A helping hand in the form of a gift of an energy gel propelled marathon debutant Phil Nicholls (2:19:22) to success at yesterday's 2011 Edinburgh marathon. The 27 year old Tipton Harrier had been tipped by his club-mate and pre-race favourite British internationalist Martin Williams to make an impact and he certainly did.
Williams will have been disappointed that his prediction proved correct as he finished second himself in 2:20:21. Ross Houston of Central Athletics, two time winner of Kilomathon Scotland, maintained his recent good form to be the first home-based Scot to finish, claiming third place in a highly respectable time of 2:23:17.
Post-race Nicholls said: "I was feeling really strong until about 18 or 19 miles, but turning back into the elements was really horrendous and that knocked the wind out of my sails. It was really exposed running into the wind the whole way back and I started suffering from cramp in the latter stages. It started in my left ham-string then went into my right calf so I had to stop and walk at the 25-mile marker."
The true spirit of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival was then demonstrated by a fellow competitor. "A lady runner who was going the other way handed me an energy gel which I took and I managed to pick up my race again after that. Whoever she is please give her my thanks because I don't think I could have got going again without that help," Nicholls explained.
Fastest woman Sarah Harris was also a marathon first-timer. The 35-year-old from Nottingham stepped up to full Marathon distance in style and she said the backing from spectators had played a significant part in keeping her going.
"I was conservative at the start because of the wind and it really was tough out there," she said. "There was amazing support out on the course. Everyone says this about Edinburgh and that is why I chose this Marathon instead of London. I'm so happy."
Nicola Duncan, who is originally from Galway but now lives in Edinburgh improved on last year's third placed finish to take the runner-up spot in a time of 2:49:56. Third place was taken by Angela Hibbs, a lecturer at Northumbria University in sports bio-mechanics, who finished runner-up in 2007.
Windy conditions made things difficult for the 10,000 runners in a marathon which enjoys a reputation for being flat and fast. There was help as the field headed east however after the turn at 19 miles runners were battling a stiff headwind as well as fatigue.
Another first-time marathon runner Kevin Campbell summed the experience for many: "Was on for a 3:14m at 19 miles and then I hit the wall big time. And that wind?!? 3:41:04. Inside my target. Really sore now."
For full results go to the Edinburgh marathon festival website.
Photo By Chris Upson