Meadows Half Marathon Race Plan

Meadows Half Marathon Race Plan

The Meadows is a wonderful place; an open park that divides the centre of Edinburgh from the south-side. I choose to live beside them. In most of my training runs I run round or through them. So an opportunity to take part in a race where I could almost literally fall out of bed onto the course was too good to miss.

Organised by students, the main purpose of the race is to generate funds for charity rather than having a race per se. Race day comprises a 5k fun run followed by a simultaneous half and full marathon. The full marathon involves 14 circuits from the university at Bristo Square, down past Quartermile to the Meadows, a loop of the Meadows and back to Bristo Square. So it follows that the half marathon involves 7 circuits, right? Well, it does, but not without question. More on that later.

Following the hobbling experience at Devilla I had done absolutely no running during the week before the race, hoping that the hamstring muscle would recover. I wanted to run the race, but, more importantly, I did not want to miss any more marathon training runs. So I devised a cunning, foolproof race plan. Nothing could go wrong, right?

Enthusiastic Warm Up Session

Enthusiastic Warm Up Session

Bright sunshine heralded the runners as we gathered in Bristo Square. I stayed at the fringes of the enthusiastic warm up, and as a result found myself herded quite close to the front as the race started. With some hope and trepidation I took the first few strides. No hamstring muscle pain! Alright! And so, with a combination of joy, adrenaline and running too close to the front with the fast guys, the race plan went out the window. My first Garmin check showed a pace of 7.50. I consciously reigned back but not to the sensible levels I had in mind when I made the plan.

Mile 1 – 8:14
Mile 2 – 8:26

Ryo and Kiran watchingFirst Lap

Being close to home, the junior mockjoggers were out in force and High5ing me as I went by. As the circuit contained a play park, they were happy to stay for the full duration, popping out to cheer me every circuit. Must have been worth 60 seconds off the time for me πŸ™‚

Mile 3 – 8:35
Mile 4 – 8:34

Before the race I had been a concerned that 7 circuits might be monotonous. I had made a mistake looking at the route and it turned out that each circuit involved a short incline and some running on cobbles up to Bristo square and back to the park. There were a few sharp changes of direction each time. Time was passing quickly, and in reality the route didn’t feel monotonous at all. I’m not sure if I would say the same if I had been running the full marathon though.

Mile 5 – 8:48
Mile 6 – 8:41

Somewhere near the end of the 4th lap I started to be lapped by the leading runners, including Owain, who said hello as he sailed off into the distance. But not too long after that I lapped a few stragglers myself. Soon we were well dispersed with fast, medium and slow runners, half and full runners all over the course.

megaphoneAround this point my Garmin told me that my average pace was around 8:35. I had no muscle soreness at all, so I kept going. I wasn’t far off PB pace and thought about shooting for one, but knowing that if the muscle was fully recovered I would be setting out on a 20 mile training run midweek, I decided to just keep going at the same pace. By this time Ryo had made a megaphone from some card and I could here shouts of Go Dad, Go! as I headed past for the fifth time.

Mile 7 – 8:42
Mile 8 – 8:31
Mile 9 – 8:47

The sun disappeared and, although this was OK for runners, I could see the spectators and stewards starting to jump up and down to get warm. Passing the play park again, Kiyoe called out to ask if this was the last lap and I could see the slight disappointment when I shouted back that there was one more to go. I started to feel sorry for the full marathoners.

Mile 10 – 8:29
Mile 11 – 8:51
Mile 12 – 8:38
Last Section – 9:15

As I approached the finish I could see the timing board showing 1:48. What?! Over the line, the Garmin confirmed the news that this was a PB. But before I had time to celebrate I noticed the distance – 12.59 miles – way short. What’s going on?

Post race chatter added to the confusion. Other runners had recorded distances of 12.7-12.9 miles. There was some speculation that the several sharp turns and loops would impact GPS accuracy. The race winner (by a country mile) himself declared that the race was short, without question.

I did a brief analysis of the accuracy of my gamin forerunner 210 versus nike+ iphone last year, and have been happy to rely on the Garmin since. The trace for this race shows the challenges a GPS faces with loops and sharp turns – especially the tight loop around Bristo square which we ran 6 times.

meadows garmin trace

meadows garmin close up

The organisers stated that “the course was measured by a certified UKA course measurer who signed off that the route was the correct distance”. But here is the rub. Half marathon runners lapped The Meadows 7 times with 6 loops of Bristo Sq. The full marathon runners lapped The Meadows 14 times with 13 loops of Bristo Sq. Therefore, the half marathon course could not have been exactly half the full course and vice versa.

Whatever, I’m happy with the run, legitimate PB or not.

Race contraband comprised a nicely designed non-tech T shirt which cool enough to wear, a matching medal (small but cool) and a caramel wafer. Marshalling was excellent and the volunteer scouts who manned the water station did a great job, even if it is impossible to drink from a plastic cup on the run.


After the race I downed a High5 chocolate protein shake mixed with milk. I’m becoming addicted to these things. I couldn’t eat anything after than until about 8pm!

Official result:

Time: 1:48:50
Position: 135 / 320

By-note: STV news was on the case with a nice article on the race, including some pretty profound tweets πŸ˜‰

Sun shines on Meadows Marathon as runners raise money for charity

stv part 1stv part 2

  1. Hamish Williams says:

    “Half marathon runners lapped The Meadows 7 times with 6 loops of Bristo Sq. The full marathon runners lapped The Meadows 14 times with 13 loops of Bristo Sq”

    Ack! I knew it was short, but still had a lingering hope that it wasn’t. All hope now gone thanks to arithmetic.

    • mockjogger says:

      Sorry about that Hamish. Of course, the Half Marathon may have been measured correctly and the Full marathon may be a bit long. I think we can certainly make some allowance for GPS inaccuracy – it makes hexagons of loops which will always make it record less that the actual distance. That showed in everyone’s Garmin readings. But overall I do think it was a bit short. Just about everyone was scoring a PB too, which is a little suspicious,

  2. Rachel says:

    Aw, man – I hate when the course comes up short, but it’s thankfully never happened during a potential PR. Not sure I believe that the laps didn’t get repetitive…. πŸ™‚

    • mockjogger says:

      Strangely, it didn’t feel repetitive. I guess it’s what Formula 1 drivers feel like, except there’s no cars and it’s, um, slower. Then again I woke up this morning thinking I was on lap 148 and needed to finish it before the monsoon season started.

  3. gordon whall says:

    Think I must be following you as I was at the thriller in devilla! never have I heard the word sabotage so many times in one week! Also I was strangely proud to show my friends, workmates and family newspaper cuttings saying I was there! I to was apprehensive about the meadows half and not sure how I would deal with the monotony of the course but I enjoyed it immensely! I’m not sure if it was because the race was not as competitive as devilla (it was fairly demoralising getting overtaken by everyone it seemed). As for the course being short? think ill accept the pb happily! The meadows marathon was a well organised and friendly event which I will do again next year. The only thing that I did not like about the race was the plastic cups at the water station as I found out that I am incapable of running and drinking from a cup at the same time πŸ™‚

    • mockjogger says:

      Yeah, plastic cups and running just don’t go together. Maybe there’s a technique that doesn’t involve complete nostril drowning, but I haven’t found it.

      Looks like we are on a similar race plan. Say hello next time! I’m usually the one shuffling around the edges when the warm up is in full swing πŸ™‚

      • gordon whall says:

        ha ha totally forgot about the warm up! I thought that perhaps for once I would actually warm up all the correct muscles and start a race with little risk of an injury, it quickly became apparent that I do not have the coordination required to participate in any group warm up that involves taking two steps to the right, one forward and clapping your hands! after a few minutes looking silly I retired to the fringes to touch my toes.

        • Hamish Williams says:

          Do these warm-ups actually help? I’m always doubtful. 1) I’m nervously pacing around anyway; 2) has anyone ever seen the person leading the warm-up then line up for the race?

          • gordon whall says:

            I think that if the person taking the warm up knew they had to compete then perhaps they wouldn’t put as much effort into it, I will say hi next time our paths cross which will be the Edinburgh marathon!