I have retired from running so I burned my trainers by Ed

@ Edinburgh

It’s now 3 days since the Mens Health: Survival of the Fittest. Only now is my body beginning to recover. The last few days, have been agony, just as much as after the Edinburgh Marathon (back in 2007).

Even though the distance involved (10K / 6 miles vs. 26 miles) is a LOT less, it was a LOT harder than flat running (added bonus of obstacles, walls, steps, etc.) AND I am lot more unfit.

As I look back to last Sunday, it is with a mixture of happiness, regret and sadness. I had been swithering in the days before about not doing it, because of my feet problems, having not been out for a run for almost 4 weeks, but in the end decided to do it. I had already paid £40 to take part and had committed to going with Chris, Greg and a couple of others. Plus I didn’t want to look like a pansy, ha ha.

So, after picking up Chris and heading up to Castle Terrace Car Park, we ambled on down to West Princes Street Gardens where (because we were so early) took our time getting ready for the race. The most interesting part of the pre match routine was a visit to the Public Toilets. My advice, never ever use these toilets, I think I would rather shit my pants than go in there.

Anyway, met up with Greg (and his friend Nick) who were our team for the day. We were in the Green Wave (Chris was in the Orange wave so I said good bye and good luck) and we headed up the Mound to the starting line (junction of Royal Mile and Mound). We got there with about 10 minutes to spare and there was already a lot of folk in the starting area. We decided to use this time for pictures (Nick’s girlfriend Jen, thank you) and loitered around outside Deacon Brodie’s.

It was at this point a Japanese tourist walked past and asked to have her picture taken with us. We obliged then afterwards she swapped positions with her husband and she took his photo. Amazing to think that somewhere in the world (or Japanese Facebook, we will live forever).

We moved into the Start area with all the other members of the Green Wave. Positioned ourselves at the back and prepared ourselves for what was to become an eventful, long, painful and funny six miles through Edinburgh.

We set off down the Royal Mile where the first obstacle was a big hay bale wall. Cue the first queue. Had to wait for a minute or so while all of us fatties clambered over some hay bales. June & John were here supporting, that was good. I decided to jump up onto the hay bales and land on my bum. That appeared to gee the crowd and (so I heard later), a few of the ladies swooned.

From here we went down a couple of closes, across Cockburn Street, then New Street and we headed up Jacob’s Ladder. I had never been up here before but that is one tough set of stairs. The pain didn’t subdue as we crossed the road then ran up to the top of Calton Hill.

Ed climbing through a Land Rover at the top of Calton Hill, Edinburgh
Ed climbing through a Land Rover at the top of Calton Hill, Edinburgh

At the top was a full on Army Assault course. Climb through a Landrover, through a tunnel (where I clicked with a large bottomed older lady, she liked my joke about wiping my face on her backside, don’t think her husband was pleased though). Up a climbing frame, rope swing, monkey bars, under a net, feet in the tyres, hurdles. Phew.

From here, we ran down Calton Hill and down to the Scottish Parliament. From here was the hardest part, a run up the hill to the wee mini roundabout near the Royal Commonwealth Pool. A run of about a mile or so (and for those of you who know Edinburgh, you will know how steep this hill is). To make matters worse, it wasn’t on the road/pavement, it was through the trees and scrub. This was my lowest point, I wanted to lie in the bushes and cry. It was at this point, the fast folk from the Orange Wave behind (started 15 mins after us) began to catch us fatties up. Eeep.

Upon reaching the top we were greeted by a water slide (a large plastic sheet down the side of the hill on the grass, moistened by water). You had to slide down, great fun, wheeeee. Good times. Made your arse wet, and rammed your shorts up your crack. Bad times.

From here, more hard running as we went into Holyrood Park (going towards Duddingston) and down to the Innocent Railway. We ran up hill through the tunnel (greeted by a 70s disco halfway, nice) up and through the back streets (around St Leonards I think). Very tough going but the one and only water stop was rudely interrupted by a shortcut through a bunch of ropes/wires all jumbled up through some trees so we had to get our fat, hot, large feet through the gaps. Running on into town, and we were 4 miles to go.

We were now in the Cowgate. I have lived in and around Edinburgh all my life and I had no idea what roads we had run on to get from Holyrood Park to the Cowgate. It was then we entered the building site of the fire from a few years ago. Over another climbing frame, through a cone / traffic barrier maze, under and over some traffic barries then up the Travelator (wall at 45 degrees with a rope).

We then entered what I could only describe as a four storey squat (in fact some of the vandalism intimated this) which was being converted into flats/offices. We had to go up four or five flights of stairs in the dark. Upon reaching the top we had to run through a wee maze through a “rave”. Dark, disco lights and some sort of Scooter-esque song pumping super loud (with matching dancing cartoon badgers on the big screen). Through here, back down the stairs and back up another close to the Royal Mile.

Half way up the Royal Mile we found what I can only describe as a big long inflatable consisting of a wall, bits to run through, jump over, sticky up bits. This was my favourite part, great fun racing Greg along it. I have to admit to letting him go first, then yanking his big Celtic shorts down to expose his big hairy ass, then jumping past him, ha ha. Hopefully one of the many photographers would have snapped that. Back down to the Cowgate and on we went.

We then ran through the Grassmarket (probably the first time I have been in it and not been drunk). Interesting running through the crowds, stag nights, tourists. We then ran down to the wee Parkour course.

Ed jumping down from the platform in the Grassmarket
Ed jumping down from the platform in the Grassmarket

No idea what this means but we had to jump up a big step, down, up and down onto a crash mat. I added a commando roll for effect.

Ta-da
Ta-da

Home stretch now, along Kings Stable Road while a man played a saxophone. I did shout him to play something fast like “Flight of the Bumblebee” but I don’t think he spoke Scottish. We could already see lots of people coming out of the Gardens who had already finished which made it very frustrating.

We got into the gardens and we were all ready to turn right to go to the Finish when we were hoodwinked into going left, whereupon we had another wall to scale, tunnel to enter and Landrover to crawl under. I grazed my knee.

Last obstacle done, up the hill and up to the Ross Bandstand. Down the steps, fall on the hidden step then left turn, there was the Finish Line 20 feet away. However there was a 12 foot wall inbetween us and the end. Nick was the boost man, and I pushed Greg’s (now covered) ass up the wall till he got to the top. I went next, Nick boosted me, Greg pulled and I managed it.

Ed has made it to the top of the Wall
Ed has made it to the top of the Wall

Then Nick’s turn. I looked round, Greg was off to the finish line, cheeky bugger. I helped Nick up, we jumped down and fell across the finish line.

Ed has cleared the wall and is only yards from the Finish Line
Ed has cleared the wall and is only yards from the Finish Line

Time on my watch put us at about 1 hour, 20 minutes but we would have to wait for the confirmation later. I wasnt sure if this was a good time or not. Chris came in a bit quicker and some other friends had better times than that. The winner did it in 37 minutes. To be honest I didn’t care, I had got round. In your face Edinburgh.

(Official result — I was 1503rd, finished in a time of 01:19:32)

Afterwards, my Mum & Dad were there to support me (a busy West Princes Street Gardens was no place for my three kids to run about in) and we got some photos, ate some Snickers and drank some juice. Thanks for coming!

Ed at Ross Bandstand, Princes Street Gardens in front of Edinburgh Castle
Ed at Ross Bandstand, Princes Street Gardens in front of Edinburgh Castle

Route as described by the organisers

The Edinburgh course is as hard as they get. Although it appears to be the shortest ‘10KM’, it has several stings along the way that truly add-in distance and hardship, mainly of the steep variety. A superb setting for the start, on the Royal Mile, at St.Giles’ Cathedral, then soon vaulting the Hay Bale Wall, and a sharp left to disappear into the first of many narrow and dark passages, often with steep steps (Wynds and Closes). This first KM is crowned by the super tough Jacob’s Ladder stair climb, and you were soon at the amazing 360 degree view that is Calton Hill. Scrambling through the Wrecked Cars of Urban Jungle and over the Army Assault Course gets you through KM 2 up here. Descending gladly, you soon found yourself passing the dramatic buildings of Scottish Parliament and Dynamic Earth with the Crags of Holyrood Park rising above you, and after following the wooded edge of this park you reached the Waterslide, with the mini-mountain of Arthur’s Seat as your backdrop. Not that you noticed that for long, as you hurtled down the slide! Up and running again, the route took you still outwards through the 6KM mark to discover the Innocent disused railway Tunnel complete with the Mirrorball 70’s Innocent Disco, and on through the Spider’s Web and deep down into the Cowgate and the Men’s Health @ Work Zone. This bewildering array of fencing and obstacles had you taxed. Well, what goes down must come up, and it is here that you made the never-ending ascent up into the intimidating Festival Fun zone – a few minutes of ‘Badger, Badger’ hard core techno and you could escape once again to the streets with a climb back to the Royal Mile and our Under Armour inflatable assault course. Back down AGAIN on cobles to the Cowgate, and the legs will have been really hurting by now. Into the (in)famous Grassmarket for a tidy Parkour workout aided by our Urban Gym instructors and then surely it was nearly over?! Behold your entry into West Princes Street Gardens in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle and engaging all-wheel-drive for the Land Rover Obstacle, before the final run-in to your conquest of the mighty Men’s Health Wall of Fame. After this massive final effort to get to the Finish Line – you certainly had survived Edinburgh MH Survival of the Fittest 2010. A little beaten and slightly stirred. But a Survivor.

Once I reached home, I was confident in my decision to “retire” from running. I have done a Marathon, a Half Marathon and now a 10K and if I’m honest, running was never really my sport. I found it boring and with huge flat clown feet, got a sore back and now, very, very sore feet (Plantar Fasciitis).

The only way to properly cement this decision and ensure there was no going back was to burn my £80 Asics Gel running shoes. So I did.

Don’t know what I am going to do next, after the Lighthouse and now this, long may my Midlife Crisis continue.