Edinburgh Marathon 5/12
Let’s start form the beginning. I turned up to the start line of Edinburgh marathon on tired legs, I had run a tricky off road marathon just 2 weeks prior and I had told my self over and over again that any chance at sub4 here was unrealistic at best. It had been insanely hot in Edinburgh in the lead up, just the day before we’d been down on the beach swimming in the sea.
At the start line I was lucky enough to bump in to Steve and Mel of instagram, who I chatted to, hugged and got the insta pictures sorted. It helped to be standing there with people and distracting my mind from the questions of what was possible. They are both great runners and it’s always a joy to meet people from this community I often feel I’m an imposter in.
I have followed the rules for my running life and most of my actual life, minus that blip around age 17 (sorry mum); I’ve followed the training plans, done my stretching, built up slowly and worked on negative splits and all in all it has gotten me not very far.
We all know my heart break of Brighton just 6 weeks ago, when I had done everything ‘right’ and it had gone oh so wrong. Well today was different, I was done with being the good little runner girl and it was time to rebel. I adopted the race mantra ‘ride or die’, was quite tempted to put war paint on my face, and decided my only option was to go hard and hold on for dear life. So that’s exactly what i did. The plan was to hold on for 8:30 pace for as long as possible (8 miles), drop to 9:09 (sub4 marathon pace) for as long as possible (15 miles), drop to 9:30 if i felt near death (20 miles), Stay under 10 and hold hold hold (26.2 miles). Now if you’re a math wizard, or follow me on any kind of social media then you can work out what time that means and spoil the ‘surprise’.
Anyway back to the marathon, you start in the city and head towards Hollyrood Park where you get to run by the majesty that is Arthur’s seat. People are out cheering here but the crowd support is pretty minimal and seems to be made up of just the family and friends of the 6000 runners. None the less its a nice start to a run, it is largely downhill, making it tricky for those trying to follow the ‘rules’ and not go off to fast. As already established I was breaking the rules so flew down hills with reckless abandon. You quickly leave the city and head towards the coast which you follow for the rest of the 26.2 out and back to a town called Mussleburgh. All in all I think it’s a push that they call this the ‘Edinburgh’ Marathon.
Early on I felt really pumped, fresh and happy. At every mile mark I was looking at my watch, saying ‘ride or die’ ‘butt engage’ (a weak right glute being the source of my hip problems) and pushing on. it seemed to give me the energy i needed to feel strong. When we hit the coast at around mile 4 I was expecting crowds to pick up but it was still quite limited people. A few guys with booming Scottish accents really were making up for it though.
Now I will start this by admitting I have been totally spoilt by Brighton Marathon. The support there is insane and is what can only be described as 150,000 people participating in a who can be the best cheerer contest. I was a little surprised by the lack of support through the Edinburgh route. Now don’t get me wrong there were some great pockets of you. Shout out to the portobello beach contingent and those pockets that sprung up in the more rural locations, but for the most part the support was minimal at best. Now if you were there cheering please don’t take this the wrong way. YOU WERE AMAZING! You have no idea what a boost it gives you to have a crowd cheering you on. I just was surprised for a ‘city’ marathon how rural and lonely it got.
The day was hot and muggy, the temperature made it feel like you were wearing some sort of blanket made out of your own sweat, and at every water staton i took a bottle to throw over my head as well as having my camelbak to drink from. Nonetheless the first 10 miles felt great, I was learning about what the route might have in store, coastal views and small villages mainly, as I got in to that flow. I continued to tick off the miles with my mantra and got to the halfway point in 1:53. That meant I would have 2hours 6 minutes and 59 seconds to completely mess it up. That was a VERY real possibility being as I went out hard and fast, but I now allowed my self to believe that this was ON!
Things just got harder from here. The route takes you down some winding roads in to a really rural stretch. The route which is described as flat was now confusing me as it felt undulating as i ran down hills i knew i would have to run back up, sure no massive elevation going on but still hills. The temperature rising ‘Ride or Die’. My pace slowing ‘RIDE OR DIE’
At the turn around point (around mile 18) I was firmly on the struggle bus as my pace was slipping to 9:45’s. I changed up my mantra as i certainly felt I was leaning much more towards dying than I was riding, I stuck with the good old only THREE 30 minute parkruns to go. I was trying to trick my mind in to running faster and banking some time so I could have a nice mosey in to the finish line, but my tired legs were actually tired and I was so desperate for some support from somewhere. We found ourselves running on a gravel track through a country estate and passed a farm. Alpacas and cows were not quite the support I was looking for. It was so hot. A nice band had set up on the farm and were cheering some people on, but were taking a break from playing music in the summer sun, and i couldn’t blame them it was HOT. I was melting my pace was dropping. A little downhill on to the stretch of road I knew led me back to the finish line gave me a boost, and I settled back closer in to the 9:30 pace I knew I wanted to maintain.
TWO 30 minute park runs to go. I hadn’t really banked any time and I didn’t want to let myself think I could slip. I decided to take it on myself to gee-up the crowd so every time I ran passed a group of people I waved my arms at them or said thank you or gave them high 5’s and tried to rally everyone, it was a hot day for cheering too!
ONE 30 minute park run to go. I knew i could do it, emotion was swelling up in me like I couldn’t believe. This thing, the thing I had told myself was impossible for a whole year, this thing that broke my heart and spirit just 6 weeks earlier, this thing I thought might never ever be mine, was in my grasp. Hold tight clare i kept saying over and over again.
I saw some of my family as i came in to the 26th mile and I knew I wasn’t going to cry here, not like Brighton. This was a time for the biggest celebration I had so as I saw them I waved my arms like mad, I smiled and I swallowed all those tears and pushed whatever energy I had in to my legs to finish strong.
You can’t see the finish at Edinburgh as it is around a corner, so I was desperately checking my watch willing it to come. When I saw it I glanced down, knew what I had just done and screamed and rallied the crowd to get behind me. I was a champion, not a champion of coming first, or even top 100, but a champion of this crazy idea that I had once that I could push my self harder, be better, and stronger than I ever thought was possible.
I saw the rest of my clan right near the finish and let out the scream so they knew I had done it, yes explicit language came and i fist pumped with sheer passion, joy, shock, love, and whatever cocktail of emotion that was bubbling up
I had just run a marathon in 3 hours and 58 minutes!
I had made my impossible possible!
My little runner dreams had come true, I was insanely proud, and I needed a beer!
This was not a day designed to PB. It was a hard, hot, gruelling, imperfect day where I really wasn’t sure how my body would respond! Still on that day against the odds I had taken a staggering 13 minutes off my time. And although I knew it was time to celebrate I couldn’t help but think to myself if I can do this against all the odds, then what an earth am i capable of doing when they’re on my side…
As we walked the long walk back to the bus for the long drive back to th the city we stopped for a good hour to cheer in all those people still on the course, if I needed the support 3 hours in they sure did at 5+ hours! It was the perfect way to give back to Edinburgh in the wake of what it had just given me.
Something I rarely ever do is stop to look at me and what I have done, I shrug off compliments with good old British politeness and ignore my own achievements. So here goes, this has been my dream for 409 days and 2000+ training miles. I never ever allowed myself to believe that I was capable, I often thought I wasn’t good enough, fit enough, strong enough to make this thing happen. I watched as others ticked off their achievements please and happy for them but only cementing that I wasn’t making the grade, my own grade. This year I have hit my 5K goal (sub23), my 10k goal (sub 50), my Half goal (sub 1:50), my marathon goal (sub4). That is a crazy achievement to accomplish at any time, but whilst running a marathon a month and having a lot of troubles in my non-running life it is awesome, and something I am so so proud of because I made it happen. Thank you to my friends and family for your endless support and understanding in my absence, social media for bringing me together with an incredible community of supportive lovely inspiring folks, and to myself for fighting hard and never giving up even when that has seemed like the most logical thing to do.
Go get your dreams.
I did it!
#clareruns12in12 Marathon #5 charity
I had another charity in mind for this but recent events means that my money could honestly go nowhere else. Running is the thing I love most, it is my freedom, my identity, my everything. The thought of doing the thing I love most with the people I love most and having that taken away from me is horrifying.
What happened in Manchester is heartbreaking and the response so far is staggering. Money will never and could never replace lives or memories of loved ones, but in some small way maybe it can help show how incredible humanity is, and act as a reminder that small pockets of terrible terrible individuals will never ever change how much we rally, how much we will always love and care and support each other. Manchester this race money is for you and could never ever ever have gone anywhere else.
This is not a time to be divided.
You can donate here