Spartan Beast Edinburgh

As if the Spartan race series isn’t hard enough….Edinburgh’s Spartan Beast was made all the more memorable and challenging with the ‘summer’ conditions experienced.

15 miles in the Pentland Hills, 3,500m of ascent with 30+ obstacles!! No wonder it felt hard.  Normally the distance and ascent in itself would not be a struggle but not surprisingly the obstacles really drained my body, by the end I couldn’t even lift myself over a waist high wall!

This experience was totally out of my comfort range but funnily enough I found it really enjoyable to test myself.  It’s always humbling to be faced with crossfit pals making the obstacles look super easy while I struggle to haul myself up and over obstacles but making up for it with the running.  It was a shame for everyone that the weather didn’t play ball but extra kudos for those that toughed it out, it took #wearespartan to another level of digging deep.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well my upper body handled some of the obstacles but I have got a long way to go to manage even the first rung of the monkey bars or the hoops, these cost me too many burpee penalties!  I was amazed at the strength displayed by some of the other competitors who just flew through the obstacles like it was a kids game, gliding up walls and swinging through monkey bars with ease.  My goal to the end of the year is to be able to do a pull up, I can’t remotely do one at present!

Check out my video here of the experience:

 

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Running’s Greatest Reward

Running has given me a great reason to travel the world and I’ve been fortunate to run in locations from South Africa to America to Turkey to all over the United Kingdom and whilst every race has given me many rewards and enjoyment none have been as great as the reward of everlasting friendships. This shone through at the 2016 Ultimate Trails 110km & 55km in The Lakes district.

I ran the race in 2015 (read more about that here), and felt the race offered so much in the way of, stunning countryside, beautiful views, adventure with some serious toughness without needing to travel anywhere outside the UK. I encouraged my dear friends Marina and Rhianon to enter for 2016 and also liaised with Graham Patten the race director to invite my Turkish friend, Mahmut Yavuz, one of Turkey’s best ever elite ultra runners to attend.  Mahmut had never been to the UK before and what better way to show him our beautiful country than by running 110km through some of the most stunning scenery the Lakes District has to offer.

Rhianon, Marina, Mahmut & I at registration

Rhianon, Marina, Mahmut & I at registration

I met Mahmut and Marina at my first ever multi stage race in 2013 at the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon (KAEM) in South Africa, and a strong friendship was forged between us all.  Since then Marina and I have become best of friends and run many races together, including the “Toughest Footrace in the World” Marathon des Sables, which we ran side by side across the Sahara Desert. In fact it was during MDS Marina and I hatched the plan to embark on our biggest challenge to date, running the length of The Netherlands #500kin5days for the Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer charity, read more about that here.

KAEM 2013

KAEM 2013

Rhianon and I met through the world of Twitter as she approached me about coaching her to improve her running (read her testimonial here).  I got to know Rhianon more as we worked together on her training plans and she has successfully improved her pacing, distance runs and now has developed a serious love of hills, in particular those on the West Highland Way.  I now consider her a close friend and we regularly meet up for training weekends and head off to races together.  She is also Head Crew for #500kin5days so we know we are in safe hands.

Coming from Turkey to the UK was an experience in itself for Mahmut, with Istanbul enjoying a hot 35 degree summer he was shocked to land in Edinburgh where it was drizzly, overcast and only 13 degrees, a typical summer’s day!  The forecast for the race was no different with plenty of rain planned. Before leaving to the Lakes District I of course took Mahmut on an Edinburgh Run Tour to see the highlights of Edinburgh and get him acclimatised to our summer.

A warm welcome awaited us in The Lakes from Graham and all the crew from Ultimate Trails. Starting the race at midnight with the rain pelting down on the race briefing shelter we all knew we were in for a wet one this year. Mahmut positioned himself at the front and it would be the last time I saw him until the finish line again.  I am sure everyone would agree that the weather made the event one of the toughest yet with lots of mud, slippery rocks and knee deep bogs to contend with but the race was superbly organised and we still managed to enjoy stunning Lake views along the way as we ascended and descended 3,600m over various passes.

Stunning scenery in The Lakes

Stunning scenery in The Lakes

Mahmut had an interesting race, not being used to wet trails he spent most of the slippery downhill’s on his rear, but staying in top contention swinging in between 2nd and 4th placing throughout the race, read his full story here.

Men's 100km podium

Men’s 100km podium

I ran the race in the good company of Marina crossing the line just over 18 hours, in joint 7th female and 71st overall.  I had hoped to run this year’s race quicker than last year but the weather added a different dimension of slippery rocks, knee deep bogs and fairly constant driving rain, in between small bouts of hail and/or sunshine!  We drew on each other’s strengths when we both hit bad points along the way and laughed at our own predicament together, we both suffered from the shits along the way with cramping which hampered our progress but at least misery loves company!

All smiles at the finish

All smiles at the finish

Our friend Rhianon completed the 55km, which was her toughest race to date with 1,763m of ascent to conquer and was great preparation for her upcoming race in October where she is heading of to run the Atacama Crossing, a 250km multi stage race through the driest place on earth, the Atacama Desert.  She finished with a massive smile on her face and is keen to do the 110km next year, so it looks like I might have to go back again, though I may see what the 55km option is like for a change. Mahmuts’4th position  overall meant he won a free entry to next year’s race which I have no doubt he will want to come back with some knowledge of the route to try and take an even higher placing next year, and possibly bring some of his running friends along too.

I was amazed at how many of the runners and volunteers I chatted to throughout the 110km that I had met before at races or that knew me through my blog and Twitter and really enjoyed chatting to them all and watching them achieve fantastic results at this race.

The links in running go on and on and the friendships created will last a lifetime.

Race friends have quickly become very close and trusting friends who have been welcomed in our home and us being welcomed in theirs across the world. Next week I’m welcoming the amazing Elise Downing who is currently running the entire length of the UK coastline to stay with us, before setting off with Marina on our adventure to run across The Netherlands. I then head to 160km Ultra Trail Mont Blanc in August where I look forward to catching up with old and meeting new friends running the various races.

What experiences have you had of this amazing forging of friendships across all borders? I’d love to hear your stories too.

My 5 favourite runs in Edinburgh

Whether it’s New Year’s Resolutions, you were inspired by the stunning feats at the Commonwealth Games last year, or even by your neighbour or friend that gets out running in our beautiful city; every day is a great day for running in Edinburgh.  I have put together a list of my 5 favourites to share with you which I personally love and think they capture the beauty of our stunning city.  All the routes start from the Crowne Plaza Edinburgh – Royal Terrace which is an ideal part of the city to start a run from.  Go and explore on your own, or if you want some company and learn some interesting facts along the way then join me on a running tour of Edinburgh.

Auld Reekie Highlights

In just 4 miles you can take in the major sights of Edinburgh, from the hotel you can head East and explore the historical terrace and mews of Royal Terrace before shooting up behind the Old Royal High School to Calton Hill and clamber onto the Athenian acropolis and take in a bird’s eye view of the city.  From there it’s an easy downhill onto Princess St past the Balmoral Hotel with its majestic clock tower and through Princes St Gardens before heading uphill to the imposing Edinburgh Castle up on Castle Rock.  Let the legs recover on the downhill of Royal Mile all the way past the new Scottish Parliament to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, exactly 1 mile and 107 yards away.  It’s a short uphill back to the hotel back through the New Calton Burial Ground and check out the body snatchers watch tower as you climb back up past the Robert Burns memorial on Regent Terrace and back onto Royal Terrace.

Calton Hill

Calton Hill

Arthur’s Seat

If you’re a runner and you’re in Edinburgh you have to go all the way to the top, I’m sorry but there are no excuses!  It’s only a short distance, 3 miles from the hotel to the top and back, but sharp!  The views are worth the lung busting effort to the top and you can really have some fun on the way down.  Beware if you are heading up in the dark you will need a head torch as it is not lit.  Find your way down to Holyrood Park next to the Palace, and head up the main walkway aiming slightly left and heading for the back of the Crags, the path branches slightly to the left taking you off the paved walkway and still heading left, as you start to climb some rough steps (St Anthony’s chapel is directly up above you) and the path veers to the right, follow this main path all the way to the very summit.  It is very steep in parts and can be slippery so make sure you have adequate foot wear and take care, especially when there are high winds.  Enjoy the views and why not find another path to take you back down to ground.

Arthur's Seat

Arthur’s Seat

Water of Leith

The Water of Leith walkway stretches from the delightful Leith Docks, winding its way through Edinburgh City to Balerno.  You can run a mile or take it all the way to Balerno and clock up the 12 ¾ miles running the entire length of the path. It passes through some interesting areas such as Colinton Village and Dell, the Union Canal, Saughton Winter gardens, Murrayfield Stadium, the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, Dean Village, Stockbridge and the Royal Botanic Garden.  You can choose to join the path anywhere along the way and make your run as short or as long as you like.  Want to go long?  Take the path all the way out to Balerno and you are at the foot of the Pentlands, but that’s a whole other blog!

Cobbles, Trails & Beach

This one is a bit longer, 12 miles, but it doesn’t have any serious climbs, just a steady incline on the way back.  From the hotel, head down towards Holyrood Park and follow Queens Road around to the right and drop down onto Duddingston Low Road at the roundabout, heading past Duddingston Loch.  You can follow the main road all the way down to Portobello, or cut through into Duddingston Golf Course to see Duddingston House, a stunning 18th Century mansion, before heading down to Portobello.  Enjoy running along the beach in the sand along Portobello promenade enjoy the sounds of the water lapping on the sandy shores of the Firth of Forth before heading along Seafield road east, when you see ‘Booker’ a warehouse on your left, cross over and head up Brunstane Burn Path.  Keep following the No.1 cycle path signs and this path then turns into Innocent Railway and enjoy a cool & dark unique run through an old railway tunnel before popping back out under the Salisbury Crags to head back up to the starting point.

Duddingston Loch

Duddingston Loch

7 Hills of Edinburgh

This is for the experienced runners among you and not to be taken lightly as its a rather hilly (as the name would suggest) 14 mile circuit, so make sure you have some water and snacks with you before you head out.  This route is actually a race that takes place annually in June every year, but it is also a great way to see some stunning views of Edinburgh and beyond at anytime of the year on your own merit.  The route is quite complicated to list here but clear directions can be found on the race website here.  The route starts and finishes on Calton Hill, heading out to enjoy Corstorphine Hill, Craiglockhart Hill East, Braid Hill, Blackford Hill and up Arthur’s Seat before finishing back on Calton Hill.

Celebrate Valentines Day with a Run!

Celebrate Valentines Day with a difference this year and come and join me in supporting Bethany Christian Trust, by running the 5km Partner Run.

As part of my role within Crowne Plaza Edinburgh – Royal Terrace, I have teamed up with our chosen charity, Bethany Christian Trust, to hold a 5km fun run at 10am on Saturday 14th February. It is £10 to enter, and all proceeds go directly to the charity to benefit homeless and vulnerable people in Edinburgh, so a very worthwhile cause.

So grab your partner, a friend or family and come and join us for a fun morning in one of Edinburgh’s most fantastic locations, Holyrood Park. Hope to see you there.

Partner run.

Run in the Dark

As a keen runner and lover of my beautiful city of Edinburgh, I couldn’t resist getting involved in The Run in the Dark, taking place world wide on the 12th November in various cities at various times, in the dark (as the name would suggest).  As darkness descends around the world, thousands of runners will be heading out, all raising money for The Mark Pollock Trust and having a load of fun doing so.  There are 5 official locations in the UK, and Edinburgh will be a pop-up version run by yours truly, so join me and loads of other runners for a fun and interesting way to explore the city, at night.

run in the dark

The start and finish line will be located at the Crowne Plaza Edinburgh – Royal Terrace, 18 Royal Terrace, EH7 5AQ, feel free to leave bags or warm clothing for afters with the reception team. The 5km run will take us down to Holyrood Park and through Hunters Bog underneath Arthur’s Seat to enjoy the pure dark and back up past the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the New Calton Burial Ground back to the Crowne Plaza, while the stoic 10km runners will loop around once more.

For your own safety please bring along a head torch or hand held torch with you as certain parts of the route are not lit.

 After the race has finished all runners are encouraged to reunite at the hotels’ Terrace Bar for the ‘obligatory’ night cap. 

Whether you are completing the 5km run or 10km run, please aim to arrive at least 15 minutes in advance of the start time (8pm) so that we can ensure everyone will receive their flashing armband and have a group photo before we go running! Goody bags will be handed out to all participants after the race.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh Ultra Festival

It will come as no surprise to you that I am involved in organising a great fun filled, adventure packed and informative ultra running day in Edinburgh.  I have hooked up with legendary Andy Mouncey and created a full day of excitement for the running community.

Whether you are already an accomplished ultra runner, or just dipping the toes in, then this day is for you.  We have got hill coaching sessions on Arthur’s Seat, with kit to try out on the session from Out-Run, free workshops during the day, kit from Vivimoss to check out, food galore at our host HQ Crowne Plaza Edinburgh – Royal Terrace, Pilates for Runners by Sam from Essential Wellbeing, and evening talks from yours truly, Andy Mouncey and Edinburgh’s own adventurist Dr Andrew Murray.

Check out all the details on our dedicated Facebook page by clicking here where you will find more details about all the sessions, the people coming and a full agenda.  Certain sessions require bookings so don’t leave it too late.

Edin ultra