Runners set for Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

Laura Woods-Dunlop running in Saughton park.   Picture: Ian Rutherford
Laura Woods-Dunlop running in Saughton park. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THE sweat, the tears, the pumping heartbeat, the aching limbs and the sheer glory of just being a part of it all . . .

And that’s just the people who will be providing the thumping sounds which will accompany 5500 runners as they hit Edinburgh’s streets for this Sunday’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Edinburgh Half Marathon.

The final countdown is under way to the first major event on the city’s running calendar – and thanks to the accompanying stream of live music, DJs and lively entertainment, it will be one of the 

Along each stage of the 13.1-mile circular route, runners will be serenaded by pumping music, an exhilarating soundtrack to their run courtesy of some of Scotland’s top up-and-coming bands.

It’s proving to be a winning combination – for this year’s event has attracted ten per cent more runners than last year, and a whopping 15 per cent of them will have travelled from abroad, from as far afield as Australia, Argentina, Singapore and Ecuador.

Among those taking part is a team of 45 Canadian runners who will fly in to raise money for the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Society, while a group of 100 US soldiers in Afghanistan have also pledged to run a half marathon around their camp.

Event director Shannon Davis says: “The Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon is a unique experience for runners and we’re pleased that despite the difficult financial climate, our race numbers are looking strong for 2013.

“We have over 700 runners flying in from outside the UK to be part of the race. For many it will be their first time in Scotland and we are keen to promote the very best the city has to offer.”

But while some have travelled miles to take part, for others, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon is much closer to home . . .


MUSIC and entertainment will keep the Rock ‘n’ Roll Edinburgh Half Marathon runners on their toes throughout the whole 13.1-mile route, which starts and finishes in Holyrood Park, loops around the city centre and takes in views which include the Meadows, The Mound, Royal Mile and Portobello.

Bands will be situated at one-mile intervals along the route, with Glasgow band Franco providing the sounds at the main stage at Holyrood Park.

There, a festival finish line party will greet competitors and supporters.

Some of the country’s most promising up-and-coming live acts are involved, including indie rockers Campbell’s Wild and country rock ‘n’ rollers Hello Frisco. Heavy metal is courtesy of Vantage Point and some garage rock ‘n’ roll from the Pirate Sons. Others taking part include Madison, Jim Black & Mark Patterson, Rab Burns, Gonzo a Go Go, Size Queen, Rolled Up 20s, The Boston Tea Party and DJ Iain Waugh.

Event director Shannon Davis says: “We set the bar really high last year showcasing performances from some amazing local bands, and we’re sure this year’s acts are going to absolutely smash it.

“We’re really excited to have these amazing bands on board.”


Laura Woods-Dunlop, 31, is single, lives in Balgreen and is a project manager with Sky.

Laura dragged herself over the finishing line of her first – and, she reckoned, her last – ever half marathon and wished she hadn’t bothered.

“I said at the time that I’d never run that distance ever again. I hated every single minute of it,” she recalls with a groan. “I enjoy running six or seven miles – anything more is hard going.”

Her first half marathon in Bath could have marked the end of her long-distance running career, if it had not been for her beloved grandmother, Mairi Woods, suddenly falling ill.

“She was fit and healthy, 83 years old, but still driving and she loved a dance and a singsong. She was taken to hospital with chest pains and after a series of tests it turn out she has severe heart problems.

“She’s basically a human time bomb.”

Watching her gran’s health deteriorate inspired Laura to push herself once more.

And now, having watched friends take part in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon last year, Laura’s preparing for an outing she once vowed never to repeat.

“There isn’t anything I can do to make my gran better,” she explains. “And I couldn’t think of anything else I could do to raise money. The training has gone from sublime to ridiculous, and I’ll probably be glad when it’s over!“

As a teenager, Laura competed on the athletics field in high jump and the 100m race, but distance running left her struggling.

“I wanted to get fit and joined a British Military Fitness club. I loved it, but I hated the running and I was always last.

“I met a couple of girls through that who were involved in what’s called The Shuffle Club, a group that lets runners go at a pace that suits everyone. That’s been fantastic. “

Laura, who has asthma, continued to train throughout the recent wintry weather, spurred on by thoughts of her gran’s failing health back at the family home in Bath. She’ll be joined on Sunday by some of The Shuffle Club regulars and hopes to reach the finishing line in less than two hours and 15 minutes.

“To watch a woman who has always been the life and soul of the party become a relatively frail old woman who struggles to make it round the supermarket in one go has been extremely hard and I felt helpless.

“I can’t think of a better reason to run than to do it for those who can’t and that’s what’s kept me going through sub-zero temperatures, injuries and setbacks. I’ve remained determined to complete this.”

• Laura is raising money for the British Heart Foundation. To support her, go to


PAUL SMITH, 41, is a business development director with Barclays corporate banking division. He is from Fettes Village.

Paul can still remember receiving the dreaded phone call that confirmed his mum, Anna, had passed away. It was Hogmanay 2003, and her loss brought to an end several years of suffering from one of the cruellest of conditions.

“She had motor neurone disease which was diagnosed a couple of years before she finally passed away,” recalls Paul, who will be among the runners on Sunday.

“It is a debilitating and humiliating condition and so, so sad. She lost her ability to communicate and her body just didn’t respond to what her brain was telling it to do.

“She deteriorated and it was physically and emotionally exhausting.”

Now, as the tenth anniversary of her death approaches, Paul has set himself a personal target, to raise just over £1300 for research into the disease which claimed her life and to complete a trio of runs.

The first is this weekend, when he’ll kick off his fundraising bid for MND Scotland at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Edinburgh Half Marathon.

He will follow that up in May with the Edinburgh Marathon Festival half marathon and then the Great Scottish Run in Glasgow in October.

In theory, the task should be straightforward – Paul was among the 5000 runners who took part in last year’s first Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, crossing the line in one hour, 53 minutes and 16 seconds, accompanied by a mate dressed as Britney Spears.

“Last year’s race was a great experience,” he says. “The only bit I’m not looking forward to is the hellish 4.5 miles from Portobello back to Holyrood when you’re climbing pretty much all the way.”

That said, Paul has had some extra special training. During a recent holiday in Mexico City with wife June, he packed his running shoes. “It was fantastic altitude training,” he laughs. “We were high up and the air was thin, so hopefully it’ll help!”

Paul says the poignant anniversary of losing his mum gave him a particular reason for focusing on his running in 2013. “I’ve contributed to several charitable causes over the years but have never actually done anything to raise money myself,” he says.

“I thought with 2013 being the tenth anniversary of mum’s death, I’d like to raise funds for MND Scotland. To make it a bit different, I thought I’d run three half marathons in 2013 – the general idea being 3x13 in ’13.”

He has continued the trend in setting himself a target to raise at least £1303.13 and is already a quarter of the way there.

“I’ve run half marathons before but never three in a calendar year,” he adds. “Every time I’ve entered one in the past, there’s tended to be something dodgy happen, from running with a chest infection to various post-race ailments. I just want to get around in one piece.”

• To support Paul’s fundraising, go to


Mum-of-two LAURA JOHNSTON, 41, from Kettil’stoun Mains in Linlithgow, works as a beauty therapy lecturer at West Lothian College. This is her first half marathon.

The last person who ever believed Laura Johnston would one day run a half marathon is Laura Johnston herself.

“I never thought I’d be able to do it,” she says. “I started off running to lose weight and keep fit when I turned 40, but I found it really hard.

“Then a friend suggested maybe I was just trying to go too fast. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t 17 any more!”

Laura adjusted her running style and eventually her strenuous outings evolved into comfortable 5k runs and then straightforward 10k races.

Now she’s hoping to complete her first half marathon in less than two-and-a-half hours, accompanied on the way by the thumping music and entertainment of the Rock ‘n’ Roll event.

Driving her forward will be the memory of her life-long friend Barbara Wallace’s dad, Bill Wylie, who lost his fight with prostate cancer, aged 71, last October. Her thoughts will also be with her mother-in-law, Audrey Johnston, 74, who has faced her own battle with breast cancer.

“When you see people around you get ill and your own parents getting older, you start to realise that people aren’t around forever,” she says.

“Bill was heavily involved in the rugby club in Linlithgow and the church. He had fought prostate cancer for around seven years and before he passed away in October last year he knew I was going to run the half marathon for Cancer Research UK,” adds Laura.

While Bill’s battle with cancer came to a sad end, Audrey has undergone surgery to remove her lymph nodes and is currently winning her fight with the disease.

“Cancer affects so many people,” adds Laura, who lives with husband Colin and teenagers Hannah, 16, and Callum, 15. “That’s why I felt it made sense to do something to help.”

She set herself a £1000 fundraising target and has been delighted by the generosity of her college students who have added to the total.

Now all that remains is to conquer her biggest challenge – and do what not long ago seemed the impossible. “This is the biggest challenge for me,” Laura says. “At one point I thought there was no way I’d get even close to running a half marathon.

“I’ve not even looked properly at the route, I’m just hoping there’s not too much wind and it’s good weather.

“And that I finish in one piece!”

• Laura is raising money for Cancer Research UK on

Win a vip pass and trainers from brooks running

We have two fantastic prize packages available. Win two VIP entries into the race along with one pair of Ghost 5 trainers from Brooks Running worth £100.

The race starts and finishes in Holyrood Park, making a loop around the city and taking in some of its most iconic views. And going VIP, you’ll be treated to breakfast and lunch as well as access to a special event viewing area and private gear check.


Send an email to with your contact telephone number by Thursday, April 11 at midday. Brooks Running specialises in footwear biomechanically engineered to provide the ultimate support and comfort for runners. The Adrenaline GTS 13 trainers feature Omega Flex Grooves and Omni Grooves allowing the outsole to bend and shape naturally delivering customised stability and cushion to make sure you have all the support you need when treading the streets at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Edinburgh Half Marathon.

Terms & Conditions: There are two prizes to be won - each winner will receive two VIP entries and one pair of Brooks Running Ghost 5 trainers. The prize is as stated. No cash alternative. Winners must be available to collect their prize from Run 4 It store in Edinburgh by 5pm on Saturday, April 13. Closing date for receipt of entries is Thursday, April 11 at midday. Winner will be notified on Thursday, April 11.