Friday, June 22, 2012

Edinburgh Marathon

The Mario Recap, Marathon #34:

My post-race tweet says it all:

Mario Recap?!  I refuse to take a photo with this medal.  May I remind you I was locked in Bunny Prison while you were off on vacation!  Bunny Camp my butt!

The Full Recap, Marathon #34:

Backstory:  A long time ago Boyfriend and I decided we'd run the Edinburgh Marathon.  For years I've been trying to get back to Scotland for this race and it finally panned out for 2012.  I threw out the idea to him that we could run the race together.  We've run the Rome Marathon and the Texas Marathon at the same time, but we never ran at the same pace. Boyfriend had a bit of a lackluster training cycle.  Let's just say he would often run only once a week.  Granted, he made that one run his long run, but you can see where this is going.

The Edinburgh Marathon has a peculiar arrangement where the half marathon starts two hours before the full marathon.  I'm not sure what possesses an organization to decide to make the people who are going to be out there longer brave the high temperature of the day, but it is what it is.  But with a start time of 10 am, we actually had the latest wake-up time on race day during our vacation.  In fact, I'd say that marathon day was the most relaxing day of the entire vacation.

I had booked a hotel that was within walking distance of the race which worked out really nicely.  We headed out as late as possible and took our spots at the very back of our corral.  There were two different starting lines for the race.  We were in the very back of the faster start.  We probably deserved to be somewhere in the middle of the slower start but I had read they were going to be strict about what corral you were in (they weren't) so we went with what was on our bibs.

Before I go into the race recap, I just want to say that the Edinburgh Marathon should probably be called the Musselburgh Marathon or the Portobello Marathon.  For all my local friends, the race is the equivalent of starting on the Great Highway, running through Daly City to Pacifica, turning people around, ending the race in Daly City and then calling it the San Francisco Marathon.  But I knew this going in so I'm not here to complain about all of that.  The race is not a sightseeing adventure of all the great Edinburgh sites.  If it were, it would be hilly as heck and they like to tout themselves as a fast course (which it is).  So there is that to consider.

I ran 18 miles the day before we flew out to Scotland since I knew the chances of me running much during the week we were on vacation was pretty close to zero.  I had said I wanted to try to get two 3 milers in while we were in Scotland, but for various reasons that plan never came to fruition.  So toeing the start line came with a full 8 days of no running, but lots of stone stairs and walking to tire out the legs.

The one tourist site on the course -- Holyrood Palace

I wasn't really feeling in much of a running mood this day.  I would have much preferred to be out and about in Edinburgh being a tourist. I let Boyfriend set the pace since his eventual combustion was looming in the future.  The second start caught up to us fairly quickly and I felt like we got run over by a freight train.  Hoards of people were passing us. 

One thing I've noticed in European races is that the aid stations (here, called thirst stations) tend to be farther apart.  The first aid station came at about the 3 mile mark.  It was a fairly warm day by Edinburgh standards and after getting swept downstream by the unrelenting pack of runners I was looking forward to a walk break while drinking some water.  Well guess what?  NO ONE WALKS AT AID STATIONS!  I grabbed a bottle of water and had no room to stop to enjoy the darn thing.  I had to move over to the side well after the aid station in order to grab a little walk break.

Part of the reason might be because they hand out water in actual bottles which makes running and drinking quite easy.  I think I like this.  It makes taking the water with you an option and since they are mini bottles it is not a total waste.  It is a bit of a hazard, though, with all those plastic containers getting kicked around.

After leaving Edinburgh we ran through a nice coastal town.  Two other observations:  1) This race was a lot larger than I thought it would be.  I totally expected it to be a smallish race with a few thousand runners but it felt much larger than that.  2)  The crowd support was incredible.  Granted, it was a gorgeous day but there were so many people out all along the course and they were awesome.

I miraculously spotted some friends who came out to cheer at mile 8.  My big regret from the race is not pulling over to properly say hello.  We were on the opposite side of the sea of runners and not close by when I realized they were there.  We saw them later that night, but for all the effort they made to see us on course, I wish I had pulled a salmon swimming upstream to see them.

The race has an out-and-back configuration, leaders coming home.

I hardly took any photos the first half of the race.  It was relatively crowded and we were just getting reamed by passing runners.  I felt that I had to concentrate on moving versus fiddling with my camera.  As Boyfriend slowed, my picture taking increased.

It was a gorgeous day.  Sunny and warm.  A couple of weeks before our trip the weather in Scotland was in the 30's and raining. I was told it snowed the day before we arrived.  The entire week of our trip there were blue skies and warmish temperatures that made being outside and driving long distances utterly enjoyable.  This is not the type of weather I like for marathons.  That said, I preferred the weather for the week of sightseeing and endured it for the marathon versus perfect running weather that would have made for a miserable trip the rest of the time.

It felt as hot as it looks.
We crossed the half point in 2:15.  We had somewhat agreed beforehand that it would be nice to come in under 4:30.  Time was never a pressing issue, but I knew that scenario was out the window at that point.  Somewhere on the back road out and back I started to feel stronger.  I had something in me to pick up the pace, and I felt like I had finally hit my groove.  I started to pass people for the first time.  Concurrently, Boyfriend started to slow down.  So my second wind was quite short-lived.

A little shade at the turnaround area.

Some brief off-road action

I saw quite a few casualties of what I assume was the heat.  At one point we passed two men who were lying on the ground vomiting, another guy getting taken away on a stretcher, and another man lying on the side of the road getting an IV.  Boyfriend reported that the heat was getting to him but at our slow-to-me pace it wasn't bothering me too much.  I will admit I take finishing marathons for granted, having done so many of them.  It is a long way to go and you are never guaranteed to get there.  It is good to be reminded of this every now and then.

The next set of photos is more of an inside joke -- as we were driving around the country, they'd have these signs which would count down whenever you entered a town and the speed limit would change.  Whenever we'd pass them, I'd yell, "3, 2, 1, Welcome to TOWN X, Please drive carefully!"  Let me just add that running past the signs versus driving makes the countdown go by very slowly.




Welcome to Seton Sands!  Please drive carefully! (the signs closer to Edinburgh did not always have the nice "Welcome" but up north the signs were all very cheery)

The crowd support was phenomenal for a race that winded through mainly smaller towns.
In case you were wondering, the Scottish equivalent of "Good job!"  is "Well done!"  And they yell, "You're doing brilliantly!" in place of "You're doing awesome!"

Boyfriend was really slowing down once we got into the 20's.  I was running at my slow gear and I'd be constantly turning around to make sure I hadn't lost him.  I started running ahead and would stop to wait for him to catch up or walk for a bit while he caught up to me.  A couple of times I'd even push the pace a teensy bit for a tenth of a mile or so to let my legs churn at normal speed for a bit.  People must have thought I was an idiot as I "sprinted" past them then stopped to walk moments later.

The one liberating thing about running with someone else who is the speed-limiting factor is that there is absolutely nothing to worry about.  Tangents?  Who cares!  I could run circles and still have the same eventual finish time.  Weave for some food.  Weave to grab a walk.  Backtrack for photos.  Utterly freeing.

A very popular hand held is pictured above. I got a closer look at it later.

When you are still 4+ miles from the finish, moving like this is a little disheartening.  I had occasional moments where I was annoyed he had been so cavalier about training and now I had to trudge in the last 10K.  It would be one thing if he had a bad day and I stuck it out with him, but he just plain hadn't prepared.  I didn't let myself linger on this too long.  I spent more time feeling bad he was feeling so terrible.

Spectators were really a great support. People were turning on the hoses at their homes to spray down hot runners.  Lots of people were handing out candy.  We took some Jelly Babies from people at one point and Boyfriend thought they were so awesome, we hunted some down and brought home three packages.

The finish chute.  Thank you! for putting down mats over the grass. I hate grass finishes because of my wonky ankle.
Boyfriend had a pretty good kick at the end and we ran in strong to the finish.  We grabbed hands and crossed together in 4:48 per my Garmin.  I have actually not looked up our official finishing times yet, but my dad emailed me that night and asked if we had held hands as we crossed the line.  I thought maybe he had seen a finish photo and wanted to verify it was us -- turns out our times were exactly the same so he assumed we had held hands over the finish.  I haven't checked if this is true, but coolio if it is.

In the end, I'm pretty proud of the way Boyfriend held up.  He did take walk breaks but he kept running the vast majority of the time.  If I were running one day a week I would have been in a much sadder state at the end.  And let's be real, I've actually trained for marathons and come in much slower than 4:48.  So yes, he deserved it, but he was also a trooper.

Found the bottle EVERYONE here has.  It didn't have a pop up top but instead one of those flip tops you think of on sunscreen bottles.  The US is definitely a bit ahead as far as running gadgets go.
We spent some time talking to a local running store owner who had a tent set up.  She was admiring our iFitness belts and mentioned they had been sent some samples which sold quickly. I told her they were amazing and that they should definitely carry them.  So you can thank the soon-to-be explosion of iFitness in the UK on Boyfriend and I.  Ha ha.

Boyfriend and I had exactly £5 to spend on food at the finish.  The night before we had spent most of our remaining cash on a cab ride that we thought we could pay with a credit card.  At first we were going to halve a burger, but then I saw a haggis roll for £2.50.  So Boyfriend sacrificed and only got some chips (french fries for you Americans, I didn't make him suffer with just a bag of chips) for the remainder of the money so I could enjoy some haggis at the end of the marathon.  I love haggis.  Seriously and truly.

Best post marathon snack, E.V.E.R.
Because the marathon ends in a different town from where it started (even with the long out and back) they have to bus you back to Edinburgh.  The buses were very far away from the finish.  It was a long uphill walk which is probably good for keeping you moving, but not exactly something you look forward to.

Walking to the shuttle busses.

It is tricky for me to say whether or not I would recommend this race.  If you live in the UK.  YES!  It is a fairly fast course.  There are some gradual inclines but nothing terrible.  The weather has been pretty warm for this race the last few years, but on a cool day it would be a great one to race.  Aid stations are well-manned and the crowd support was surprisingly great.  As a destination race -- this is tricky for me to answer.  It not a great way to see the city of Edinburgh.  In fact, you are barely in Edinburgh for any part of the race.  The areas it runs through are not tourist-scenic.  But that said, I love Edinburgh and Scotland in general and if you can use this as an excuse to visit the country, do it!  Just go in knowing what you're getting into and you won't be disappointed.  There is a RnR Edinburgh Half which is more tourist-scenic in April so that is always an option.

The swag was a little disappointing.  Unisex shirts which of course, don't fit.  I did buy a shirt in the finish area, but is was also sort of sad not having the actual word, "Marathon" written on it anywhere.  Oh, well.

Over-priced, under-worded gender specific shirt I bought.

Ofiicial shirt -- I haven't even bothered to take mine out of the plastic wrap.  Boyfriend was wearing his the day after the marathon.  Again, if I was a medium sized man I would never have to buy running clothes again.

It was special to run with Boyfriend the entire time and he called it our engagement race.  I'm not entirely sure we'll be planning to do this again anytime soon, but I'm glad we did.

The three cities I've lived in long-term besides my Hawaii hometown in my adult life.
Finally finished a marathon of each name, too.


Jade said...

Yay for being supportive of your sweetie! Yay for finishing together!
Hugs to Mario for posing with the medal despite the suffering he obviously went through.

(bunny butt o'snub to haggis, though--seriously, that is just ewww...:) )

Crafty Green Poet said...

Well done! You got the best of the weather - this year it has been cold and wet most of the spring here in Edinburgh.

I've never eaten real haggis, as i was veggie before i moved to Scotland, but veggie haggis is delicious!

Rabbits' Guy said...

It was almost like being there! That was a good time still, and a great training ...

naomi said...

I'm always fascinated to read about international marathons. As always, great recap! I loved that you and E ran it together! I would love to read a race recap from his perspective!

Swigger said...

Sorry new to your marathon blog. Supper impressed with all the travel and races. Saw an old post on the humboldt marathon. I live in SoCal and wanted to ask about accommodations you used for the trip. I can stay in San Fran no problem, but canyou offer a little advice on the travel a bit if you can and willing to help a fellow runner ( this will be my fifth race) Thanks my email is