Tuesday, September 28, 1999

TR Scotland

Trip Report
Edinburgh Marathon
Edinburgh, Scotland

Hi! I’m back for a few days and waiting for Nicole to return from her Asian business trip before we take off again. I feel sorry for her because she is going to be severely jet-lagged!
After Nicole and I parted company in the Vienna airport she proceeded directly to Hong Kong and I flew home to repack and pack up the car. Edinburgh, Scotland was hosting their inaugural marathon on Sept 26th. They have hopes of this race becoming the premier fall marathon for the UK and threw a lot of money at it. It was quite successful and very well organized. But more about the race later.
Since I had not run a marathon in Scotland I had planned to run this one. And since Nicole would be away on business I figured that I might as well leave early and accomplish another goal I had for Scotland –to play golf! I tried unsuccessfully to book tee times at St Andrews and Carnoustie only to find out that singles cannot reserve tee times. You just have to show up and hope you can get slotted with a group.

Since it is an eight-hour drive to Edinburgh I decided to leave a day early and take my time to explore some parts of England and Scotland that I had not visited yet. So I jumped onto the M25 and M6 motorways and made my way north to Leeds @ 100mph. From there I took back roads through the Yorkshire Dales National Park which is very scenic with lots of green hills and valleys. I continued west to the Lake District National Park that is one of the prettiest areas of England.

I stayed a night in Windermere, a small village located on Lake Windermere.
I was curious to see how it compared to Lake Windermere and Inveremere, British Columbia. I had visited the Canadian versions over 30 years ago when my brother lived there. The Canadian Lake is more scenic because the surrounding mountains are higher but the English village of Windermere has more charm because it is much older. My B&B was an old Coach Inn over 200 years old. I walked a few blocks to have an excellent meal of Scottish salmon in a restaurant that has been operated by the same family for over a hundred years. And then I walked across the cobbled street to enjoy an ale in a 400 year-old pub! But both the English and Canadian areas are very pretty and have their own unique charms and I heartily recommend that you visit both if you get the chance.

The next day I continued north through the Park on back roads that went through and over the Cumbrian Mountains (this term is used loosely since the highest peak in England is Scafell @ 3206 feet!). These roads would have scared the crap out of me six months ago but now that I have my Ph.D. in UK driving I rather enjoyed barreling down the 8 to 10 foot wide roads with 4 to 6 foot high stone walls on each side never knowing when you may meet another car or even a bus on the next curve! When you do meet another vehicle you just move over as close to the wall as possible and pray that there is enough room for both vehicles. The English are really good at it –they don’t even slow down!
I passed through some really pretty villages and by some nice lakes and this definitely an area that I want to bring Nicole back to before we leave. It would be great for hiking and walking.

I eventually worked my way back to the M74 motorway that heads north to Glasgow but after a hundred miles got off on back roads again and headed for Lanarkshire (Lanark County). The Wallace Clan grew up in Lanark County, Ontario, Canada and often visited the town of Lanark, Ont. that had a large woolen mill. Lanark, Scotland is a small city that is very old and one of the main attractions is a an old church at the entrance of High (Main) Street that has a life-size statue of Sir William Wallace sculpted into it’s front façade! Lanark is situated in the highlands of Scotland and has a lake, Loch Lanark and the Clyde River flowing through it. A mile south of Lanark is a small village called New Lanark that is designated a World Heritage Village. In 1785 a Scottish entrepreneur built a large woolen mill (at the time the largest mill in Scotland) on the banks of the Clyde River and also built a small village to house his employees. This village has been restored and about 150 inhabitants –mostly direct descendants of the original families- live in the employee houses.
Lanark, Scotland has more going for it than the Ontario version!

Then it was time to head to St Andrews. St Andrews is a small city, about 40,000 people of which half are students at St Andrews College- the oldest college in Scotland. There are also two private schools in St Andrews for lower grades. There is lots of history. St Andrews cathedral was built in the 1200s and there are some castles in the area also. And of course St Andrews is the home of golf and the St Andrews Golf Club. The Club has five golf courses, all are link courses.
After finding my B&B on the edge of town, the owner was able to advise and assist me. He used to be a member of Carnoustie so was able to call and get me added to a group on Friday afternoon. So with that tee time reserved I proceeded to St Andrews Golf Club the next morning to wait in line for an opening. After an hour’s wait I was slotted with an American couple from Boston. I was ready to play at the home of golf -St Andrews! Then one of the following four things (or combination of) happened:
1) My playing partner was a very good golfer and I had to play at his level
2) The golf Gods smiled down on me all day
3) Some ancient ancestral Scottish gene that had played the course 200 years ago took control of my body and played for me
4) I pulled shots out of my butt all day
Because I shot a 42 on the front nine and a 43 on the back nine for the lowest score in three years. And that was only the second game of golf that I had played since retiring!
Believe me I was very excited and happy
After the game I went for my last training run around St Andrews. I explored many parts of the city and ended up running along the West Sands beach where Chariots of Fire was filmed. I got rained on pretty hard but that was ok as the weather during the game had been surprisingly good. I had expected cold rainy weather but got cool sunny weather for most of the week.
By this time I was beginning to feel cocky and confident but that would not last long. Carnoustie brought me back to reality very quickly the next day. Everything you have heard or seen about that course is true. It is a bitch! It is very, very long –two par 4s are 460+ yards. And every hole is target golf since the fairways are so narrow. There is always a wind blowing from some direction from the sea- usually in your face! The rough is very difficult to hit out of. Eventually I realized that the best shot out of the rough was a pitching wedge and hit it as hard as you could and hope that your ball made it back into the fairway! There are bunkers and burns (creeks) everywhere. The bunkers are humongous- again the best shot is a sand wedge just to get the ball back in play. On the 16th hole, a long 245-yard par 3 protected by two huge bunkers, I put my tee shot into the left bunker. My ball was lying in the sand three feet from an 8-foot high vertical wall of grass! I considered hitting backward to the fairway but decided to take one attempt at getting it up over that wall. Somehow I made it, barely, and two-putted a 20-yard putt for one of my few bogeys. But I did manage one birdie- on the shortest hole on the course- a 147-yard par 3 protected by the burn, bunkers and a dragon (or so it seemed)!
I actually had a respectable 93 standing on the t-Box of the 18th. But I misread the distance in the scorebook and placed my put my third shot directly into the burn protecting the green. But unlike Van der Velde at the Open, I did not take off my shoes and socks and contemplate playing out of the burn. But it cost me a triple bogey for a 50 on the front and back nine for an even 100! But even though I considered myself to be humbled I enjoyed the challenge of Carnoustie and would love to play it again!
A short travel tip here. If you go, stay in St Andrews because there is nothing in Carnoustie except the golf course!

The next day I had to head into Edinburgh to prepare for the marathon. I detoured north to Perth, Scotland. I wanted to visit Perth since my mother was born and raised in Perth, Ontario and my grandparents lived there most of their life. Perth, Scotland is a fairly large city but very pretty. They have kept all the old buildings, there are few modern buildings and all buildings are five stories or less in height. High Street has been turned into a pedestrian mall and it is a very charming city – much nicer than the Ontario version.

My B&B that I had booked through the marathon was located just off the Royal Mile, the main street that runs from Edinburgh Castle down to Holyrood Palace where the Queen still spends part of the summer each year. Edinburgh is a real neat city to visit. There are lots of attractions and history to explore. Also lots of cafes and even more pubs. Unfortunately the drawback of marathons is that you can’t enjoy the pubs until after the race.
I didn’t experience any of the difficulties of the past few marathons in picking up my race packet because there were no communications problems. And the next day turned out to be the coolest day of my visit which is what you want for a marathon. We were bussed out to Dunfermline in the Kingdom of Fife for the start. The start was close to the Abbey where Robert The Bruce is buried (you have to be Scottish to know who he is). Fortunately I just happened to meet 5 or 6 colleagues from the Stortford Running Club so we were able to shoot the breeze until the start. A few local runners told us that the course was very hilly and after only four miles I realized that they were not lying. At mile 6 we ran over the Forth of Fife Bridge, a long suspension bridge very similar to the Golden Gate Bridge but the scenery is not as spectacular. At that point I knew that brains were more important than brawn in this race because of the hills. So I immediately started to slow down. As it turned out the hills actually helped me because by 10 miles my right leg was hurting again (I had been concerned that it had not recovered from Austria) and I discovered that it hurt less when I was running up or down hills. I assume that was because I was using different muscles that were not strained. When I was running long flat stretches and my leg would start to hurt I would actually wish for hills!
At mile 24 I decided to press the pace because the last two miles were downhill along the Royal Mile, through the courtyard of Holyrood Palace (which the queen was kind to lend to us for the day since she wasn’t using it), along the base of Arthur’s Seat (a mountain overlooking the city) to finish in the Meadowbank Sports Stadium where the Commonwealth Games were held. I figured I could stand the pain for just two miles if it would help me finish under 3:35. The last two miles were the fastest of the marathon for me and I had to sprint the final 200 yards in the stadium to finish in 3:34:30!
Then it was straight to the massage hall again. But they had many more masseuses than Austria and someone helped me on to a table immediately and started working on my sore legs. It sure helped and I need a quick recovery since I have another marathon this weekend!

Finally the rewards: a quick hot bath, some food and then I started pub hopping and enjoying the fun atmosphere of Edinburgh –even on a Sunday. However I had to be careful because all the pubs were watching the finals of the Ryder Cup and there were a lot of pissed-off Scots drinking. And that is not a good combination –especially if you are an enemy! So I had to be very silent and careful with my cheers! I never did see the end because I had to leave for dinner.

And lastly a long boring 8-hour drive directly home @100mph-except through Birmingham where the M6 is always backed up bumper-to-bumper for an hour!
I am looking forward to few days’ rest and to catch up on the NYSE before Nicole and I depart again. Stay tuned!

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