North Berwick Road Race Report

North Berwick Road Race report from  Iain Macdonald:

Having grown up in Gullane I had always known of the Edinburgh to North Berwick race.  So this year the thought got into my head that it would be fun to give the 20 mile race a try, especially as my plan to get quicker hadn’t materialised.

Before the race began I was unsure of my fitness. Due to an injury hit period of inconsistent training, I never had the chance to put in any 14-16 mile efforts at race pace which were so important to my marathon performance last year.  I did however, manage a couple of 18 mile long runs, and a 20 miler too, so at least I felt I could complete the race.  Fortunately, the stubborn east wind had died down overnight into a cool breeze, and this upped my confidence levels.  My plan was to take it conservatively and go out at 6.15 a mile and see if I could push it on from there to finish sub-2.05.

Before the start I had been informed by EAC master statistician, Richard Meade, that on paper I could finish in the top 3. So, no pressure!  Immediately from the start two guys flew off into the distance and I realised I would be in a battle for third.  By the end of the first mile I was in tenth, but my Garmin said 6.04.  my mind kicked into overdrive, has everyone else gone off too fast? Is my Garmin way out? Should I try and catch up, or just trust my strategy? In the end I went for the latter.  I eased off a touch and completed mile 2 in 6.12.  In Musselburgh I went up to ninth, then into eighth around 7 miles at Cockenzie. 

At this point in the race things got interesting.  As the roads are open you run most of the first half of the race on pavements.  Until Cockenzie there had been little trouble, but then all of a sudden cars were coming out junctions, buses were stopping, moon-walkers in training were clogging up the pavement and cars were parked at the side of the road.  A few hairy moments followed and quick decisions had to be made to avoid me being taken out by cars.  Fortunately I am used to these situations, training in the villages of east Lothian.

So after the drama of Cockenzie the race moved off the pavements and into the road.  At the 10 mile point I looked at my watch and was happy to see 1.02. Well on target and my breathing was fine.  I was just hoping my legs would keep up with my heart and lungs and the big breakfast I could still feel in my stomach would go away.  This part of the race takes you round Longniddry Bents and with an open road I could see five runners in front coming back towards me.  At this point I was convinced that my strategy would pay off and third place would be achievable.  About 11 miles in I moved up to seventh and then half a mile later I was in sixth, after passing the first lady.

Through Aberlady I was still feeling pretty good and my legs were holding up, however, I knew what was coming next. Once the road gets to Luffness it starts to climb towards Gullane, but I am well used to it having tackled it towards the end of many a long run or marathon paced effort over the past couple of years.  I decided to take it easy and drop my pace a little into the 6.20s to prevent my legs from packing in.  The next three runners continued to move back towards me and I overtook two of them on the up-slope.  Half a mile later I went through the 15 mile point, as the road entered Gullane, still on track for sub-2.05 and third place was well within sight.  

However, as the road climbed again through Gullane my legs started to feel sluggish.  Between miles 15 and 18 were the hardest part of the race and I had a few arguments with the beast.  Moving into third just before the next steep climb into Dirleton helped me win the debate.  As the road left Dirleton it was nice to see some familiar faces at the EAC water station at 18 miles – thanks guys!  My legs were struggling to keep up with my heart and lungs but I powered on up the long straight climb into North Berwick, not looking back to check that I had opened a large gap on fourth, as I thought that this could be seen as a sign of weakness.  I just had to trust my endurance, and though I was tiring, I knew it would all be downhill once I got into North Berwick.

Once into North Berwick things did get much easier and I was able to up the pace a little.  As I turned off the road into the finish area I saw the clock hit 2.04. I finished happy in the knowledge that my legs had held up over the hills and that I would be finishing well within my target.  A 5.56 final mile took me over the line in 2.04.11.  It was a great feeling coming third, the first time I had been anywhere near a prize-winning position in a race. 

All-in-all a great experience. A fun race, a well-executed strategy and a silver plate to show on the mantle-piece. Moreover, the organisation was great with lots of marshalls and evenly spaced water stations.  The race finishes 20 yards from the beach so there is even the opportunity for a post-run ice bath.  I would thoroughly recommend it!

Iain Macdonald

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