When experienced and esteemed elite runners such as Susan Partridge, Helen Clitheroe and the Hawkins brothers opt out of the main 10 mile event and instead choose the easier option of the Team Relay (sorry guys, I couldn’t resist a dig) I should have realised that this was going to be a race like no other.
10 mile events are often marketed as a great stepping stone for those wanting to make the transition from 10Ks to half marathons, but obviously the course designers at Great Run never got the memo. For the Morrisons Great Edinburgh Run was built with bravehearts in mind, not faint hearts. Saying this is a hilly race is like saying that the North Pole is a chilly place.
Edinburgh is famed for its hills and the iconic Royal Mile was one of the first we tackled. This was a race fit for a king. Now, I know I am biased and I know this is the Great Run Blog, but I have to heap some praise on the organisers. Des Clarke and Bryan Burnett were their usual fantastic selves while the stellar Stella Bartram had us all primed and ready with a wonderful warm up. And we needed to be warmed-up, as the sun of the previous week had disappeared behind the clouds and a few rain drops were falling on our heads.
Admittedly, this is possibly my preferred racing conditions but the time in the pens between the elites starting and we plodders at the back starting can sometimes be an uncomfortable wait, but on this occasion this only enhanced the race. The start (and finish) of the Morrisons Great Edinburgh Run, at the base of Arthur’s Seat, is the perfect location, but it is narrow. The split in starts ensures the elites get away, while giving the rest of us a more spaced out start (and more time to arrive for those travelling to Edinburgh on the poor Sunday morning train service). Yes, you still had the occasional transgressor trespassing into your path and bobbing and weaving like they were Mohammed Ali and less like Mo Farah, but despite several thousand runners, it rarely felt crowded.
But back to the hills and this race of two halves. The first five miles were as tough as they come with several climbs that seemed to end just as my legs seemed to be about to give up. I don’t know if this was psychological or inspired course design, but every descent brought a surge of energy and renewed confidence. As did the harmonious support from the wonderful marshals, choirs, pipers and drummers that lined the route.
I hadn’t raced since my exploits in Australia and Qatar and, having recently pulled out of the Paris marathon (yes, I do like to run abroad) due to my fitness levels and a niggling knee injury, I had some reservations about the elevations. I was worried not only about the going up, but also about the coming down. While running downhill is often easier on the heart, it can be harder on the legs and two days later I was still hobbling down stairs.
But then, the magical 5 mile marker appeared and the knowledge that I now had less miles and less hills to run than I had already ran gave me another boost. It was all downhill from here. And it almost was!
I say almost partly because as I went up one hill, I slipped on a pail of water and only my lightening reflexes (i.e. sheer luck) prevented me from tumbling down. My ankle throbbed and I was close to jacking it in and heading to the pub (Edinburgh is also famous for these) for a quarter gill.
And we still had one hill to deal with. As we passed mile 7 we started a slow ascent of Arthur’s Seat. As we rose among the clouds (poetic licence at use), the legs of many started to ache and some runners briefly became walkers. Myself included. My approach on steep hills is to walk if I have to but to never stop. I suspect I’ll be doing much more of this during the Highland Fling Relay, where my four man Great Run Local team are running 60 miles of the West Highland Way. Think Great Edinburgh Run without roads and with extra sheep, cows and the occasional deer blocking your path.
Once we reached the peak of our last hill, we began our final descent and peeking around one corner, we saw coming towards us the finishing straight. It was time for one final monster push. I raised my head, puffed out my chest and sprinted (there I go with the poetic licence again) the final 800 metres, crossing the finishing line in a time that wasn’t too bad, but which wasn’t too great either.
What was great; however, was the Morrisons Great Edinburgh Run goodie bag, not only for the standard Great Run medal and t-shirt, but for the two completely conflicting inclusions. While I was secretly delighted with the triple pack of Cadbury’s biscuits, I did worry that I had just consumed the calories I had just expended. Recently I have been looking too forward to my post run cakes and if I am to get faster and stronger, I can’t have my cake and eat it.
And Great Run were obviously thinking of me, and those like me, when they decided to include a Juicing Diet DVD in the post-event bag. One of the most bizarre inclusions I’ve come across, although I am sure many of you have encountered many more. I wonder what will be in the Morrisons Great Manchester Run bag…
Feel free to add your favourites and strangest below or tweet #greatgoodiebags.