Sunday’s Edinburgh Half Marathon was supposed to be my first sub-2hr half. Should be pretty easy when the profile looks like this, right?
The biggest race I’ve ever done, the atmosphere was fantastic – kids giving high-fives from the side of the road, runners smiling as we jostled. Everybody putting so much heart into it, often for something bigger than themselves, gives me leaky eyes. Mum and I ran side by side, mostly in silence, sometimes pointing out a piece of architecture or scenery that the other was missing. The early morning sun was bright and relentless – as the route went directly Eastwards, the sun was in our face the whole of the first half. I was far too hot, but confident and happy. Our friends and their small children were waiting for us at 6 miles and their 3-year-old told us later that we “ran faster than horses” past him.
We hit 6.5 miles in 57 minutes.
Look at that teeny, weeny bump at mile 7. That was where things went wrong and continued to go wrong for me for several miles. Mentally and physically, I suddenly wasn’t in the right space. I tried to remove my ego from the equation and run like a yogi, but I was crabby and critical of myself and my leaden feet and screaming abs. I like the cycling term for crashing out - ‘bonking’ - for its Carry On film vibe, but it certainly didn’t feel funny at the time.
I’d been eating veggie jelly sweets when I was training, as the energy gels I’ve tried gave me cramps, but they were just too sticky for my dry mouth on race day. My stomach absolutely refused to have them anywhere near it – I may as well have been trying to swallow a golf ball. When I pulled up to the side of the road to (I’m sorry) retch a bit – an actual Angel patted me on the back and gave me the strength to get my feet back moving again.
And on they did move. Just slowly. My lovely mum didn’t want to stress me by running right beside me with a constant stream of “Are you okay? Perhaps if you…”, so would run slightly ahead and then hold back for me. For absolutely miles. The patience of a saint, that woman. I managed to perk up again at about 11 miles, but by then it was too late to claw back the time. I picked up the pace in the last few miles by imagining my training routes at home (“You’ve only got from the bridge til the supermarket left”) and felt hollow and relieved on the finish line. The smile on my face as I crossed the finish line says it all.
So, a PB due to the hills, but I missed out on the 2hrs (and consequently so did Mum. She would have made it without me!). Perhaps it was a bit much to expect when I came back from injury 7 weeks ago, but I had been hopeful. I still had a great day and weekend, and know that it’ll make me a stronger runner in the long run. I had my nutrition pre and post race in the bag, and was well rested and It was a 9:4 ratio of good miles to horrid, and I need to work on improving that proportion.
Great North Run is in 16 weeks and the lessons I’m taking from Edinburgh are: