I don’t remember why I entered the Edinburgh Marathon 2003. I was running regularly, four to five times a week, and, having just started a new job as a trainee lawyer, I would use my lunchtime to get out the office and run four miles. Ha, I would think, you can’t chain this free spirit to a desk!
There were only a handful of people who were known as runners. One man invited me to run a 10k with him and on the way there he explained how he would unstitch his trainers, cut the fabric and stitch them back together to get a lighter more comfortable shoe. When I asked him how fast he expected to run the race he explained in minute detail the exact second he was aiming for and the likelihood of hitting it depending on the prevailing wind and humidity. He was a real runner. And by real runner I mean a twat.
Another office runner had run the London Marathon the year before. How did you do that? I said. “One foot at a time,” he said, “how else do you do it?”. I liked his attitude and I think it was him who inspired me to enter the Edinburgh Marathon because how hard could it be when it was just one foot at a time. If I’d only asked the other man, I would have known exactly how hard it would be – roughly 138,799 feet harder.
To prepare for the race, I tried to follow a marathon training programme with regular long runs and increasing distances each week. That programme lasted about one week as I’ve never been good at consistent long runs. Instead I would try and run my regular four-mile lunch run faster on the basis that if I could run part of the race faster then, when I slowed down, my average would still be okay.
I managed one 20 mile run before the marathon – and I was feeling confident. Not only was I not drinking I’d also given up sweets. No chocolates, no cakes, no donuts, no sugar. It was horrible and I’ve never done it again – you need a treat when you eat.
I can’t remember who was meant to run with me. In my mind, Iain was always running it, but I also know that he never intended to finish it and was planning to quit at the half way point. But what I didn’t know was that he had been drinking the night before – though I should have guessed when he had a bacon roll and a packet of yum yums for breakfast. You need a treat when you drink too…
I was excited to run. I was ready. But I also knew that like Iain I would be running on fumes. Though his were at the start and mine would come when I hit ‘The Wall’.
There’d been a lot of talk about The Wall before the race. I’d checked with the London Marathon runner and he explained how at some point I would feel like I couldn’t run any further and no matter how much I tried I wouldn’t be able to push on. It was like hitting a wall as you would just come to a stop.
For me that happened at mile 16, which just goes to show the difference training can make. His wall was at mile 20 because he’d trained more. Mine was at mile 16 because I thought if I could run a half marathon in 1 hour 40 minutes then I should just double my time and I’d be home in time to have a mid-morning kilo box of Quality Street.
Instead, at mile 16, I felt all energy leave my legs. I switched to a walk/run strategy of walking 10 miles after I’d already ran 16 miles. In the last mile I tried to run when I saw a man in a diving costume ahead. After checking he was running by spotting his race number – you can’t be too careful in Edinburgh on a Sunday morning when stags are stumbling home – I tried to beat him with the thought that I couldn’t lose to a deep-sea diver. Not knowing at this point that he’d started seven days ahead of me I was gutted to lose the final sprint on the Meadowbank athletic track to what I thought was a man who managed to run faster than me in wellies and a snorkel.
My original aim was four hours with the thought that I should probably beat 3 hours 30 minutes as that would still be slower than two half marathons. In the end, I walked across the line in 4 hours 11 minutes. Just behind the diver and just ahead of two rhinos.
And within 30 seconds I’d ended my ‘no treats’ fast by eating an entire chocolate muffins in two bites.