I can’t quite believe that this picture was taken one year ago this weekend. This weekend sees the festival of running in Edinburgh and last year I took part in the Edinburgh Marathon as my first attempt at the distance. When I look back at everything that happened to my family last year and the things that I had taken on alongside training for the marathon I do feel a sense of pride in myself that I got to the start line and that I completed it.
After training for nearly 6 months in the cold and dark I don’t think anyone could have predicted the scorching heat that welcomed us in Scotland. I had picked Edinburgh as I thought there would be a chance of drizzle and that the temperature would have been comfortably cool. Well the Running Gods were clearly having the last laugh that day as Edinburgh turned out to be the hottest place in the country at a balmy 30 degrees. The sun bounced off the tarmac everywhere, blinding you as you walked round the city. I therefore decided that I MUST have sunglasses. Cue my husband and I walking around Edinburgh for most of the day before the marathon looking for some. Not good marathon prep!
The evening before the marathon we ate at a beautiful Italian restaurant. It was no real surprise that it was full of runners and the lady serving us said they had been really busy. Back in the hotel I made my pre race preparations: painting nails, defuzzing, arguing with myself over which shorts to wear, ironing on my name letters. I remember the Eurovision song contest being on and drifting off with Graham Norton’s commentary in the background.
I woke fairly early, probably way before 6am on the morning of the marathon and headed over to Cafe Rouge where the hotel breakfast was served. The options were really limited. There was porridge but I’d stopped eating porridge before running as it messed with my stomach. I asked for toast. The waiter looked at me with concern and made sure I was certain that was all I wanted. It was, I felt sick to the stomach with nerves and the thought of putting anything in my mouth to eat made he physically heave. The waiter must have taken pity on me though because along with toast he brought out a basket of pastries which I did nibble on under the watchful eye of my husband. I recall two women in running gear coming in and both asking for Full Breakfasts and I remember thinking how on earth can anyone eat a plate of fatty food before they run?
After breakfast and a final check in the hotel that I had everything, we walked down to the start line at the end of Princes Street. The sun was already high in the sky and you could tell it was going to be a scorcher. I checked Twitter and Liz Yelling had tweeted good luck to Edinburgh Marathon runners with words of caution which were along the lines of: it’s hot, don’t go for PB’s, in this heat run to perceived comfort. Perceived comfort, perceived comfort. These words from a marathon expert, an international athlete, lodged themselves into my brain. I think it was the best advice I ever had.
Running the marathon in that heat last year was brutal but I did as Liz Yelling said. I found a pace that felt comfortable in the heat and one that I could maintain. Before long you could tell the people that had started off maybe too quickly and had started to walk. By mile 16 the number of people walking had increased further but with no real tree cover we continued to be exposed to the beaming sun. The organisers of the marathon brought out extra water supplies but I think my favourite part of running for me had to be the people of Edinburgh and Musselburgh. They brought out their hoses and sprinklers. They handed out cups of water and jelly beans. Little kids sprayed us with super soakers (though I’m sure that was also for their own entertainment). People were generous and supportive and yet again a marathon brought out the best in both runners and supporters.
Running through the grounds of Musselburgh House at around 19 miles it got tough for me. The heat was taking it’s toll and I really had to dig deep mentally to keep my legs moving. It hadn’t helped that I had accepted a gel from a volunteer. Yes, rookie error. I learnt from my mistake the hard way by taking a gel that I was unfamiliar with. It had caffeine in it, something that I hadn’t tried during runs, and I had a massive head rush and felt dizzy and sick. Once I realised what the problem was I drank plenty of water to try and flush it through a bit. Gradually I felt a bit better and carried on with the ‘digging deep’ efforts.
By about 21 miles the course was not a pretty sight. We were starting to see more supporters again but this didn’t stop many runners dashing off to the side to vomit as the heat really started to effect people. Seeing vomit usually makes me want to vomit so I had to put my head down and blinker myself to the vomit fest around me.
The benefit of having my name on my vest soon occurred to me as I realised that the Kat everyone was shouting for was me. My whole body was screaming at me to stop but instead I decided to take the Madagascar penguin approach ‘Smile and Wave Kat, Smile and Wave’. Someone shouted that I was looking fresh. I wanted to stop and say ‘seriously, you think that helps? I don’t feel fresh, I’ve run 23 frigging miles’. It was weird little conversations with myself like this that helped to distract me from how far to go. But then something amazing seemed to happen. 23 turned to 24 and 24 turned into 25 and then 26 and a grin erupted on my face as I realised I was turning a corner into Musselburgh Primary School. And there was the finish line.
I shouted and yelped and screamed as I crossed the line and the volunteer in front of me asked me if I was ok. Seriously? I wanted a high five and a bear hug from someone, not a concerned look! It took me a few minutes to find my husband but it felt like 10 or even 15 minutes as I tried to keep moving my aching legs to find him. Then it was a quick stop in the Macmillan tent with the fantastic Physiotherapy Student volunteers and the best cup of tea I’ve had since the one I had after giving birth for the first time (I’m not joking, if you have a baby or run a marathon, those cups of tea are the best).
A hot sweaty bus ride then had to happen (boo) where husband presented me with this:
And then when we jumped off the bus at the end of Princes Street my husband dragged me into the first pub we saw by the theatre where this happened, plus some chips and a chat with a German man in is seventies who had also run some marathon. I shared my chips with him, seemed only right.
After the marathon I had some time off and I had a plan in my head about what I wanted to do in running. I had set myself some goals but as with life and sometimes our races, things don’t always go the way you want them to. A stressful year, illness and injury were the prevailing themes for the rest of the year so I still can’t quite believe I managed to train for that marathon and run it in that time on my first attempt (3.39 baby). Writing this has made me wonder if I will run another marathon. I hope I do because it seems a bit cheeky to refer to myself as a Marathoner when I’ve only done it the one time.
Good luck to everyone running in Edinburgh this weekend. It is my favourite city in the UK and it is a fantastic place to run a marathon. I also highly recommend getting everyone to give you a pre marathon bear hug to fill you with positive, good luck vibes. Enjoy it, embrace the atmosphere and smile!!