I ran the Edinburgh marathon last week! That’s probably the best thing I can actually say about it! Hooray!
Edinburgh is a great city to run in, particularly the centre. It’s ancient, and twisty, and there are brilliant things to look at and run past, and lots of overenthusiastic cheering people even if they are mostly English (even the ones in kilts, which when you’re English is really just a kind of covert crossdressing). I know all of this because I did the ten mile Great Edinburgh Run a couple of months ago.
I would not have known it at all if I’d only run the Edinburgh marathon.
It teases you to begin with. You head to the city centre, the top of Princes Street, and take in a majestic rooftop view of the warrens that the city offers, with the castle towering over all. Look, it says. Look at how brilliant Edinburgh is! Don’t you want to run in it? Don’t you just? Isn’t this worth travelling for? Aren’t you glad you came?
“YES”, you might well shout if you’re the type to get caught up in the whispered goadings of the imaginary voices in your own head that happen to sound just like me.
Well you can’t, those voices would then insist. Turn around. Run away from it, in the opposite direction, along drab and exposed coastal roads and the grey waters of the North Sea, for twenty-six miles. Places that you never yearned to spend time in await! Portobello, and Musselburgh, and Longniddry, and Musselburgh all over again because nobody can fully appreciate its desolate horror until they have reached the pinnacle of weeping exhaustion and collapsed in it.
What’s missing from the Edinburgh marathon, basically, is enough Edinburgh to properly warrant the name. Nobody would turn up for the Musselburgh marathon though*, so I can see how the organisers have found themselves in a bit of a pickle. If anything, it’s their lack of ambition that most frustrates me. If they’re going to call the marathon something it actually isn’t then the world is literally their oyster**. They could call it the Trans-Siberian Moonrun Marathon, for example. I’d turn up for that even more than I would the Edinburgh Marathon, and the crushing disappointment would be the same so there’s little to be lost.
As for the run itself, it was a mixed affair. My long training runs never got beyond seventeen miles, so it wasn’t really a surprise to find that on mile eighteen I started to struggle. At the same time, we switched from running away from Musselburgh (advisable) to running back towards Musselburgh having believed myself free of the wretched place. Dispiriting in itself, but then storm winds blew in off the North Sea to really nail home the misery. It felt like running on the spot, or wading through treacle, or other similes contrived to give the impression of putting a lot of work into not going very fast at all, at the very point in the race when you’re all but dead on your feet anyway.
The last eight miles were not a great deal of fun.
Sure, I’m sort of smiling there, but only because I can see the finish line and Musselburgh is keeping the wind off us.
I crossed the line in 4:49, at least fifteen minutes slower than I secretly hoped. Probably what I deserved though. With a lot of running medium distances you can sort of bluff a half-marathon, or a ten mile city run. Not a full marathon though. The only way to be good at running a long way is to practise running a long way. Lesson learned. Again. Don’t play poker with marathons.
Having finished the race, exhausted but relieved, I looked around for the pre-booked shuttle buses back into Edinburgh. I hobbled about clasping my ticket, but nobody knew where they might be. When I found buses just outside the finish zone, they were public transport buses rather than the pre-paid marathon ones. Somebody pointed at a sign. I shuffled in the direction.
For a couple of miles.
Out of Musselburgh to the neighbouring village of Wallyford.
Which is where the organisers had arranged the easy-option shuttle buses to leave from.
A two mile uphill walk is the exact thing that you do not want to do when you’ve just run a marathon. It’s the exact sort of thing that might lead a man to pass out.
Which is what I did. I didn’t get on the bus in the end, because it was parked right next to Wallyford train station, and the train would take ten minutes next to the bus’s promised fifty. A lot of people had the same idea. We all crammed on. The train pulled out. Blood rushed from my head, and I wondered whether I was going to be sick.
Then I was waking up on the floor, having had a very disorientating (and presumably fairly swift) dream. Fortunately I was surrounded by other runners, so bottles of water and jelly babies were thrust at me from all angles. On the off chance that one of those runners was you, thanks so much! I was fine a few minutes later. Fluids and top-up fuel were exactly what I needed.
So that was the Edinburgh marathon. I enjoyed little bits of it, and I’m glad I can say I’ve finished it once. I don’t think I’ll be going back though, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody as their first (or only) marathon experience. It’s my least favourite of the five ‘proper’ races I’ve done so far, partly due to some organisational oversights (two freaking miles after running a marathon!), and partly because of the not particularly inspiring route.
Next up, Fort William at the end of July. That’s right, Edinburgh was just my warm-up marathon, see? Yeah. Even my marathons have marathons…
*Oh all right, none of these places are bad in themselves, and the dwellers came out in full force to cheer runners on, which was genuinely fantastic. Given that the race organisers had done little to provide any entertainment around the route, happy dwellers bringing their own music (incidentals from Rocky being particularly popular) were an absolutely awesome thing to happen. I liked the little places, and liked their dwellers more, and they were the happy bits of an otherwise grim sort of a race.
**It isn’t. For the world to literally be their oyster then it would literally have to be a literal oyster. Which they literally owned. Literally because of literally.