Sunday, 29 November 2015

Highland Park - Life

I know Peter Buchanan will kill me for saying this but the Water of Leith Half Marathon is always a race I associate with the approach of Christmas as Edinburgh, by the last weekend in November, is totally Christmassed out. You can’t move for Christmas trees and tinsel. I have been trying to shed my pre-Christmas Scrooge-like persona so here is a nice picture of a Christmas tree…
However, I find running a half marathon is an excellent way of avoiding Christmas shopping. Ok, maybe the transformation from “bah humbug” to “ho ho ho” is a work in progress.
Jim had just arrived off a flight from the USA..
A soggy start to the race
Cold rainy weather was forecast and cold rainy weather was what we got at least at the start of the race. Happily the rain eased off during the morning and stayed off for the rest of the day and the sheltered nature of the course meant that the gusting winds were not an issue although the rain had made the course wet, muddy and slippery in places. As it is a downhill start it goes without saying that I started far too quickly and shot away from the folk who had the same start time as me in the handicap. Needless to say the velocity decreased markedly over the next 3 miles and I was soon overhauled. In fact I was overhauled by most of the field that had started behind me and worryingly I didn’t actually manage to catch many of the folk who had an earlier start time than me. Even more worringly most of the people who went past me seemed to do so with some ease. I wondered if I had been a little over optimistic with my predicted race time on which the handicaps were based, which was my half marathon time from early summer, my fitness having taken a bit of a nose dive since then.
It didnt feel like a downhill course to me...

 Usually I find the road crossing points a bit of nuisance as they can slow you down a bit although I suspect what feels like a 5 minute wait is only actually 10 seconds however I am impatient to get across and not lose too much time, which I suspect is the case for most runners. On this occasion though I rather enjoyed the opportunity to take a rest. It may have been my imagination but at one crossing I’m sure there was a lollipop man…nah, couldn’t have been. I must have imagined it. 
The Water of Leith
The course was very well marked thanks to race organiser Peter Buchanan who had done an amazing job of making the course with flour arrows which were large enough not to be washed away by the rain overnight as well as putting up with questions from the competitors about whether the flour was gluten free or self-raising. Such comedians. The course marking was very thorough and must have taken ages to do. If, however, there was any doubt over directions at any point then running alongside the river seemed to be a good move.
The pigeons enjoyed the course markings too - yummy!
It is really strange to be running through the centre of a big city and still be able to see herons fishing on the riverbank, having started in the hills and eventually finishing by the sea, passing through both quaint villages and international landmarks. This course really has it all. At times there were no other people in sight at all, no runners and no passers by out walking their dogs and I was torn between marvelling at how this could be possible in a city centre and then wondering if I had taken a wrong turning and got lost. Sadly in the interests of actually being competitive and trying to take the race seriously I made the decision not to take a camera with me but that now really feels like a missed opportunity so here is a photograph of Dean village I have “liberated” from the internet. 
Dean Village
The sign above the Ship on the Shore pub
Art work on the Water of Leith - I didn't spot that when i ran past
A Slightly blurry picture of an eider duck
Although it is a very scenic course and an enjoyable route I found the last mile dragged on a bit. I was of course forgetting that this was a wee bit longer than the usual 13.1 mile half marathon distance – the Water of Leith Half marathon is about 13.5 miles, and boy was I was cursing those few hundred extra yards.
Happily I hung on well enough to be third counter in the team race as my other team members Lucy and Ben had finished first and third respectively. A favourite whisky of both Ben and mine is Highland Park so the team name seemed like a no brainer and team “Highland Park-Life” were rewarded for their efforts with bottles of some quite interesting looking cider.
Strawberry cider anyone?
Eric and Lynda always provide the post race soup and cakes and it is really appreciated as on a chilly winter day like this you certainly cool down quickly. After the race we all descended on the Leith Beer Company Pub for the prize giving and very entertaining speech from race founder and Heb half legend Jim Bruce.
The Water of Leith soup kitchen
Post race re-fuelling
Eric did a great job serving soup. Simon did a great job sampling the scones...

Post race beers
The prize giving
The evening was spent with Lucy and Russell in the Scottish Malt Whisky Society sampling a few different malts in front of an open fire. A perfect way to end the day.

The Scottish Malt Whisky Society
Choices, choices.
Amazing painted ceiling