Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Edinburgh Marathon 2014

25/05/14, Bad Omens, Good Run, Dodgy Results.

The week up to the marathon was full of gothic omens and did not bode well. Firstly the weather forecast looked pretty poor around Tuesday, but, I thought, plenty of time for it to change. And change it did: getting worse daily with stronger winds in wronger directions and by the time I was doing a last minute 5miler with Mary on Saturday round the lagoons at Musselburgh the lowering skies and howling gale made me think I would be lucky to break 3hrs.

And let's put the cards on the table here. I was not running a marathon to raise money for a worthy cause, or enjoy the massed crowds or scenery. I was running it because I am in a reasonable state of fitness and thought I might carve a new pb next to my Power of Ten marathon time. (Many thanks to Angus F for donating his unused place in time to transfer it to my name back in March.) I was not looking forward to it at all because I know what it involves and it is neither pretty nor painless. My pb stood at 2.57.01 from 2005 and I haven't really chased it since. I have done a couple of road marathons but haven't gone out of my way to target a fast one, get fit, then run the time I felt I had in me.

Some time ago, when fielding emails on the PRC website an overseas visitor asked if the 7 Hills Race was possible to run without local knowledge. I replied yes and that if they could run a 2.52 marathon they could run alongside myself (and if not, find someone from Porty of a suitable speed and get round that way.) (BTW they did (find someone slower) and it worked out fine.) However Ben and Richard, when I mentioned this, laughed and pointed out that I hadn't actually run 2.52 myself. Indeed no, I hadn't got round to running one at that pace but I felt I would be running the 7 Hills course at the speed of a 2.52 marathoner. However as one gets older there are perhaps fewer opportunities to realise one's potential and less inclination to put oneself through the cheese grater of the marathon again, before dying a 2.57er.

Strange thing is I run better at ultras and half marathons and even 20 milers but marathons seem to be my worst distance. A horrible combination of faster than 7 minute miling but for about 6 miles more than I can happily sustain. And I'd rather be galloping over a grassy hill. Or a dirt trail, carrying a camera. I need distractions.

Then yesterday on the way to Musselburgh a squirrel ran under the car while we were driving down Easter Rd. Not Mary's fault and nothing she could have done but another black moment and bad omen on a day when I wasn't full of good cheer anyway.

my mum

And another plague at my mum's house. Flies this time. She had a fly festival a year or 2 back – Cluster Flies that had a kibbutz in the neighbours attic. This time it was the more traditional Blue Bottle types. Before Easter she had heard “scuttling” in her attic and seen rats in the garden eating the bird food. As a slightly avant garde Easter gift I gave chocolates and rat poison. Reluctantly I put the poison under the shed and in the attic. It disappeared and I put down more. This second lot didn't so I assumed the problem had either moved on or shuffled off. Alas I suspect a corpse has lain between cavities and become host to a fluther of bluebottles which emerged seeking daylight, end of last week. By now Mary was suggesting an Exorcist rather than pest control. Since my mum is under the impression I mostly do running and don't bother with a job to fill up my day she was on the phone pronto and I went along to inspect the bucket of flies she had thoughtfully put aside for me to see.

fly tipping

And all of this while I should have been tapering – balancing my chi and getting loads of sleep – never underestimate the power of a good night's sleep for a few days before a big race. And just as well I did that run around Mussy with Mary as the shoes I would be running the marathon in hadn't been worn since I last took them out in torrential rain and they had shrunk quite a bit. 5 miles and they were back to wearable. I hadn't done enough miles to break in the new tarmac Hokas – so it was trail Hokas I would be wearing. I have worn most of the nubbins off so they are practically road shoes. Nice and comfy though for the cambered roads from Port Seton to Gosford and back. You get to a certain age and comfort IS speed.

I had been having anxiety dreams towards the end of the week but last night I slept fab and as pleasant dreams faded into rainy reality, and I felt settled about the potential horrors of the run today. I jogged up the road to the start and saw a few Porties and friends as I warmed up. A slight drizzle lifted and it was just warm enough to run without a t-shirt under the club vest. I did wear an old pair of gloves which I intended to jettison once warm, but actually kept on till mile 15. We were supposed to start at 9.50 but it was after 9.57 before the gun went. I was stood beside David L who went off with his customary zeal and Martin D who is the master of even pacing and probably held back. I kept checking the Garmin to keep my pace somewhere between 6 and 7 minute miling. I hit 5 miles in 31.50ish which was a little fast due to the downhills. I was aiming to repeat the E2NB performance – <64mins for 10, 2.08 for 20. But still have a 10k left in my legs. (Quite from where this would come was anyone's guess.)

photo Craig

I got in with a good group of steady runners who were hiding behind a dude that looked like he knew what he was doing. Sometimes I would run ahead and then they would overhaul me and I would duck in behind for some respite from the wind which was a serious issue from Seafield to the turn beyond Gosford. Mile 9 was the first dent in my bucket. I had a gel and planned to have another at 13. Every few miles the contractions would get worse but things were still largely manageable and I'd duck in behind my new running pals when I hit a low. Not everyone was taking their turn leading into the wind.

McLovin it
photo Bob M

Around 14, I moved over to the left. Mary had kindly agreed to hand me a bottle of (Tesco's finest) caffeine drink around mile 15. She got the overcrowded train to Longniddry and ran the mile down to the route. I had asked if she could find a crowd-free spot where I would see her from a distance. She would take photos and hand me a small bottle. I took off the gloves and decided to drop them 10 yards before. Not throw them at her or do anything to mess up the baton change. There were a million ways to fuck this up and only a handful to do it right. I dropped the gloves, she stopped taking photos and held the bottle by the top and I took it first time, no slowing down, no drop-kicking it into the long grass. Thank you Mary! Quality support. She stayed to take more photos and caught us again, after we went up to the turn and back through Gosford House grounds.

Robert who ran 2.38 (hence lack of company)
photo Mary

photo Mary

At the turn I saw David L which was sad as it implied a certain amount of crash and burn. I caught up with him as we trundled through the grounds and there was nothing to say other than his name. He managed a quite impressive rally and finished more strongly than I thought he might. Once out the grounds and back onto the road I got a great load of cheers from the runners coming in the other direction. Some of my group had gone ahead and some flagged behind. The main man (Simon) fell behind and may well have stayed there, possibly, having “carried” a number of folk along behind. (Just checked and he ran 2.56).

Simon in the cap really led this group to the turn. But it may have taken it's toll.
photo Mary

photo Brian D
I thought the smaller, slightly rotund chap at the front here would never last. However this 47 year old Spanish dude running his first proper marathon held firm and finished a place or 2 ahead of me.

I was certainly feeling the all-over-aches most miles. The drink was a good pick-me-up and I forced down the last caffeine gel around 20 miles. It seemed a very long way still to go but seeing my time at 20 miles (2.08) gave me a huge boost. Even into all that wind I had run pretty much the same time as E2NB with it's tailwind. The first few downhill miles obviously help. It was the first indication I might be on for a good result. It was also a surprise, as my Garmin had ceased to function a while back. Before mile 15 it started to bleep continuously and had some small writing on the screen. I pushed stop and start but to no avail and I couldn't read the writing without stopping. Much later I read some guff about the memory being full and data needed to be transferred or deleted before more could be stored. Oh great timing Mr Garmin – you're fired.

Roly ran to the finish - then ran 4 miles home. Proper day out!
photo Mary

Still, the miles seemed to be going past pretty quickly and I visualised the remainder of the course and how really it was just along past the power-station (hello Alan Aitch! hello Jimbo!) then out the other side of the Pans and into Musselburgh. I started shouting to encourage the fallen troops who were burst and walking. “On your feet soldier and get running” “not far now, dig deep,” however I was really cajoling myself and practising the Graham Henry ruse of shouting like a mental which generally does more for the shouter than the shoutee. Go on, try it sometime. Cover the childrens' ears and swear at top volume. Works a treat.

Mary, who took these 2 photos, would like to point out the subliminal P.

beginning to hurt. 

And then, on the broad road before Musselburgh, Tony Stapley is out jumping about in the middle of the road shouting “GO ON MY SON!” and my hair is standing on end. I start the sprint for the line a mile out. I am overtaking folk as we cruise into Musselburgh and Tom the Brown Bomber is still at his garden gate and I am on fire. 

Coming into Musselburgh around 25miles and still off the ground
photo Craig

Only there is a most of a mile of Musselburgh before the finish. I don't look at my watch and after running the gauntlet of crowd-lined streets we turn onto the undulating mats and I eventually see the official clock and it says 2.50 is that 2.58? no that IS 2.50 and a long finishing straight – 6 minute miling to keep the seconds from tipping into the next minute and... it's done. The text from EMF already on it's way reading “2.50.49”. RESULT.

So mission accomplished: four weekends in May and four races run. No broken bones, a marathon pb, a course pb at E2NB, 2 x m50 prizes, plus an outright win and course record. And I never need to run another marathon. Unless it is to chase <2.50. Right now though my only plans are to fill the summer with fun races of hills, beaches, grass and trails.

10k – 39:51
half – 1:24:19 (this is my closest between two halfs of a marathon: diff = 2m11s)
30k – 2:00:08 (3 x 40minute 10ks)

Post script.
Already there are rumbles and grumbles. Edinburgh halfs and marathons have long been mired in controversy and almost seem anxious to limp from shamble to shamble, often about water, baggage buses and the like, though you wouldn't think it, given how professional the entry fee is. A brief glance at their website would suggest next year's early bird price is £50 though I left it quickly while I still had some change in my pockets. This year they seemed to do pretty well and avoid the obvious pit-falls, although the goody bag was shameful and I believe the t-shirt might be best to hand wash! However AGF reported that massive clean-up operations had removed all 13 trillion plastic water bottles. Hopefully they have found an ecologically sound way to bury them at sea. However the big shitstir they are contriving this year is to NOT publish the results. You will be told your result if you log in to their website but other than the top few, you will not be able to see everyone else's results.

Why? Someone suggested cost cutting. That wouldn't surprise me. I'm pretty sure they won't get away with it though as nobody in the world has ever had a race and not published the results online since the beginnings of the modern world*. It's unthinkable. Apart from the interest of seeing how one's fellow competitors fared, there is the question of how to get one's brand new marathon time on the Power of Ten page. Or apply for a good-for-age place at that other capital town road-run thing down south. This is what happens if you put money launderers and marketeers in charge of an event. (Even HBT will publish results after an event!) You can already sign up for some “comedy and carbs” at next year's jamboree but you can't find out just how long it took Scott Balfour to gambol over the line.

photo Mary

Well actually you can. (3.25 and well done sir!) If you go to where they are trying to sell you photos (at the price of a small camera) of you looking like shit when you thought you looked like Mo Farah they will tell you what time you crossed the line. Put in another name or bib number and they will tell you their time and show you some more ghastly pics. So don't let EMF tell you it's about data protection. In fact visit their facebook page and ask them lots of questions about why they are bodging the results, (because they are keen on feedback judging from the excruciating questionnaire I waded through,) and I think if we can fill their entire page with feedback like this they will, eventually, come to their senses. As one runner put it, if they don't publish results they are in danger of rebranding the event a fun run. And as everyone who rubbed up against the marathon cheese grater knows, it's not about fun.

*Here is an article to suggest it's not the first time results have been withheld. And looking at the Bournemouth headline it caused plenty of consternation then as well. Despite this, the organisers have gone ahead and implemented the same strategy. What does this say about the organisers? One of the comments suggests that it is a method of manipulating the figures for marketing purposes. Also they appear to be breaking the IAAF rules about publishing results, and being an IAAF Bronze Event they em... shouldn't. But it does encourage me to stay away from events organised by accountants in favour of events organised by runners and running clubs.

The friends lining the route and cheering us on was a real boost, especially in the second half. Thanks to everyone who came out and cheered and especially to Mary for excellent work as support crew and photos!
photo Mary

Results in due course???