For the uninitiated this is a pleasingly low key race which has no fixed route but you have to hit all seven checkpoints – Carlton Hill (the start), Corstorphine Hill, Craiglockhart Hill (East), Braid Hill, Blackford Hill, Arthur’s Seat then Carlton Hill again for the finish. No closed roads. What route you take is up to you. Some folk take it all very seriously and have a lot of fun doing recces of short cuts (did Bill Gauld really lay secret stepping stones just below the surface of the Braid Burn the year he won it aged 57?) but sometimes the shorter route can take longer than you think, especially if you try getting up the steep bank behind Craiglockhart sports centre wearing Road shoes. You can either enter the race or the more laid back challenge, which sets off half an hour earlier.
I have always thoroughly enjoyed this race, despite never having found a particularly optimal route. I have never really wanted to spoil the experience by doing anything as stupid as entering the race instead of the challenge, thus feeling obliged to go baws oot and probably still having a crap time tailing off the back of all the fasties. Maybe one year, but this certainly wasn’t going to be it. My bucket of excuses contains – saving myself for the Chevy in a fortnight, no taper, legs still a wee bit tired after that marathon & chumming my sister around. My sister didn’t know the route at all and would have quite justifiably got very cross indeed if I had run off ahead and left her. She is also fairly terrifying when she is cross.
My friend Vicky was doing it for the first time so I had refreshed my memory of the route by doing a recce with her, just as well seeing as how my recollections were slightly sketchy and I even managed to go the wrong way up Gorgie Road at one point.
We are having something of a heat wave just now which has even reached us up here in the Frozen North, so although it wasn’t as hot as in Englandshire it was still a beautiful day for going to the beach. Oh well. My sister drove up from the Borders and seemed quite nervous so I did my best to reassure her, and said how much fun the race was. She said rather pointedly that my idea of fun was often a lot less fun for her. I can’t think what she meant by that. The start of the race is always one of the best bits as a horde of runners pours off Carlton hill, brings the traffic to a halt then does the whole tourist dodging thing up the Royal Mile to the castle. Becky, Vicky & I stuck together until Corstorphine when Vicky said she was going to slow a bit but she kept popping up again so wasn’t going that slow! The bit through Stenhouse is always tedious so I decided we may as well take the water of leith afterwards rather than more pavement down Chesser Avenue. It’s a little slower but a lot more pleasant. Afterwards I “forgot” to tell Becky there was an alternative easy path and we did the steep scramble up the bank at Craiglockhart. She thought that was great fun. I could see the fun written all over her face when she got to the top too. I trotted off smartish before she could hit me.
After Craiglockhart we were in tandem with Vicky again and I actually managed to remember all the wee shortcuts and alleyways that you need to take to get to Braid hill. Go me! The view from Braid Hill is really amazing although I could swear Arthur’s Seat always looks twice as big as usual when you know you have to get up it on tired legs. We took the exciting route down to the Braid Burn but I made an executive decision not to bother with the scramble up the far side and we did the easy way around before huffing our way up to Blackford hill. There was yet more great support up here, it really is such a sociable race to do, loads of club members and other supporters are always out on the hill tops with encouragment and bags of jelly babies. All of the checkpoints had buckets of water with sponges which we really needed in the warmth. There is a fair bit of banter between runners too, especially when the racers start to come past the challengers. Coming down Observatory Road there is always a couple with a hose pipe on spraying everyone. There were two more pop-up support points further along – there was a wee boy on Mayfield Road with another hosepipe and his family had got a table with water then on the corner of Blackett avenue a couple had pieces of orange and sweets! They must have all been there for ages, what a lovely thing to do.
You can still take the short cut through Pollock Halls but unfortunately they have fixed the turnstile so you can’t wriggle through it anymore. So you have to go over the 8 foot high wall instead. I *may* have forgotten to tell Becky about this bit too. She loved it, I could tell. I trotted away smartly before she could hit me and up Arthur’s Seat we went, taking the less exciting scramble route as Becky was feeling her knees by then. She muttered something about having wrenched her shoulder getting over the wall too. Once the summit was conquered we kept up a nice steady pace to the finish (I hate that run up Regent’s Road though, it HURTS and you pass by all the folk who have long since finished and are heading home as they give you cheery encouragement).
I really enjoyed it and I am pretty sure my sister did too. Maybe apart from that wall. I am such a lovely caring big sister that I even bought her an ice cream on the way back. Later I found an awesome photo that I had taken of her backside as she was getting over that wall. Surely a nice sister like me wouldn’t put it on Facebook and tag her? Would I?