The Edinburgh to North Berwick Road Race is a cracker, a real legend of a race. 49 years old this year, it's not always been a 20 miler - it's been various distances, including a marathon. It's a race with a fascinating history.
But there's more than one way to participate in a race... Races don't just happen by magic there's a lot of organisation goes on to make it all work, so when I was asked to be a marshal by Neil, a fellow North Berwick Chi Runner, I said yes. Neil, Claire, David and Stuart (my fellow marshals) had all marshalled the Dunbar 10k a few weeks ago. I ran it and they and their colleagues had really helped me get round so it was great to give something back.
The fastest runners arrive in North Berwick in under 2 hours, so at 12.30, Kirsty the organiser from Active East Lothian and us 5 local marshals were out staking the last few yards of the route to keep tired runners off the putting green. A table of water at the end and we were ready to head off to our stands.
Although the route is pretty special, the last bit of the race down hill onto Elcho Green and the finish line must have been awful for tired runners this year. Despite assurances that the temporary roadworks would be completed, they were still full-on. This meant that the almost final stretch only had 1 pavement along with temporary traffic lights for the single line of traffic going up and down a steep hill. We had marshals at the top of the hill by the traffic lights and 2 of us by the roadworks to cover the most tricky and congested spots.
The first of the 212 runners to complete the race ran past well within 2 hours looking strong. Runners were quite spread out which helped a lot as children with scooters, babies in prams, people in wheelchairs, golfers with buggies and families and friends of the approaching runners shared the narrow pavement with runners nearing the end of the journey. Somehow everyone got through without mishap and usually with a smile. Most runners were very understanding when an older person got a bit confused about which way to move or when the bus released a blast of fumes as they ran past
I alternated between cheering on the runners, checking they didn't take the wrong turn, answering questions from pedestrians and asking people to watch out for the runners behind them. Most of the passing and watching public were lovely, rushing to clear the path, standing back to let the runners through and giving them a cheery wave. Quite a few locals and visitors asked what the race was and how far runners had run; some had even done it in previous years. Not everyone of course was sweet tempered and smiling, and one or two were quite rude, but the vast majority of people were at worst happy to accommodate the run and at best pretty impressed and inspired by it.
Running form and style varied greatly, what struck me most was that legs can look tired in myriad different ways. There were people running down the hill as smooth and slick as as silk, looking as if they could run for ever; others looked like their hips were about to dislocate; some runners ran as if their feet were on fire (they probably were!). I know my form at this stage would have completely broken down well before now, and I'd be running like a half shut knife, bent in the middle; a salutory lesson indeed.
The last person came in followed closely by the back marker and then we headed to the finishing line, dismantling the posts as we went. A group of friends were gathered round the end, their little ones playing with the plastic tape as if they were crossing the tape at the Olympics. One day it might be them running here with their parents watching them cross the line. I do hope so, it'd be nice to think they'll be round for the 100th anniversary of the race.
Marshalling is not as good as running, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed it and the time flew by. And of course without voluntary marshals, races wouldn't work and they'd certainly not be as much fun. So I'm pretty sure that my first marshalling experience won't be my last.
One way or another I want to be part of the Edinburgh North Berwick Road Race on its 50th birthday next year - if I'm spared and well of course.
Hope you've had a good racing weekend.