I did it!

SONY DSCI woke up in the morning about 6.30am, feeling just fine, charged with the evening before’s dinner of two plates of pasta and a couple of glasses of red Zinfandel (other grape varieties were available, but I thought Zin probably has more carbs). One look out of the window told me that, typical Edinburgh, the sun of yesterday had moved on leaving rain and high winds. Great. The family dropped me off at Dynamic Earth and I joined the line of runners making their way to the start at Holyrood Park. After waiting in a poratloo queue for 15 mins I heard the announcer calling people to go to their starting corrals, but I wasn’t going to miss my chance. So getting dangerously close to the off I had a last minute panic attack about whether to wear a waterproof jacket over my tee shirt or not. Decided yes, then frantically re-attached my number, checked in my spare gear and headed off to the start.

I found my corral in time to hear the announcer say there would be a 5 minute delay due to the wind and rain. Patting myself on the back for adopting the jacket, I heard the countdown for the first corral to start, then the second, and then …. and then it was time to go. Oh shit, no backing out now. Clicked start on the iphone Nike+ app and my shuffled running playlist threw up Linkin Park. Not the best starting song, but too late to change that now.

And there I was with around 4,500 other folks making my way towards the coast at Leith as my playlist through up some late ’90s trance and The Prodigy. Thats better. I turned the volume down as we passed the first of 6-7 live bands playing at various points along the route. I guess thats why they call it the rock’n’roll half marathon. Nice atmosphere, but from then on I stuck to my tunes.

At around 2 miles I clocked Jed and Dill Hurwitz with a banner marked “Run Mike Run” in big letters. They later told me there were about 10 Mike’s before me. Boosted by that, I arrived at the promenade to Portobello and a nice run alongside the beach. The friendly Nike+ app lady was calling out my times each km. My “race tactics” were to go out slow and steady, pick it up in the third quarter if I could, and leave something in the tank for the last 200m. Nike+ lady told me I was running at 8’51” pace which was too fast for me to last. Adrenaline was overcoming me. So I tried to gradually slow it down. By this time the rain had stopped and the sun was out. I was beginning to get warm and wondering how the hell I could unattach my number and remove my jacket. But I needn’t have worried, the rain soon came back and it was drizzling through the rest of the race.

Portabello and the swing in through Duddingson, and then a gradual climb up to Holyrood Park. I took one running gel (my other “race tactic” was to have two gels, and forget about the drinks stations). With the rain my hands were wet, so I had to tear it open with my teeth. Lemon and lime. Acceptable. All of a sudden I clocked the 2 hour pace team with red caps and red balloons about 50m ahead. 2 hours was my secret target for this, but given the wind and rain I had kind of abandoned the idea. Now I was trying to work out if the 2 hour pace team had passed me, or was I closing on them? And when did they start relative to me anyway?

Still climbing into the park and the red balloons were further away now. Then it was time for Queens Drive through the park. In my normal 10k run I run this section the other way – it is a tough old climb so I was looking forward to some payback. I remembered reading a blog where someone said “downhills are free” so I decided to give it my all on the way down. But jeez, those red balloons must have hit the accelerator too because they were about 200m ahead as they turned out of the park past Dynamic Earth.

Then it was time for Cowgate. I new this was going to be the hard point in the race. Uphill to Grassmarket. Nike+ lady was telling me I was averaging 8’59”. I know it I could keep it to 9’07” after this hill I had a chance for 2 hours. I breezed it! I was passing folks on the way up, charged by the echoed sounds of supporters clapping and cheering in the shelter of the bridge.

Going into Grassmarket I had my second gel. Berry + caffeine. Yuk. Unacceptable. Never again. Thinking I had conquered the hill and it was easy going from here, I started wondering whether the family would make it to the Meadows in time to see me pass. Then the race took a turn I wasn’t expecting, left up past the College of Art. That’s “UP” past the ECA. I wasn’t ready for that. I thought I was going to be going down but going up instead was a mental and physical challenge. That was my nadir. I really wondered if I had used up too much energy earlier and would struggle to complete the course.

mike_running_shoot_140413Thankfully it ended, and with Porcupine Tree and The Crystal Method in my ‘phones we levelled out, then gradually dropped into the Meadows, towards the pelican crossing and the rendezvous point with my family – Kiyoe, Ryo, Kiran, Laura and Ceri. They weren’t there. Darn. But 50m later, there they were! To shouts of “Go Dad Go” and “Ganbatte” I used whatever energy I had left to pump my arms in what I thought was a “I’ve got loads of energy left” kind of way, and tried to pass some dude dressed as Superman. Then, past the family and on. Or so I thought. 30 second later I hear “Dad!” and turn round to see Ryo running alongside on the other side of the road. Towards a junction with cars. Frantically waving my arms in a stop motion I was glad to see he got he point and ground to a halt.

So about 5km to go and Nike+ lady told me I was still averaging 8’59”. So either I didn’t lose anything on the climb, or I regained it passing Superman. In any case, 2 hours was on. If I could keep going. And those red balloons were about 150m in front.

A gentle incline up George IV bridge didn’t cause any problems as I knew the end was not far away. Down the mound and onto Princess Street. One guy was walking and I heard a lady say “keep going, its the last mile!”. I’d like to have echoed that but I was breathing too hard. He started jogging again.

Then into Market Street and I was overjoyed to hear the announcer shout “its all downhill from here” I moved over and high fived him. But he lied! The next 100m was UPHILL before turning left onto the Royal mile and the final run home. There were a lot of twists and turns here so I lost sight of the red balloons completely. I kept telling myself to just keep going, at this pace you will crack it. Leave no energy on the course. The random playlist was throwing up consecutive psy-trance tunes now. Just right!

hmrunning_FThen the bottom of Royal Mile and the flat run in to the finish. Time to unleash the afterburners for the last 200m as originally planned. But no. There was nothing left. I was completely knackered. I tried to pick it up but one or two folks were passing me and I wasn’t passing anybody. (Post race Nike+ tells me I did actually pick it up but I felt I was running on empty). Then round the final corner and I could see the red balloons about 40m ahead approaching the finishing line! I heard the announcer congratulating them and saying that they had started 7 minutes after the first runners. Darn, they must have started just before me.

resultsA final sprint in and I hit stop on the Nike+ app to hear Paula Radcliffe congratulate me on my fastest Half Marathon ever (well, I’ve only done a couple in training and this was my first official one, but nice to hear). I unhooked the iphone and looked at the screen to see a time of 1’56” something for the HM distance. Holy shamoly, thats impossible I thought!

I didn’t think to check the actual real time until later. Nike+ lady measured that I had actually run 13.4 miles rather than 13.1. Post race research tells me that a combination of not running the perfect line (dodging people, running wide in groups, high fiving announcers etc) and GPS inaccuracy make that not too far out. Meantime, in my exuberance, I’d told everyone I had run under 2 hours and Ceri had posted this, so I was now anxious to know if I had actually officially done it.

So with some trepidation I checked the Rock’n’roll website later for my official time.

I felt pretty darn happy about that. No, I felt %^&$# fantastic about that. If I had been a few seconds slower I would have been so pissed.

SONY DSCSo I’m forgetting about the shambles of the long queue for gear in the driving wind and rain at the end, when my hands turned blue and my teeth nearly fell out. The medal is great. This was an experience to remember.



  1. Andy Melder says:

    Way to go, Mike! Love these kinds of stories and your prose was fantastic – say, wasn’t Shakespeare from the UK?? 🙂

    I’m starting to run as well, but no half-marathons yet. Mostly cycling and 5Ks.

    You look great and so glad to see you having so much fun! When aw you back in the US again?.

    All the best and say hello to everyone!


    • mockjogger says:

      Hey Andy, good to hear from you and thanks for your comments. Hopefully back in the US next month but probably East Coast rather than West Coast. I’ll give you a shout when I’m heading out. Good luck with those 5Ks!

  2. Juan Carlos Riveiro says:

    Mike, Andy,

    We should meet all together, let’s choose a Marathon to run and go for it, we can have fun together like in old times !!!!!

    Great job Mike !!!!!

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