I’ve never run in heat like that before.
Last year, a bunch of us got together over lunch in Edinburgh and plotted our next big European marathon with a twist – the Luxembourg Night Marathon! It’s at night, so what could possibly go wrong?
Fast forward to the months leading up to this, and I am – as you already know – injured. So we’re off to a flyer. The bonus here, at least, was you could decide whether to do the half or full marathon during the race! This flexibility kept the door open for me to run despite not running a step since the Loch Leven half a fortnight earlier, and only that since Blackpool five weeks previous. My legs were not going to thank me for this.
My brother – also injured, with the same plan as me – & I had flown over via Heathrow on the Friday night, and got ourselves off to the Expo with another pair from our group on Saturday morning. This took place in the same hall that would make up the start/finish area later that day. It was really bloody hot already, well into the 20s. As a fair Scottish lad who’s facial hair grows in ginger, this was a hammer blow.
And it wasn’t going anywhere. We hid from the sun in an Italian restaurant for lunch in a departure from the normal ‘night before’ carb-loading – a night race forces you into the unknown! I may have taunted the evening’s marathon runners by having a pint with my pizza; I might not have been taking this one too seriously…
And then it was time to go racing. Well, after the bus trip back to the Expo, which became a bus trip from hell. We were waiting at the Central Station for shuttle buses; when one turned up it was already 2/3 full having come from elsewhere, and left the station overflowing with runners (and some supporters, err) to the extent everyone was touching everyone else in one fashion or another. There was plenty of sweating done before the 45 minute journey was over, which included utterly pointless stops along the way intended to pick up more people. Ha! Not the most intelligently thought-through shuttle system, I must say.
Bag drop taken care of, and off to the start line for the 7pm start after a short, slow jog around the holding area. I was in Pen B, where I had no business in my condition, but I made the most of the shade behind some hot-air balloons before the ticker-tape and balloons were released at the gun. We were underway!
I started at a really relaxed pace and felt really comfortable. After relentless teasing from our group through the day I was even toying with the idea of going round the marathon. The decision point was at 15k, so plenty time to think about it!
Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen. Three miles in and already I was beginning to flag. The heat was oppressive, and while I’m happy to report I didn’t feel the injured gluten at all, my legs were keen to remind me I hadn’t really prepared for running any distance, let alone twenty-six miles in 29 degrees!
And then it was time to walk for the first time, four miles in. My 8 min/mile pace just wasn’t sustainable – quite the bump back to earth after my half-marathon PB in Inverness back in March. It was run-walk from there.
I mixed it up from trying 4:30 run / 30s walk, to using water stops as an opportunity for a stop of recovery. I wouldn’t tend to drink too much during the stops for a half, but this wasn’t a day to mess around so I took my time to pour plenty of the wet stuff over my head, and used far more of the energy drinks and even some cola that were lined up at the aid stations.
My mind wandered to my friends running the marathon. I really thought something bad would happen to someone, it felt to inhumane to be out there for so long. And my daft brother who, while ‘only’ running the half was wearing a long-sleeved top and would probably be melting. I know I’ve mentioned it once or twice already, but it was a sufferfest out there.
I imagine the supporters had a bit of an easier time of it. The crowds at the start were fantastic, and while it was quiet on the way into/from town, once you got there the support was plentiful and loud, exactly what was needed to motivate you to keep those legs ticking over. I managed plenty of high fives with kids along the side of the road, and with some – no doubt slightly inebriated – adults too! I also remember passing through a park around 10k where a woman was lying in a hollowed out tree that looked incredibly comfy, reading her book and smiling at us loons as we passed by. And another section where there were loads of bars where you could smell the booze. Soon…
I got to the Decisions, Decisions point where the half marathoners doubled back left, and the marathoners were to carry on round to the right. A marshal, recognising my number as a marathon one, gestured for me to switch right. I in no uncertain terms let him know I was going left! I was far from the only one.
I tried my best to take a few videos of the route as I went around to capture the moments. Annoyingly, they haven’t come out too well, but I did manage to get the finish!
The indoor ending was really unusual and added to the novelty of the occasion, and who doesn’t like cheerleaders?! I crossed the line recording a comfortable PW of 1:49:57. Despite my poor day, the results show me going from 948th at 10k, to 911th at the splitting point (14.8k) to 845th at the finish. A tough day had by plenty!
I savoured the low-alcohol beer after the race, along with the banana, water, energy drink, cola, oranges, apple slices, cake (oh yes, glorious cake) and a nice sit down. The post-race care was brilliant, even including lots of showers and people to dry your hair for you when you’d finished, as well as massage folk.
Overall, the trip was an utter success as every trip away with this awesome group is. The city is nice as a short break, we didn’t have much trouble finding places to eat or drink, had a lovely ice-cream somewhere, we all survived the run (I’ll not go through the mixed bag of experiences here!) and missed just about all the really touristy things we should’ve been doing. But never mind, we spent loads of time together, and that was the important thing.
So now I’ll be taking a little break. I’ve no races booked until Chicago in October, and hopefully I can put the injury troubles behind me so I can give it a right good go. Things might be quiet here for a little while in the meantime, but I’ll be back at some stage.