Marathon #3 : Edinburgh Marathon 2009
31st May 2009, Edinburgh, Scotland
Finish Time = 4:12:42
I made my way up to Edinburgh on the train, I wasn’t sure how my injury was going to hold up for a marathon but I didn’t feel nervous about this one at all. I think because time pressure was off, I knew all I had to do was complete it and the “2 marathons in 1 month” challenge would be accomplished. I imagined travelling back on the train with the medal, having completed the marathon and hoped that would be the case.
On the morning of the marathon I met up with my friend Darran and we made our way to the start line. It had been a hot past few days and it was looking like it was going to be the same for the marathon. Darran was in a different start pen to me, so we shook hands and separated. They announced over the tannoy that they were expecting temperatures to hit 24C and that we all had to make sure we hydrated well along the course. Ouch. This was never going to be easy.
I couldn’t believe I was starting another marathon, but as soon as I did I knew that I would also be finishing it, nothing would stop that.
I got to 10k in 54 minutes, a couple of minutes slower than normal perhaps. The thing is by that point I’d only passed 2 water stops. That was not really enough considering the heat. I wasn’t looking at my watch or pacing, I just ran how I felt comfortable. Graham and Jenny from Sutton Runners came up from behind me, we talked for a bit and then they carried on, they were aiming for 3:45. I let them go on ahead rather than trying to keep up. A guy started talking to me whose name was Lawrence, he was very friendly. It was his first marathon and he was hoping for around 4 hours. We probably talked for about 10 minutes, and then I pushed on. It was good to be running somewhere new and some of the views were very nice, especially along the coast. The scenery can be a welcome distraction too. Everything was going fine, except it was heating up and the water stations seemed very sparse.
I made it to the half-way point in 1:54, so I was potentially on course for an under 4 hour run. I felt absolutely fine, my injury was okay and I thought to myself that I felt much better than I did at this point in London. But then I re-considered, I remember feeling fine at the half-way point there, smiling and waving. A lot can happen over the next half. Ah well, this will be different I thought.
I carried on and we started to climb up hill at around 15 miles. The leaders were coming down hill towards us. It’s hard when you’re pushing to go up and you see people flying back down. You keep hoping that around the corner you’ll turn around to join them in heading back down, but that feels like it never comes. At 16 miles I was slowing down and finding it a struggle, just like London. At 17 miles we started heading off the road and onto some kind of dust track, still up hill. This was the first point that I stopped running and started walking. My running had gotten so slow that it wasn’t much faster than a walk anyway. It must have been peaking temperature wise as it was absolutely roasting and sweat was pouring off me. I got my iPod out, hoping it would distract me from things so I could start running again. I set off and managed to get to about 18 miles before needing to stop to walk again. It’d come to that time again. The time when everything goes from feeling okay to sudden hell, where you’ve run out of energy and everything becomes ten times as hard as it was. I didn’t like it any more, and didn’t want to be there. 8 miles left but it felt like I still had a marathon ahead of me. I’d been cutting it fine with the under 4 hours so I pretty much knew that was out of the window now. I kept running and walking, running and walking. It’s hard because you run but it hurts, it hurts a lot, and your mind kind of says “You know you could walk if you want to” and you think “Yeah I’d like to do that, let’s do that for a bit”. But when you walk it’s so hard to get going again.
The lack of water was getting ridiculous. At London there’s water at every mile, and I just assumed it’d either be the same or catered for adequately. There was a water station guide in the information send to us, I’d scanned it and just seen a lot of water stations and trusted they’d be enough. But on closer inspection there are long gaps. For example there’s a water station at 15 miles then not one until 19 miles. 4 miles in 24 degree heat is a long way to run without water. You’re talking 36 minutes of running at a 9 minute mile pace. The same with having one at 21 miles and then not one until 24 miles. 3 miles is a long way when you’re in the hell of the last 6.2 marathon miles. I struggled on, I knew I’d finish the marathon but I wasn’t quite sure how. I had nothing left to give, nothing left in the tank, and the finish felt a long way away. I still don’t quite know how to describe that feeling, or how you end up still going forward. I think you just keep putting one foot in front of the other from instinct. You know somewhere inside your head that that’s what you need to do, but you can’t really think about it or process it. I was a bit annoyed to lose the under 4 hour time at this stage but there was nothing I could do about it. I was just glad I had managed the sub-4 in London and wasn’t relying on this race to get it. I started seeing people around me throwing up and bent over at the sides of the roads with cramp or exhaustion. Then I started seeing people lying on the sides of the roads with people trying to help them. One guy was completely gone, he was looking up at the people helping him and couldn’t even focus his eyes on them. It’s always scary to see that, partly because you feel for the people and it’s bad that it’s happened to them, but also because you don’t want to end up like that yourself. Also you know that if something like that did happen to you, by the time you realise you’re heading that way it’s already too late.
I had got to 23 miles and was still somehow pulling myself along, with a lot of walking and attempts at running. I wasn’t even looking at how my pace was going. Kate sent me text saying to keep going and that I could do it. I wrote back saying that I hoped Dan’s Fund would appreciate the sponsorship money as I was really struggling. She wrote back “I believe in you, you can do it. I’m on the way to the airport to fly home from treatment, for the first time in a year I love my face, Dan’s Fund made this possible! Love you.”
I wrote back saying thank you and that was exactly the motivation I needed. Suddenly everything made sense again and I remembered why I was doing this. I started running again.
I got to 24 miles and Darran called to see how I was doing. He’d already finished in an amazing time. I don’t really know what to say about the next few miles other than 2.2 miles felt like an eternity. A marathon in themselves, of running, walking, pain and sun… so much sun. As I got to about mile 25 the crowd support thickened again, and I think because not many people had their names written on their vests everyone kept shouting out mine. It’s a great incentive to keep moving as you almost feel bad if you stop and walk with people cheering you on by name.
Eventually I got to 26 miles and I really wanted to stop for a walking break again, even though I knew it was only 0.2 miles to go. But the crowd were amazing and with a face expressing a mixture of utter pain and smiling at the people cheering and telling me to keep going, I carried on and crossed the line with the 04:12:42 on my watch.
I was so happy to have finished and happy with my time too. But it takes a while for any of those feelings to come, because first of all it just really hits you on how much it hurts.
I met up with Darran, we got some pictures and sat around for a while eating, drinking and recovering.
We made our way back to the hotel and then met up with the others in the evening for some celebration drinks in the pub. It was good to have all the other Sutton Runners there, to talk about the run and have some laughs.
The next day Darran and I explored some of the surrounding area in Edinburgh and got a picture with the city and castle, along with our medals from each of the marathons.
I had a good time at Edinburgh and I’m glad I did it. It’s completed my “2 marathons in 1 month” challenge and raised £1,509 for Dan’s Fund for Burns. I’ve also now completed my 3rd marathon. I’m glad I can take it easy running-wise now, maybe I’ll do some more races soon, maybe I won’t. But I’m glad to have the choice again and I don’t think I’ll do any more marathons this year.
I still can’t quite believe I always wanted to run the London Marathon once, and now I’ve ended up running 3 marathons, 2 of them a 1 month time-span. I think it just goes to show that you never know what you can achieve without trying, and also that you can achieve a lot more than you ever think you can.
A few weeks later the company we worked for wrote an article about our effort and published it internally. Click below for the full size version:
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