If I had to describe the Edinburgh marathon in one word it would be HOT!
In complete contrast to the weather forecast, which promised overcast skies and light rain (which would have been perfect) it ended up being one of the hottest days of the year so far. Initially, the predictions were true. Looking out from the hotel room window on the morning I was greeted with a grey sky and the city almost rendered invisible in the mist – this continued through the start but after about 6 or 7 miles the cloud cover just simply vanished and we had the full effect of the midday sun for the remainder of the race.
On to the race itself, Edinburgh is hailed as the fastest marathon in the UK and it’s easy to see why. The first few miles weave their way from the city centre down to Meadowbank through Holyrood Park and the local roads in a gentle downhill gradient. This certainly helps to up the early pace without incurring too much fatigue and of course the crowd support during this stage is fantastic. After Meadowbank, the course levels out and heads down to the coastal road where you are taken past the finish line at Musselburgh stadium before carrying on along a pretty flat out-and-back for approximately 17 miles. It wasn’t long after mile 10 that I encountered the first of the elites coming the other way and gradually the oncoming “traffic” increased as we headed towards the turning loop. The only soul-destroyer on this route is a short spur road at mile 16 which serves no purpose other than to correct the distance – probably as a result of some other route change – but a water stop on this section would have been most welcome! The 18 mile marker was effectively the point at which we headed back down the coast road towards the finish. As we headed back down the final 8 miles the casualties of the heat became more apparent with a lot of people being treated roadside for clear cases of heat stroke (including some of the front runners!) with wet towels. The water stops seemed to be getting further apart and at one point I resorted to retrieving a half-full bottle that had been discarded by an earlier runner – yes I was that desparate!!
By mile 21 I was seriously going into meltdown myself and seeing a sub 4:00 slowly ebbing away I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and dropped into a run-walk-run pattern for the next few miles. As the 25 mile marker approached the finish boost cut in and I managed to sustain a reasonable pace all the way through to the finish line, crossing in a chip time of 4:17 in front of a Gradstand audience. Obviously, the atmosphere of such a finish is always going to get you over the line and I watched folks in clearly considerable pain conquering the last 285 yards as I filtered through the medals and goody bags queue.
Overall, it was much harder than I expected but defnitely one I would do again. Edinburgh is a fantastic friendly city and only spending a short weekend there does not do it justice.