The Edinburgh Half Mara-Hen

Posted on June 2, 2015. Filed under: Edinburgh Half Marathon, Edinburgh Marathon, Edinburgh Marathon Festival, race report |

Of all the things I have ever contemplated that life might have in store for me, standing in the middle of Edinburgh in the louping rain at 7:30 in the morning dressed only in spandex and pink bunny ears was not one of them.  But there I was.  Stone. Cold. Sober.

Also on my list of things that I thought I would never do would be to run in an event at the Edinburgh Marathon Festival.  But there I was.  On a Sunday morning.  At 7:30am.

Although it is my local, I have a dim view of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival.

20150531_074105Firstly, it’s the name.  Bollocks it’s the Edinburgh Marathon.  I have had a house in Edinburgh for 22 years and I have rarely been on any of the streets that the marathon passes through.  In fact, if I generously said that 6 miles were in the city, I would say that I wouldn’t voluntarily walk on several of those miles.  To put it in perspective, imagine the London Marathon finishing in Brentford, or the Rome Marathon deliberately dodging the Colosseum and everything else of any historical note.  Despite having Edinburgh Castle, the Wallace Monument, the Royal Mile and St Giles Cathedral on it’s doorstep the main landmark of the Edinburgh Marathon is the Cockenzie Power Station.  Like a big, steaming dump on the Forth coast it is just always there.  Steaming and ugly.

And my second problem with the Edinburgh Marathon is it’s legendary incompetence.  Past indiscretions have included running out of water, running out of t-shirts, giving out the wrong t-shirts for the event, running out of medals, mis-measuring the course and last year’s “top secret” results debacle.  This is apparently forgiven every year as it fills up with runners presumably in the forlorn hope that this will be the year they get it right.

So in the forlorn hope that this would be the year they get it right, I found myself at the pink start in the pissing rain at 7:30 on a Sunday morning.  How did a sane runner get himself in this position?

Well mainly because I had too many Y chromosomes to attend a hen party.  My BFF Iron Nessie is getting married and on account of being male the *actual* hen party was deemed unsuitable for my attendance.  So we set about an alternative plan.  Straight after Austria we were all Billy Big Baws – “let’s do a half ironman and then go on the lash”.  That plan had to be revisited on account of the lack of swimming and the lack of cycling.  And so we found ourselves entering the Edinburgh Half Marathon.  Mainly out of a morbid curiosity to see what they could make an arse of.

Plans were typically robust.

“7:30 sharp?”

“Yup, usual place?”

“See you then”

We haven’t done “usual time, usual place?” for a while.  Not since we ended up 10 miles apart at the agreed meeting time.

Anyway, miraculously it worked.  But Nessie had forgotten her baggage tag, so in the hosing rain we performed the ultimate knot magic and tied two rucksacks full of our drinking gear together and entrusted them to the baggage guy.  Naively.

Neither of us are really dressing up sorts so I was fairly confident that there would be no need to make tits of ourselves.  Then Nessie pulled out the veil and the pink bunny ears.  Like a good bridesmaid I put them on.  “HAHAHAHAHAH, I fecking knew you didn’t think I’d bring them.  Now lets get rid of them”.  Thank goodness.

We lined up, they counted down, we set off.

The run was pretty uneventful. Disappointingly uneventful given that they could have set it in a stunning city centre, but I mustn’t go on about it.  Somewhere  in the first few miles we heard an alarming noise.  A loud prolonged grunting.  A man sounded likes he was being strangled, or was autoerotically asphyxiating himself without the orange. I have nothing else to say about him.

We had planned it as a social run.  Originally I had said to Nessie “let’s go for 2 hours”, but with 8 short runs between us since London we revised on the start line for 2:15.  This became problematic.  Like a silver suited space hero from the Jetsons I work in kilometres but Nessie like some kind of peat bog troll still clings on to the imperial system.  While it seems unlikely that two intelligent, qualified (if lapsed) accountants could be outwitted to the point of meltdown by their watches, it actually happened.  Our pace was all over the shop as our mid-run calculations blew our tiny, sweaty minds.

The run chat had concerned me before the start.  The last time we ran 21.1km together the chat was pish.  And I mean proper pish.  For example, the crunch characteristics of Galaxy Counters versus Minstrels or whether it is more satisfying to suck or pop a Malteser.  So with a wedding pending I was deeply concerned it was all going to be hair and make up and fake tan.  It pretty much was.

Anyway, after we had passed the Seafield Sewage Works we got a much clearer view of the Cockenzie Power Station as we swooped down on to the Portobello Prom.  About this point it became clear that my feet were still in recovery from London.  To recap briefly about two weeks before Edinburgh they looked like parma ham.  I dreaded to think what was going on in my trainers.

There is a particular cruelty about the Edinburgh Half Marathon.  The route passes the finish line at 10 miles and continues for a soulless 3 miles towards The Pans.  It is dull and the Power Station gets ever closer.

On Saturday evening we got a severe weather warning from EMF threatening rain for the duration and gusting winds of up to 40mph.  This was the only stretch where I noticed the wind as my normally staid hair-do became somewhat flamboyant in a gentle breeze.  Certainly nothing to moan about.

In the last couple of miles we watched a chap unravel in the style that I have only seen in the closing miles of an Ironman.  In his headphones he was having an increasingly voluminous disagreement with his legs.  This continued until, in a Basil Fawlty style attack, he was last seen liberally and loudly dropping the F and C bombs while punching his legs sitting at the side of the road.  Proper weird shit.

In the last three miles my feet really started to give me problems and a few times I had to get Nessie to slow to a walk just to stop the sock material pounding into the tender flesh.  On one of these walks a chap tap/pushed me on the back shouting “c’mon RUN, it’s the best day of your life”.  “No”, I shouted back, “that would have been one of my Ironman”.  Anyway, he was pacing his wife in so we cat and moused with them all the way to the end and finished together after some good fun banter.

IMG-20150531-WA0006We crossed in 2:17, only two minutes behind plan.  Two hours and 17 minutes of fake tan and hair chat.  It felt longer.

We collected our medals and goodie bags and then tried to find the baggage lorries.  They were very well hidden.  The lady at the Info Point had a queue of people asking where all the articulated lorries were.  Eventually we found them, kinda where she said but with absolutely no signage.

There, we also found a bunch of poor volunteers who had been so badly lead that they had just given up.  It took us 55 minutes to get our bags back and that was only because or bags were quite distinctive and the strategy had deteriorated to “DOES ANYONE RECOGNISE ANYTHING?”.  Although it pissed me off, more importantly, it was dangerous.  It was cold and Edinburgh had obviously saved a fraction of a penny by not providing foil blankets.  Completely irresponsible race organisation and apparently not the first time they have made an arse of the baggage.  A poor and unfair way to treat volunteers and had the weather been as EMF had issued in their severe weather warning there would, without a doubt, have been casualties.

Once we had the bags we went back to the Info Point for advice how to get out of the field.  And then we completely ignored it.  Used google maps, found the service bus and we were in the pub by 1pm.  Beer, burgers and cocktails.  Bed by midnight.  The perfect day out with my buddy.

To re-cap:

The spectators and volunteers who had come out in the pouring rain to cheer us on – double thumbs up.

Ignoring all the advice from EMF and walking towards Edinburgh to catch the service bus – thumbs up.

The “Edinburgh Marathon” route – double thumbs down.

The organisers and the baggage system – double thumbs gouged in my own eyes.

Where next?  Well, I am now hitting the pool in readiness for the Great Scottish Swim 5k.  Like some kind of aquatic dumbass.


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6 Responses to “The Edinburgh Half Mara-Hen”

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Hilarious read as always!! 😂 Well done you two!


The baggage debacle sounds reminiscent of the Sheffield Half in April in a street completely in shade which funnelled 70mph gusts up it. As you say, dangerous. Even I felt hypothermic…


I don’t really feel the cold but I was snuggling in to the stinking, steaming morrass of bodies for warmth. If the rain and wind was as forecast there would have been a greater need for first aid services than they had! A foil blanket, at least, would have helped.


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Hilarious report as ever.

Good to see that they’ve not improved with practice. I did the marathon a few years back – finished in a GFA time and still had to wait about 15 mins to get my bag back. God knows what it was like further down the field with the volume of people.

By comparison – in London I’ve had my bag handed to me before I’ve even been able to call out my number.
Can they get the London guys to sort it out ?

Good luck for the wedding Iron Nessie !


We both did London and commented that it took us 20 mins from crossing the line to leaving the runners area. Took me 20 minutes to find out where the lorries were.

At least they didn’t run out of water this time!


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