Starting pistol set to fire on Edinburgh Marathon Festival

More than 30,000 aspiring athletes, 26 miles and hundreds of remarkable stories of participants pushing themselves beyond their physical and mental limits.

The EMF gets underway this weekend. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The EMF gets underway this weekend. Picture: Ian Georgeson

For many, it will be a test of endurance as they attempt to shave precious seconds off their personal best, but for others, simply making it to the finish will be the biggest prize.

The starting line is now in sight for athletes from all over the world as they prepare to tackle the Edinburgh Marathon this weekend.

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Organisers are expecting a record number of participants will take to the streets during the festival over Saturday and Sunday, challenging themselves against four different distances ranging from 5k to the full 26.2-mile marathon.

An estimated 35,000 runners will take on the arduous new marathon route – described as one of the fastest in the UK.

But seven runners have taken that to the next level, pushing themselves to complete the five and ten kilometre distances on Saturday, before returning to the start line for the half-marathon and full marathon 24 hours late – a challenge known as “doing a hairy”.

The starting pistol for the race will be fired at Potterrow, with runners powering through the streets of the Old Town near Edinburgh University before heading towards the High Street and over the Mound into Princes Street Gardens.

From there, athletes will accelerate past the Scott Monument and down the Royal Mile past the Scottish Parliament building.

The route then heads out towards the coast, with participants running alongside the pristine beaches of East Lothian. Runners will finally cross the finish line at Pinkie Playing Fields in Musselburgh, where the half marathon will also finish.

For less experienced runners, the 5K and 10K races will be held on Saturday and will take athletes on a picturesque route around Arthur’s Seat.

Neil Kilgour, Edinburgh Marathon Festival race director, said: “Scotland is preparing to welcome the world to this amazing city and we look forward to delivering another outstanding festival that the nation will be proud of.”

Young athletes will also be able to get a piece of the action with four races ranging from 1K to 5K held for junior runners.

The team relay event also offers teams of up to four runners to take part, each covering different distances of varying difficulties to suit all experience levels.

Mr Kilgour continued: “We as a team are already proud of the effort put in by all of our runners as they work hard to prepare for the big day. In our eyes, every EMF runner is elite and we value every runner’s contribution to the festival in equal measure.”

He added: “This year is extra special with the combination of the new routes – we can’t wait”

In 2017, armed police patrolled the marathon route as an added security measure in the wake of the terror attack at Manchester Arena just a few days earlier.

A series of road closures and diversions will be in place this year, and security is also expected to be heightened leading up to the event as a precautionary measure.

Superintendent Jim Royan, commander for the Marathon Festival, said: “We’re working closely with our local authority partners and the event organisers to ensure a safe and enjoyable event for all, with minimal disruption to the nearby communities.

“The UK threat level remains at ‘severe’ and precautionary security measures will be in place. As always, we urge the public to remain alert but not alarmed.”

Superintendent Royan added: “We thank the public in advance for their cooperation and wish all those participating in the events the absolute best of luck.”