Friday, 8 February 2013


Friday night five by five.

I had a feeling that I'd been slacking this week. Avoiding work more than running. A decent session on Wednesday at club, but somehow I forgot to go running on Thursday then today by the time Mary got home and said she wasn't up for a run it was too late to get the train to meet RD and run home with him from Gullane. Then I spent far too long on facebook putting off the moment when I would pull on the trainers. Eventually got out the door at 5 not bothering to take the head torch but with an idea of rad road reps. About a week till Carnethy. Why not?

Well one reason I have never been a huge fan of rad road reps before a Carnethy was: a long time ago I spent a winter doing this on Tuesday nights (?) with Phil Davies (Borrowdale) and his pal Ronnie Gallagher (Carnethy). Both stronger runners than myself. We would meet at Holyrood in the dark and run up the Radical Road then over the top and down to the grass beside the Commie Pool roundabout, down to Holyrood and begin again. Three usually. It was so dark that when I was greeted boisterously by Ronnie subsequently at some race registration I didn't recognise him. Also we didn't spend much time in each other's company. Phil would take the front, Ronnie in tow and I would be a good way behind. Not that we would've chatted on the climb.

The net result was one of the slowest Carnethy5's I ever done. I suspect weather or underfoot conditions - or maybe I just don't have a hairy enough chest (see below). Whatever, I binned the rad road reps.

Phil (centre)

It's about as steep a climb as you will find that's runnable, with the first 200 yards being the worst. After a bit the gradient eases off and goes round a couple of left corners before you get to the beware falling rocks sign and push the stop watch, gasping. When I first started running, it took nearly 7 minutes. The years have whittled that down to less than 5. I can do the reverse – the descent – in just over 2 but haven't had a shot at that for a while as the chances of an incident are quite high. It's also well populated with tourists a lot of the time. Tonight I did the first two reps in the light as the last of the Europeans and Japanese made their way off the hill. I suspect instead of the parliament building in twilight a few of them will have gone back to hotels with a photo of my greasy head close up, blurred, with a pained expression.

I would steady my heart rate at the no entry sign then push my stop watch at the first footfall on gravel. Watch off at the falling rocks sign bolted at head height as the path levels off. I planned for a few reps so reminded myself to pace it. Stupidly I started rep one about 50 yards down on a guy in an Edinburgh Marathon t-shirt. I should've given him 3 minutes but it was too cold to hang around. Sure enough I caught him before half way and unless we were going to run hand in hand I was now obliged by the code of competitive running to race him up the hill, just as he was morally obliged to raise his pace and try and keep up. I wasn't sure if I could hear my keys in my back pocket or himself just over my shoulder so ended up doing a 4.37 first rep.


The proper way to do reps or intervals is either each one same speed or a little faster. The idiots' version is race the first one and go home after pulling up on the second with a stitch. I pretended not to have raced the first but decided to pack it in if I failed to keep them under 5 mins. I said “good effort” to the dude who was 15 seconds behind, but I was annoyed to have set off like a fool. I jogged back to the start down the same way. Probably took about the same time on the way down.

Next one 4.50. Thirteen seconds slower. Do that again and we're through. Third one and the path was free of tourists but more tricky to see the underfoot conditions. 4.49. Clawed back a second. Jogged back down and walked the dark bits. The fourth and traditionally slowest of five. 4.58. On the last one you can empty the tank and give it everything but at number 4 you feel the pain knowing there's still more. I walked nearly the whole descent. I was betting with myself it would be just over the 5 on the last one. There wasn't much internal dialogue as I ran – just heave ho and try not to trip in the by now nearly pitch black. The tourists have worn a small trod to the right just towards the top and when you hit this you know there are just yards before the watch goes off and you can throw everything at it and the torture is over. 4.56. I let out a noise like the team scored a goal. After a moment turn round and flip flop down the path, knees trembling and feet feel like they're wearing flippers. I can't remember ever doing 5 rad roads and now because I have set a dangerous precedent, I can't do just 3.

On the mile run home I already feel in recovery but my calves protest on the way up the tenement stairs. A slight headache I had from squinting at stuff on the monitor has been replaced by the splendid thump of exertion and giddy high of deep breathing. Feelings of guilt quenched. Here comes the weekend.   


  1. I presume this means u will be winning carnethy this year if ur legs recover in time .

  2. Brilliant. I used to run 6x3 minute reps on the steepest lower section. Start from the bottom (obviously), run 3 mins, then turn around and jog back down the way you come. More or less zero recovery. Closest I've ever been to throwing up.