Earlier this year I found myself a tourist in my own home city. The company I work for Canvas Holidays was hosting a weekend of events to celebrate the company’s 50th birthday and so I was staying in The Balmoral hotel – a fantastic location right in the heart of Edinburgh.
I spent quite a bit of the weekend speaking to many of our French, Italian and Spanish campsite owners, and a recurring topic was how, despite or maybe because we work in the travel business, we rarely take the time to visit the tourist attractions on our doorstep.
So it is with running – whenever I am in another country or town on business I make a point of running in that different location, but in my six years of running I had not quite managed a run around Edinburgh’s extinct volcano – Arthur’s Seat – surely one of the great ‘bucket list’ runs.
The more I thought about it, there were quite a few other Edinburgh city landmarks that I would like to run past, so when better to start checking off this list than on the morning after an evening of celebration !
Mornings in late January in Scotland are still on the dark side,but as I was in the city centre there was no shortage of street lighting. I set off on my route hoping that it would not be too icy. Stepping out of the Balmoral at the east end of Princes street, I turned left and ran the length of Edinburgh’s best known shopping street – Jenners to the right of me and the Royal Mile and Castle silhouetted to my left. I am a bit biased, having made this city my home, but as shopping districts go it is a pretty impressive backdrop.
From Princes Street I looped round towards the Meadows – a lovely park area near the university then headed towards the Commonwealth Pool and Holyrood Park.
When you run round Arthur’s seat – being a circular route – you have a choice of direction, and from memory I knew that there was a really steep hill if you started the circuit at the Queens Drive/ Meadowbank end, so I opted to start from behind the Commonwealth Pool and run anti clockwise.
From the Commonwealth Pool it is a bit of a lung buster to get to the main path (or it was the rather direct route I chose ), but then you get onto a fairly level section, and of course the views back towards Edinburgh and out towards East Lothian are worth the effort.
I was running along this section full of runners joy – those times when you are running and it just seems like the best thing to do. It was bitingly cold, but there was very little wind and the skies were soft muted greys,pinks and blues as the day dawned.
This serene interlude came to an abrupt end a few moments later as I turned a corner into a fierce headwind, the sort of wind where you have to hunker down and grin your way through it. Running in windy conditions is, all things considered, my least favourite thing to do unless of course its a cheeky tail wind pushing me along, but as I live and run in Scotland , it is just something I have learned to deal with.
This section of the run, up by Dunsapie loch felt very remote and wild, and quite amazing to realise that just minutes from this wild landscape was the bustling Scottish Capital city. After Dunsapie loch the path then heads down to Queens Drive, and this is quite a steep section – which on this day was very icy.
I was feeling very pleased with myself having done what was the biggest part of the circuit. I continued along Queens Drive towards Holyrood Palace, trying to decide the route to take back to the hotel – so many historical landmarks to choose from – should I run up the Royal Mile then down the Mound, or should I run back through the Meadows and past the university, maybe adding in a trip to the Castle.
What I had kind of forgotten was that the return leg of the circuit has a long, steady hill to take you back to the start point – and I know that this is 1 mile of uphill as last year it formed the joyous downhill finish of the great Edinburgh 10 mile run.
So here’s the thing – now I know the layout, I realise why most of the runners I encountered were running in the opposite direction. Where hills are involved it is probably better to get a short sharp one over and done with at the start of the run, then have a long mile of downhill to look forward to at the end of the circuit and not the exact opposite as I had chosen to do !
Well I live and learn, and as I am lucky enough to have this fantastic route on my doorstep, although this was my first time running around Arthur’s Seat, I don’t see it being my last.
At the time I was mid way through a rather lack lustre training programme for the Inverness Half Marathon which I am running in on Sunday March 8, and this run gave me the boost and confidence I needed at that time. I managed to complete an 8 mile route and felt I could have run further. Whether it was the scenery or the solitude of an early morning run I would recommend anyone who finds themselves in Edinburgh and with a pair of running shoes to give it a whirl.