This past weekend, I added a new city to my list of favorite places in the world: Edinburgh, Scotland.
Sarah, Joost and I packed our bags (plural, because homegirl cannot pack light to save her life) and hopped on a train to Scotland for the Edinburgh half marathon!
The train ride itself was long and boring and noisy, but we were greeted at the train station by a very welcome face: my friend Lisa! Lisa is Scottish, but studied abroad in Brisbane for a year when I was at The University of Queensland. It was extremely sad when she left Australia to return home, and seeing her again was fantastic. As cheesy as it sounds, I really cherish the times I get to see friends from school–being that I went to school 10000 miles from home and now live on a different continent than home or school, it doesn’t happen nearly frequently enough. This trip was also the first time ever that I’ve gotten to hang out with a friend from school, a friend from home and my boyfriend all at once!
Lisa gave us a mini tour of Edinburgh as we wandered the city on the way to pick up our race bibs. The city is stunning, and even more so with the sun beaming down on us. I had no idea it was so hilly, though. I was getting pretty nervous about the race. We had been training on completely flat trails since we left Africa and my glutes could feel it!
After we got our race stuff, we went back to Lisa’s apartment and bummed around. She was a phenomenal hostess, making up beds for us and cooking us an amazing pasta dinner with her boyfriend, all while we sat on the couch and watched tv. #worstguestsever
The next morning, we woke up early for the race. It was a long, uphill trek to the starting line–a good warm up, that’s for sure. I also got to meet Olivia, who is part of the online running club I’m in and was in my starting corral!
The start of the race was a little nerve wracking. Right before we crossed the starting line, my bladder started calling. I was planning on waiting for the first on-course pit stop, but Joost convinced me to stop before we started so it wouldn’t add to our time. I ended up having to wait for a few minutes for the people who were already in the portapotties (they were taking their sweet time) and by the time I got out, the starting area was empty! The sweeper van was already set up to start driving the course. To add to my anxiety, I had squirted and rubbed soap all over my hands from the portapotty thinking it was antibacterial hand gel–so my hands were sticky and covered in soap. Luckily Joost had some extra water with him, so I rinsed my hands and off we went.
Our late start actually turned out to be quite nice. We were two of the last people to start the race, so we missed the usual elbowing and weaving in and out that you usually have to do at the start. The course was wide open and we got to really enjoy the scenery without worrying about tripping over anyone. We passed a few people in animal suits, a lot of race walkers and an incredibly inspiring man. He had something wrong with one of his legs and looked like he had been on crutches for most of, if not all, of his life. And there he was, starting a half marathon. I decided that if he could do a half marathon on crutches, I could do a half marathon without complaining about how tired my legs were.
The run was so much fun. The course was gorgeous, so we had a lot to look at. The sun was shining for almost the entire race. Joost and I kept talking about how happy we were that we had perfect weather for the race. Meanwhile, all of the Brits around us kept complaining about how it was way too hot/sunny/humid (um… NOPE). They were all either so pale that they were glowing or tomato red. Honestly, how the entirety of the United Kingdom doesn’t suffer from SAD year round is completely beyond me! There was one point of the race where I could have used some music and one point towards the end that felt like a death march, but Joost and I just chatted and laughed the miles away.
Both Joost and I were struck by how different this race was than the Kilimanjaro half marathon. For one, everyone was wearing running shoes. We didn’t see anyone in crocs or flip flops. We also saw a lot of kilts. But mostly, they handed out bottles of water at each water stop. People would take a sip or two, then chuck the rest of the bottle onto the street. All I could think about was what a waste of water and resources it was! It was hard knowing how wasteful we were being after spending nearly three months with kids who have to walk miles to collect clean (or clean-ish… or not clean at all…) water. After the first stop, Joost and I started sharing a bottle. It wasn’t much, but it was the best we could do. It’s amazing how fast your perspective can change.
We crushed our half marathon PR and had the best time doing it. We both felt surprisingly good and strong when we finished, which makes me excited to start training for the Amsterdam full marathon! After the race, we met up with Lisa, Olivia (they both ran as well) and Sarah.
Naturally, our first thought was food, so we trekked/hobbled to the shuttle, rode back into the city and stuffed our faces with cider, beer, mac&cheese, onion rings, french fries and garlic bread at one of Lisa’s favorite pubs. No haggis though, despite Lisa’s best attempts at persuasion.
That night, Sarah, Joost and I went on a ghost tour through town. I hate the dark, all things creepy and having to walk up steep hills after running half marathons, so it wasn’t my favorite, but we learned a fair amount of history and I think it’d be cool if you’re into that sort of thing.
Our time in Edinburgh was way too short, so I hope that I’ll be back soon so I can explore more! If you ever get the chance to visit, I cannot recommend it enough. The people are friendly and welcoming, the scenery is gorgeous and the history is fascinating.