Edinburgh Marathon 2012 Race Report

After sixteen weeks and more of preparation, the 27th of May 2012 dawned and it was time for the marathon.

Polmont Station – I wonder where the normal people went?

To say I was nervous would be something of an understatement.  In spite of promises of mist and fog, the sun was splitting the sky as I had my breakfast of Weetabix and Cheerios.  A glass of water, and it was time to go.

Marie drove me to the railway station, and as she dropped me off I wondered if there would be any other runners on the train.  That turned out to be a foolish question – the real question was wheter there were any non-runners on the train!

On the platform, it was quite clear that there were loads of people who were going to Edinburgh to take part in the marathon.  I started chatting with a lady who was also doing her first marathon, and seemed almost as nervous as I was.  She was hoping to meet some friends on the train, but when it arrived we realised that just getting onto the train was going to be challenge enough by itself!

Busy Train

I don’t know how busy the 0750 from Glasgow Queen Street to Edinburgh normally is, but I’ll bet it seldom requires six carriages and is still standing room only by the time it reaches Polmont!

Those who were obviously regular users looked on aghast as their train was filled with people in strange running costumes, talking about gels and race timing, race strategy and just how long a distance of twenty-six point two miles was beginning to look!

On the train, as I chatted to a few others, I realised to my horror that I had left my Garmin at home.  I had left it charging on top of the PC, and it was undoubtedly still there.  Not a great start, but not the end of the world.

The train got into Edinburgh, and we all departed.  I walked towards the starting area, and found the toilet block.  It wasn’t hard to do, you just looked for the queue of several hundred people.  Luckily, I had prepared for this, so I walked back to Waverley station, fished 30p out of my racing bag and paid to use the facilities in the station.  They were busy, but nothing like as busy as the toilets at the start looked!

East end of Princes St

I went back to the bag drop-off area, put my label on my bag and deposited it on one of the trucks that would take the bags to the end.

The next area you came to as you walked towards the start was a kind of preparation area.  There were runners and well-wishers, all wandering around somewhat aimlessly trying to work out what to do next.  People milled around, but already we were very well aware of the heat.  The promised mist was nowhere to be seen, and the hot sun was a harbinger of more to come.

Preparation Area

I walked through this area, up the hill and on to Regents Terrace.

When you sign up to take part in an event like this, the organisers of the race ask you to predict your finish time.  This allows them to put you into a “pen” with others who are expecting a similar time.  The aim is to avoid putting fast runners in with slower ones, and the fast ones having to slow down and force themselves past the plodders.

I had put down a predicted time of 3:50.  This was as a result of my time for the Alloa half marathon (1:44:00).  The Runners World Performance calculator said that I could expect something like a 3:35 marathon time, and so I added something on to that time and submitted it.  It wasn’t until I started running some long runs that I realised how stupidly optimistic that was… but by then it was too late to change it.

The Orange Pen

So I walked past pen after pen of people who had put more realistic predicted times.  They were named after colours, and I must have walked past an entire rainbow before I got to my pen – the orange one.  There were two starting points, but the orange pen was the very front of this start point.  Too late to change anything now, I entered my pen and started listening to the Radio Forth outside broadcast that was being relayed to us all.

We learned that over 12,600 runners were taking part today, that a 72 year old lady was doing her first ever marathon, and that a 101 year old gentleman was taking part in the relay marathon.  And we learned that it was really, really hot.  That latter part wasn’t from the radio!

Soon we were told that the élite runners had started, and we had ten minutes to our start time.  A couple more motivating songs (e.g. Eye Of The Tiger), and we were off!

The Race

We started off running downhill towards Holyrood Park, through the park (it’s very pretty – I’ve never been there before), then towards Leith Links.  I was running very easily here, relying on the once-a-mile shout of pace from Endomondo on my old phone.  Things were going well, and I had to hold myself back as at one point I heard my back pocket telling me I did a mile in 8:20.

Eventually we crested the small rise at Seafield Road and got our first view of the water.  It looked lovely… but there was still none of the promised haar and the temperatures were steadily rising.  Even at the six mile point I saw several runners who looked as if they were going to have to apply loads of after-sun cream when they got home.

There were loads of water stations – every 5km or so – and loos at all of them.  I succumbed at mile nine and went to one, which was the first break in a run of sub nine minute miles.  However, I was able to restart and pick up my former pace.

The support along the way was tremendous, with people lining the streets, cheering us on, shouting our names and encouraging us to keep going.  We went through Musselburgh and Prestonpans, but I began to realise around this time that I was losing pace.  Mile 11 – 8:48.  Mile 12 – 8:55.  Mile 13 – 09:00.

It must have been around mile 14 that a ripple of applause broke out amongst the runners.  As we were running east, the élite runners were passing us, going the other way.  They didn’t even look tired!

I kept going through Cockenzie and Port Seton, but between mile 17 I found myself walking.  I was by no means the first – I had passed people walking since about mile six – but I was still disappointed in myself.  I started back to running, to pass the huge Macmillan cheer point in the grounds of Gosford House, but from this point on I struggled.  I alternately walked and ran, never stopping but not keeping up anything like the pace I had hoped for.

Not that I was the only one walking.  Far from it.  Every time I walked, I recognised about half the people that passed me.  And when I started running, I passed many of them walking too.

As we ran on, the number of people at the roadside being tended to by first aiders was quite alarming.  When we later got to Marie’s car, it told us that the temperature in the shade was 24°C – out on the road it was considerably higher.  Once or twice we were ushered in to the side of the road to allow an ambulance to pass – I hope that everyone was okay.

Having said that, I cannot fault the organisers at all on the level of water available to us.  Every 5km or so, a water station with no shortage of water for us to drink.  Energy gels were widely available too, there were occasional water showers for us to run through, and members of the public were out spraying us down and handing out sugary sweets.

My pocket stopped talking to me after mile twenty, so I have no idea what my actual pace was.  That may be a good thing.  But as we got towards the bigger mile numbers, the periods of running began to get longer.  As we approached the twenty-five mile mark, the crowds were swelling and the noise increasing.  People kept shouting “Keep going, Alan”, and I couldn’t stop.

From somewhere I found the energy to run again, and I was catching people.  I was looking for people in front that I could recognise – a brightly coloured top, or something similar – and I was making them a target. I was catching them.

I heard a shout and someone waved to me.  It was my wife Marie, my kids and my mum cheering me on!  I probably should have spotted them, but I was just focused on getting to the line now.  I caught up with one target, then the next… and then it was a left turn into the finishing straight.  I was really running fast for me, and… I was through!

I had completed 26.2 miles.  Not, perhaps, as I had wanted to, but I had completed it none the less, and in pretty torrid conditions.

Once through, I was given a large bottle of water, I collected my goody bag, found a space on the Astroturf and sat down.  I wasn’t quite sure if I would be able to get back up, but that could be handled later.  I put the electrolyte tablet we were given into my bottle of water, shook it up and drank.  I have no idea what it tasted like!

Soon a steward apologetically asked us to move on, out of the runners finish area into the general reunion area.



My supporters had come through to the reunion area, so we met up and had a chat and some hugs.  We found a place to sit, and I drank some water that they had brought for me.

I was told that they had been standing for about an hour and a half at the roundabout just near the finish.  The kids had been great, cheering everyone on, shouting out the names they saw on shirts, and doing their best to encourage as many runners as possible.

After a little while, we went to the Macmillan tent. This was an area set up for people who had been raising funds for Macmillan cancer support, and it was really well organised.

Leg massage – heaven!

I took them up on their offer of a leg massage – it was lovely – and also took some of the food and drink they had on offer.  They even had a group of cheerleaders cheering on everyone who came through.  It was somewhere between lovely and embarrassing – but the amount of effort that was being expended on making the runners feel special was clear to see.

We hung around for a while, enjoying the atmosphere, but decided to leave and head for home.  I guess it was here that the only minor “nit” about the organisation came in; it was a walk of over a mile to get the shuttle bus, and the queues for the Edinburgh buses were huge.  But that aside, I have nothing but praise for the organisers of the marathon – everything went smoothly and I had a great time.


Me With My Bling
My official time was 4 hours, 17 minutes and 36 seconds.  I am now officially a marathon finisher.  In the process, I have burned over 47,000 calories, run for over 66 hours and covered more than 420 miles.
The process has not been easy, especially for Marie and the kids.  It has taken a lot of time when I should have been helping out around the house, or going out and doing fun stuff with the family.  Thank you to them for their forbearance.
Right now, I don’t think that I will be doing another marathon.  But that’s the way I feel now.  I might well change my mind!

Final preparations

With only one full day left, I thought it might be interesting to go back and look at the training plan.

Training Plan, as printed in February

Splodges in pink are sessions that I missed.  Splodges in green are sessions where I ran, although the exact style and distance may not be exactly as written in the plan.

So how did I do?

Overall I reckon I did fairly well.  I didn’t achieve every session, and I missed a few back at the end of April when I was travelling.

So, that just leaves tomorrow (Saturday).  My exercise tomorrow will be a walk to the barber’s, followed by the railway station, and then a walk back home.  I’m not going to run, I’m not going to be in running gear.  It’s just going to be a gentle walk to keep my muscles moving.

Apart from that, there’s not really any preparation left to do.  I have my running kit all set out, hanging up on a hanger in my wardrobe.  I’m as prepared as I’m going to be, whether that’s good enough or not!


metoffice.gov.uk weather map for Sunday

On Sunday, I plan to get the 08:16 train from Polmont to Edinburgh.  I reckon that train is going to be full of marathon runners!  It is timetabled to get to Waverley at 08:49 – time enough to get my clothes packed into a bag and the bag labelled with my race number.  Then I’ll ditch the bag and try to find a loo.  And stay there until the start!

The weather is beginning to look just a little unpleasantly warm!  The Met Office’s picture shows 16°C, with forecasts showing 18°C.  Given that all my training has been in the winter months, that’s going to be a bit of a shock to the system.

So, that’s about it – here goes!

Week Fifteen Of Training

This is all starting to become rather real now.  Just look at the counter on the right-hand side of the page.  In a week from now, it will all be over.

If everything goes to plan, I shall be a member of that élite group – a Marathon Finisher!

Yet even as that goal looms large, everything could so easily go wrong.  I could fall off the pavement and twist my ankle.  I could be in a car accident – any number of random things could prevent me from taking part.  I just have to hope that everything goes smoothly, and I can face the 26.2 miles on my own terms next week.

My Race Number

Some exciting things happened last week – the most significant of course being that my race pack arrived!  This contained a couple of tablets you can use to turn water into an energy drink, a set of safety pins for pinning my race number onto my vest and – most importantly – my race number.

Now, this race number is in fact a remarkably high-tech thing.  The paper from which it is made is very light, yet water tolerant and tear-resistant.  It has clearly been printed just for me, because as well as the number it has my name, my wife’s name and her emergency contact number.  Just in case of any medical emergencies on the day.  Let’s not dwell on that!

The race number shows where I start (there are two separate starting points) and the colour of the background shows which “pen” I shall be starting in.

Wearing my MacMillan Polythene race top

When I was asked to predict my time, I went to the Runners’ World Time Predictor and typed in my time from the Alloa Half Marathon.  The predictor gave me a ludicrously optimistic time, to which I added a bit and gave that as my predicted time.  And today, I think that that time is still hopelessly optimistic… but it means I am starting with a bunch of others who think that they can run in that time!

On the back of the race number is a chip that is detected by the timing equipment.  This will be used to calculate my time from when I cross the start line to (hopefully) the finish line.

Finally, a tear-off slip at the bottom of the number will be my luggage label – used to let me load stuff onto a van at the start of the race and collect it when I finish.

All in all, a complex piece of paper!

I have also received my final race pack from Macmillan, including my polythene bag running top – something that can be worn to keep me warm until the race starts, and discarded at the start.  Like it?

At the risk of being over-prepared, I now have my race attire on a hanger.  I know exactly what I am going to wear.  On Saturday I am going to buy a railway ticket, I already know which train I want to get.

I don’t think I’ve ever been this prepared for anything in my life.

Now, how about training this week?

A solid week, four runs including a Parkrun yesterday.  I wore vest and shorts, and I froze!  Yet today, on my ten-mile marathon pace run, I cursed the heat.  Och well, it’s Scotland.  What can you expect?

14-20 May 2012

Number of runs Four
Links – Tuesday – 5.80 miles (699 cal)
– Thursday – 4.13 miles (498 cal)
– Saturday – 3.11 miles (367 cal)
– Sunday – 9.61 miles (1137 cal)
Total mileage this week 22.65 miles
Calories burned this week 2, 701
Total mileage since start 393.02 miles
Calories burned since start 44,776

Week Fourteen Of Training

Week fourteen, and the first week of “taper”.  I’ve been waiting for these desperate pangs within me, the feeling that I really, really have to run lots more than I’m allowed… they haven’t started yet!

I managed three runs this week, the fourth disappearing in a maze of meetings on Thursday.

Tuesday saw the usual run from the office to Aberdour and back.  Nothin much to say about that.

Parkrun (photo by Leslie Stoddart)

After missing Thursday, Saturday saw me at the Falkirk Parkrun.  I arrived determined to stick to 9 minutes / mile.  But I found that I was running at about 8:10… and so I gave in and let myself run as I wanted.  I ended up at 24:00 for the 5km, clearly not keeping myself to marathon pace.

What was really nice about this was the folk from Life Fit Physiotherapy were also there.  They are a great bunch, very supportive of local running and giving free advice and help at Parkrun.  I asked about a niggle in my achilles tendons, and was given a quick check, a couple of stretches and some words of advice that make me feel much more confident about facing the upcoming marathon.  I am planning to  visit them for a deep tissue massage the day after the marathon; I suspect that I shall not be saying such nice things during the massage!

Today (Sunday) arrived and yesterday’s sunshine became nothing but a fond memory.  Yesterday it was vest and short shorts.  Today?  Full-length leggings and windproof jacket.  And the wind… as I said on facebook “If the weather is like this on marathon day, I’ll be sitting on the road crying!”

Me being stretched by Life-Fit Physiotherapy
 (photo by Leslie Stoddart)

But, it was only a ten mile run.

There’s something I don’t think I would have said before this training started.  But it’s actually fairly true – it’s not a long run right now.  Six months ago, it was long.  Six months hence, it will be long.  But for now, it’s not… and nobody is more amazed about that than I am!

As an interesting aside, I looked up the definition of a “calorie” in terms of energy in food.  According to Wikipedia, it’s the energy required to raise the temperature of a kilogramme of water by 1°C.  As of last week, I had burned just over 40,000 calories in this training… which means that the energy I have burned could raise the temperature of one tonne of water by 40 °C!

Finally, a huge thank you to everyone who has sponsored me – so far we are at the amazing total of £316.20!

07 – 13 May 2012

Number of runs Three
Links – Tuesday – 5.93 miles (701 cal)
– Saturday – 3.09 miles (366 cal)
– Sunday – 10.01 miles (990 cal)
Total mileage this week 19.03 miles
Calories burned this week 2,057
Total mileage since start 370.37 miles
Calories burned since start 42,075


From the start, this marathon has been about me.  I’ve never pretended anything else.

But early on in the training, I asked whether I should use the event to try to raise some money for a charity, and the people I asked said that that was a good idea.

Macmillan Cancer Support

So, that’s what I am doing.

I have chosen MacMillan Cancer Support as the charity.  They do a great job in helping people through those aspects of cancer treatment that may not relate directly to the actual treatment itself – taking the time to explain what’s happening, answering the questions that occur to folk days after they’ve seen the doctor, helping people get to their treatment and know what’s happening to them, and so forth.

In a time when everything is heartache and confusion, they provide a solid point of reference that patients can use to rebuild their lives.

I posted a JustGiving link in the photograph where I said I was pausing the “Photo of The Day”, and the response has already been overwhelming.  I’m now going to publish the link officially:


If you are in a position to make a donation, and would like to do so, then I would be most appreciative of any donation you can make.

But please do not feel under any pressure to do so – as I said at the very top, this is about me and has always been about me.

Week Thirteen Of Training

In all of the training plans I have seen, week thirteen is a critical week in the training process. It is the last week where the distance increases, and the start of the “taper” – the lead-in to the marathon itself.

A hiatus in the Photo Per Day

I started this week feeling very tired after spending week in the US and having my time zones all messed up.  One of the first things I did was to suspend my “Photo Per Day” project, that has been running since August 2010.  This project is just as its name implies, a photo taken each day and posted online.  But it takes about half an hour per day to process and post the pictures, and that’s time that I can’t afford if I’m going to do a marathon.  So reluctantly I decided to put it on hiatus for a few weeks, until the marathon is over.

After that, I got out for a couple of runs at lunchtimes, and covered a decent distance.

And then yesterday came the last long run.  Sadly, it wasn’t a 100% success.

The idea was that we would all go to visit friends who live near the village of Kirknewton, just outside Edinburgh.  Marie and the kids would go in the car; I would run.

Things started okay.  It was a lovely day – perhaps slightly warmer than I would have chosen, but pretty calm.  I was wearing the clothes I am planning to wear for the marathon, and I set out with high hopes.

Down Nicolton Road, and onto the canal (first mile done).  And from there, just continue eastwards along the Union Canal.

For that part of the run, things went really well.  I was probably running too quickly, but I was enjoying myself.

It was when I had to turn off the canal that things started to go wrong.

As I left the canal, I was at 125m.  Then it was straight into an unrelenting one-mile climb that went up fifty metres.  A sharp downhill through the country park to the bridge over the River Almond, and then straight back into a climb to 186m.

I managed to keep going through this section, but I knew I was tired.  I got out of the country park, and turned left.  I knew I had to turn right onto the B7031, but couldn’t see a signpost.  As I hit 18 miles, and realised that the street names suggested I had gone further than I should have, I realised I was in trouble.  I kept going for a little while, then doubled back on myself through an industrial estate, but I had already stopped a couple of times to try to make sense of my location using Google Maps on my phone.

When I stopped for the third time, I realised that all was lost, and I phoned up Marie to ask her to pick me up as she passed on her way to Kirknewton.

So… what do I take from this?

I am undoubtedly disappointed.  I got to the wall and found myself lacking.  Yet I ran a damned good nineteen miles.  Well, eighteen, anyway.  I had no crowd to cheer me on, no race-day adrenaline, and I had hills that won’t be present at Edinburgh.  I am probably not over the effects of last week’s travel, either.

I did some silly things on the run, too.  I mostly ran around 8:30/mile, where 8:50 would do just fine and not be quite so tiring.

All I can do now is follow the rules of the taper and build up my strength.  I have every determination I am going to run this Edinburgh marathon!

30-Apr – 06-May 2012

Number of runs Three
Links – Tuesday -5.88 miles (710 cal)
– Thursday – 8.47 miles (994 cal)
– Saturday – 19.40 miles (2339 cal)

Total mileage this week 33.75 miles
Calories burned this week 4,043
Total mileage since start 351.34 miles
Calories burned since start 40,018