Last month, during my two weeks abroad, I ran the Edinburgh Half-Marathon for the second time. This experience was much easier than the first; but we shan’t dwell on that tired old story.
Running in Europe has historically been a solitary event for me. I have never had the opportunity to run with a friend I didn’t make at the start line. For this race, I had the pleasure of being joined by the International Woman of Mystery (I♀oM), blogger, runner and traveler extraordinaire.
Oddly enough, I♀oM and I met on Saturday after we both flew to Edinburgh on different flights from Amsterdam. We arrived at Hollyrood Park on the exact spot where I picked up my bib in 2011. Unfortunately that was not where bib pickup was in 2013 – so we had to go searching (my bad).
Hollyrood Park is a thing of beauty. Much like my many pictures of Half Dome, the image above is one of two dozen I have of the same rock face all taken from about the same angle. Hollyrood Park, like much of Scotland, is always too beautiful not to photograph.
After some shopping, Mexican food, photos and playing a long game of find the right bus stop, I♀oM and I parted company. Being so far north the sun stayed high in the sky, making the well-aged day seem younger than it actually was. The sun was still high in the sky at 9pm when I went to bed and my hotel room was just as brightly-lit when I woke up early next morning in a panic thinking that I had overslept.
Race day was beautiful and warm. After walking out of the hotel at 6am I made a U-turn and changed into much lighter running clothes.
Due to a bit of a muck-up on behalf of the local constable, I♀oM made it to the race a bit later than planned. The nice thing about that was that there was no time for her to get to her corral WAY at the front of the race, so we both started at the back of the pack. It was refreshing to have someone new to run with. I have raced with my wife and with SugarMagnolia, but this was different because this person was going to run away and leave my butt behind. It wasn’t going to be a 13 mile chat, it was more of “too hip, gotta go, see you at the finish line!”, and I was very happy with that. I was able to have a comrade at the start and end, but still be able to have my own semi-private experience without feeling anti-social.
The race began near the center of Edinburgh and worked its way back to the Scottish Parliament, by Hollyrood Castle and Hollyrood Park. Interestingly enough despite swearing that I wasn’t going to take pictures, I took pretty much the exact same pictures as I took in 2011, except this time with a much fitter-looking crowd.
About a mile into the race, I lost sight of I♀oM and was on my own in this the middle of this crowd. The first four miles of the race were downhill and like the rest of this race, they went way too quickly.
After leaving Hollyrood park, the course was a mostly unremarkable mix of residential, commercial with a hint of industrial. Then the race transformed.
When I ran the San Francisco Marathon, I was excited during the first five miles as I anticipated that first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge. Having run Edinburgh before, I had that same sense of giddiness after passing mile 4 which was just before the course reached an inlet to the North Sea.
The North Sea was strikingly beautiful. It was like seeing my bride turn the corner on our wedding day. After that first glimpse, it became a matter of enjoying this moment of my life, because it was only going to be about a mile and a half long at best.
I was, for that time period , the luckiest person in the world, because I was blessed with being in that exact spot on the earth with the ability to not only to run the distance, but also to be able to appreciate how short it would be. It was also cool to know that I♀oM had seen it too, all be it, a half hour or so earlier, when it wasn’t nearly as awesome as it was in that moment when I saw it.
After leaving the beach the course traveled into Musselburgh (pronounced mussel-borough). I was looking forward to seeing the city sign again as when it occasionally pops up on my digital picture frame, it always makes me smile. I swore that I would not take a another picture of it. I took another picture of it.
At the mile 8 marker some sadness set in because there were only 5 miles left in the race. I hadn’t run much over the previous 3 weeks and I felt strong and happy. I felt like I could have run the full marathon that day with no trouble a ‘tall to use the vernacular. Nothing hurt and the running was effortless. It was all joy.
The last 5K of the race ran through this little village full of supportive, fun Scots. I joked and laughed with the bystanders along the way. I didn’t want this race to end. This race filled my soul and I wanted to go on forever, yet every flow has its ebb.
I finished the race with a good hard sprint to the finish line. After a few pictures and some stretching, I went to bag check and found that someone had placed a German beer in the side pocket of my backpack. Not quite sure how that happened, but what SWAG! After a few “where are you?” texts were exchanged, I♀oM and I followed the crowds to the double decker buses that hauled us back to the city.
When the bus arrived in Edinburgh and came to a complete stop, many of us runners stood up and groaned in unison. It was like a choir of old men going “uhhhh” on cue in the key of G.
I♀oM’s navigated us through the streets of Edinburgh to the preappointed eating place, the Whiskibar on the Royal Mile. I was impressed and more that a little envious of her sense of direction. When traveling, it’s usually my role to get my party from point A to point B, even when I have never been in city before. I had never realized how stressful that can be. It was refreshing to have a companion who could without effort walk us up to the bar like it was her home town.
As it was two years ago, post-race lunch consisted of fish and chips. After I finished my lunch on my previous visit I saw this wonderful presentation of haggis but was too full to try it. This visit, being fully aware of what it was made of and counter to the advice of I♀oM, I tried and enjoyed the haggis appetizer.
There is an old Scottish expression, that “Eagles flees alane, but sheep herds thegither“, and within a few hours of our meal, I♀oM flew off; as I♀oMs oft do.
When thinking about signing up for a race, that race immediately has two dimension defined, location and distance. If I say “The Paris Marathon” you get the where it is and the how long it is. Then the mind forms that initial impression of the event might be like based on ones perception of the city or the route. Some research might help refine the sense of the future experience. But it is that time between the corral and the race recovery where the runner paints over that black and white canvas with rich colored memories of the places and the people and the food and the friends. All that being said, as my 2011 race was in already in color, my 2013 Edinburgh Half Marathon was in 3D Dolby™ surround-sound.