Race Recap: Edinburgh Marathon 2013

First things first… I RAN A MARATHON! Thats pretty cool right?

Second things second… It didn’t go exactly how I planned. I have found this quite hard to write as I so wanted the actual marathon to be this amazing positive experience, which in lots of ways it was. It was my first ever marathon and I am so pleased to have finished and so grateful for all the support I received from everyone; boyfriend, family, old friends and new friends . I was totally bowled over by the number of people who gave me encouragement and congratulations both pre and post race (I’m looking at you guys!) so thanks it means a lot.

Third things third… How it went down:

We arrived in Edinburgh bright and early Friday morning and set about on our first task for the weekend, operation vest. Before leaving London I had been trying to find somewhere to get my name printed on my vest, easier said than done apparently. I came to the conclusion the best option was to get some fabric and sew it on myself, I then promptly put off getting this sorted until after we arrived. Following a lengthy adventure around the streets of Edinburgh to locate a needle and thread we were on our way back to our home for the next few days the Best Western Kings Manor Hotel.

I had read some good reviews from people who had run the marathon and stayed here and the room we were given was absolutley awesome, massive with big windows and a huge bed, perfect for pre-marathon vegetation. There was so much space, Alex was even able to set up a personal Giro watching station, every cyclists dream.


Given I had a lot of good lying down time booked in on Saturday, I decided to crack on with the sewing. A mere 8 hours later this task was complete, turns out sewing is not one of my many talents.



That evening we headed down early to Pizza Express in Edinburgh to get involved in some carbs. Everything I had read on the internet about what to do the week before a marathon said to stick with your long run routine. Unfortunately I had never had a particular routine before my long runs, normally just eating whatever happened to be in the cupboard, so I decided to just go with my favourite foods (last meal and all that) pizza and garlic bread. We headed back to the hotel around 8:30 to get an early night, Titanic was on the telebox so I settled down and tried to keep calm.


I woke up feeling good. The first thing I did was look out the window, the sun was out and it looked like it was going to be beautiful day (for lying outside with a cider). Breakfast was a porridge pot with raisins and cinnamon and I drank a large glass of water. One of the things I was most concerned about was over hydrating and needing the toilet during the race, so I stopped taking in fluid at that point and decided just to drink to thirst (something that in hindsight was probably not the smartest decision). I had done this before on all my long runs and never had any issues but then they were largely done in temps below 10 degrees.

(The view from our window in the morning)


The hotel had arranged for group taxi’s to drop us off at the start and we were quickly deposited on London Road. This was not where I was supposed to be. There are actually two start lines at Edinburgh that meet up after about 1km and I was down for the Regent Road start. Turned out Regent Road was just up and over a fairly substantial hill but the path came out right by the baggage drop so that was all super easy.

I showed my mum this throw away sweater before I left and her exact words were ‘won’t you be embarrassed’ a sentiment echoed by Alex. I personally was a massive fan, and it turned out I got to keep it as there was absolutely no need for throw away clothes.


We made our way slowly along the road up to the Orange Pen which turned out to be the one closest to the start line, if I had been up for a bit of shoving I could have literally toed the line for when the start gun went off! I acquainted myself with the porta potties and soon we were being ushered in to our pens. There was a great atmosphere, and I was feeling excited. At 10am there was a countdown and then we were off.

The first 5 miles wind their way out of Edinburgh, down past Arthurs Seat before reaching the coast. The path then hugs the coast till about mile 11 where the race becomes one great long out and back. The first 10 miles were fairly uneventful, I was staying right on pace and though I was a bit uncomfortable in the heat everything felt fine, there was lots to look at (drummers!) and I was psyched to be running my first marathon. I was looking forward to seeing Alex at mile 11, he passed me a gel, wished me luck and I told him I would see him at mile 24! (just across the road). Soon after I was approaching the half way point and cruised over in 1.59.

From this point onwards things started to go downhill. I was horribly thirsty and had been pouring bottles of water over my head and down my throat at every water station we came too. They were every 3 miles or so but that really didn’t feel often enough for how desperately I wanted water. People had put sprinklers out and kids had super soakers but no matter how much water I covered myself with it didn’t feel enough and I was really starting to suffer. The gels I took weren’t sitting well and I began experiencing waves of nausea and dizziness. This was not how I was supposed to feel at 16 miles, I had never felt this awful before, either in a race or during a long run. There was still 10 miles to go and at this point I wasn’t even sure that I would be able to make it to the end, it seemed totally insurmountable.

I have never felt so helpless as I did between miles 16 and 20. There was no support along this stretch and the road just seemed to go on forever. I was staggering along just trying to hit the next mile marker and hoping things would improve. My stomach had cramped up and I was bent double watching the time slowly tick away on my Garmin. All I wanted to do was get to the end. At the turnaround the path went into some shaded woods which was like heaven after the shade-less A-road we had been running down. I got back into a shuffle/run rhythm and started to feel that I might be able to redeem myself slightly in the final 6 miles. Around this time I went past several people that had collapsed at the side of the road and were being helped by St.Johns ambulance volunteers, my mum told me afterwards she read that over 100 people were taken to hospital with severe dehydration.

I had been telling myself that when I reached mile 20 I would try to just run it in to the finish, sadly my body had other ideas. Between 21 and 23 I gradually felt sicker and sicker and just past 23 I finally had to pull up at the side and empty the contents of the stomach (hello all four GU gels). After I threw up I actually felt a little better and I knew Alex was around mile 24, I just had to get that far. I finally saw him and he encouraged me to keep going to the finish. The sides of the road were beginning to fill up with spectators now, all I had to do was get past 26 and it would be over. Eventually I was in the finishing chute, I pulled myself together for a final effort over the line and I was done in 4 hours and 29 minutes.

I collapsed on the grass just to the side of the finishing line and after a few minutes I was able to get up and walk through to get my medal. At this point all I felt was a wave of crushing disappointment. I had trained so hard and the race had gone so badly. My head hurt, my legs hurt, my stomach hurt and all I wanted to do was get out of there (so melodramatic). I staggered over to the baggage collection and found Alex who sat me down and told me I had done brilliantly and that he was really proud of me. I was so grateful he was there and at this point I gave myself a stern talking too. I am notoriously hard on myself and despite this not being the amazing first marathon I had dreamed of, I had still finished, in tough conditions and that was something to be seriously proud of.


I kept my medal on for the rest of the day and as I spoke to more people I began to feel more and more positive about my achievement. This wasn’t last chance saloon, the world wasn’t over, this was the very beginning of my running journey. I started running last May and have since done two half marathons and now one full. I have so much to look forward to this year, and training for the marathon was the most amazing experience that left me feeling fantastic about my running, despite the marathon not going quite how I planned.

So to sign-off I guess I should say this may have been the first, but it definitely won’t be the last.

I probably won’t have another gel for a while though…

PS Alex is going to make fun of me for referring to my ‘running journey’
PPS I’m going for a run now


9 thoughts on “Race Recap: Edinburgh Marathon 2013

  1. Well done Polly. After what you went through during that race you have all the more reason to be proud and positive for finishing. Many others would have dropped out or stopped. Look forward to the next one x

  2. Well done, Polly! I just want to echo what Kat says – you have every reason to feel really proud of your achievements. Running a marathon isn’t a small undertaking and you did a bloody good job – there are so many variables on the day and so much that can go wrong – I’ve certainly learnt the hard way recently. It’s great to hear that you’re willing to try it all again and really looking forward to following your training the second time around! x

  3. It’s so tough running a marathon in hot weather. You did well to finish in under 4:30!! Water probably isn’t enough though for a drink for this distance – I swear by electrolyte tablets in my camelbak, they keep the nausea at bay. Well, at least they have so far, if I’d run a marathon in hit conditions, a 2l camelbak would not be enough though so I’d have to have some plain water as well.

  4. Well done Polly. You should think of this as a huge achievement. There are lots of people who would have quit in your circumstances. I can tell that you are disappointed with your time, but in those conditions you did great! The other plus is that you have learned something about yourself and that is that you have a lot of courage when the chips are down. Take all the positives from this and use them to spur you on to sub 4 and beyond next time.
    On an organisational note, what were the organisers thinking of having water stations ony every 3 miles in a marathon on a hot day? They are lucky that they didn’t have something more serious than just dehydrated runners on their hands.

  5. Just found your blog through twitter, and wanted to say WELL DONE on finishing. Your experience of the full was quite similar to mine of the Edinburgh Half this year (on the homepage of http://www.veggierunners.com) – I think it was the weather and also the false sense of security that that big downhill at the beginning gave!

    Congratulations again on finishing though.

  6. This was a great read – particularly because it echoes my experiences in the London Marathon this year. The weather being 10-15 degrees hotter than anything experienced in training, plus ‘nervous energy’ really crushed me from miles 16-26. Will definitely be doing more marathons, but I need a few years to come to terms with it and make peace with this one!

    1. Thanks! When I was telling Kirst about it she said you had a similar experience, seriously tough. I signed up for Portsmouth Coastal Marathon recently (its on Dec 22nd) so absolutely no way it can be above 15 degrees. Its coastal trail so just going to do it for fun and prove I can get round in one piece! Then train properly for a fast one next year.

      I bet you’ll do awesome when you decide to give another one a go.

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