Surprise! We did our very first international half marathon! Our philosophy for vacation has always been, "how much stuff can we pack into a trip to make it as crazy as possible."
At the end of May, Ellie and I went on an amazing two week voyage to the United Kingdom with our awesome friend Ellen. Over the course of two weeks, and 1700 miles worth of driving, we got a nearly full England and Scotland experience, including what I feel was one of the most amazing half marathons we've done to date.
The race was on Sunday May 29th, 2022. To acclimate to the time zone change, we flew in to London Gatwick on Thursday morning and spent a relaxing day in Brighton before heading up the country to Edinburgh, about an 8 hour drive. Despite a rocky arrival to Edinburgh due to an extremely miss-represented Airbnb (pro tip: only stay with Superhosts!) we made it to packet pickup at the amazingly scenic Dynamic Earth Exhibit at Holyrood Park. We were all hoping for a much larger race expo full of purchasable swag, but we were a bit let down because there wasn't much more than a stand with race gels and some compression socks.
With a few more race gels in hand, and a single bottle of water... Ellie and I convinced Ellen that the best course of action was to climb the beautiful Arthur's Seat hike, which would surely give us an amazingly beautiful view of the city. She was a good sport and despite her relative displeasure with hiking in general, we set off for what would end up being about a 2 hour round trip hike up a pretty decent hill, that made our quads and bums burn with lactic acid. Not exactly the most restful thing to do pre-race.
As mentioned above, we had a bit of trouble with our Airbnb, so most of the night before the race was on hold with Airbnb in a dingy gross apartment, but we made it work. The morning of we literally vacated the premises with all of our luggage at about 5 am to load everything back in the car, before catching an Uber back to the race start.. bright an early. Again, not exactly the most ideal start to a race morning. Once over to the race start area, I think we all became suddenly aware of two things -- 1. It was dramatically cooler weather than our 80 degree training runs back in Buffalo (it was barely 50 degrees at race start) and 2. This race was WAY bigger than we realized. Our starting corral was nearly a mile back from the race start line, which we later found out was started by Mary Berry herself.
The race started on time, and off we went (20 minutes later), through the streets of Edinburgh. The majority of the first few miles were literally all downhill. Our first 5 miles were all around the 10 minute mile mark, which based on our training was a bit faster than I expected personally. I was definitely the least trained person of the three of us. The sights were absolutely beautiful. The route makes its way out of the city, around Holyrood park, and out to Craigentenny, to run along the Blackness Bay. We essentially ran on the flat boardwalk along the water for the next four miles or so.
Stopping for plenty of selfies along the way, our race strategy did include a run/walk mix. The goal was a 9 minute run at a ~10 pace, followed by a 1 minute walk. We kept this up, which really evolved to walking at the water stations and pressing on until about 11 miles in, which is were things, at least for me, got interesting. For those familiar with longer distance runs, most people of the heavier persuasion use something called body glide, which helps with chaffing. Despite applying body glide to the usual blister spots on my feet, I neglected to apply it to other key areas below the waist. This was an enormous mistake, as after 10 miles the pain started to set in. Ellie and Ellen were bounding forward happy as could be, absolutely crushing it, where I fell off the pace, with each step grimacing as it felt like my skin was being torn up (later we confirmed that it was in fact torn up). Despite my pleas for them to leave me for dead, the pulled up and waited for me to catch up. I wasn't amused.
As we closed the last couple of miles out, they picked up the pace, faster and faster, running the last half mile into the finisher chute, at around a 9 minute pace... quite nice of them! Crossing the line, with the bagpipes playing, we were all pretty happy to be done. Overall time: 2:25:41. Not a personal best for any of us, but certainly not a personal worst! Not bad. Following the race, we walked what seemed like an eternity to the shuttle busses that would take us back to the start line area, where we then proceeded to walk another couple of miles to the car. In all, I believe we hit about 50,000 steps that day.
Despite my chaffed nether regions, we had an absolute blast with the race and I think we would all love to do it again. The weather was unbelievable, especially compared to the 80 degree buffalo marathon days that we are used to that same weekend. It's definitely a race to add to your bucket list.