• Barry Gerhold

Edinburgh Marathon - Race Day

So race day...

We had arranged a few meeting points out on the course for Natalie to meet me, miles 1, 16 and 19.5 with the potential of seeing me just before the finish if I had slowed.

Whilst I headed towards the starting area Natalie and the girls headed towards mile marker 1. I dropped my bag of clothes at the baggage trucks and then made my way to the yellow zone where I’d be starting the race, this area for persons aiming on getting a sub 3:30. I felt pretty relaxed at this point and still had 30mins to go before the event begun. I saw some of the elites doing a light warm-up which was my plan also. Not wanting to tire my legs too much prior to the event I ran a small section back and forth a few times and then stood back into the yellow zone seeing it gradually fill. The 10 minute and 5 minute warnings went over the loud speaker and soon we were on our way.

As always in these events when you are not starting in the front 100 or so you hear the claxon go off and you are still standing still for 10-20 seconds, you then begin to walk, speeding this up gradually into a run and before long you are able to get into your stride. It is quite frustrating that you cannot set off straight away but this is always the case with the big city events.

I was clock watching an awful lot in the beginning stages ensuring that I was hitting the pacing targets, I sat in behind a few people here and there and noticed that my pace was drifting slower and slower so I had to make an effort to overtake but also stay relaxed. I felt pretty comfortable and before I knew it I was besides Arthurs Seat where mile 1 is and of course where Natalie and the girls will be watching. I made my way to the side of the road so that we could see each other and there they were shouting at the top of their voices. This helped remove any nerves that I was feeling and relax some more.

The next few miles were a bit of a blur, the elevation here being mostly descent I was able to remain comfortable with the pace still on target at 7:15-7:25 per mile. What I do remember was that it was damn hot. I had expected that it would be quite over cast which it was at times, but it was still bloody warm. The first aid station comes along after 3 miles and I was tempted to pour a bottle of water over my head. I decided not too and continued onwards.

I would find someone running at a similar pace to what I wanted to do and sit behind them for a while which was very much welcome at times, it meant I could relax a little and follow their stride and zone out a little. The problem with using someone as a “pacer” is that they are not a pacer and their pacing is not necessarily constant. I would find my pace starting to drop and I’d panic, then decide that I’d have to overtake them only to be re-overtaken by them a few minutes later. This sort of thing disrupted my concentration. This was especially the case when I had a female runner just ahead of me, my pace seemed a touch faster than hers and I decided to gradually pass her. She for some reason veered left in front of me blocking off that option, re-adjusting my position to her right I found that she then started to veer right and she was now pissing me off. She may not have been doing this intentionally but I now had to up my pace to get past her quickly to which I did.

I sat back into my rhythm and managed to keep my pace within the targets. At the aid stations at miles 6, 9 and 12 I poured a load of water over my head to keep me cool, this was imperative as the sun was now out shining away and making life tough out there.

The elevation profile for this route is mostly flat, there were some slight undulations in places but nothing significant. Miles 14 and 15 my pace had dropped off a little to 7:45 minute/miles and I put this down to these slight undulations but I was starting to suffer. I doubted whether I could maintain this pace. With the pace dropping for those two miles negative thoughts were creeping in and before long I accepted that today would not be a day for a personal best.

I knew that I would be seeing Natalie soon and hoped that this will give me a kick, but I passed the meeting place and could not see her. It was quite busy so we could have missed each other or knowing how troublesome public transport can be during these sorts of events I thought that she may have got held up somewhere.

Whether it was the negative thinking or that my legs were physically tired, during mile 16 my legs had a bit of tantrum and on a slight incline I was reduced to having to walk a little. I was feeling very tired and just wanted my legs to feel comfortable again. This walk helped the legs but did not help the mind. The veering weaving women had now passed me again as did a whole bunch of other people who I’d spent the last hour and a half overtaking.

Gradually as the miles went on more and more people were reduced to walking. I have never seen so many people walking so early on. I was glad that I was not alone and this reduced my negative thoughts a little, I was perhaps walking a quarter of every mile now and still maintaining 9 minute miles which wasn’t too bad considering and gradually the course looped back towards where Natalie was intending to see me. As she had not been there on the previous pass I guessed there she would not be there also, but to my surprise there she was waving and cheering alongside Kya and Juno which brought a smile to my face. Nat passed me a chilled lucozade sport and I now had the final 6.5 miles to get through.

I set myself a mini target of aiming for 10 minute mile or better and walking where I needed to but to try and maintain a comfortable pace. This seemed to work well. I would sit in behind someone for a bit before I decided to get a walk break, usually opting for one on the inclines so that I could save my energy. I think only one of these final miles fell outside of that target but these final miles were rather uncomfortable. I kept trying to work out what my expected finish time would be. At the start of the day I was hoping for a sub 3:15, at mile 16 I was hoping for a sub 3:20, at mile 20 a sub 3:30 was still possible, but as the miles went on I realised that this target was also out of the question.

With a mile to go the crowds become denser and denser. When the crowds are like this it is hard not to run, all you want to do is walk but the support is fantastic and you want to repay them for coming out and cheering you on, so you run, you grit your teeth and run. 2 minutes into this final mile with the crowds cheering, some people shouting out my name I was actually feeling good again. I felt a spring in my step, the stride felt strong, the heels raising high. Then ouch!! Cramp in the right hamstring, great!

This stopped my running; I hobbled along rubbing the hamstring, refusing to stop moving. I then started some sort of run whilst still holding the hamstring tightly; I imagine my stride looked rather odd. Gradually I was able to release my hand and focus on running again albeit with a slight limp.

Then 300m before the finish line just as I am about to turn the final left hand bend who do I see in the crowds; Natalie and the girls. This was a well needed lift to help me forgot the hamstring and all the other niggles that have slowly increased over the final miles. I gave them a smile, well that is what I attempted anyway and I headed towards that finish line for one of the slowest ever sprint finishes.

After crossing the line I gave myself a moment, leaning up against a railing a resting my head upon it. Here getting in a few deep breathes and feeling relieved that it was now over.

I picked up my medal, t-shirt and goodies and made my way to meet the girls and then to the baggage trucks to collect my bag of clothes with one eager chap having my bag ready for me before I even arrived. Fantastic service.

I haven’t done many big city events, but this has got to be one of the better ones that I have done. From the start line, the aid-stations, the course and the finish area. All top notch. The only downside being the transport links. Google told me that the trains were every half hour which would give Natalie the opportunity to meet me at all the arranged points, but Google lied. In fact the trains were every hour which makes life tricky for supporters to meet participants.

So although I did not achieve my goal here or get anywhere close to it I don’t feel to upset. The finish time was 3hrs 36minutes which is still good time. Analysing the data shows my heart rate gradually increasing to a high of 176 at mile 15 which indicates that I would have most likely had lactic acid build up in my calves which made running at the intended pace impossible. I will put that down to the heat and I intend to target that PB again on a cooler day.

So thank you Natalie and the girls for coming along and providing the support and also to Natalie for editing this as my grammar is crap.

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