I was promised bagpipes. And there were bagpipes.
Everything else was icing.
Speaking of icing, when I set out for Holyrood Park this morning at my usual brisk warm-up walking pace, I slipped and fell. It wasn’t a bad fall, although a passer-by stopped long enough to tell me that I should be walking in the road (thanks, I think). While taking eensy baby steps the rest of the way to the starting line, I wondered if running a race was the best thing to be doing at -1°C (30.2°F). Although I was prepared mentally and had plenty of layers on, I worried a little about the state of the course.
When I arrived to my wave’s place in the starting line-up, the race organisers announced that there was nothing to fear. Plenty of grit had been placed on the course, three times over, and so I took my place and we were soon off!
Even though the first third of this particular course is all uphill, I was immediately glad to be running it. It was misty and cold but not wet. I got to see the swans in their pond one last time. I tried to peek down into Duddingston but it was so misty that I could barely make it out.
And the pipers! There were pipers at the 1k, 2k, 3k, and 4k markers. Some runners stopped to take selfies with the pipers. I asked the piper at the 3k marker if I could take his picture and he obliged. (I loved running in the slowest wave. Most of us were just trying to finish, not get any PRs, so lots of us stopped for pictures and chatted as we jogged.)
Shocking no one, I listened to the original Broadway cast recording of “Hamilton” as I ran. This was one of the best ideas I have ever had and it resulted in the following tweet:
The last bit of the course is all blessedly downhill so I got one last soar down Arthur’s Seat to the finish line. And then:
I hope I never fall out of love with this musical.
It was a slow 5k, even by my standards. I don’t even have accurate statistics because Runmeter quit at the start (due to a RAM issue that I now know how to fix) and I had inexplicably left my Garmin at home even though I remembered to bring my lip balm but it is pumpkin spice lip balm so before you question my priorities remember I’m a white girl and this is pumpkin spice lip balm we’re talking about here people.
As this is a special post doing double-duty as a race report, you get a second photo today. It’s a super-creepy selfie I took on the walk home. What is going on with my eyeballs in this shot? I’m not even looking in the right place and I’m the one taking the photo! It’s all the pumpkin spice.
When I got home, I took a very hot shower and discovered just how cold I had gotten because it was all going so well and I was warming up and then everything itched all at once like I was one giant chicken-pock. (Yep, that’s the singular of “pox”.) It was still a great shower, and a great race. No matter where I live, Arthur’s Seat will always be my favourite extinct volcano.
And thank you, anonymous person, for donating to the Joshua Nolan Foundation. Your generosity will help someone here get the mental health counselling they need.
Shortly after moving to Edinburgh, I met an extraordinary woman named Laura. She is extraordinary because she somehow picked up the pieces of her life after her son Joshua took his own life at only twenty-two years old. And after she picked up those pieces, she forged ahead to found the Joshua Nolan Foundation the very next year.
Tomorrow will be my last 5k race around Arthur’s Seat, at least for now, and I’m running to raise awareness for the Joshua Nolan Foundation. The Joshua Nolan Foundation works with their partner counsellors to fund counselling sessions for people who have been identified as ‘at risk’ of suicide. If you or someone you know has been impacted by not having access to this kind of support, please consider donating to the Joshua Nolan Foundation.
And please think fleet-footed thoughts for me around 10:00 GMT tomorrow! I’m a bit creaky but I want to finish strong for such an important cause.
Today I ran my second 5K race! I didn’t think it was possible, but I am even more excited about running now than I was last time.
Last night, I wasn’t worried about the race because I knew mostly what to expect. I was a bit concerned about my health; my stomach and head have been a mess for the past week as the result of a post-commencement, post-vacation immune-system crash and reboot. So I took it easy all day, hydrated, and ate well. I prepared my race gear, then set out some freshly-washed clothes so I wouldn’t have to think about anything post-race but refuelling, showering, and resting. Then I went to bed on time.
I woke up around 07:00 – still quite dark in wintery Edinburgh – and my stomach was absolutely roiling. Race time wasn’t until 10:35, so I didn’t want to eat breakfast yet, but I wanted to test just how bad off I was. I had a banana and felt not-awful, then a cuppa, and tootled around online until breakfast-time, when I had oatmeal with a splash of maple syrup. I kept drinking water, too.
After waking FunkyPlaid up, I finished getting ready, and soon it was time for us to leave. It was wonderful walking down to Holyrood Park together. I wasn’t nervous at all, only excited, chattering away at FunkyPlaid about the upcoming race.
We got there on time, so I had to queue up for the toilets immediately. (This queue was quite organised, unlike the one at the last race!) Then we found the starting line, where I kissed FunkyPlaid goodbye and joined my starting group.
I was far enough back in the starting group that I couldn’t see any of the warm-up exercises, so I did my best to watch the others around me and fake it. I was so eager to just run already when my starting group lurched forward. FunkyPlaid got one last photo of me before we headed off.
The elevation profile for the first half of the course had me a bit concerned. Again, I hadn’t really trained on hills, so I knew if I was going to make it to the 3K marker without significant pain I was going to have to take it really, really slow. The race announcer confirmed this as we approached the starting line, saying, “I’m not going to lie; the first half of this course is a killer.” Great.
Most everyone else around me took off as soon as we crossed the starting line. The very first portion before the incline was fairly flat, but I saved my energy. Boy howdy, was I glad I did that! As soon as the incline really kicked in, I was able to keep plodding along. Right before the first mile finished, still on that incline, I started to feel that weird, vertigo-like sensation, so I slowed to a walk for about 30 seconds until it passed.
At this point, it was tough not to notice what was going on around me. Some who were stepping off the road and into the wet, slippery grass on shaky legs in order to pass slower runners were also wiping out. No major spills occurred that I could see, but enough to knock people off their feet and scrape some knees. Also, a few people lost their breakfasts. Many people were walking up the incline, and a few were stopping. I felt less awful about having to walk.
Soon after starting, I realised that Runmeter, the iPhone app I use for training, had punked out. I was very glad to have the Garmin as backup, although when I glimpsed my pace I started obsessing about it … until I saw the view out over the city. If my iPhone hadn’t been so tough to get out of my running belt, I would have taken some photos.
I loved how many people were running with partners or in groups in this race. When two people run together, there is usually one person who is a little faster than the other. Time and time again, I observed the faster person turning around to smile or touch the other person’s shoulder to give them a boost. Just witnessing that boosted me a little too. I realised that as much as I love running alone, I would love to run a race with someone someday.
Once the endorphins kicked in, I didn’t feel so awful, but this race was much more of a slog than the last one. I was grateful for my hat. My hat is a souvenir from my favourite museum, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. I’m not really a baseball-cap-wearing person, but I had been looking for a hat with a brim for rainy-day runs. After a great day at the museum with my friend Kate last December, I wanted a reminder of that visit and the spectacular vacation that surrounded it. Fond vacation memories played in my head as I ran today, thanks to my hat.
As soon as we started going downhill, I knew the race was over half-done and I was a bit sad. I started taking longer strides and it felt like I was flying! When I started the final km of the race, I was keenly aware that I was behind my first race time by less than a minute, but as soon as I started pushing myself to go faster, I felt nauseated. So I opted to forget the time and finish happily. And that I did.
Success felt even sweeter with FunkyPlaid there to share it with me! He was energised by spectating at the finish line. There were so many people there today, at all levels of ability, united by intention and dedication. We both love that about races. Maybe we will run one together someday.
We stopped briefly on the way to lunch so I could put my medal on.
Then I ate so much food at Café Truva and had a boozy coffee too. On the way home, a passing stranger asked me how the run was. I was pretty exhausted at this point, but I think I mumbled something about it being great. She touched my arm and said, “Well done, you!” It made me smile a lot.
After showering and resting up, I made an indulgent post-race dinner of cinnamon-thyme chicken on a bed of sweet potato “linguine” with brown butter and sage.
My race pack arrived today. Every time I think about the race, my stomach goes a little crazy, so I am trying not to think about it too much. Eight days to go!
gratitude: generous friends exceeding my race fundraising goal · fruited teacakes slathered with Marmite · cuddling up with a writing deadline for the rest of the day