Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Race Report: Edinburgh Marathon

Alternate title: Sun is shining. Mr. Marley, can you please turn the damn thing off? I’m dying here.

Sorry this race report is so long. I actually cut it down a lot. Hard to believe, huh?

About to enter the baggage and corral area

On race day I woke up to a solid gray sky and the evidence of a brief rain shower. The weather report had said the day would be cloudy with temps in the upper 60s. And I actually believed it.

The elite group started at 9:50 am. The rest of us schmucks had to wait until 10 am. While we waited, the sun started to peek through the clouds. And then we were off, the music of the kilted bagpipers receding as we headed east out of Edinburgh running by Holyrood Palace and then passing by Arthur’s Seat.

After the first mile, we entered a park area next to Arthur’s Seat. There were trees and tallish grass so lots of runners took advantage of it for a quick wee. The excitement of the start and having to wait in the corral for so long left me needing to pee again too. There wasn’t a whole lot of coverage but it didn’t matter. I ran up the incline, positioned myself behind a tree while still facing the road and did my business. I’m pretty sure I exposed my cooch to half the runners in the purple wave. God knows who was behind me, but since I didn’t hear any loud thumps from people passing out or screams of horror from people being blinded by the sight of my pasty white ass, I assume there was no one.

Just under a minute and I was back on the course. The clouds were completely gone by this point and the sun began to beat down on us. I started to get concerned.

At this point I was keeping pace with two runners—Scottish Devil girl (she wore a plaid skirt, knee-high socks, tank top and hat with devil horns) and Pink Shirt. We got passed by a soldier in full military get-up. Humbling, that.

The first water stop was just after mile 3. I grabbed a 250 ml water bottle and kept it with me until I had drunk the whole thing. It was obviously turning into a hot day so I wanted to stay as hydrated as possible.

Miles 5 to 7 were on the promenade along the Firth of Forth. I passed the solider just after mile 5. At the water stop at mile 5.5 I grabbed a bottle each of Lucozade and water. I finished them both before I hit mile 6. Scottish Devil girl and Pink shirt pulled ahead at this point and I let them. I was running slightly faster than my planned pace so it was all good.

This is the majority of the marathon course.

We were back on the streets after mile 7. A little ways on I passed a scene on the sidewalk. A runner was down and medics were performing CPR on him. I am not a religious person but I immediately made the sign of the cross and sent up a fervent prayer that he would make it. I later learned that he did not.

I hit mile 8 at my planned time, but it was here that things began to decline. The sun was oppressive. Even with the light breeze coming off the Firth of Forth, it could do nothing to stop the sun. There was no shade along the course. We were sitting running ducks.

I did what I could—I drank everything I grabbed at the water stops, ate my gummy candy every 40 minutes and kept plugging along. By this time I was keeping pace with a woman in a yellow shirt so I stuck near her and tried to take my mind off the time. I enjoyed the amazing crowds along the course—the bagpipers and blaring music, the school cheering squad, the kilted men, people giving out orange slices and gummy candy. I high fived little kids and ran through every sprinkler and hose I could to cool down. During the lulls in between towns, I would play the alphabet game with roads signs and people’s shirts. I got stuck on the letter Z for the longest time until I realized all I had to do was look for one of the Alzheimer’s charity runners.

I hit mile 12 at 1:40 over time. I knew that there was no way I could make that up, so I gave up on the sub-5 and just hoped to match my time from Florence. But that hope soon slipped away too. Yellow shirt woman pulled ahead at mile 16 which was when I had the strong urge to curl up on the side of the road and just fall sleep. It was a total slog-fest because of the unrelenting sun. The temperature was in the high 70s.

At some point my weak inner self was trying to convince me to just quit. It was too hard, too uncomfortable and my goal was shot anyway, so why bother. I almost cried I was so miserable. But then I’d see the runners laid low on the sidelines with heat exhaustion being tended to by medics and volunteers. No way was I going to wimp out and use up valuable course resources when there were people in actual need. Also I couldn’t stomach the idea of having gone through four months of training for absolutely nothing. So I kept going.

After we passed the golf course and ended up near some fields, I took advantage of one of the port-a-loos which thankfully did not have a queue. It heartened me that I was drinking enough to still need to go pee in this weather, though my mouth still felt like salty cotton.

At mile 18 we passed Gosford House, the turning point for the out and back portion of the race. I walked large portions from here on out, but I was just really glad that I wasn’t alone. Florence had had a field of some 7000 runners, but there were few around me in the last third of the race. There were at least 15,000 full marathon runners at Edinburgh, all greatly affected by the weather conditions, so I was surrounded by people at all times. I gained determination from the presence of my fellow runners and the unbelievably awesome spectators still lining the course, cheering us on.

At mile 23 I was surprised to see Scottish Devil girl and Pink Shirt again. They were walking. I passed them at my slow trot and kept going. I spotted another empty port-a-loo and made use of it. Man, my bladder was getting a workout today.

At mile 24, sign in hand, was Theresa. I was 30+ minutes over the estimated time I had given her. But there she was and I was so happy to see a familiar face. She went to hand me the food I’d given her to hold for me, but I just couldn’t handle anything solid at that point and instead asked for water. I quickly chugged it, made plans to meet her at the finish and off I went.

Mile 24 to 25 was interminable, but there was still so much encouragement from the spectators and plenty of sprinklers to make it bearable. I perked up after mile marker 25. We descended a bit of a slope and out in the distance was Musselburgh racecourse—the finish line. I ran from there on out, not stopping and not slowing down. I was just so desperate to get to the end. I passed people left and right. My lungs burned and I was hotter than hell, but the end was so close.

And then we were on the race course, in the final stretch with tons of people cheering and I crossed the finish. So exhausted, but finally done.

The Edinburgh marathon was amazing—the organization, volunteers, spectators, the course, everything. The only glitch was the unexpected weather. That and the baggage reclaim area was HELLA FAR away from the finish line. But seriously, that’s my only complaint. If any of you are looking for a destination marathon to run, Edinburgh should be high on your list. I highly recommend it. Weather permitting, of course.

As I hadn’t expected sunshine on race day, I didn’t wear sunscreen. I’m still dealing with the resulting sunburn and the lovely reactions I get from people who see it. There’s a bottle of aloe vera on my desk and, as I’ve typed this, I’ve had to stop and re-apply it about a dozen times. There’s no stopping the peeling though. Hot mess doesn’t even cover it.

I celebrated my survival of the Edinburgh marathon by climbing Arthur’s Seat the following day. But as I’ve prattled on enough now, I’ll leave that story for next time.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Happy hump day to you.


GeorgiaSnail said...

Congrats on slugging it out on what seemed to be a tough day with the sun! Great recap!

Haliku said...

Yeah! Congrats! The suffering seems worth it in hindsight no?

Jamoosh said...

Nice medal - you deserve it!

SteveQ said...

I want to say something in my usual snarky-ass way, but... a man died.

I don't think of Scotland as getting that warm (and it was 95 degrees here yesterday in arctic Minnesota - go figure); great job hanging tough out there!

JojaJogger said...

Great job finishing in difficult conditions!

Mike Antonucci said...

Think of it this way: You are now in excellent shape for the next Edinburgh Run 'n' Pee Relay.

Do you find it ironic that you are showing your cooch to strangers but hiding your face from us?

Great job!

Lily on the Road said...

I am SO.PROUD.OF.... YOU!!!!

Way to go, you are amazing....white gooch and all!!

*muah* xoxoxoxox

X-Country2 said...

Wow! You EARNED that medal! Awesome work.

Viper said...

Congrats on earning a sweet medal. Cheers!

Pam said...

Awesome job! Damn global warming...

EZEthan said...

You're a warrior!!! The pure though of running for 5+ hours through those conditions makes me sick.

Anonymous said...

Great work! Speed is irrelevant, you made it and that is Quite something.

Congratulations. Thanks for the report.

MCM Mama said...

Congrats on finishing! I'd have been in a melted heap if I'd had to run in that kind of heat! You rock!

Roisin said...

Holy crap...congratulations on finishing. Seriously, finishing = THE WIN, especially when you have terrible weather to contend with.

You're a rock star in my book. Hats off.

Nitmos said...

In an endurance event, sometimes we truly just have to endure. Great job and now I have medal envy.

Liz said...

Hi - I ran it too and can only agree with what you said about the heat. I hated that weather, and it was tough to finish. (My race report is on my blog!)

Sounds as though you ran a great race though - well done!

Ali said...

Well done, Congrats!

joyRuN said...

That is one hard-earned medal. Thank God it's pretty awesome. An ugly medal would've sucked big time ;p

Congrats on slugging it out & enduring!

Now stop peeling all over the keyboard.

Jamie said...

Congrats on getting yourself to the finish on a tough day! Great report! I hope you wore that much deserved medal proudly.

The Laminator said...

Congratulations Xenia on your marathon! You did a great job handling the sun and oppressive heat! Wow, can't believe someone died during this. Glad you finished and had no adventures with the medical tent! Awesome!

RunnuRMark said...

I really do envy the experience of your European runs, but it sounds like the temps really ruined the experience a bit. Job well done for not pussing out and finishing a long race in nasty conditions. I know that's a real bitch!