After the luxury of an uninterrupted night’s sleep in a double bed all to myself and with no children poking my eyeballs out to make me get up, I put on my running gear at a leisurely pace, momentarily worried about wearing activewear in the hotel breakfast room, then shrugged and went downstairs in it anyway. I needn’t have been concerned as all of the hotel guests were clad in an impressive array of brightly-coloured lycra and I felt quite at home as I tucked into my cornflakes.
I arrived at Holyrood Park a short time later, having followed the activewear army down the Royal Mile through the cold morning air. I have never actually visited Arthur’s Seat before and, as the hill grew nearer, it appeared to loom higher and higher and I desperately hoped that the 5k race I was about to run did not go up to the top of it.
Lurking at the start line, I was joined by the other three marathon trainees (Barbara, Kevin and Steven) and Liz McColgan for a quick natter and photo before the race began. Barbara, Kevin and Steven are all faster runners than I am so they were due to start their race earlier than me in the white and green waves so I waddled across the muddy field towards the baggage tent to leave our bags before my own wave of runners was due to start. I felt pre-race nerves as I waited in the pink pen and took part in the warm-up boxercise… would I make it up the epic hill everyone kept telling me about? Would I be so slow that the Sweeper Bus of Shame would have to pick me up? What if I don’t actually get to the end for some reason?
I had a quick word with myself, told Dave the Inner Chimp to wind his neck in and the race began.
At first the road seemed quite flat and, getting carried away with the pace of those around me, I started to run quite quickly. Then I heard someone to me right say “here we go” as we turned a corner and were faced with the start of That Hill.
That Hill went on and on and on (surely defying the laws of physics and stretching up into the stratosphere) and eventually I gave in to Dave the Chimp’s negative voice and had to walk a bit to catch my breath. I was actually really cross with myself for walking but knew that I needed to pace myself to be able to get up That Hill with enough energy to make the most of the downhill on the other side.
At the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere, a bagpiper was blowing his pipes and squeezing his bag with great gusto to mark the top of the hill and, with immense relief, I could finally run again, looking forward to the cake I would earn by finishing the 5k distance. When the long, sweeping downhill section opened up in front of me I had a great big grin on my face as it felt like I was flying towards my medal and finisher’s bag full of strange promotional items! One last, big effort along the flat straight towards the finish line and I was done!!! My time was 32 minutes and 46 seconds, which is a gentle stroll for some but a pretty good effort for me!
I was pleased with my time but part of me really wants to be faster like my fellow marathon trainees. This will only come with time and effort, I know. I would like to revisit this race next year and be fast enough to move up into the next wave of runners.
Afterwards I was treated to the kindness of strangers as Barbara introduced me to her friends (who had also run the race) and we adjourned to a lovely cafe for a much needed hot chocolate and cake! Today was a Good Day!
If you would like to kick my rear end towards the finish line of my first marathon and towards the most well-earned cake I have ever had, please help me by donating to Care of Police Survivors! https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/erica-gilchrist1