#28: Edinburgh

The original plan had been to hold both Edinburgh runs until last. I had anticipated that Edinburgh would be a sort of run up to the finale at Portobello. The festival though is upon us, and we had some guests coming up to stay with us. I try my best to be a good host, and I’m fairly sure that buggering off to Glasgow for the morning is considered poor form. As luck would have it though, said guests were also known to run from time to time, and not just for buses… maybe I could drag them along.

Toward the start of the year I booked this week off work; the plan was that I would use it to enjoy the Edinburgh festival(s). A few weeks ago, the Fringe catalogue programme appeared in our living room, and proceeded to stare menacingly across the room at me whilst gathering dust. I kept telling myself that I would sit down with it, pen in hand and painstakingly start researching the things I would see. I figured then once I had some sort of shortlist, I would then search on youtube to whittle the list down further. The only problem with this plan is that I didn’t bother to do anything until, well, this Monday.

Last year at the festival, I joined some friends at George Square. We had decided to be ‘spontaneous’, and that we would go there, some sort of show would be an obvious choice for all of us and we would all have a wonderful time. Arriving in George Square, we found ourselves in something akin to London rush hour with a bar. Not put off, we looked up to see the schedule for the venues in the vicinity, which I think numbered at least 15. Each of those venues host a lot of acts, very few of which we had any prior knowledge of, the result of which was very much like the end credits for the special effects team at the end of the film Avatar. This was a bit of a set back, but still at this point undeterred, we set about making a decision. After 20 minutes of shrugging, confusion and countless more flyers we started to realise that we all had quite different requirements from the afternoon’s entertainment. We did however come to a decision to see that bloke, in that place. Brilliant.

A few minutes in the box office queue later, we found that said bloke was actually sold out. Was there something else we fancied seeing? It hadn’t really occurred to any of us before this point to think of a backup plan, so we were back to the drawing board. At this point, the sensible thing might have been to trudge back to a pub, and just spend the afternoon drinking more sensibly priced beer. At our lowest ebb though, a hero appeared. A hero, holding a flyer, for his own show. He seemed nice. He seemed like he could be vaguely amusing. Crucially though, he couldn’t possibly be sold out if he was having to flyer his own show. We were on!

Shortly after the show I decided I’d had enough of the festival, headed home and didn’t think about it until this week. It’s probably a lot of the reason that the fringe phone book programme has remained unopened to this point.

To all things though there must be some sort of silver lining, and in this case it was realising that for the festival to work for me, doing some sort of research before leaving the house is the way to go. During this week, I’ve seen a show most days. I’ve done this by picking a venue I’m interested in so that I can narrow down the list, then digging around on the internet to see if they’re any good. It’s actually led to some great results thankfully, and best of all I’ve really enjoyed being a tourist in my own town. It was a bit like being on holiday, but with no flights involved and getting to sleep in my own bed each day.

Having been a tourist here all week, parkrun ‘touristing’ at Edinburgh seemed completely appropriate, if not at all technically correct.

Waking up on Saturday morning I heard the rain before I saw it. Looking forlornly out of the window at it didn’t seem to do much to diminish it, so I set about making coffee for the guests who I would soon be forcing to partake in the ‘great’ outdoors. As time to depart approached, the sky looked like it might be trying to brighten up but was otherwise keeping its cards close to its chest. As we arrived though, the rain appeared to be over its little tiff and had steadied down to a light drizzle. On the plus side, the wind was almost non-existent… although it might have been cleverly disguised, the conditions for running were pretty excellent. I was feeling pretty good as well, and the previous PB I had of 21.37 seemed like it should be beatable.

Go! I’ve been distracted talking with my friends, and haven’t realised I’m further back than I would have liked. I’m a bit snarled up in the first bit, and we’re starting to turn slightly to the left before I’ve got clear path in front of me. I’m quickly up to speed as the path starts to open out and in front of me it’s just runners, the sea and it’s time to get to work. The path now arches off to the right as we push forward with only the smallest of breezes on our faces. The rain has practically stopped as the cafe on the esplanade comes into view. A man is stood outside shouting advertisements for bacon rolls, cups of tea and other goodies. I wonder if this tactic has ever enticed anyone to just call it quits and take him up on the offer. We’re now approaching some trees which remind me of the album cover for The Joshua Tree, though it’s not the same tree and I’ve no idea why I think they’re similar. Mile #1 done in 6.57, which considering the slow start sounds pretty good to me.

The course now starts to snake round the harbour wall as we approach the lollipop section of the course before we head back. I’ve started a bit far back, so am now managing to pick people off as we track along the wall, and round the corner to take the path to the side of the green. We make the turn and along the straight section I see runners going wide to avoid a puddle that covers the whole path. I take the view that the grass could be just as wet, and years of cross country have taught me that the best way is usually a straight line. I almost gleefully plough straight through the middle, it’s thankfully not all that deep and my feet stay pretty dry. Round the right-hander and we’re heading back home again. Mile #2 down in 6.44 – happy with that, now I just need to hang on.

My guests earlier told me to keep an eye out for them on the return leg, and although I don’t believe that either I’m that quick, or they are that slow, I duly keep my eyes peeled. Often what makes an out and back course like this so difficult is being able to see a long way up the road. Although here there are few bends, they happen at key points to help to break the course down, a little. I know full well the next mile is going to be tough, but at least I can’t see all of it yet. I focus for now on getting to that tree, then the next one. The cafe comes into view and that’s the next target. I’m getting closer to the guy in front, and I’m hugely relieved when I see he’s wearing headphones, since when in headphones no one can hear you wheeze. Past the cafe and a small turn left and we see the narrow path that signals the end is really near. Mile #3 done in 6.40 – well happy with that.

Across the line and I can barely speak to thank the marshal giving out the tokens. It takes a few minutes after finishing a 5k to get your breath back and process what just happened. In the last mile, my brain becomes a bit like a clock with something jamming the second hand. My mind locks into place which is how I think I manage to override everything in my body saying ‘please stop doing this’. If you ask someone straight after the finish line how they are, it’s like they’ve not quite unjammed the clock yet and you just get a confused vacant look back. It takes a few minutes afterwards to click back into place, and to unpack what you’ve just done. I know though that I’ve taken a good chunk of time off my previous time here, and I’ve even managed to run a negative split. Brilliant, now let’s go have some more fun at the festival!

Scores! 93rd place, 21:13

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