Beating The Drop

Last year I ran “The Drop – Edinburgh“, finishing second overall so I had a bit of unfinished business when it came to this race and I signed up for the 2023 edition quite early on. After a few short and fast races I knew this one would be a good test of my fitness at 15+ miles distance, although without being able to wear a watch judging pace is a challenge. The finish location had moved a little from last year and was hosted at Up and Running in the West End, so the routes I had worked out last year were still pretty much relevant. Given that we had started to the West last year, I was betting on a start location in East Lothian somewhere, so I made sure to recce the major routes via Google Street View, Strava Heatmap and Bing/OS Maps. Starting from the A68 and as far round as Humbie the best way would be to reach Pathhead and go via Dalkeith and into Edinburgh via Cameron Toll. For anywhere further East, then Tranent, Musselburgh and Meadowbank looked best.

This year, The Drop have strarted providing live tracking for all their events, which makes them much more fun to spectate (virtually). In theory, you should also be able to replay the event to see where everyone went, but it doesn’t seem to be working (yet) for the Edinburgh race. Worth a look though:

Julie was able to drop me off in Edinburgh on the way down to Selkirk, and I made sure to stop off at McDonald’s for a pre-race cup of tea and loo stop. Before long we were blindfolded and on the coach! It seemed to take longer than I expected but after a while the 10 milers were dropped off and we headed to the 15 mile start. Once we finally came to a stop and took our blindfolds off I could see we were in a village with a war memorial and some signs at junctions pointing to Gifford and Duns, Humbie and West Saltoun – most of which were further Southeast! With that in mind I guessed we were in East Saltoun, one of the likely locations I had expected might be drop location and headed in the opposite direction towards (I hoped) Pencaitland.

I was one of the quickest off the bus but stopped half a mile down the road for a pee and several people went past me. I quickly caught up with them and was soon in the lead… at least of the people going in the same direction as me! Before too long, Pencaitland came into sight as expected, confirming I was where I thought I was and was heading in the right direction. One runner came past me, but turned left for Dalkeith rather than keeping straight on towards Tranent, so I was back on my own and heading as fast as I could along the road. As I passed through the centre of Tranent I caught sight of him again a short distance behind me (it turned out he’d only made a short detout to ask for directions in Pencaitland and then rejoined my route), and before we reached Musselburgh he passed me again. There was no way I could stick with his pace so I just hoped he would make another navigational error!

Passing the racecourse in Musselburgh I made my only (minor) navigational error – there is a short cut over a footbridge that saves about 0.1mi but I didn’t recognise the turnoff and took the more obvious route down the high street, dodging Saturday morning shoppers! The route thus far has been gradually downhill towards the coast, and now it levelled out as I made my way out of Musselburgh and along the coast towards Joppa and Portobello. I made sure to ignore the obvious left turn which is signposted Edinburgh by the A199 and A1 – probably the best route in a car, but for running has an awkward section around the back of Arthur’s Seat and the Meadows, plus it has quite a bit more climb than my route. I headed straight ahead through Portobello High Street to the junction at the end of Seafield Road. Fortunately the traffic lights were kind to me and I was able to slip across without delay. The road turned gradually uphill for a few miles through Jock’s Lodge, Meadowbank and Abbeyhill – I ran out of fluids at the this point but I knew I had just over a mile to go so wasn’t concerned. I passed a few of what looked like the tail end of the 10 mile runners (still not quite sure where they were dropped!), and before too long crested the hill at the Old Royal High School. No chance of getting lost from here – just lots of shoppers, tourists and buses to dodge on the way down Princes Street, a quick dash through the West End and in to the finish at Up and Running!

After a bit of confusion it turned out I was the first 15 mile runner back, and only a minute later second place turned up – he was the runner who had passed me earlier but had taken the harder route South of Arthur’s Seat (and had taken a wrong turn). In total he went over a mile further than me, so although I wasn’t the fastest on the day my route was good enough to sneak home first! You can see my complete route on Strava here:

My finishing time was 1 hour 53, about 20 minutes faster than I managed last year and my route was pretty much optimal (barring the missed shortcut in Musselburgh) – so I’m very pleased with how it went. I was also pleased to find I’d kept up a pretty steady pace, and way faster than I thought, setting new Strava PRs for a Half Marathon (1:29:04).

Overall, I’m happy to have managed to win this event at the second attempt – although I really like the format so I’m already thinking about coming back next year, or possibly fitting in the Glasgow Drop later this year. We’ll see!

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