“I can’t get no satisfaction // ‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try // I can’t get no, I can’t get no” – The Rolling Stones
So just over a month after the London Marathon I was at it again, this time in Edinburgh.
This was a race that I hadn’t really felt like running. London had felt, on some reflection, like the culmination, a peak of a long period of training and psychological build up. This race, entered on a whim for rather petty reasons, was the forgotten race. I really wanted nothing more than to be done with marathons for a while, and get back to the start of a long training period – I’ve signed up for Dublin in October, and the 20+ weeks of training for that with the possibility of taking a chunk off my PB was far more tempting than patching myself up and trying to do it again.
I was also a physical wreck after London. I recovered poorly, attempted a weak of hard training, and on a long run had to bail out five miles short of the twenty. I’d mentioned feeling rough in my previous race report, the first race back after London- ambitiously attempting a morning run and a race in the same day. Circuit sessions left me with a feeling that I had to categorise as shin splints, with which it was even painful in the walk-recovery. I wasn’t just not feeling like running the race. I was genuinely contemplating not running the race, pulling out under a slightly dubious classification of ‘injured’. I was well and truly physically burned out.
I recently bought Murakami’s ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’. It is a fantastic read, and as a runner there were so many things that I recognised instantly. What it really bought home to me was why we should all enjoy running more than we do. My goals as a runner are about my PB potential, but this can make me too obsessive. Recently I’ve been thinking back at the races that I’ve felt happiest after finishing, and it comes back to my first half marathon. Back then the achievement was finishing well- and that didn’t mean a time. Ever since, I’ve never been as happy after finishing a race. So far from the initial pre-London talk of “running at sub 3hr pace and holding on for dear life’ I started to feel very relaxed about the whole thing.
Actually, a bit too relaxed. On the train down from St Andrews I realised I’d only packed one running sock.
Although I was aiming to enjoy the race, I still had a strategy, but one that I didn’t mind dropping off from. I thought I might be able to run a steady race and beat the London PB (see what I mean about being obsessive, even when *relaxing*?) so set the Garmin to show me my average mile pace across the entire race, and aimed to run 7:27 miles.
The race start helped me to relax even more, when I realised one of my running coaches, former Olympian Donald MacGregor was the official race starter. His familiar tones imparting some last minute race wisdom made me laugh a bit, and gloat a bit to others around me that he was one of my running coaches. This either made the race start feel very good tempered, no pushing or hustling to get forward, or it actually was. I got off neatly, spotted my girlfriend a hundred metres or so into the race, then carried on.
A peruse of blog posts on this Edinburgh Marathon will probably give you a million different swear words accompanying synonyms of the word hot. It was a scorcher. Not a single wisp of cloud in the sky except the hint of some sea fog which hid the Prestonpans power station from a while away, but this quickly passed. I liberally rubbed water over my arms, forehead and the back of my neck. I had, like an idiot, forgotten suncream – as I write this, I have spent the day tenderly moving my arms around and screaming when touched without due care. I also learnt at mile twenty that pouring water over your head, so that it runs down the body and soaks the back of the shorts, and can lead to unfortunate and uncomfortable chafing in a certain area of the body covered by said shorts. This passed fortunately – I was not looking forward to trying to cover those final five miles like that.
I held pretty well to the pace till roughly half way – but from that point I slowly started noting the pace going up by a second every other time I glanced at my watch. The heat was getting to me more than hitting any wall- which, ironically, I don’t feel I really ever did. The heat was such that I, and many other runners, tactically aimed to run through what little shade was on offer in some parts of the route. The majority of it heads out east of Edinburgh along the course, so there wasn’t much of it. The turn offered a small diversion through a country park and the shade of trees, before turning back towards the end. I accepted the pace was going to drift, and while I continued my aim of enjoying the race, I was determined not to fall too far away from 3h20m. A happy compromise of ‘enjoy’ and ‘succeed’.
In the end I finished in 3h21m22s. But the end was far more spectacular than that. I haven’t been able to look at the Garmin stats yet, but I definitely ‘felt’ like I had a second wind and picked the pace up from the twenty-five mile marker to something more approaching my initial pace. The finish has you turning two 90 degree left turns over the final .1 of a mile. I was really enjoying the race, and after that turn, with the sight of the finish line maybe 150m away, I started sprinting. The finish had rubber matting over a grass field with banked seating on either side. I ploughed down the middle, my now traditional ‘double index finger wave/point thing’ celebration in full flow, overtaking people to the left and right. I was coming home to finish my second fastest/second slowest marathon ever, but I was having a great time.
My feelings at the end of the race? Deep, deep enjoyment. Mainly relief too – which may have been where that enjoyment came from. Relief that I can rest, gradually train again properly, building up the mileage through to Autumn with a view to improvement, and perhaps cresting the three hour mark. My right ankle definitely needs the rest – present at the start of London, unexpectedly flared up here for the first five miles, an irritant rather than a problem.
The race was also a nostalgic one. The majority of the course – from two miles in, with the turn coming five to six miles later- is the same as my first ever half marathon. It was also pretty similar weather, cloudless, though a lot cooler back on that day, if only for it being half the length so it didn’t ‘feel’ as hot. That sensation of just achieving something flooded back to me. If you aim to finish you either do or you don’t. If you aim to finish fast, you can always finish faster. All of that came back to me and being ‘happy to finish’ and realising you ran a pretty quick 3:21:22, acres away from the performance I would have been able to achieve back on that day- well that’s a pretty nice feeling.
I’m going around and collecting London Marathon sponsorship too at the moment. So don’t forget you are still able to sponsor me here.
Cheers for reading,