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Edinburgh Marathon

Ian Saunders
May 27th, 2018 · 7 min read

Race information

  • What? Edinburgh Marathon, UK
  • When? May 27, 2018
  • How far? 26.2 miles
  • Website: Edinburgh Marathon
  • Strava activity: Strava


B< 2:56Yes
C< 3:00Yes


After dropping off my goal pace a lot at the end of Yorkshire Marathon and missing my A goal by 7 minutes & B goal by 2 minutes I decide to seek redemption!

My two A races for the first half of 2018 are Umstead (100 miles) and Edinburgh Marathon, from my experience in 2017 where I had put in Marathon training after the 100 miles (NDW100 then the Yorkshire Marathon) I knew that it is very hard to bounce back into speed training, in reality all you could do was to return to your former fitness. Due to that, I structured my training cycle into 3 Phases.

  • Phase 1: Get fitness to run a sub-3 Marathon
  • Phase 2: Drop pace, crank distance
  • Race 1: Umstead
  • Phase 3: Wait ~2 weeks to recover and then spend 5 weeks remembering how to run fast
  • Race 2: Edinburgh Marathon

After phase 1 I had a test half marathon where I got a PB of 1:20, my original target was 1:25, but I felt good on the day and decide to go out at a 3:50m/km pace. Though happy with the time and a 17 minute PB, I felt like I had something left in the tank and could have gone a bit quicker.

I also did a twisty 10 km race and a few 5 km races during the training cycle with PBs in the 10 km (36:40) and 5 km (17:30).

To prove it wasn’t fluke, the week before the marathon I did a 5 km race tune up, and knocked out a 17:40 - holding back in the second half.

BONUS Section: The Plan

Though the race indicators and various people I had chatted to said 2:50 was doable, I was not very confident. After the poor finish in Yorkshire, I decided to come up with a strategy that allowed a fall back to Plan B. To decide on the strategy I went through 3 years of Strava Edinburgh marathon finishes with similar times to my A & B goals. I discounted people who had gone out too quickly for my target goal (i.e aiming for 2:40). What was quite noticeable was that hardly any one managed to get a 2:50 without having finished the first half in 1:24:xx. The weird thing is that the first half (and a bit) of the Marathon is into the wind! What’s that all about?

After doing a little more homework it seems that the race is slightly more subtle and should be split into 3 parts:

  • Part 1: Downhill without wind for ~10 km
  • Part 2: Run into the wind for 20 km
  • Part 3: Run back to the finish with the wind ~12 km

Given the above I decided to run the first part just above Marathon pace, the second part just over Marathon pace and the final bit at Marathon pace!


As with the Yorkshire Marathon, for the week before the race I rocked a low carb and low calorie diet. I’m not certain if the low carb diet is worth it, given the intent to use gels on the run. I managed to drop a bit of weight during the week, so low calorie seems to be beneficial. I couldn’t wait until Friday to switch back to the carbs and medium calorie intake - no idea how people survive a keto diet!!!

Myself and 2 friends jumped on the train from London to Edinburgh. Last time I was in Edinburgh, I only saw the inside of pubs on a stag do, so I was quite happy to explore the city and did the trek up Arthur’s Seat for a fantastic view, though a bit paranoid about the hill climb@ The wind was VERY strong at the top of the hill, which made us all a little nervous.

Met up with a few other runners, grabbed some delicious pasta, hit the AirBNB and went to sleep. For those curious I super hydrated throughout the day to minimize the water I would need to drink before running and avoid any mid-run pit-stops (this worked as it did in Yorkshire)!

With the late 10 am start I had a decent sleep and was looking forward to get going. I drank 500 ml of tailwind and ate a chocolate croissant for breakfast.

As an aside, after hearing the horror stories due to the heat of London Marathon I had fashioned a holey singlet, similar to Jim Walmsley/Galen Rupp. After taking it for a test run, I could feel a noticeable difference in temperature. Sadly, or fortunately for the spectators, Edinburgh was chilly, overcast and a bit misty, perfect running conditions so I decided to go with the club singlet.

Arrived at the bag drop, said good luck to friends, some doing their first battle with the beast, and made my way over to the pen just behind the elites, right at the start. After hearing about how Edinburgh was the second biggest marathon after London, I expected people everywhere, though certainly not a small marathon, it’s no London!

  • Quick stretch.
  • Check watch.
  • Throw charity jumper away.
  • GO GO GO


Part 1: Going down

It all felt too easy. The start was as advertised, downhill and super quick. The crowd support was great as we wound our way through the landmarks of the city. I ended up going out a bit faster on the downhills and averaged it out with the flat sections to roughly hit my goal pace. I was cognizant of keeping something in the bank for when the wind hit. Apart from a very enjoyable start the first 10 km flowed by smoothly. Someone had a cyclist pacing them and a few runners shouted out that it wasn’t allowed and the cyclist peeled off, drama over.

As we pulled up to the first water station around 5 km I executed part 1 of my nutrition strategy. Based on some feedback from ARTC members I had ditched the Stroopwafelss and stuck to gels. To avoid having a big lump of gel in my stomach I went with half a gel every 5 km (which equates to just before each water station). I also washed as much of the gel out of my mouth to avoid getting any throat burn. This gel strategy worked really well for me, and can 100% recommend. (Had 2 Gu and 2 Numa gels)

Part 2: Windy City

SLAP! Wind.

Though certainly not a gale-force wind ala Boston, the wind was quite noticeable for this section. I had been worried that the race would have become a bit strung out and no good groups to draft off, thankfully I was totally wrong. Duck-and-cover was the strategy for the next 20 km. I worked with probably 3 or 4 groups alternating lead or drafting to share the load Though feeling a bit of pain, the pace was manageable. Occasionally the group I was with dropped pace, when this happened I pushed on a bit quicker and found my next group to work with. After around 10 km of this I settled down with 4 chaps who seemed to be going for roughly the same time as I. Was great team work and I couldn’t have kept up the effort without them.

Around 25 km we saw the race leader and 2nd pace trucking it, crazy impressive.

Part 3: Home stretch baby!

As I took the hair-pin turn around I said goodbye to my drafting team and upped the pace to just below Marathon pace. In contrast to Yorkshire, I started overtaking people consistently which gave me a great confidence boost. Just for fun we had a little trail section, which my ankles hated, Nike 4%s just aren’t made to handle mushy surfaces.

As the field became more spread out I kept the pace up and just tried to slowly pick off one person at a time. During this section we ran back past the rest of the runners. This was great as a few of my friends saw me and shouted out what place I was roughly in (~70th), super cool!

I drifted past 3rd place woman who was doing a great job and slowly I felt the wheels coming off. Luckily as I pased my next victim, he decided to go with me! This was great, as we worked together for the next 6 kms. There was a silent agreement not to draft off each other, and we ran shoulder-to-shoulder pushing ourselves on. Times like this remind me how the only person you are really racing is yourself.

At some point my buddy drops off at an aid station, but job was done with only a few kms to go. I had a couple of slower Kms as the pain train hit, but had a nice little sprint finish!


Chip time: 2:50:18

61st Overall


I stuck around in the finishing area to thank the drafting crew I had been working with, they were only a couple minutes behind and were happy with their results! We strolled over to the bag check, had a little chat and then I waited for a couple of friends to finish before catching the train back to London with a couple victory beers.

What did I do differently?

The following is my short list, in-order, of things I did differently which I think contributed to a better result than Yorkshire:

  1. Run about 10% more miles per a week (usually around 65 kms)
  2. Finish EVERY long run with a MP segment (as long as possible)
  3. Better nutrition
  4. Run faster at track
  5. No flights 2 days before

What’s next?

Honestly, I am not certain. Due to life commitments I have had to pull out of all my other races (SDW100/Cotswold 100) apart from Oxford Half Marathon, thus I don’t have any A races booked. I think I will focus on speed for a bit and then re-attack 100 miler races in 2019. That said I do have a few plans in the works for later in the year, so let’s see.

I am currently doing a year long streak challenge, we have upped the game slightly in that every run needs to be at least 5 kms. Details here for those curious.

All the advice from ARTC, The Running School and London City Athletics helped a lot - so thanks y’all.

More articles from Ian Saunders

Umstead 100

I’d always intended to take a 10 minute or so break at the half way stage, but ended up taking 25 mins changing shoes, clothes, eating and warming up.

May 7th, 2018 · 9 min read

Big Half

Living only 15mins away I was able to have a decent sleep, meet up with the running club crew and catch the tube over to London Bridge just in time for the bag drop, though the snow had gone away, it was still bloody cold!

March 4th, 2018 · 4 min read
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