Well, I went up north full of hope for a sub-5hr marathon, and predictably, it didn't happen. The UK is in the middle of something of a heatwave, and we all know how me and heat mix; we don't.
So, we – myself and John, a friend with personal reasons for wanting to do a marathon – travelled up to Glasgow on Friday evening. We got to the flat we were staying in late-ish and went to find food after 10pm. We had some tasty tasty pizza, then as we were wandering back to the flat, I found a Scrabble tile. Just sitting there, on the pavement. I picked it up - I'm odd like that. It was an 'N'.
Only worth 1 point.
John joked, we should keep looking because if we found enough tiles, we could have a game.
Anyway, 50 yards or so further down the road, we found another tile. An 'R'.
Cool, game on, thinks us. Sure enough, not 15 feet away, another tile, face down. It's a 'U'. Now, bear in mind a couple of things here that you did not already know: John was in two minds about doing the race. He was not fit, though something of a natural athlete; he missed London because of injury, and was pretty sure, though not certain, he was going to run/walk the marathon in Edinburgh. He was determined to do something, in memory of his son Joel who died a couple of years ago aged just 19.
It may have been a message. You decide. But wait until the end before you decide, ok?
Next day, Saturday, we did very little. Went and bought a hat to run in (turned out to be a lifesaver), watched a lot of TV, ate a lot of food.
Sunday arrives and I'm up around 4am, eating breakfast. All part of the experiment; IBS med before brekkie, then do umpteen shits, them Imodium, then IBS meds just before the race and another Imodium if I have shat again. Well, that planned pattern was what happened.
When we're at the train station in Glasgow, at 7am, we both went to the loo; I was going to walk into a cubicle and John said, oddly, "Are you going in there, are you?"
"Erm... Yes. Why?"
"Because 5 is my lucky number!"
The cubicle was no.5, so I found another, and John had his lucky shit.
So, train to Edinburgh, find the start line, worry because it's already fucking baking hot, and decide well, I can only do what's in front of me.
We find our pens to begin - I'm right at the back (probably based on two disastrous London Marathons), John a pen ahead of me despite this being his first marathon. The race begins.
Beautiful course, out of Edinburgh and following a path along the estuary. Pretty, quiet, a light breeze; could have done with it being about 15 degrees cooler, but apart from that… The course eventually doubles back on itself, after a detour through a beautiful stately home and garden, and finished in Musselburgh.
I was fine, taking it gently, doing just shy of 11 minute miles, but honestly, not giving too much of a fuck. The heat was killing me, but I didn't even think about pausing to stop until about 17 miles. I hydrated well, I even ate - and no stomach problems. Not one. The only obstacle honestly was the heat. Great course, great race, shitty day to do it. Ok, it was only about 23 degrees, but still. Too hot for me, and plenty of people with more experience out there were struggling. I spoke to one couple afterward who were aiming for 4:30 and finished in 5:15; London last year, the heat added an hour to everyone's estimated/trained for times. Edinburgh seemed to be 45 minutes.
I enjoyed the race a lot, even the bits where I had to walk. I probably walked around four miles in total, maybe a bit more; hard to tell, those later miles seem awfully long.
Didn't see John though.
Anyway, finally, got to the finish line, massive sprint finish, legs nearly gave out at the end (hamstrings just disappeared!), but fucking well did it in what, for me, were very very tough conditions.
Afterward, I got my text message from the organisers with my time on - 5:27.23. A shit PB for sure, but still a PB. And maybe I'm just going to have to realise, I just ain't quick at all. Even if I train at 10 minute miles or less, I'm not racing at that. Though on the way around, I was thinking of doing only shorter races for the next year or so, and focussing on more speed, doing some track stuff, doing things I never ever do. And seeing where that takes me. In the last 13 months I have done three half marathons and three full marathons, and I'm really pleased with that. The times weren't great, I struggled a lot, but I finished everything and I realise now, there is pride to be found in that. Lots of it.
John got his text message too. And at this point, I think we realised there was something more going on here; more than a father broken up by the loss of his son and wanting to heal a little bit of that wound with a cathartic, emotional run; there was someone else there, and he wanted us to know.