It was one of these ‘will I won’t I’ slightly scary races, but I took the plunge
and found myself wandering down towards Calton Hill from George Square on a warm,
dry and sunny Sunday morning. Up the steps and past scores of Japanese tourists to
merge with scores of runners. I had done my homework, read the route description
and gone through the Portobello photos at least twice, but I was still paranoid at
getting lost or making a huge detour. I needn’t have worried as I bumped into
Mike who had done the race a couple of times before and I was reasonably
confident I could keep up with him.
We watched the Challenge runners go off at 9:45, Susie and Sadie in amongst them
somewhere. Still not confident of the route, I stuffed a street map and my reading
glasses (for goodness sake) into my hill-running rucsac along with gels and carbo-
drink. Mike I noticed was carrying nothing but a gel!
10:15 arrived and after a short briefing, we were off! Where had Mike gone? Gee
whiz, there he was streaking ahead! I caught up with him and we followed the
initial mad charge down to Waterloo Place, up the Bridges and right up the Royal
Mile. Too fast! Our first stamp at the Castle and then down the steps to Johnston
Terrace. It was quite exciting weaving through the town with other runners and
we were soon trotting along Belford Road and slowed a bit for a brief chat. Then
along Ravelston Dykes and chasing shade as it was getting quite hot. Wow, very hot!
Up some steep steps at the base of Corstorphine Hill and a bit more shade. Mike
and I were running well and I was glad of his company and help with Navigation.
A welcome water station, another clip and we were descending southwards towards
our third hill. Now that the pace had steadied, I was beginning to enjoy this and
was feeling good. In contrast, Mike was starting to flag a little in the heat.
Through Craiglockhart Sports Centre, out the back and up a ridiculously steep
and slippery hill to the next checkpoint. The water station was a big relief and
so were the sponges. I made myself stop and drink a whole cup of water to last
until the Braid Hills station. Down the hill was great and we were passing a lot
of Challenge runners now. Navigation was actually very easy as most people
looked like they knew where they were going. I had left Mike behind on the descent
and he gave me a wave from across Braidburn Valley Park. Oh well, I’ll keep
going. Braid Road was a bit of a slog in the heat but we were soon onto a track
leading up to the 4th checkpoint at the top of Braid Hill.
I was still feeling good at this point and followed some runners down grassy
slopes, through gorse-lined paths, down very slidy banks, across the burn, over
a stile and then the very steep slope up to Blackford Hill. There was a bit of a
queue up the last bit, but a welcome rest. And at the top were Susie and Sadie!
Off down the hill towards the Observatory and a brief chat with another runner.
Through the Arch, through the allotments and then back to streets and pavements.
Another hot slog up Ratcliffe Terrace and I was now beginning to get tired.
Phew, Dalkeith Road and the next water station. Gulp, cough, gulp. I naively
followed some girls through the grounds of Pollack Halls (they could have been
students for all I knew) and found myself at the bottom of a rather tall wall.
Fortunately I watched how some young and supple athletic person effortlessly
vaulted over it and followed suit – or rather didn’t and sort of scrabbled up
and fell down, scraping my knee in the process.
Into the Park and crikey the place was swathed in pink! 40 000 girlies in pink
may just have witnessed me falling off the wall! Now concentrate on the ascent
of Arthur’s Seat. It was still pretty hot and very steep and rocky, but highly
enjoyable. Now for the last titchy little hill. On the descent my legs began
to show the first signs of cramp and I realised that I hadn’t eaten a single
gel. How stupid. Probably too late now. Yet another 40 000 pink joggers
to weave around as I headed for the Parliament Building. At last, Calton Hill,
which wasn’t actually that titchy and seemed exceptionally steep. Have to walk
for a bit. After two people passed me jogging, I started running again and
there was the finish!
Very hot and tired but not completely destroyed, I wandered around guzzling
cups of water and rhubard pie. Mike arrived followed by Sadie and Susie and
we swapped experiences and took photos.
Although quite a long and hard race (15 miles with 2200 feet ascent/descent)
I was surprised at how much I had enjoyed it. The varying terrain keeps you
interested and I heartily recommend it. Harriers results are
Duncan 47th 2:05:49
Mike 67th 2:10:11
Sadie 173rd 3:00:18
Susie 174th 3:00:21