‘Valuable Lessons Learnt’
Apparently, no-one ever masters the marathon. This is due to the inconsistencies, multiple variables and uncertain nature of running 26.2 miles. But on the plus side, this means that it is possible to learn something new each and every time you run a marathon. Last weekend I learnt 2 valuable lessons at the Edinburgh Marathon.
Lesson 1: When NOT to bother running a marathon.
I must admit that 2018 so far has been something of a running ‘annus horribilis’. I have never been so injured. I have taken more days off from training prior to this marathon than in the 2 previous years in total. I missed all my warm-up races due to illness or injury, except the Vale of York 10 which oddly enough went smoothly (a really great event in my honest opinion). So, going up to Edinburgh to run was a bit of a gamble. But for the first time ever I had managed to persuade my family to join me at an event; I could run whilst they engaged in Scottish Castles and tourist bus trips! Pulling out of the marathon would have seemed foolish if I was going to be in Edinburgh anyway.
On Sunday morning, despite forecasts of warm weather, it was cold and grey: perfect for running. At the race start I bumped into Abbey Runners ‘Team Broadley’ and at the start line, David Nahal, all of them Edinburgh Marathon regulars. We lined up alongside 7000+ runners close to the University and with precious little fuss, we were off.
This year saw the introduction of a ‘New Route’ involving a 2 mile loop around part of the old town. Given the opportunity to look up from the road you get to see the sights of Edinburgh. But then after less than 15 minutes of running we were off and heading away from ‘Auld Reekie’ and towards Leith and the coast of the Firth of Forth. I thought all this was good fun: 5 miles of pretty-much downhill running is a good start as far I am concerned. David sped off like Mo Farah and it was only after nearly 40 minutes of cautious conservative pacing that I caught up with him! But by this point I was cruising and feeling strong and very comfortable despite the 15mph headwind that hit us as we ran along the very edge of the shoreline. Throughout there was lots of support (I think) but I was entirely focused on maintaining my pace and saving my energy. The halfway point flashed by at exactly the right time and I started to get that warm feeling that this could be a PB!!!!
At 15 miles into the route the chronic injury I have suffered for the last 3 months announced that ‘enough was enough’: my right leg stopped working. My foot went numb and my right ankle and then knee started to collapse. It wasn’t really a question of running through the pain, it was simply that it became impossible to run. If this had been a circular marathon I would have handed my number in to the first race marshal I came across and walked back to the start. But alas I was on a ‘there and back’ course. I had no option but to jog the remaining 10+ miles to the finish. As I limped along in excruciating pain, I realized that this was a lesson learnt: better not to risk permanent damage at the expense of pride. This was a marathon I should never have really started. And deep down, I knew that I could have predicted this outcome nearly 2 months ago.
Lesson 2: Running a brilliant marathon doesn’t necessarily mean getting a PB.
As I jogged along at the side of the road getting passed by dozens of runners I started to look at the surroundings and when the sun came out I started to appreciate where I was. The scenery was agreeable, plus there were hundreds of vocal and appreciative supporters dotted along the coastal road. I felt a bit of a fraud as they cheered me on, “Come on Jon, you can do it! You are nearly there! Keep going, keep it up!!’ etc. And inside I was thinking, yes, I know I can do it, I am not even out of breath here, I am just jogging to ensure that my right leg doesn’t fall off that’s all! But very soon I was chatting to the locals and hobbling along and just looking forward to the next group of spectators. I helped a couple of runners who had clearly hit the wall to get to the finish line, and let them sprint off down the home straight in front of me to get their moment of glory, whilst I just limped along, straight through the finish line funnel, got a medal and a tee shirt and then headed for the bus as soon as could. I finished the marathon over 20 minutes slower than I had expected, but frankly the second half spent chatting to the locals was probably the best bit: yes, it was agony, but in truth it was really an opportunity to observe the very best of Scottish hospitality and kindness.
Getting to the bus, and then the walk back through the centre of Edinburgh to my hotel was an unspeakable trial, but this is really an entirely separate issue. My opinion of the Edinburgh Marathon cannot be altered. It WAS good fun. Much is made of it being a good PB course, and it probably is. There are barely any hills to climb, and with an early 5 mile stretch downhill to the coast to get you warmed up (including a great fun dash down the Royal Mile), I think that if conditions are favourable this could be a really good alternative to a European Big City Marathon. The only cautionary note is that it is very late into Spring for a marathon, and so the weather could be anywhere from 9˚C (as it was in Edinburgh at the start) to 22˚C (at Mussleburgh at the finish line on the same day). And in addition, the route is infamous for its headwinds that cut along the Firth of Forth potentially knocking the stuffing out of runners. Equally, a lot is made of the ‘endless’ walk to the buses at the end of the race and the lack of a Race Expo and ‘disappointing’ T-shirts but this is all peripheral and should not deter you from a good event. If I could enjoy it with only one functioning leg, then I am sure you can get just as much out of it as I did.
Right, I am off to begin a couple of months of rehab, before running yet another marathon, so I can learn a few more valuable lessons! Congratulations to all the Abbeys at Edinburgh.
|Overall Position||Name||Chip Time|
|1 (1st Male)||Joel Kipkemboi Kiptoo||2:13:33|
|45 (1st Female)||Caroline Jepchirchir||2:47:35|