Sunday morning arrived and it was time to get ready. I felt exactly the same as I normally do on the day of a marathon – a mix of excitement and apprehension – and I was fortunate I only had a 5 minute walk to get to the start from the hotel. I had prepared everything the night before. I had my running kit and also a bag with my running kit, gels and drinks for the marathon ready to go on the baggage truck to pick up at the finish. It felt like some sort of military operation.
The half marathon was always going to be the hardest part, physically, for me as I had to run close to a PB to be finished and give me enough time to get back to Edinburgh for the start of the marathon on time. We were greeted with rain, which is much more ideal to run in than the usual heatwave for this event. We weren’t hanging around for long before the race got underway and the first few miles felt really good pace-wise. To be honest, there are large chunks of this race I don’t remember much due to the distraction of the rain, wind, focusing on getting my gel strategy right and thinking ahead about what was to come afterwards.
The course is exactly the same as the marathon and when we hit the 5/6 mile mark along Portobello promenade, I began to wonder how I would feel coming back round again a short while later. This part of the course is pretty good but the weather conditions made it more of a challenge. Before I knew it, we’d passed 10 miles and it wouldn’t be much further before we would turn and head to the finish. I still felt pretty strong and continued to pick out targets and go past them as we got ever closer to the finish. The next thing I noticed, we were passing the Race Course in Musselburgh and then we turned into Pinkies School grounds and the race to the line. After I crossed the line, I kept running to collect my medal, goody bag then straight to the baggage truck, change my vest, have a recovery drink then met Fraser to begin our journey back to Edinburgh.
I felt a bit of cramp as I climbed on the bike and this was a concern all the way back but thankfully it didn’t materialise. We seemed to be really unlucky in hitting heavy traffic then every traffic light at red all the way back. By the time we got to the end of North Bridge and getting off the bike, I was already more than 15 minutes late for the start and so grabbed my stuff and started running up Regents Road to the start line. When I say running, it was more like a sprint as marshals were already starting to dismantle everything and I managed to cross the start mats just before the guy was about to lift them.
I literally laughed my way through the first mile as I had the road to myself, got lots of cheers from all the marshals who were about to stand down and there were no other runners in sight. In fact, I had just passed the first mile marker when I caught up with the sweep bus, which traditionally goes along behind the last runner. It was at this point that I also knew I had to slow down as my Garmin told me I had run the first mile in 7:39 and I knew I wouldn’t get very far if I kept going at that pace! It’s amazing what happens when you become distracted and have to do what’s necessary to get I to the race!
The miles rolled in and my strategy to get through this was to countdown each mile. The target in my head was to go for 4hrs 30mins but I found I got through the first half in sub 4hr pace, which would’ve been incredible if I could keep that going.
I found the last 12 miles tough mentally more than physically as my body was starting to tell me to stop and walk and I largely ignored it by putting on my ipod and listening to my favourite running tunes to keep me going. I found the Macmillan cheer point at Gosford House to be a godsend and I kept plodding on. Eventually I did stop and walk for short periods and found when I started running again, I was still holding my pace from before and there were no heavy legs. When I got to 23 miles, I started to think of the remainder in terms of number of laps round the North Inch in Perth and tried to recreate the journey in my head. I got a massive boost at mile 24 when I passed the last Macmillan cheerpoint before the finish and kept running. At mile 25, I put on a song on my ipod which I knew lasted between 6 and 8mins so would get me closer to the finish and before I knew it, the entrance to the school was close and as I turned in and saw the finish line ahead of me, I dug deep and mustered a sprint with everything I had left. I was delighted to get the text through to tell me my finish time was 4hrs 26mins, which I celebrated it like it was a PB.
I am still delighted by my achievement and I’m even keen to do it all again next year! There’s obviously the thought of how I top it but at the moment, to do it again and be able to do it quicker is appealing. Everything that’s happened since then has been overwhelming from the messages on Facebook and Twitter, to people coming up to me in the street but most of all, I was stunned at the response the photo of me crossing the line after the marathon on the Edinburgh Marathon Facebook page. All of a sudden I’ve become a poster boy but also reading the comments, I’ve inspired quite a number of people who took part in the other races over the weekend. I’m surprised but also delighted to be in that position.
The key thing I’ve learned from the races and would say to anyone reading this or have been inspired by following me on the EMF page is that belief is the key to achieving everything you want. Once you get your head round completing your goal, regardless if it’s for your first 5k, 10k, Half Marathon, Marathon or to do all 4, and know how you want to feel as you approach the finish, then the body will follow and you are simply putting the pieces together to complete the jigsaw puzzle.