I’d last run this race in 2009 (my glory year). I was third in 1:59:21, but was suffering from some kind of flu bug that had me floored for a few days prior to the race. I was in really good shape that year. Only weeks later I ran 2:33 at Edinburgh marathon and then 2:31 in Berlin a few months later. This year was not quite the same! I’ve taken far longer than I thought I would to recover from the 100km, still feeling the fatigue effects of harder or longer training efforts that, on the build up to the ACP , were being knocked out on a weekly basis with ease.
And I am fine with that, this race wasn’t a target race and was only entered when, Callum, a club mate had offered his place due to injury. So, in preparation, I cut back some miles this week on the lead up to the race. A taper of sorts, that didn’t really return any freshness to the legs. I’d made the decision to go with a hard training run, see if I could go out with the leaders and hang on for as long as I could.
The weather was horrific for a point to point race running west to east. The forecast was 17mph easterly winds with gusts of up to 26mph, this was going to make the hard training run even harder!!
The start list for the race came out during the week, after the race entry had closed, and a quick scan down showed some quality runners. David Limmer from the Portobello club and Corstorphine AC duo Jonathan Carpenter and Tom Ferrington would be the likely leaders. I suspected the race winner would come from one of those guys.
I jogged down to the start line with the wind on my back. Pace was just under 8 minute miles but my displayed heart rate was 135-140 bpm!! What was going on? Pre ACP I would be running these paces under 120 bpm, but it is taking a very long time for that heart rate effort to return, such is the recovery period, and these numbers were just bonkers. I decided to ignore it, blaming a temperamental Garmin. Well, it does sometimes show my HR as 195 bpm when my max has been measured at 182! Anyway, I get to the start a few minutes before the race starts. I’d driven down earlier to pick up my numbers. I see Alan and Barry and have a quick chat, then move up to the front just before the gun goes. The start is on Seafield Promenade, behind the row of car salesrooms and you could feel the strong easterly battering us while just standing there. After a briefing from the race organiser the gun goes. David Limmer sets off fast, too fast for the rest of us and I settle behind the Corstorphine pair, Jon and Tom. The first mile passes and I feel my breathing laboured for the pace, so it was looking like this was going to be a tough day. The wind was strong and this had to have an impact on pace. David is now 100m ahead of us as we run through Portobello. As we get to the end of the prom I decide to make a move to try to catch David. My breathing had settled and so had my pace. It took me the next 2-3 miles to catch up with David and I settle in behind him to get my breathing and pace under control, but he is pushing the pace. The miles are not fast at 5:45-5:55 per mile but with the headwind this was on the limit for me.
We go through 5 miles in just over 29 minutes, 10 in just over 58 and 15 in around 1:27, all the time I am behind David as he pushes the pace into the wind. I’ve heard it being suggested that I was drafting and I will admit I did try to draft for a few miles as I regained breathing after catching David. (Edit: The comments about drafting were heard at the finish line before I got there. I was told by a third party. Thought I would put this edit in just to be clear). But there were a few occasions when I clipped his shoes as I was running a bit close behind and was very conscious of tripping him. That was usually going through the towns where we were avoiding pedestrians or jumping on and off of kerbs. I was normally at least 2 meters behind (look at any photos that have been taken of the race), I felt the full force of the wind too and the road isn’t directly west to east, it meanders all the way to North Berwick. And if I was actively drafting, so what? That is racing, and that is a legitimate race tactic. It is up to the competitors to deal with it.
Anyway, mini rant over, we slog up the hill into Gullane, man that was absolutely brutal, the cross wind was blowing me into the side of the road and it was relentless as we approached the 15 mile mark. It was good to get some respite from the wind as we ran through Gullane, but the pace had slowed. Then I heard David make a pained sound and I decided to change gear. I didn’t want to but you have to take these opportunities when they arise. It later turned out that his hamstring was starting to go. I decided to put the foot down as much as I could running past Muirfield towards Archerfield. Uphill and into the wind, it was not fast, but with David having issues with his hamstring and the change in pace I had opened up a gap within a few minutes.
Going through Direlton, I spot Lisa and the girls in the car. Windows down I could hear Imogen and Martha shouting ‘Daddy’. If I wasn’t breathing out of my arse at this point it would have brought a tear to my eye, my ever present fan club. The support I get from Lisa and the girls is more than I deserve. Some family level sacrifices and compromises are made in order for me to train and race and I can’t thank them enough for allowing me to do this sport that I love.
The girls shouting gives me a wee burst of adrenaline and I pick up the pace for about 10 metres when I remember how hard I am already working into the wind. I pass Alex, an Edinburgh AC club coach, at 18 miles and start the long slog uphill and into the wind to North Berwick. It was a total relief reaching the town boundary to get a little protection from the houses and other buildings and it is then downhill to the finish on Beach Road.
I cross the finish line in 1 hour 59 minutes and 33 seconds with a high five from Imogen. David comes in second in 2:01 with Tom taking the third spot in 2:05. Jon seconds behind in fourth.
A hard race, in tough conditions, but I am delighted to have taken the win. The race has a long history and I’m thirlled to be part of it’s history now.