Thursday, 17 May 2012

Dress rehearsal disasters

Having decided that the Edinburgh Marathon is indeed on like Donkey Kong, I have spent the last week working on things which will contribute to me not having a completely disastrous experience during the race. With mixed success.

After a decent 10-mile run last Monday, some time on the bike and a touch rugby game on Tuesday, I went to see a podiatrist on Wednesday night to talk about my left ankle issues. He gawped at the nasty way in which I roll my ankle and ascribed the pain to me chipping away at the ball joint with every footstrike. He didn’t seem too disturbed by my plan to run Edinburgh despite terrible gaps in my training and general injury failings, but did point out that an inverse taper would be a pointless exercise, since I could do nothing to improve my fitness in just 2 ½ weeks. Quite the opposite – I risked doing myself an injury which might rule me out of the race altogether. Interesting. He made me a pair of custom orthotic insoles then and there, and I left his office satisfied though £70 poorer.

I took his advice and binned my scheduled runs for Thursday and Friday, focussing instead on the planned course recce set for Saturday with fellow Edinburgh marathoner Neil Gray. We would take the train from Edinburgh Waverley to Longniddry, a station just ½ mile from the furthest reaches of the route. From here we could run all the way back to my flat, totalling something like 14 miles, which we intended to run relatively slowly so as to get a good opportunity to explore the course.

Things went wrong from the beginning. Driving into Edinburgh, Neil’s car suffered the automotive equivalent of an enormous blood blister and left him on the side of the motorway, frantically changing the tyre. We were only half an hour late to Waverley station, but this made us feel a little thrown off our meagre plan. I had a social engagement to keep in just a few hours’ time – there was little margin for error. As the countryside flew past we realised that our route would take us a very long way indeed. Fear and doubt planted seeds in our minds.

Nothing seemed to go right. We got a bit lost just trying to get to the sea, necessitating an unplanned cross-country sprint across the fairway of Longniddry golf course, eyes to the sky in case of deadly white projectiles. When we did find the coast a cruel headwind beat us back wherever we went. In choosing routes along the sea we seemed to perpetually make the wrong call and veer down pointless diversions or on trails made of loose sand. Neil struggled in the heat whilst I cultivated an enormous pair of blisters from my new orthotics. Neither of us could get anywhere near a sense of flow or settle into a rhythm, and our complaints were exacerbated by the knowledge of one another’s problems. Things looked bleak, and got even worse when Edinburgh’s skyline appeared in the distance. The very distant distance.

Just over 8 miles in I had to make a pit-stop to swap the orthotic for a regular insole as the blister had become unbearable. The slight pain in my left ankle which was the root of my troubles had inexplicably got a hell of a lot worse. As I delved into my rucksack for the replacement insole, Neil stretched out his prematurely tired legs and finished off his water bottle, beetroot-faced and sweating. An air of resignation gradually crept over us both. We told each other that it was time to abandon the run and chalk it up to experience. Neither of us needed much convincing. An exceptionally rude bus driver took my money and we wallowed in our failure as the number 26 bore us back into the city.

Even RunKeeper seemed to be struggling – check out the route it first produced for our run:

2:46 minutes per mile. Excellent.
The corrected version is available here.

Needless to say, Neil and I were a little disheartened by this experience. We had cheerfully thrown ourselves at the course and been found sorely wanting. But as time has passed and I’ve had a little time to analyse what happened, I am less worried about my prospects for the full race. We put on a terrible dress rehearsal, which in theatreland means we can expect a great show (I acknowledge, of course, that this is marathonland and training is pretty bloody important, but shush now). From here on I’ll only be using the orthotics for short distances - as I was told to in the first place - and I’m sure Neil will have plans to address his overheating problem (hint, mate: drink more water).

10 days to 26.2.

Happy running


2012 to date: miles run - 175.5, miles biked - 52.2, metres swum - 1150, races - 2

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