A week before the Edinburgh Marathon the weather had been hot and all wrong. It was a
steamy 23 degrees, and I was panicking. I didn’t know how to run in 23 degrees. I watched
the forecast with my fingers crossed. The weather seemed to be dropping off day by day and
I did a little skip delight when finally, the gauge settled on torrential rain.

My dream. I was made for this level of wet.

Runners come to Edinburgh for the ‘fast and flat’ course, although I’ve learned to take ‘flat’
with a pinch of salt now. This meant there were a lot of elite-looking runners wearing tiny
shorts shivering under the Potterrow Underpass. I wore a fleece for the first kilometre before I
yeeted it into a recycling bin along the Royal Mile. Everything was wet. The spectators,
shoes, bra. I’d ditched my hydration vest at the very last minute, resolutely ignoring ‘don’t do
anything new on marathon day’ because I saw it as a serious chafe hazard. As I (likely)
absorbed the rain through my skin, I had no regrets.

The race starts through the centre of the city and drops down a fast and steep hill to Princes
Street gardens. It was impossible to go as fast as I’d liked because it was slippery, and I ran
to the sound of people’s carbon shoes squeaking. It was probably a good thing as it kept our
pace in check. I tried to keep 5:00/km on my watch (my plan had been to build a bit of pace in
this downhill section as I knew what a slog the later parts of the marathon course were). Then
it was down the Royal Mile and into Holyrood Park. This was the annoying bit.

Race organisers had decided on a random turnaround point halfway up the road that goes
around Holyrood which caused everyone to slow down. You don’t want a traffic jam just as
you get started, but 3km in, my pace had slowed by about 2 minutes a mile. Me and another

girl took the grass verge and lengthened our run, but ultimately skipped the blockage, which
had caused some people to walk.

A little punchy climb greeted runners as the road turns away from Holyrood Park and towards
the sea, but it feels flat because race-day adrenaline is still coursing through. I was wearing
my Portobello RC vest and as we edged into Portobello people were already cheering the
club name. “Go Porty!”. This gave me a boost, which was much needed as it had just got
really bloody cold. There’s always a headwind when you hit the Edinburgh coast, and this
time was no different. My winter running had prepared me for it and I looked around for a
large and wide man to tuck behind. Unfortunately I could only find another club runner (Hi
Lee) who was heroically doing the marathon as a training run for his ultramarathon. He was
not the ultra-wide windbreak I needed, but the chat was welcome. He then sped off,
smashing my finishing time by 10 minutes despite very much treating this as a Sunday jog.

The stretch between Portobello and Musselburgh was tough going. This was miles 6–8 and it
was then my body realised we were in it for the long run. The pace wasn’t going to drop and I
couldn’t stop and get a coffee (the petrol station at Musselburgh has become my go-to stop
on long runs to pick up sports drink). I also couldn’t see any gels on aid station tables yet, so I
fumbled around to take my own and pulled out one that I hadn’t meant to put in my pocket. It
tasted like chocolate ganache and was so thick it made me want to gag. Great. Through
Musselburgh and along the coast and down some backstreets I’d never run down before.

Once leaving Musselburgh, it gets quieter. It’s all coastal villages and sea-views but there’s
no getting away from it: running between Port Seton and Prestonpans is boring. Support
remained fantastic especially given the driving rain, but I hated this section on my training
runs and I hated it today. This is because the road is undulating and endless and (whispers)

It was at my mile 16 that I saw the first speedy runner on their return leg home. They looked
as sore as we were, and I didn’t know it at the time, but they’d also endured the most random
part of the course.

A weird off road trail bit??
Maybe it was the weather, but the road course veered off the road and into the grounds of
Gosford House, just outside Longniddry. This was random. We looped through a wood and
then around the back of the house, which took us along a muddy country lane filled with deep
water-filled potholes. People’s £280 carbon plated shoes were not happy here. This was my
toughest section. It was 18 miles and the sun had come out so it was madly hot. I’d also
taken a gel and squirted it over my face and hands so I was sticky. I considered dunking my
hands into a puddle but then I realised if I stopped now, that would be it, and I’d be stuck in
Gosford House for eternity.

The endless 5k? 10k? 20 mile? loop through the grounds finally released us back onto the
coast road, just in time to see a thick wall of runners slog past the end of the road. I wondered
if they could see the horror of what my side of the road had just collectively experienced, and
I sent waves of sympathy to them for the random trail section they were about to endure.

After Gosford House it was 10k to go. My favourite distance and I told myself that the race
started here. I grabbed some bottles of water from the aid station and tipped it over my head
now that it had stopped raining to recreate my preferred race conditions (drenched). I don’t
really remember this 10k. I remember people stopping. I remember people peeling across the
road and massaging their calves. I remember the endless stream of people in the other
direction, some of whom I recgonised and we cheered for each other.

It was difficult and I was tired. It was properly warm now and I longed for the wind and cold of
the start of the run.

The end
The crowds ramped up from Musselburgh. At 25 miles I decided my 10k pace was
appropriate, so I ramped my pace up. I’d been dragging my feet for a few miles. My slowest k
was when I’d been despairing through the grounds of the house. Time to improve the average

Supporters lined the railings, banging signs, screaming, cheering. They were an amazing
crowd and for the first time since I started I wanted to have a little cry. I wanted to slow down
and soak it all in and just enjoy it. Someone screamed “keep going eleanor!” as my full name
was on my vest. So I did. I sprinted. That last km I sprinted, taking a final left turn into the park
and along the white track. I looked at the timing screen as I ran up to the huge arch,
panicked, remembered it was recording gun time not chip time, and relaxed into the finish.

And then it was over. I was handed a medal, a miniscule energy bar and an Edinburgh
Marathon t-shirt and I walked around the finishers area for a few minutes, doing some half-
assed stretches. As I got into my car, the clouds broke again and the rains started.

(Eleanor Ross)