I knew that the weather was going to be a significant player in the Rock And Roll Edinburgh Half Marathon 2013 when the noise of bins being blown around the street made it hard to sleep the night before. Inevitably, I managed to drop off to sleep just a few seconds before it was time to wake up again!
|Princes St – view from the bus|
The race was scheduled to start at 0920, and train times were such that I wasn’t sure I could make it on time. So instead, I followed a friend’s suggestion to drive to Edinburgh Airport and get the Airlink bus into the town centre. I parked in the Short Term car park at the airport, which made the day rather pricey – it was £16.90 for a half-day of parking. I did not notice whether this bus stops at the “park and ride” car park near the airport, but the price was the only complaint – everything else went smoothly.
Before boarding the bus, I popped into the terminal building for a quick pee. It was quite fun to walk around in full running gear and see the looks you got. Some time I definitely want to fly in an “unallocated seating” flight dressed in a bright vest and running tights. Bet the seat beside mine is the last to be filled 🙂
|Runners heading towards Holyrood Park|
Onwards into the town centre, and the weather was miserable. The bus made good time to Waverley, and I got out. My geography of Edinburgh town centre isn’t great, but there were enough runners to follow that I got to the park pretty easily. Plus a large collection of folk dressed as Elvis…
The start area was being continually lashed with strong wind and cold rain, and so most folk ended up trying to huddle behind things. Things like buildings, walls, tents, etc. We ended up being much more spread-out than the organisers had planned, and so we had difficulty hearing the PA system. Suddenly word spread that it was five minutes to go, and we were to assemble at the starting line. I stuffed my gear into my bag, wrapped the thoughtfully-provided cable tie around the counterfoil part of my race number, and joined the bag check queue. As I did, a lovely rainbow showed over the Queen’s house. The queue disspated, I dropped my bag, and went to the start area.
|Honestly – not waiting for a pee! Just standing in the rain!|
The start area was a funnel enforced by crush barriers at the sides. There were flags to indicate the different corrals, but there seemed to be only one entrace, with everyone pushing to get it. It was hard to make your way to your own corral, so most people ended up huddled wherever they could get in. And when I say “huddled”, it’s not that far off the mark. Normally, there is plenty of space at a start and space between folk… this time I reckon that people were standing as close together as they could for warmth!
In the starting area, I noticed a few people wearing yellow patches with “1:45” on them. I asked what that was about, and was told it was to identify the pace group they were in. There was a gentleman with bright yellow balloon tied to his waist – he was the pacer.
|Just before the start|
The race started, and we ran out of the park and headed downhill and generally north-east. It was lovely – the sun even came out. Just after mile three we hit the waterside, and had a lovely run along the river. I had left the 1:45 pacer behind, frustrated by his slow pace. I was running fluidly and easily, and I was invincible! The race was extremely well-organised and marshalled, with water, energy drinks and gels available at various points of the course.
Just before mile 5, we turned away from the waterfront and started going round the houses a bit as we made our way towards Duddingston. That was uphill and into a bit of a headwind, and suddenly I wasn’t quite so invincible any more. From 4.5 to 7.5 was uninterrupted uphill, and the stretch at the back of Arthur’s Seat – uphill and with a strong headwind – was misery. The 1:45 pace man passed me, and I was ready to throw in the towel. I was thinking of nine minute miles, or maybe ten, or maybe just walking for a little while!
|Bag reclaim queue|
We turned a corner in the park and had a full half mile of downhill. It was glorious! At the bottom of the hill, a glance to the right showed the finishing line – but there were still four and a half miles to go!
We climbed up to the Cowgate and continued through the Grassmarket, before cutting south and running along Melville Drive and through The Meadows. Then we turned into Buccleuch Street, Lothian Street and the George IV Bridge. This brought us to the top of the Mound, and it was pretty much all downhill from here on. Through Princes St Gardens, right down the side of Waverley Station, along Market St and then joining the Canongate. Down, down and down to Holyrood Park and that glorious finish line!
|My friend Suzanne at the finish!|
After the finish, there were various people handing out water, medals, fruit and bananas.
Sadly, that was the point at which problems started. The weather had badly affected the planning, and I could see teams of workers hammering in massive tent pegs to hold down the marquees. The baggage check tent had to have its frontage shut down because of the wind, and so the volunteers getting bags from the tent had to go all the way round to the back of the tent to get them. Everything slowed down, in spite of the valiant efforts of the volunteers. I had to wait over fifty minutes to get my bag – to be fair to the organisers, they did have people coming round giving out foil blankets, and that made a huge difference. The weather had closed in again, and it was cold and wet. There were a lot of grumpy runners.
I feel sorry for the organisers here; you plan for a certain level of disruption but this was
beyond what they expected. There is scope for improvement, I am sure they will try to get these problems resolved in future years.
The times were posted in the later part of the afternoon – I was delighted to have completed in 1:45:18. Not my PB, but my second-best time. And in these conditions, I was delighted! The bling was nice too – a big, heavy medal and a rather nice t-shirt!
A huge “thank you” to all of the volunteers and helpers who forced themselves to turn up in these awful conditions!