Edinburgh Half Marathon

The original plan was to run the full marathon at Edinburgh, but things change. The cardiologist advised me to no longer run any marathons. So, I changed my entry to the half marathon. Initially the race organisation didn’t want to change my entry, but after explaining the situation they did.

I arrived in Edinburgh on Friday. I’ve been to Edinburgh once before and I really like the vibe of the city. It was great weather on Friday. Nice and sunny about as good as the weather can get in Scotland. Gaby and I went to the Dynamic Earth Centre next to Holyrood Park to pick up our bibs. It wasn’t much of an expo. Only the overseas runners had to come to pick up their bibs, so it wasn’t very busy and they were only selling some running gear there.

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On Saturday it was cloudier and I decided to go to Holyrood Park to enjoy the view. By the time I got back down the 5k runners were finishing, they’d ran through Holyrood Park. In the afternoon it started to rain and the rain wouldn’t stop until 24 hours later. It is Scotland after all.

My AirBnB was very close to the start line, which turned out to be a good thing. I could leave 45 minutes before the start of the race on Sunday morning and since the half started at 8 am I was happy about that. It was still raining so I was wearing a poncho to keep me as dry as possible before the race started. It was very easy to drop off my bag at the trucks that would bring them to the finish area.

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Before the start

I was in the last starting pen, although the pens only consisted of a flag marking the start of the pen, there were no enclosures. So if you wanted to, you could easily start elsewhere. The start of the race is on top of a hill, so you run down that in the beginning of the race. After about half a kilometre I noticed my Garmin hadn’t started properly (or paused again) at the start. I started it again, but it was running about 5 minutes behind now. You run down hill to the Scottish National Gallery and make a right turn, then cross over the next bridge and up to the Royal Mile. Going down the Royal Mile to the palace. Then turning on to Queen’s Drive, first turning right for a bit and then looping back to go the other way. Continuing to go down heading towards Leith. Running through residential areas.

After 3.5 miles there was an aid station with water bottles. Volunteers handing them out and bins to throw them in afterwards. It doesn’t take long to empty the small water bottle (either by drinking it or just emptying it) and throwing it in the bin, but lots of runners were just throwing the bottles on the ground. Why? Now the neighbourhoods kids had to gather them up and throw them away.

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The course continued down to the sea where you get onto the promenade towards Musselburgh. The sea view is very nice. But the first mile or so on the other side of you was just an industrial site. After that the industrial area made way to houses and more support along the road. Although it was still raining. Sometimes a bit more heavily, sometimes it would just drizzle. But along the sea there was also more wind, so once in a while I had to hold on to my hat so it wouldn’t get blown away.

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Since I’ve started my heart medication in March I’ve only ran about half as much as I used to and on the one hand the meds effect my performance, but on the other hand the lack of training probably doesn’t help either. The running went ok, all be it slow, until the 10 mile point. Because of the meds I have more muscle spasm than usual and at the 10 mile point my left calf started to bother me. At first I thought the remaining 5k wouldn’t be such a problem, but it turned out to be a very long and slow 5k.

You first pass the Musselburgh race course after which you continue through a park. But to make up the distance this is an out and back part for the half marathon runners. Especially the out part seemed to last forever while you see lots a runners already heading back to the finish area. I just kept wondering why I still hadn’t reached the turn around point. Once you’ve reached the turn around point you can briefly see Arthur’s Seat in the distance. You then still have about 2.5 km to go until you reach the finish line. It was very windy at the end and I had to take off my hat so I wouldn’t lose it. In the end I finished in 02:57:23, my ninth and slowest half yet.

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The finish is in the middle of a field. Not that many people cheering on the runners, probably because of the weather. After you finish you get your medal and t-shirt and some sports drink powder you can dissolve in water if you want. After you leave the finish area there were a lot of food trucks if you wanted to get some food. It was easy to pick up my bag from the baggage trucks. But then came the more difficult part.

We were now in Musselburgh, about 10 miles from the center of Edinburgh. You could buy bus tickets before the race and those event busses would bring you back to the start area. When I left the finish area there was one sign pointing me in the direction of the event busses. Right outside the finish area was a long line of busses and an equally long queue waiting to get on those busses. But those weren’t the event busses, those were the public busses. The event busses were a 20 minute walk away. I had no idea where to go and my phone wasn’t loading Google Maps properly. So I decided to follow the other runners which appeared to be heading in the right direction. After about 15 minutes or so a lady beside me started wondering if this was really the way to the event busses since it was such a long walk. While walking towards the busses, it stopped raining and the sun came out, obviously. In the end it took me about 30 minutes to get there and along the way I had only seen one sign pointing you in the right direction. Why not put up more signs? I know it’s a residential area, but half the roads in the village were already closed for the event. A few more signs pointing to the event busses really wouldn’t have made much difference.

When I got to the car park where the busses were there was such a long line it took me a while to figure out where it ended so I could get in line. I had to spent another half an hour in the queue before I could get onto a bus that would bring me back to the start. Luckily for me my AirBnB was close by. But imagine doing the marathon, then having to walk 30 minutes, wait in line 30 minutes, then to get on the bus and then still having to go back to your hotel in the center.

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Would I do this race again? No, not unless they change it. The first part of the race was mostly down hill, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any climbs. It’s not as flat a course as they make it out to be. And the out and back part at the end wasn’t ideal either. And the situation with the busses was quite ridiculous really. Best would be if you could make the route a circle, than you wouldn’t need those busses at all. But if it has to be linear, than at least change it a bit. I would have liked to run the full circle of Queen’s Drive like the 5 and 10k did on Saturday. The 10k route actually looks really nice, probably not very fast, but entertaining. If you’d do the full circle you wouldn’t need to do the out and back part at the end of the race. Edinburgh it such a nice city and you could make it a great event. Due to the course and weather it isn’t a super fast course anyway, it would be better if they’d focus more on scenic rather than fast. New York isn’t fast either, but the runners know that before they start, they love it because it’s scenic.

One thought on “Edinburgh Half Marathon

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  1. Hi Marijke.
    Now having done both, I can advise that the marathon is equally difficult. You run out to about 18 miles before the turn and have to watch an equally long queue running in the opposite direction to the finish. I bought one of those bus tickets but gave up and got onto the public buses – I couldn’t face another 30 min walk ( which
    I did after the half). Agree – can’t understand why route is not circular – finish miles are basically unscientific. However, well done you and your time was fine given your medical issues. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
    Brian.

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