Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Edinburgh Marathon - May 28, 2017

Expo, or Not
On Saturday morning, Emaad and I take an easy run two-mile run from our Tollcross apartment, along The Meadows and past the University of Edinburgh to packet pick-up at Dynamic Earth. The 5- and 10-K races are scheduled for the morning and we see runners finishing and preparing to start.

Packet pick-up is really only bib pick-up and only for those runners who live outside the U.K. or Europe, or for those who had not received their bibs in the post.  We get them, visit the one vendor selling race and running supplies and visit a couple of booths of the various charities who have runners in the race.

Bibs in hand, we walk back along the Royal Mile. It is the main street of the Old Town of Edinburgh and nearly every shop along it caters to tourists.

To the Start
Nelson Monument on Calton Hill
near the start and our silver corral
Since the marathon does not begin until 10 a.m. on Sunday there is no hurry to get going.  A leisurely breakfast and a five minute cab ride takes us to within a block of the marathon start area.  We hand in our drop bags so we will have a dry shirt at the finish and take our time strolling to our assigned silver corral.  From there we can see the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill to our left and Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat, the extinct volcano which overlooks Edinburgh. Temperatures are in the upper 60s with some sun, and the forecast is for mid- to upper 70s.

Emaad and I had decided to wear the same shirts, our Antelope Canyon ones from the February race, but without planning we are both wearing black shorts and black socks. We spot the Viking boat team which is starting in the same corral as we are.
Vikings! Taken at the start, but they were everywhere.
We hear the starting signal and begin walking to the start line.  Crowds line either side of Regent Road and we cross the start line about 14 and a half minutes after the gun.  In a couple of blocks we merge with the runners who had started on London Road. Or maybe we fall in behind those runners, as the faster corrals started there.
Along Queen's Drive (about mile 1)
Then it is on to Queen's Drive, with Holyrood Park on the right and views of Arthur's Seat as we pass St. Margaret's Loch with views of St. Anthony's Chapel partway up the hill.

St. Margaret's Loch with St. Anthony's Chapel
(about mile 1.5)
In less than a mile we pass Holyrood Palace on the left and the Scottish Parliament of the right. the former is the Queen's official residence and was built in the 17th century.  The latter was built in 2004 and designed by Catalan architect Enric Miralles, in a style hard to describe - perhaps free form contemporary.  Facing each other across the street, they offer a study in contrasts, and a study in the contrast between British sovereignty and Scottish devolution.

To the Beach
The first four miles are gently downhill as we make our way toward Leith, the waterfront area of Edinburgh.  About mile 5 we turn onto the Portobello Promenade, a seafront way with the beach and the Firth of Forth to the left and typical beach resort shops to the right.  We run past diners enjoying a late breakfast along the promenade.  As turns out to be the case much of the way, there are many spectators offering tubs filled with jellies.

Around mile six I remark to Emaad that my quads are sore.  He notes the same sensation, probably due to the seemingly easy downhill at the start.

From Portobello we pass the first of the three relay changeover points and cross the mostly dry - it's ebb tide- River Esk into Musselburgh. We pass the Musselburgh Race Course, which surrounds The Old Links, where golf has been played since 1672.

Crossing the River Esk (at low tide)
(about mile 8.5)
Past Musselburgh we spot a motorcycle coming toward us in the opposite lane.  Behind the cycle is a the lead runner, Julius Korir, who goes on to win the race in 2:17.

Prestongrange Museum
(about miles 11 and 24)
Then it is past the Prestongrange Industrial Heritage Museum and into Prestonpan.  We continue to enjoy views of the beach and water to our left.

We pass a bagpiper wearing a shirt of Macmillan Cancer Support, one of numerous charities, mostly medically related, with runners in the marathon.  There are far more charity-garbed runners than at races in the U.S., including for diseases that I have never heard of.  Every cancer seemingly has participants offering assistance to either fight it or provide assistance to persons afflicted by it.

Macmillan Cancer Support Bagpiper in Prestonpans
(about mile 12)
Halfway and On Plan
In Cockenzie and Port Seton we reach the halfway point in 2:22:43.  Our goal, modest as it is, is to finish in under five hours, so our half time gives us a little over 7 minutes to play with.  It isn't a huge cushion, but gives us a positive sense as we continue into the second half.

Emaad walks on the High Street in Cockenzie and Port Seton
(about mile 13.1)
Fry and Die
The day is unseasonably warm for Scotland, with temperatures climbing well into the upper 70s. We are more accustomed to it than many of the local runners, and we see more than several runners down receiving medical attention.  Both of us have Succeed! salt tablets with us and I take one every hour, as the salt helps retain water and fight dehydration, and the small amount of potassium in the tablets helps prevent muscle cramping.

Past Cockenzie the countryside turns rural, with fields and hedges to the right and fields and the Firth of Forth to the left. The road rolls a little bit in elevation, with gentle but noticeable ups- and downs. We run to the turnaround and soon pass through the gates leading to Gosford House. We pass the house at mile 18. A glance at my watch and my pace band shows we are still 7 minutes ahead of five hour pace.

Emaad asks me if my hip is bothering me. I reply in the negative and inquire why he asked.

"You're running crooked," he says.

"Like sideways?" I say and turn so my right shoulder is pointed forward and my left to the rear.

"No, you are leaning way to your left," he clarifies.

Sure enough, I then realize that I am leaning far to the left.  I was not even aware of it until he pointed it out and I make a conscious effort to straighten up.

"Ah! No problem," I quip. "Just a series of small strokes."

Entry to Gosford House Estate
(about mile 18)

Gosford House
(mile 18)

Cows on the estate of Gosford House (about mile 18.5)
We exit the estate and head back toward the finish line in Musselburgh. We are looking for the 19 mile marker and it never seems to come. Emaad's GPS says we have long since passed it, before it comes into sight more than 15 minutes after passing mile 18.  And sure enough, the marker for mile 20 comes abreast in less than 9 minutes.

Now we are beginning to labor. It takes more than 12 minutes to reach mile 21 in 3:54 but we are still six minutes to the good. Keep up a 12:30 mile pace, a fairly modest goal, and we cross the finish in under five hours.

But Emaad is gradually pulling away from me.  I try to keep up and begin leapfrogging the Vikings, whose lead boatsman? runner? is suffering from cramps in his calves. The boat pulls to the side of the course and the crew member behind him messages his calves.  Soon enough they get going again and pass me, only to repeat the exercise until it gradually pulls away from me.

By mile 23 my advantage over the pace card is down to three minutes and mile 24 pretty much wipes that out.  I push on but by the last half mile I have the thousand-yard stare and am oblivious to the cheers, "well dones," and exhortations of the spectators. I slog across the finish line in 5:05:26.

Emaad is there waiting for me.  As the Viking boat caught up to him he reached for some inner reserves and pushed hard to the finish, with his closing sprint allowing him to finish in 4:59:53.

Emaad and I at the finish. I am still leaning.
(Photo courtesy of E. Burki)
We get our medals and finisher's box, get our picture taken and head to the bag pick-up for our bags.  The friendly teen-age volunteer sees us coming and has our bags waiting for us as we arrive.  We go out to Pinkie Road and get on one of the local buses for a ride back to Edinburgh.  The double-decker bus is chock-full of runners and I feel bad for the locals on the bus as the windows do not open and the atmosphere is fetid.  The bus takes us to within four blocks of our apartment, and after a stop at the Innis & Gunn Beer Kitchen for some hydration, we get back to the apartment in time for some rest before heading out for a feast of meat at the South African Shebeen restaurant.

I finish in 5:05:26, after running out of steam at mile 23.  Overall I finish 4800 of 6126 finishers, 3384 of 4032 males and 13 of 25 in the 65-69 male AG.

Swag: bib, medal, key fob,
Box with shirt,bottle, space blanket, gels

Finishers' Award Box