Sunday, 6 March 2011

Race Report - Meadows (Half) Marathon

Yesterday, after a week working in the Highlands where I only managed a total of 8.5 miles, I decided to head out for a medium-length, fast run to compensate. I thought I'd follow this up with a slow 12-14 miles this morning (Sunday) in the hope of salvaging my weekly mileage.

I got the medium run in without great concern: just under 8 miles including exploring an amazing old graveyard in a wood and a lovely section of coast. Due to a bit of an error with RunKeeper on the iPhone I was being fed a pack of lies in terms of data, which actually worked out rather well - the app was incorrectly berating me for a sluggish pace so I ramped it up a gear and finished with some fast miles.

So all is well - the first set of miles are in the bank and I was ready to pound out a long slow run on Sunday morning. Then on Saturday night, this happens:

Why yes, I am available! This event, the 'Meadows Marathon', is a fairly amateur race run on an eight-lap course around the Meadows (a public park) in Edinburgh. It's actually a half marathon - the website states that they 'went for alliteration over accuracy' when deciding on a name. Not sure many organisations would get away with this, but what the hell, for £15 and a last-minute entry I'll go along with it.

Maybe amateurish is an unfair description - this is a fun run: where the miles are of dubious lengths, half the field is in fancy dress and the banter is top notch. A group are 'walking 10km with 10 litres of water for water aid', a gorilla and a giraffe are fighting it out for first safari animal, and I couldn't help but laugh at the guy in an inflatable sumo suit who pinned his race number to his outfit and quickly looked rather, er, deflated. 

The peculiarities of an eight-lap course emerge immediately - though there's only one water station, there are effectively eight water stations. There are two bands on the course, which means there are sixteen bands on the course. Good times. But there's a nasty cobbled section, which we have to cover eight times, and an energy-sapping hill, which gets pretty bloody tedious after the sixth time you climb it. Bad times. But some other more bizarre things occur, too. The first mile marker says 10 miles, then 7, then 12, then eventually 1. Obviously this is going to be a workout for the brain, too.

I got a bit dizzy. Apologies to
Not in a particular hurry, I settle into a comfortable pace. As soon as the first lap is complete, the visual appeal of this unusual format becomes apparent - there is a smorgasbord of colours and runners strung out in a massive loop around the park. However, without any time-graded starting pens the early miles are very congested, which is made worse by the extremely narrow course in several places, and some very tight turns which cause pressure points. The lack of toilets on the course was a major oversight - when I asked a confused marshal for directions to the gentlemen's cloakroom he suggested I 'do a Paula Radcliffe'. We'll leave that idea there.

I start my 'racing' campaign by overtaking the slower runners until a natural pace group forms, but on the second loop, confusingly, we're overtaking people again. Some of these unfortunates have burnt out because they went out wildly too fast - there are clearly a lot of first timers here - but most of the people we're passing are still on their first lap. I am now constantly overtaking, and after four laps or so I'm overtaken by the leaders. They're on for something around 1:15, and I feel rather sorry for them as they have to duck and weave among the fun runners and overtake on grass verges as the course is so narrow. But no bother, they seem quite happy to steam past the penguins at an impressive clip.

After lap 5 my sister calls and we chat for a while - I have my running earphones in the phone - and this conversation makes me say out loud that I am spending my Sunday 'running around the Meadows a bunch of times', as the website puts it. My resolve to finish this nonsense and get home increases somewhat. I cross the line in 1:40:43, a satisfactory time but I'm still a tiny bit suspicious of the course's measurement. (Update - official time 1:41:10, which I think might be actually be gun time. Grr. 119th out of 450 finishers.) Whatever, you can only run the course that's laid out in front of you...

Would I do it again? Probably not, but I didn't plan to do it this time... Recommended if the concept appeals, but avoid if you're looking for a competitive race.

Happy running


2011 to date - miles: 217.76, parkruns: 3, races: 1

P.S. Thanks so much to everyone who has already donated to
my justgiving page - if you've not already donated, please do have a look and think about leaving a few quid in support of the Alzheimer's Society and the ongoing abuse of my feet...

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