Edinburgh and our Half Marathon!

I can’t believe it, but we did it! After about 200 miles in training a piece and cross-training sessions, Jack and I are now Half Marathoners. I can honestly say that distance has always been too daunting to me to even entertain adding to a bucket list. I’ve been running for a few years after the right person said the right thing about breathing tempo. I found ways to incrementally change my stamina with the right mixes, the right stretching goals, the right commitments and slowly went from continuous jogs to 30 minutes without stopping to 40 minutes without stopping to 10Ks. Then about a year after starting, I aimed to run a 10K race every month for a short summer. Managed three before my schedule overtook me. And then, many light runs later, Jack went from a couch to 5K-er and upped the ante by registering for the Edinburgh Half Marathon. Not one to be shown up, it took me a moment’s thought to sign up myself. Then I saw the yawning months ahead of me full of training and strain with a whole lot of work to do. It was daunting.

We signed up more than a half a year ahead, so I had a lot of time to pre-train and reflect on the challenge ahead. I hadn’t ever pushed myself to do anything so mentally challenging, so decided to make it a little bigger than me and raise money along the way for Macmillan Cancer in memory of my Aunt Ann. Less in grief and more in celebration of her life. I managed to exceed my fundraising goal significantly, which was incredibly humbling, but also solidified my commitment to do the damn thing!

And now, the race. We took the train up from Oxford to Edinburgh (9am to 4pm with a change) and I read Born to Run on the way up to psyche myself up for the race ahead.

Train ride up the East coast between Newcastle and Edinburgh:

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We had a really nice evening with my friend Kerrigan at the Villager. She lives an hour away in Perth, so we only had 3 or 4 hours with her before she had to head off, but it was great catching up.IMG_4889
Next morning, we let ourselves sleep in for a bit, then headed back to the Royal Mile to meet my friend Ruth and her boyfriend John for late brunch. Jack and John got the Full Scottish breakfast, which is pretty much the same as the Full English except it has haggis. Afterwards Jack headed back to the apartment to watch Derby lose to QPR (and miss their chance of getting back in the Premier League) and I walked way over to Stockbridge, which abounds with cheap secondhand stores, boutiques and cafes. (As I have been to Edinburgh not too long ago, I’ve done most of the touristy things recently). Afterwards, we made the apartment a real home by planning our pre and post-race meals and laying fairly low before the big day. We made a big pesto pasta dish, spinach salad, garlic bread and went to bed early after sorting out all that we needed for the race.

In the morning, we were up at 6 am, had half a peanut butter bagel and tons of water, got changed for the race and caught a cab to the start. When you register for the race, you have to say the time you’re aiming for so they can assign you a starting position (so the fastest people are towards the front and not stopped by slower people), so since Jack is a little faster we were separated at this point. Then it started pouring freezing rain and we had to wait in our bays for the go-ahead for the longest 15 minutes of my life… then we were off!

It was definitely a huge challenge, but I kept breaking the race into smaller distances. The start of the race was easy terrain, then you get to the coast and run along the shore. There are thousands of people out along the course cheering, handing out water, energy gels or cheerleading (with signs, pom poms, foam hands). There were more than 9,000 running the Half Marathon, and for the last 3 miles or so, you first run up one side of a road and coming in the opposite direction for several miles are all of those ahead of you. That was definitely the hardest part as at that point we’d been running for an hour and a half solid, and you also felt like not only was it neverending, but you knew you’d have to run around and run back the same distance. I was really happy with how I ran, with my time, and with how few times I stopped.

It took me 2 hours and 5 minutes of running to finish 13.1 miles. Jack ran the 13.1 in 1 hour 50 minutes.

At the end of the race, Jack was waiting for me

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We then went to our separate sponsorship tents & I got a leg massage, a coffee, a little food and one of those big metallic capes to cover up with.
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After the massages and food, we took a bus back to Edinburgh, walked a few miles back, showered and made a big brunch of blueberry pancakes, bacon, sausage and a pot of coffee. We had virtually no energy for the day after that (and weren’t home until about 2 in the afternoon) so lazed around at home until dinner time. We went for a few beers at this pub not too far away,  walked way into town to get disappointing sea food (don’t go to the Mussel Inn!), then came back towards home for one last beer.
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The next full day, we were both still feeling very delicate, so recovered with a big Mexican lunch and margaritas, a slow walk around Prince’s Street, and then a real celebratory dinner at the Whiski Room which specializes in whiskys, whisky cocktails and whisky-infused foods (haggis or steaks in a whisky sauce). (In Scotland it’s whisky rather than whiskey.) Jack had Haggis with “bashed neaps, mashed potatoes, crispy leeks and whisky sauce” while I had the shin of beef with mashed potatoes, steamed kale, a horseradish and beetroot sauce and a few potato crisps on top.
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We ended our meal with a cheese board and a flight of whiskys as a special treat, including a Dalmore 12 year old whisky, a Balvenie Doublewood, a Caol ILA 12 year old and a Glenmorangie original. After the restaurant, we went for another taste at a pub with a huge selection, slightly better armed with a discerning tongue.
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Our last morning, we made breakfast at the apartment, thoroughly packed up and dropped our bags at reservation, then made our way across town to climb Arthur’s Seat, which is a ‘deceased’ volcano at just over 800 feet. It’s not really very high, but it’s still a challenge (especially for two with tight, post running legs). It was a misty, cool day, so we didn’t get the best views, but it was a good last day activity.
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Getting closer to the top…
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A good day for dog-watching
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We had a leisurely lunch at a pub on the walk back, but then ended up cutting it really close with time to get back to reception, get our bags and get a cab to the station. Stressful! We made it though, and were back home at about 11 pm. Completely exhausted. 24 hours later, Trieste!

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