. I’m not puffing and panting yet and we are almost now heading towards the cat and dog home. Still feeling good and sticking to plan.
As a result of Strava I have a few running friends who I had never previously known or met (have since) who indicated they would be at the foot of Bath Street, this helped me focus and give me something to maintain motivation. On arrival at Bath Street managed a fleeting high 5 before next focus point. The Simpsons. (Cue theme tune). The warmth was just beginning to creep through the clouds at this point. The sporadic cheering from the prom was past as I headed towards Andrew’s house. Would Col be up bright eyed and bushy tailed cheering everyone on? No. Oh well, it helped me get through that mile.
I knew now there would be a lull in events until reaching Levenhall. The stretch that took me past the harbour, Lorretto’s is all rather vague to be honest but I do recall hitting the bridge which had a small but steep incline and for the first time that little “This is hard” voice made an appearance. Noise is gathering however and I can hear the DJ calling out names as the music blares. I’m suddenly fixated by a 3 furlong signpost. I’m thinking of quirky things to say to amuse/bemuse my fellow runners that involves 3 furlongs. “Don’t Gary, don’t”. Next thing I’m calculating 13.1 miles into furlongs. “There are 8 furlongs in a mile so if you mul…….”. We are past the signpost, thank you.
Turning at the roundabout I look to the left towards the cheering point. Is the flag there, can I see it? Yes, it’s there. Murdo must be here, but I can’t see him he’s not on the pavement no one is! Still looking to the left I suddenly realise the guys are on the island to the right and I’m almost past them before a fleeting high 5 with Vicky before heading towards Preston Pans. It’s suddenly quiet and lonely again. It appeared to me the approach to Preston Pans was all uphill and I was looking forward to the descent after the loop. On taking the loop it then felt as though the return was all uphill too. On saying that however this stretch was not as bad as feared and I was approaching cheering point again, and I was ready. What a wonderful sight it is, when you are flagging and need that final boost to keep going, to see your fellow ERNies smiling and cheering.
Heading towards the finish I’m reluctant to look at my watch at this stage. I want to see my pace but not my time. I manage a quick glance and I’m doing 9.20 and had planned for 9.30 this stage so all is good.
I turn into the home stretch and hit the boards, it’s like running on a trampoline all of a sudden. Glancing to my left I see Marta who is being supported by a first aider, hoping everything is OK I push on to the finish. I seem to cross the line alone without bodies either side, stop the watch and delighted to see 01:59:08. Delighted.
The day was made complete by meeting fellow ERN members after the event. As well as the usual suspects in the finishing pen photos I met Matt with a smile that could lighten a room and the lovely Angela both of who were equally delighted with their performance. Thanks to all the guys and girls at the cheering point for their support and community and a special thanks to Emma for her organisational skills.
As it’s on the doorstep and 2016 was the first time I’ve not had running visitors staying for EMF weekend I figured I’d better take the plunge and signed up to EMF half. I did the 10k a couple of years ago which is somewhat humply so was looking forward to the flatter route of the half marathon.
Now the first challenge with this race is the 8am start time which requires precision packing and planning the night before, an alarm call at a time that should be illegal on a Sunday morning, and careful checking of bus timetables. My other logistical issue was the decision to run and organise the ERN cheer point. Hence, I find myself at an unearthly hour on a Sunday morning, with a bag containing half my own body weight in jelly babies and some “motivational signs” strapped to my back on a trusty Lothian Bus full of lycra clad half asleep passengers and an overwhelming odour of deep heat in the air. It also became apparent on the bus that there’s also nothing like a race with two start lines to confuse running tourists who aren’t familiar with Edinburgh!
Having been safely deposited across the road from the start line I made a beeline for the portaloos to take advantage of the short queues (if I learnt something from London marathon it’s never pass a short portaloo queue!). Then managed to find some fellow ERNies and took some stick from Andrew about the size of my backpack……which backfired when he then had to ask to put some clothing in it because his wasn’t big enough! Easy bag drop facilities in the adjacent trucks then re-join the portaloo queues which were by now somewhat longer……no sign of queues moving…..start having flash backs to London…..start doing warm up exercises in queue….still very long queue…..(anyone else getting a sense of groundhog day?)…..people starting to pee behind trees and up the embankment on Royal Terrace…..announcements being made re. start……still not even half way down the queue…..figure if you can’t beat them, join them, and head up embankment (sorry mum!)…..manage to join the back of my start pen about a minute before the gun goes off and was joined by Miguel who had the added panic of not being able to get a GPS signal. I set off with Miguel at his “warm up” pace for the first km when he was off and away and that was the last I saw of him. The pack of runners soon thins out round Abbeyhill and Holyrood Park so running conditions were quite pleasant from early on. There’s not much support around the early parts of the course (clearly most sensible people are still in bed) so it was nice to spot Mike out with his camera in Holyrood Park. Onwards towards Leith Links and Seafield and crowd support was very sporadic. I missed a km alert on my watch around Seafield so was pleasantly surprised to find we’d covered as many miles as we had when we hit the promenade and I knew the 6mile was sign was coming up as I’d spotted it the day before.
The stretch along Portobello prom wasn’t as tedious as I expected it to be and was brightened up by some mini ERN cheer points from Megan and Larry along the way. Off the prom and next landmark was Andrew’s house so I was keeping an eye out for the Simpson cheer point which was somewhat further along the road than I recalled but at least we were over half way and the road “home”! The next milestone was Musselburgh and I got a bit disorientated round the side of the racecourse and somewhat caught by surprise by Jo cheering me on from the side! The route passes the finish around 9.5miles and I may have got a bit excited as reached this part of the route and saw my friend running the other way. She’s really fast (really fast!!) and had sent me a message in the morning to say “good luck and see you out there” to which I’d replied, “you’ll probably be finished before I get there”….so seeing her coming the other way gave me a real boost and I gave her an almighty cheer for the last few strides to the finish line. After this the route is out and back, up one side of the road to around 11 miles, then round a cone and back along the other and it feels like the road goes on and on and on and on…….and on a bit more…..and all you can see in the distance is runners going in both directions…..possibly the longest 2 miles I have ever run in my life! Thankfully there were distractions along the way in the form of an early ERN cheer point from Murdo & co. and one of our parkrun pals was just before the turn around point. I also tried to distract myself looking for ERNies and other folk I knew coming the other way but failed to spot most of them and almost gave myself motion sickness in the process.
Back past the ERN cheer point and it’s the final road to the finish line, then a turn into the finish area and some strange bouncing boards they put down to protect the grass which are neither conducive to a sprint finish or staying on your feet after 13 miles!
Having struggled with my pacing at other races and gone off too fast I made more of a conscious effort at this one to not do this but fear I may have gone too far the other way as I was slightly disappointed with my time and felt I could probably have pushed myself harder. Hey ho, you live and learn from these things!
I can’t say I particularly enjoyed the route of this race but it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting! The crowd support is minimal for much of the course and if I hadn’t had fellow ERNies and other friends to look out for I think it would have been a bigger mental challenge. It’s also confirmed I will never run the EMF full marathon as another 7 miles out and back up that road would break me. As it’s local I’ll probably run it again but not next year. It’s a good club social event though and we had a great time meeting up in the finish area and providing an ERN cheer point later for the marathon runners.