Anyone familiar with the excellent 7 Hills Race in June will realise that Graham Henry's notion to do the course twice on the same day is ambitious bordering on foolhardy. However since those are both his middle names I said yes of course I would tag along and hoped something else would come up. Unable to get across to Julia's Cashell Trail Handicap I met Graham at 9.45, put my halftime sandwich in his car and we set off.
We nearly messed up right from the off. I arrived later than intended after searching a collection of belt bottles for carrying my phone and camera and minimum nutrition. So it took a couple of minutes to leave stuff in Graham's car and get under way. He also left his water bottle in the race to be off but took his hat which he didn't need. He felt he had seen Jim R but now there was no sign of him. So it was just Graham and I who set off up Calton Hill, traditionally the finish, but from which we ran back down the steps into Waterloo Place.
Here we met Jim R who had been circling Waterloo Place and Calton Hill in a panic thinking he had missed us and wondering why he hadn't made a note of my number and carried his phone. Jim was coming for the first lap, although we thought we might persuade him to extend that. He ran 2.20 in the actual race back in the Summer but I felt confident we would beat that time as Graham set off at a furious pace.
Church in Belford Rd.
I always find the long hike to Corstorphine Hill a drag. It slowly climbs and although early in the race it goes on for ages.
Corstorphine Hill to Clermiston Tower. We weren't strictly following the 7 Hills usual route and checkpoints but I did feel we should skip as little as possible.
Someone has put this marker there. Looks a bit Ian Hamilton Finlay.
Graham's first navigational slip came leading us off the hill. Now I can't speak because as soon as I go into the wooded section I invariably get mixed up, and last race led several runners confidently into the shrubbery.
I liked this section very much although it didn't seem very familiar.
Sure enough a slither then a drop off a wall. (I've done worse.)
Down Kaimes Rd. I prefer the dirt trail running parallel but you can't have everything.
The bit just beyond here that was cordoned off for a couple of years is now a swish looking tramline crossing.
Then onto Craiglockhart and the mud slide up the front of the hill.
Lots of golfers out today in the spectacularly nice weather. I smiled and said hello to a fat grumpy specimen who remained sullen.
I told Graham I wanted to keep my feet dry and so we chose the path down the left hand hand side, over the bridge and up the muddy bank opposite
GH got entangled in the undergrowth
Through the arch and we turned right as the allotments would be locked
Through the student halls and a limbo through the locked turnstile
Last hill of round one.
Round one team - we swapped Jim for Andrew and Richard. We had done the first lap in 2.10 - a ten minute pb for Jim despite some break dancing and spinning on his back coming off Arthur's Seat. We expected to go considerably slower for the second lap.
Richard and Andrew sign on for the second lap. Andrew hadn't read the small print and was a bit shocked to realise we were planning doing the second round in reverse. Which meant we were heading back up Arthur's Seat.
Which was particularly busy.
We came off on the back of the Haunch and descended the zig-zag steps down the Gutted Haddie which was awful as they were wet and slippy
Andrew decided to change out of his running tights as he felt they were too heavy carrying all that vegetation.
The Castle from Blackford Hill.
Andrew (taking the gradual ascent) gives Death the slip who waits at the top of the steep climb.
One thing for sure - these terrible steps are much better to run down than stagger up.
We did a variation on the same path we had done earlier while Andrew hearing words like mudslide and wading through the river snuck off to do the slower safer option. (We managed to avoid the steep mud bank and getting our feet wet.)
Graham going towards the light.
Back up from the Braid Burn.
We opted for the tourist route off Craiglockhart rather than the mudslide down the front.
It was a long hike up to Corstorphine but we did do the dirt trail this time.
I was counting off hills as we hit each one. Castle Hill was 6 down, 1 to go.
Graham's second and final bad nav was to suggest (since the High St would be hoachin') that we duck down Ramsay Lane and towards Market Street. Little realising...
And Princes Street wasn't much better. Though as Graham said it took your mind off things (dodging the zombie shopping cattle.)
Selfies, next year and the Plum crew.
We ran so fast we ran right into next year.
Graham faces east for prayers.
Mr Stavert who left us at Corstorphine took the direct route (missing the last 2 Hills) and arrived seconds behind us.
Thanks to Andrew for taking this rather fine photo of the team.
I had the Garmin on auto-pause so the distance and time are probably a bit short. We did the first round in 2hrs10 (by stopwatch not Garmin) and the Garmin measured it at 14.3miles. Due to diversions the second lap was about 15 miles and took around 2hrs45. So 29.3 miles and just under 5hrs. I ran from home and back afterwards clocking around 32 miles total. I would rather do this than shopping with the zombies in the sales any day.