Edinburgh Marathon 2019 Race Recap

I don’t even know where to begin with the emotions with this one. It’s Sunday night and I’m feeling sad, annoyed, disappointed, happy, proud, and determined.

Sad that I didn’t get the BQ or have the race I wanted. Annoyed with myself that there were moments that I wanted to give up, and almost let that feeling win. Disappointed with my time. Happy that I ran a PB. Proud of myself for not giving up, for continuing to give all I had even when I knew the 3.30 goal had gone. Determined to run a BQ…and soon (obviously not too soon, my body is aching!)

Lets reverse back to Sunday morning, and the race start. I got a taxi from our Air B & B to the start line. Having only ever run big marathons, I wasn’t prepared for how quick bag drop would be or the fact that people only got into their race corrals five minutes before the gun start. So I sat in a coffee shop nearby, staying dry (it was pouring with rain) and nervously using the loo multiple times.

At 9.55am I took off my throw-away, keeping the bin bag on until we started moving towards the start line. Around 5 minutes after the gun, I crossed the start line. The first mile felt narrow, crowded and I struggled to get into a rhythm.

Miles 1-4 are through Edinburgh City, through the park at Arthur’s Seat and out towards the coast. There were points here where the course felt really tight, especially the little out and back in the park. (Splits 7.37, 7.22, 7.52, 7.38).

The first water station was supposed to be at mile 3, but it wasn’t until a nearly mile 4. My fueling strategy was to take a gel every 5ish miles, coinciding with water stops. I took one of my Huma gels around 5.5 miles with a good swill of water. I was feeling good, repeating in my head that it was a great day for a BQ. Splits miles 5-8: 7.24, 7.45, 7.46, 7.44.

The rain had stopped around mile 6, and although I wasn’t feeling the promised tailwind, I also didn’t think it was gusting too strongly. I took a Gu gel with some more water at mile 9.

At mile 10 I saw my friend Sarah on the course (her husband went on to come 5th in the race, running a 2.33!), she ran alongside me for a second, wishing me luck. I was already pushing hard at this point, and told her that I knew it was going to be a really hard day. She reminded me how much I wanted this and to go get it! (Splits mile 9-10: 7.45, 7.55)

Mile 11 and I spotted Ellie and Robbie, who shouted that I was going at a great pace and keep it up. I grabbed a bottle of Nuun from them (there were no electrolyte drinks on the course) swigged a little then chucked it. I think I fueled properly for this race but know I didn’t take in enough water. It was really hard to drink enough water at the water stations despite the bottle and I found myself swilling water around my mouth then spitting it out more often than actually drinking it.

At mile 12 I saw my Mum and stepdad, I cannot explain how grateful I was to have them on the course. Edinburgh is a pretty hard course to spectate, given that most of the race is outside of Edinburgh city, and the out/back course isn’t well serviced by public transport. My friends and parents chose spots where they could see me twice by standing in one spot – a little bit boring for them but really helpful for me! The crowd support was sporadic, with pockets of spectators and large sections with no-one out there. Splits mile 11-13: 7.59, 7.49, 7.50.

I ran through the halfway at 1.42.36 – my second fastest half marathon time ever. But given the downhill nature of the first half of the course, and knowing my penchant for positive splits (and the upcoming headwind) I don’t think I went out too fast.

After running past my parents, I was next looking out for my friend Amy at mile 16. I had mentally split the race into start-mile 18, then 18-finish. Knowing that I would see her again at mile 20 was a boost too.

I wasn’t prepared for the off-road, trail section of the course between miles 17.5-19. It was gravel with plenty of potholes, one of which I managed to step in and slightly twist my ankle. Part of me wondered, ok partly hoped, that I had actually sprained my ankle and would have to stop there and then, but luckily it felt ok to continue running on it. (I’m finishing this post on Monday and my ankle is actually pretty sore and has currently got ice on it). Splits 14-20: 7.57, 7.59, 8.02, 8.05, 8.13, 8.18, 8.36.

My Garmin had been showing overall time, distance and average pace, and I knew I had to keep it close to 7.55 to achieve my sub 3.30 goal, especially considering the mile markers seemed to be ‘out’ very early on in the race. I know that GPS watches can be off, but I’ve had a lot of people let me know that their watch read exactly the same as mine at the end, and that they too found the mile markers to be very erratic.

The average pace was slipping, second by second during each mile. At mile 21 I knew it was going to be super tight, but it was at mile 22 that my dream of sub 3.30 was gone. I knew I couldn’t pick up the pace enough in the final miles. Splits miles 21-23 8.58, 9.24, 9.05

I was struggling mentally and physically from mile 19, running into what felt like extreme winds. I tried to tuck behind other runners but not only had the race spread out a little by this point, but the wind seemed to be coming from every direction. Turns out it was 18mph headwinds coupled with 39mph gusts… not ideal running conditions especially at that point in a race.

With a stitch, and a body/mind that just wanted to give up, I walked for a short burst, then started running again. I walked through the water station at mile 21, taking the time to drink the full bottle as I’d started to see stars. Having seen someone pass out next to me slightly earlier (the two runners infront of me stopped to help, I asked if they were OK but they said to keep going), I knew that I didn’t want that to happen to me.

My parents were at mile 23 and I gave my Mum the signal that sub 3.30 was over. I grabbed a bottle of water from them too and kept going. The only thing that was keeping me going was that I wanted a sub 3.40 – that would be good enough for a Chicago Marathon qualifying time and a London Marathon Good For Age time. Mile 24-25 splits: 9.31, 9.47.

The biggest boost was seeing Robbie on the sideline just after Mile 25. I immediately started to cry but as he ran alongside me (on the other side of the spectator cones), I kept going. He ran with me for a while then swapped over with Ellie who asked if I could pick up the pace. I could and they both ran alongside me, giving me much needed encouragement. Mile 26 – 9.39.

Turning for the finish, I gave what I could for the final 0.4 miles, running a 7.47 pace, and closing proudly. Official time: 3.38.20 (1044/7301 finishers). These race line finish photos are hilariously awful, this one is my best ‘smile’!

Immediately after finishing, I started hyperventilating. I couldn’t catch my breath for the last few miles, and I was still struggling to breathe afterwards. I rang Tom and sobbed (and hyperventilated some more), before finally getting a bottle of water and my medal. I was so relieved to be able to stop running, so disappointed to have missed my BQ goal, so proud that I had literally done everything I felt that I could on the course and not given up. Sad that I hadn’t had the day I wanted, and also frustrated that I’d let the negative voice in my head get to me so much in the final few miles.

The only part of my body that had really niggled during the race was the top of my left hamstring/bottom of the glute and I was hoping to get a cheeky post race massage in the post-race village, but sadly they didn’t have any.

I spoke to my coach Ash soon after finishing (she’d stayed up to track me pretty much all night because she’s an awesome friend) and was reassured when she told me that the winds were as strong as they were, and that the research says that you lose 12 seconds per mile when running 6min mile pace in 10mph winds, and this increases exponentially. And according to Jack Daniel’s says that you lose 8% at 10mph, which would mean running 8min pace effort would be the same as 9.15ish pace. I know I lost those 8+ minutes time in those final 8 miles, and I do know that it’s not quite as simple as the wind (because let’s face it, my mind was also going then too). But I know I was in shape to run a 3.30 on the perfect day, and I know I can do it in the not too distant future. Who exactly remains to be decided, but I am not done with my BQ goal.

As my friend Lindsey said, it’s just one more piece in my BQ story!

What I liked about the Edinburgh Marathon…

  • no race expo meant no fuss. I had my bib sent to me the week ahead or you could collect it on race weekend. The bag drop was also super easy and quick, both to drop off and collect post-race.
  • Small corrals meant I didn’t need to be there early and stand around in the rain
  • Not many runners meant it was easy to be spotted by my family/friends, and I got to meet some readers on the course (and in the bathroom beforehand, hope you all had fab races!)
  • Water stations were well manned, volunteers were ready with open water bottles. Marshalls on the course were really friendly!
  • Loved the medal – it had a detachable 26.2 keyring!

What I think could be improved….

  • No tracking…. although the 10K online updates did seem to work!
  • I think there should have been more water stations, with electrolyte drinks on offer from halfway. Edinburgh marathon can be hot on occasion, and I think people would have really struggled with the lack of electrolyte drinks in hot weather
  • The mile markers felt like they were all over the place and some I couldn’t see at all. This was so hard mentally and frustrating as despite this being a small race with not many turns, I still somehow ran 0.36 miles over the race distance – that seems like quite a lot!
  • No pacers! Just why???
  • A lot of the roads weren’t closed and we were funnelled onto the pavements while buses drove down the road.
  • Why was there no mention of the off-road mile???
  • Whilst I applaud the fact that they are reducing waste by not giving out goody bags, I didn’t want a box with the finishers t-shirt and foil in, then handed a small bottle of water and oat bar. I would have liked more food post run, more water and a massage! otherwise the race village was very cute and it was at least sunny.

Thank you to the Edinburgh Marathon festival for my race bib. I’ll be back another year to run the Half but I’m not sure I’d run the full marathon again!

23 Comments

  1. Chiswickmum
    28th May 2019 / 11:00 am

    Superstar! So much resilience. Love you.xx

  2. Nickie
    28th May 2019 / 11:30 am

    You’ll get it! Well done on a super time and great recap.

  3. Steven sheppard
    28th May 2019 / 11:47 am

    Totally agree with all your sentiments. My aim was to break five hours and I managed it, just!! My watch showed that I had run 26.54 miles, it seemed out from the mile 2 in the park.
    I have loved out weekend away in Edinburgh and it’s my first time in this fantastic city. However, I won’t be in a rush to do the marathon up here again. The support was sporadic, the course pretty dull and despite a feeling of achievement on crossing the line, it wasn’t that enjoyable. Add on the queue for a bus back to the centre and I wont be recommending it to friends.
    Not sure where my next one will be, contemplating moving onto half Ironman. Need to keep challenging myself and backing myself into a corner before I get old and fat!!
    Kind regards
    Steve

  4. 28th May 2019 / 12:11 pm

    Be Proud that’s an amazing time!! And one step closer to that BQ! I ran the half on Sunday and it really was tough conditions! Congrats on the PB xx

  5. Boni
    28th May 2019 / 12:27 pm

    Sorry for not getting your BQ but at least you got your PB! Your resilience will take you through this one once again! Well done !

  6. 28th May 2019 / 12:31 pm

    Congrats on a PR. What a tough race. After running the majors, must have been so odd not to have gatorade or something like it. You will get the BQ. You are getting faster and faster. V impressed. Hope you get some good rest.

  7. Fi
    28th May 2019 / 1:22 pm

    Congratulations Charlie, you ran really well in the conditions, and you did so well to keep working towards the goal of GFA and Chicago qualifying when you knew a BQ wasn’t going to happen – you should applaud yourself for not giving up. I did the half and the mile markers were totally out the entire way, so I was wondering if anyone else spotted that – the mile 2 marker was at 2.5 miles (too early on for my Garmin to be out!), then at one point they were alternating between 0.9 miles and 1.2 miles from each other. So strange! It was like a different person had put out the odd and even numbers or something.

  8. JP
    28th May 2019 / 2:17 pm

    Congratulations, good result. I think trying to go from 3.44 to sub 3.30 is too big a jump, most people have staggered goals which make things more achievable and would help you to frame this result more positively. Pacing might have played a role – going through halfway in 1.42 when the goal was 3.29 is way too fast, even with a downhill start. Would have contributed to your slowing down for sure, even if weather was perfect. Live and learn for the next one.

    • charlotte
      Author
      28th May 2019 / 2:28 pm

      Thanks for your comment, and you’re right it is a big jump but I do think I was in shape to run it (especially after running a 1.40 in Phoenix). And in terms of pacing, given the nature of the course, although it might have been a touch fast, and I was always going to slow down in the final miles, I wouldn’t actually change that at all. You can’t know what’s going to happen in the final few miles.

      • jp
        28th May 2019 / 4:32 pm

        I don’t know, usual conversion is half marathon time + 10%,so a 1h40 half converts to a 3h40 marathon – you should feel positive that you converted well. For a sub 3.30, you probably want to be able to run a 1.36.-1.37 half first, which sounds like you will get to.

        I think you miss my point- if you paced it slowly at the beginning you wouldn’t have slowed down as much- slowing down at the end of a marathon is definitely not inevitable – despite what people think. Go out deliberately slightly slower than goal pace and you won’t hit the wall at the end, unfortunately no such thing as “banking time”.

  9. Kindal Alysse
    28th May 2019 / 3:39 pm

    So proud of you. This blog gives me all the feels for you. The so proud your crushing and then the tears reading the final 6. But I know without a doubt you are ready for a HUGE PR and BQ and it’s coming! Xoxo

  10. Lisa
    28th May 2019 / 4:07 pm

    I loved reading your recap. I’m sorry you didn’t get your BQ this time but I’m impressed with your resilience! Your journey is definitely an inspiration.

  11. Elizabeth
    28th May 2019 / 6:55 pm

    So happy you got your PB even though you didn’t get your goal of of BQ. you are doing amazing the BQ is definitely in your sights! You have such determination you totally going to smash it soon!

  12. sarah mckenna
    28th May 2019 / 9:57 pm

    TBH this marathon course/organisation sounds like an absolute shocker. I think you did brilliantly and hope you are really proud of yourself. Well done 🙂 you are a star!

  13. Catherine
    29th May 2019 / 10:08 am

    Congratulations! A PB on a tough day is a fantastic achievement! I did Edinburgh a few years ago and had a similar experience apart from the weather, it was far too hot. It was my first and last marathon I’ve stuck to halfs since. However reading your blog makes me think maybe it just wasn’t the right one for me, I think you’ve inspired me to try again! Off to see what marathons I could train for next year ?

  14. Debbie
    29th May 2019 / 7:35 pm

    You ae allowed to feel shitty for a day ….2 at the most ? but onwards and upwards …. you did amazing with your PB so remember to celebrate that!!

  15. 29th May 2019 / 10:12 pm

    Congrats on your race and the PB. It is easy to be disappointed in a race, but you learned things and did get closer to your BQ. I don’t think there is any way to run exactly 26.2 and I have run anywhere from .15 to .80 (Chicago, I think the buildings messed up my GPS) over in my 13 marathons. At Boston this year I ran 26.41 and I was thrilled because that is the least I have run at the majors and less than my first time at Boston. Racing can be frustrating and exhilarating so give yourself time to recover and then access what you want to tackle next.

  16. Jacq
    30th May 2019 / 1:40 am

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog, and my goal is definitely not to impart negativity, but in the manner of keeping it real I have to agree your splits seemed pretty fast for your training the first half. The only reason I would even mention it as someone who doesn’t really know you is because we can always LEARN from races and things we could have done better, so knowledge and introspection are always helpful! And obviously, all I know is what I read in your blogs so my limited knowledge of your training (and you!) should certainly be taken with a grain of salt. But it also seems like you placed most of the blame on external circumstances for this race, and in general- with many, many years of racing- I’ve found that it’s not usually super healthy to blame the external, no matter how significant an effect it has on the race – we’re usually compensating for something when we do that. But for real I think you’re SUPER strong and absolutely have a faster race in you on a perfect day! I’ve had (multiple) races where I crashed way too early, and finishing the race running strong when you feel like that is a huge accomplishment! And serious congrats on that PR too, woman!! You should be very proud even though you didn’t hit your A goal – you left it all on the course and that’s all you can ever do!!

    • charlotte
      Author
      31st May 2019 / 1:30 pm

      Thanks for your comment, and I actually think you’re right having had a few days to process the race. In hindsight I didn’t leave enough energy to battle the last 8 miles, regardless of what it was throwing at me.

  17. 31st May 2019 / 1:00 pm

    You achieved a personal best – that is an outstanding effort and you should be so proud of yourself for that endeavour and the fortitude you showed in conditions that were far from ideal.

    Please pass on your feedback to the marathon organisers – it is totally unacceptable for the poor organisation for what is supposed to be a major marathon – erratic mile markers, lack of food post race, no pacers etc.

  18. 1st June 2019 / 10:52 am

    Looked like a fun day despite the few issues. Hope the BQ comes soon.

  19. Laura Fell
    6th June 2019 / 11:47 pm

    Reading this is just like reading my own experience totally. I was aiming for 3.30 and missed my goal because I made the same mistakes. It was my first marathon. I did the first half in 1.42 only 3 mins slower than my half race time. It didn’t feel too fast at the time because of the down hill bits but I realised soon that I had used up too much energy to finish strongly. I also didn’t drink enough and found myself chucking water everywhere. I let myself feel disappointed when I realised I wasn’t going to hit my target. This totally messed with my head. I should have just been proud to be racing my first marathon. It was stupid of me. I also found the lack of pacers and iffy mile markers annoying. The winds at the end were bloody hideous!! Well done on your pb though. I’ve already signed up for marathon number 2. I’m determined to learn from my mistakes and get that 3.30. Happy running!

  20. 7th June 2019 / 5:55 pm

    Really interesting to read a faster runner’s viewpoint of Edinburgh. I was doing it too (my first marathon) but was having to keep a really steady pace for my brother as we were running together in aid of charity and he’d completely failed to do any training.

    Anyway, to hear exactly how fast those winds were (and they were no better at 5-5.5hrs when we were coming in) does reassure me somewhat… I thought I was over-egging how bad it was running into them to make me feel better about my time, haha! (I think if I’d been running alone I could have done it in ~4:30)

    Interesting to hear that about the mile markers too. For some reason my garmin went a bit nutty at one point and added on a random few miles, so I had no bloody clue how far in we actually were apart from the guidance from the mile markers. Perhaps it’s a good job I was a little bit oblivious.

    I wouldn’t mind doing it again, but I have nothing to compare it to as a newbie marathoner. Maybe next year, heh.