This title was the only reason I ran this race. I have to admit that the canal towpath, as lovely as car-free places are, did not fill me with much excitement* ahead of the run. However, Point-To-Point races, a race between two major cities, a race from one place to home, a race that is the longest I have every ran – this is why I chose to do this run.
The few beers and pasta the night before gave me enough nutrition for the next day, I was pleased to have stayed over in Glasgow the night before as it was a relatively easy start to the day.
Assembling at the start, a small gathering of runners, with varying degrees of backpack. Some large, some small, some with huge water receptacles, and some with a bum bag style. All were nervously strolling around the canal side. I was trying not to think about ALL THE FOOD that I had put in my bag and my drop bag. After seeing the rest of the folk’s bags, I knew I had too much.
I met up with a guy I’d spoken to on Twitter and we exchanged the usual pre-race nervous chat, both of us wanting assurances that we’re gonna be OK. You can read Stephen’s version Here
My plan was to run a 4:30 marathon, and then see how it went for the 2nd marathon and then after that – who knows. We gathered by the Ruchill Basin and listened to the race brief. The motivational ‘Linlithgow is your last easy bailing point’ message hit home. That was some 30miles away though and 25miles from the finish so I thought I hopefully wouldn’t need that!
Off we went, 0901, and under the bridge. The only bit of navigation I needed was in 1.3miles turn left off the canal, under the other canal and then ahead on to Falkirk. Thankfully there was a sign (1 of only 2 signs on the whole route that I saw) and also there was still a lot of us together.
I was tracking at 5:20 pace, then I thought that was too fast and then went at 5:40 pace, but that was too slow, so I kept behind a guy with a grey top on, who seemed to be going steady and he was, which kept me at 5:30 pace. This was good, I was going well and feeling like I wasn’t trying hard at all, with an average HR of 141, I was quite happy.
The Forth/Clyde canal is fairly wide, and with vistas across to the hills in the North it was fairly scenic. *Note from before, it turned out quite scenic!
We were out the city in no time. I got into the rhythm and was following grey top guy still. Hanging slightly back so I didn’t put him off! This, until he let out his morning wind and darted into the bushes. I decided I would carry on without my makeshift pacer after that. I didn’t see him again so I can only imagine what became of him.
The first aid station came and went without much of a do, I took some food and water on and chatted to the marshalls, trying not to stay too long. This stretch really opens up, wide canal, wide towpath and wide vistas. I was on a known stretch since last year when I did the John Muir Way I came through here. I heard a couple of folk chatting behind me, making gains on my position. I decided that I would try to keep at their pace and ran with them for a while, mainly for the company and also the distraction. Some good chat, and exchange of ‘nuttiness’ in terms of what we did i.e. I thought they were nuts for contemplating turing around at Edinburgh and running back the same way to Glasgow…. nuts, and they thought I was nuts for thinking about doing the City to Summit! Just shows how perceptions differ. I respected them in any case and they were looking good so I stayed along for chat and pacing. In the end that paid off, as I got to the Falkirk Wheel in good shape and on time.
Bex, my Sister in law (Almost, July she will be) was there with the Nephews which brightened my day even though a shower was passing through. Chats and eats and I was watered, I started the walk up the hill to the Union Canal.
Leaving Bex and the bairns with the hope of seeing them in Linlithgow I entered the tunnel at the top of the Wheel. It was here where the miles hit home. I was 30-something-miles from Edinburgh and I hadn’t done a marathon yet. My spirits were kept high with the prospect of meeting Andy at Falkirk High where he’d meet me on his bike to keep me company into the unknown.
I was 5 minutes ahead of the train he was due to catch so I text him to catch me up and remember to turn left into the Tunnel! The tunnel was great, cool from the sun, and now with funky lighting to boot. The lights change colour in a motion so you can see the bulbs change as it approaches you. This kept my attention off falling into the canal or tripping over the cobbles.
I started to do some live video on twitter, partly to keep people informed of where I was, and partly to distract me. Having the chance, and running that slow, that I could go on social media during a race was good for me. The messages would come through on my watch and I was able to see people following my progress.
Exiting the tunnel and into the sun I started a jog again, keeping to 6:30-6:40 min/km. I was feeling good but I knew that I would soon tire. I hit marathon distance on the other end of the tunnel and I felt much better than I had when I trained at this distance, which meant my training worked, or my taper worked at least!
By now Andy had caught up and he was struggling to cycle at my walking pace, almost coming a cropper in the canal a few times which cheered me up. He’d cycle by my side for most of the way to Edinburgh and it was a much needed constant to keep the miles ticking over and the conversation light.
The part between Falkirk and Linlithgow was tough. A marathon was done, another to go, and I was starting to hurt. The hard packed canal towpath, with freshly laid Tarmac was tough on the feet. My forefoot norm was starting to become more of a heel strike in order to keep off the front of my feet. The change in gait did not help.
The sun came out, hot, no breeze and I was melting. As I knew the canal at this point, I was longing for Linlithgow Palace to come into view as I knew it wouldn’t be long. I was running low on water, and I needed to be there. It was with some satisfaction that I rounded the corner and was there at the canal centre.
I kept eating some salted peanuts and chopped up marsbar, twix and orange slices. I wanted to stay and chat with Bex and Andy for longer but I knew I needed to go. I was being shoo’d away.
The running was still happening, but I was slower, and with more regular walk breaks. A shower came through, it was cool on the skin. I was drinking a lot. I was also force feeding myself with flapjack making sure I was fueling my body to keep going.
I was in unfamilar territory. I didn’t really know where Broxburn was but I knew it was on the stretch of canal that actually twists and turns in a westerly direction, back to Glasgow. It isn’t a strong point but with news my mates Jamie and Trish were going to be there then I kept on plodding on. It was also tough underfoot, as they were preparing the ground to be Tarmac and the uneven surface didn’t agree with my tender feet.
Broxburn came and went with some chat, refill and eats. Jamie and Trish were walking toward the checkpoint as I was leaving, I stopped to chat and we walked together to keep moving, they would see me in Ratho they said!
10kms to Ratho, and then 10kms from there to the finish. I was in touching distance, but I knew it was going to be a tough 10km and it would probably take me an hour plus to get to Ratho. I was going steady, running, walking, shuffling. Eating and drinking when I could. Turing a corner, the hedges retreated, and opened up a view across a field and in the distance, in the sun was Edinburgh Castle sitting proudly on the rock! Home! I can see home! A welcome up in the many downs I was having.
I sent Andy ahead when we got to the Climbing Centre, partly as he was bored and there were people at the pub, and secondly I just wanted to get my head down to get to Ratho. It was taking all my energy to keep positive, but it was difficult to remain so and so I needed some Glenn time.
Andy rode off quickly, I think he was glad to get some cycling in! It’s tough going at snails pace.
Elin, Trish and Jamie were at Ratho with a beer in hand and Andy talking. I took some beer off Jamie. Now you may think, 70kms of running, beer is not exactly what you would want, but it was EXACTLY what I wanted and needed. The bitterness, cool, amber drink (Tennants) went down a treat and I could have just stayed but I needed to get on. I dragged myself away and started running again, not fast, not athletically but running.
At this point I knew I was going to finish, it was just when and in what condition. The bypass was a watershed point for this and as Andy left me to get the car which would carry me home, I continued through Wester Hailles as the sun was making long shadows in front of me. Handily, these long shadows signalled to the semi drunk pedestrians that a runner was wanting to come through and they made way for me without me having to have the energy to speak.
Interestingly I got some PRs through this part of the run, and I have no idea how as I wasn’t going that fast. In fact I was in pain, and I was mentally telling myself ‘run to the next bridge’ and ‘run to where the aquaduct is’. So I did. I walked the Aquaduct with its narrow path and uneven cobbles I thought it was likely I would fall in. A guy at the end congratulated me and told me it was only a mile to go and that I would do it! Which was nice.
I started running, and I didn’t stop until I got to the finish where Andy and Nina were waiting next to a small group of folk who looked cold. 10hrs and 40mins my watch said as I got a medal put over my head and it hung around my neck. Nina presented me with a beer and an iced bun! Though I couldn’t face the bun, I wanted the beer.
I’m not sure I would do this race again, some guy told me it was his 4th and a foreign lady had come back to do it again as it had rained the first time. It was good to say I’ve ran from Glasgow to Edinburgh, and the canal is lovely, but the lack of trail and hills is what makes me not want to do this one again.
As with most of these smaller races, it was super organised, and the checkpoints were well stocked with food and with super friendly helpers which really does make the difference.