Standing at the start of the Edinburgh Half Marathon this morning, I was struck by what may be one of the profound questions of life. Can you run 21 kilometres (or 13.1 miles in local terms) in a rabbit suit?
Not me, but as I was contemplating whether or not I could make the distance, a few metres away there was a young man who did not seem similarly concerned. He was pulling on a furry rabbit suit, complete with a big round head with floppy ears.
He started running just ahead of me and I lost track of him as I focused on my breathing and getting my legs into a nice rhythm.
We started under the iconic Calton Hill and the course wound it’s way down and around past the Palace of Holyroodhouse before turning seaward and taking us out along the Firth of Forth to Musselburgh.
There were three great breathtaking moments for me as we ran:
• Turning a corner at the top of a hill and seeing the peak of Arthur’s Seat towering above us up ahead. Magnificent.
• Breaking free of the suburban streets and onto the sun-dappled waterfront.
• The finish line!
As we passed under Arthur’s Seat there was a section where the course doubled back on itself. Heading in the other direction, well ahead of me, was the bunny man – with his rabbit head under his arm. I guess that answers that question? Not quite.
All along the course, local people had come out into their front yards or out onto the street to cheer us on.
There’s nothing like the lift it gives you when someone gives you a cheer when you’re running an endurance event. Your heart swells and it puts a spring back in your tired step.
I was wearing ‘I heart Aus’ shorts with the Australian flag on them, so a couple of people yelled out “Come on Australia” to me as I passed. I took that to be encouragement and not sledging my modest speed! ☺
The man on the loudspeaker at the start line got it absolutely right when he told us we had all done the physical work to get to the start line – and now it’s all mental.
That means there’s also something to be said for cheering yourself on. The first time I made a point of acknowledging myself was some months after I took up running and I was trying to conquer a big hill that I had previously always walked up. I actually spoke out loud: “well done, you can proud of this.” I learned something in that moment about the power of self-encouragement to keep yourself going when you might otherwise give up.
The same applies in life. I’ve been lucky to have good friends cheering me on over recent weeks since my redundancy and I’m not embarrassed to say that I’ve also looked for moments to acknowledge myself and keep motivated. As someone I used to work with used to say wryly and without a hint of conceit to celebrate life’s small moments: “I’m loving myself sick right now.”
The final few miles of today’s run had a 5km stretch that doubled back on itself to the finish line. It was during that section that I next caught sight of the running bunny – I was still heading out and he was heading in. His rabbit head was back on, worn more like a hat than a head.
He was well and truly finished by the time this tortoise made it across the finish line at about 2 hours and 40 minutes.
The final few kilometres were particularly painful and slow for me, but there’s something about a finish line that helps you find what you need to sprint that final stretch. There’s no feeling quite like it.
It was my slowest time yet for my third half marathon, but all things considered in my life right now, I was thrilled.
Tortoise, hare, everyone who participated regardless of their times – we should be loving ourselves sick right now.