There's a great route from my house, along the sea coast, to the town of North Berwick, which I haven't cycled for as long as I can remember, but at Pauline's suggestion I rectified that last Sunday.
I'm not an early riser by any means, and Pauline's suggestion to get away early doors on a Sunday morning was met with some resistance. But her reasoning was sound, to get along the busy, narrow and winding coast road before the hoards venture out for their Sunday drive, post breakfast. But it had slipped our minds that this particular day was also the Edinburgh Marathon, when just over 30,000 runners would take the exact same route that we planned to cycle!
We were pushing off from the house around 9am, joining the promenade just a few metres from our front door, when immediately we saw all the traffic cones and tapes cordoning off sections of the beach-side walkway, for the imminent arrival of said runners. We deduced they would start their route at 10am from the city centre, so we had a good head start on them, and with a stiff tail wind would easily stay ahead of the pack. We took advantage of the taped off route as we left the city, which was a little precarious as police motorcycles were already patrolling the route, and were zooming toward us in the opposite direction, but didn't seem to mind what we were doing.
At points our chosen route was well away from the runners path, especially passing Musselburgh, taking the semi-circular dirt track around the lagoons nature area, rejoining the main road, and more cones and an increasing number of officials in hi-viz jackets, on the outskirts of Prestonpans. This was clearly some sort of staging post, and judging by the set up and mile markers, this was the finish line for those running the half marathon.
Leaving the outskirts of the small town, still hugging the coast east, it suddenly dawned on us that the twisting, narrow road, that is normally a little hair raising with fast moving morons in cars, was entirely empty. We had the whole road to ourselves. At this point we vowed to take note of the marathon date for future years, and make this run an annual event for ourselves, to take advantage of the car-free roads.
Two thirds of the way to North Berwick we left the marathon route behind, entering the quaint little village of Aberlady, past the nature reserve that we have both often visited, and then turned inland away from the coast. Then almost immediately turning east again, along narrow quiet back roads, the verges and walls covered in wild flowers, among them Red Valerian.
The distinctive shape of Berwick Law was in the distance, marking our own finish line.
The small conical hill is actually a volcanic plug, blown there through the skies around 360 million years ago. Since 1709 a set of whale jawbones has sat atop the rock, replaced several times, the last being in situ since 1933. In 2005, after they had mostly rotted away, they were removed permanently. As they were such an iconic element, a fibreglass replica was made and installed in 2008.
No cycle trip is ever truly complete until a quantity of coffee and cake has been consumed, and on this occasion we pulled in to a trendy looking place called Steam Punk, on the outskirts of North Berwick.
After a quick stop off on the coast near the Seabird Centre, to view the largest gannet colony in the world on Bass Rock, with some 150,000 birds, we headed for the train station.
Our journey had been just 22 miles, four short of a marathon. With a strong wind now blowing from the west we had opted to catch a train home. Thankfully we boarded at North Berwick, as just two stops later the remnants of those 30,000 runners also need a ride home.