Another ballot rejection from Virgin London Marathon meant my third marathon attempt took me to Edinburgh. London rejectees are guaranteed a place to run in Edinburgh and I had visited this impressive city once before.
Edinburgh currently (May ’16) holds the prestigious title as the course where I’ve run my fastest marathon, although you can view the current race list and finish times here: Hannah Race Dates and that means it holds a special place in my heart (and feet). But that’s not the only reason I love this race. Read on for the review…
The Start: It’s another well organised affair in Edinburgh. Runners start at the foot of Calton Hill and kick things off with a glorious downhill stretch. The only thing to be aware of here is not getting carried away and going off too fast. The announcer keeps things interesting whilst you’re waiting to cross the start line and the central location means getting there is straightforward for most. There’s every you would expect in terms of baggage, marshaling and good signage.
Miles 0-5: once you’ve settled into your stride the course takes you past Holyrood Palace (the queen’s official residence when in Scotland) and to the base of Arthur’s Seat (an inactive volcano that sits above the city itself). It’s beautiful landscape, rugged and imposing and it is easy to forget you are running a city marathon within these early miles.
Miles 5-8: your next visual treat is when you hit the coastal road at Portobello and catch sight of the sea. A once famous seaside sort for the folks of Edinburgh, Portobello neighbourhood saw slow decline throughout the twentieth century but is enjoying a current revival. The houses are grand and the seafront is pleasant. You will run, following the traffic free coastal path while local families cheer you on, towards Musselburgh at mile 9.
Miles 9: The town of Musselburgh is an important part of your Edinburgh Marathon journey – it is where you finish and pick up that lovely medal/all the glory, but first you must run through it. It’s a great “mini-hub”; there is lot of activity due to the finish being located here, a local radio station plays music and the crowds gather so expect a few more cheers.
Miles 9-18: I’m will not lie to you, its time to dig in deep here. Its not that the course is boring, but its definitely a quieter few miles. On the plus side it is beautifully flat and you have rugged sea views to your left for most of the stretch. There’s also a massive power station, grim little caravan park and crowds that disappear quicker than Katie Price’s music career. Try to enjoy the solitude and lack of distractions, or turn on your ipod.
Mile 18: Something magical happens just before you hit mile 18… You get to turn around and head home for the finish line. The turn is a hairpin bend with a huge psychological boost as you know you’ve hit your furthest point. As an added treat the course sweeps into the grounds of an impressive stately home called Gosford House. Make sure you take the time to appreciate the change of view and soak up the fact that you’re nearly there.
Mile 19-26: The reason you need to appreciate the grand estate of Gosford House is because its back to the power station now, and the caravan park as you retrace your steps back to Musselburgh. The nice thing about it this time is that you don’t really care because you’re about to finish the flipping marathon!!
The Finish: there’s a great atmosphere at the finish which is set in the playing fields of a local school. You’ll find music, FOOD, toilets, your bags, a decent medal and hopefully a loved ones. A few people like to grumble about the logistics of getting back into Edinburgh but I’ve always found the buses to be perfectly adequate. The queues look long but they move quickly. My top tip here? It’s over a mile walk to the bus point and you won’t want to take another step in your trainers so pack flip flops or sandals to help those aching feet.
Its the second largest marathon in the UK so if you’re looking for that big race, big city atmosphere Edinburgh is a great shout. The fascinating city itself is a huge draw and a well organised, good value marathon is the cherry on top.