Run like a tourist – Edinburgh edition

My Edinburgh run route in red, half marathon route in green
My Edinburgh run route in red, half marathon route in green

Running while on a vacation has been high on my plans ever since I finished the couch-to-5K program in early 2013. I’ve carried along my running shoes to 2 Lake District vacations, one vacation in Scotland, and on 2 trips to India. Yet, for various reasons – primarily because I became overwhelmingly lazy once on vacation – I never got running, and the shoes came back unsoiled.

Edinburgh, my favourite city in the UK outside London, was just the perfect place to finally get started.

My initial plan was to run to the base of Arthur’s seat from our hotel – a round trip of 10K – on Saturday. That got scuttled after we spent too long loitering around the city, visiting Leith for lunch, Dynamic Earth for expo, and then 2 trips to Princes street markets. Add to that another trip to Princess street for dinner, and there wasn’t much time or energy to spare for running.

New plan: start at the half marathon start, taking an alternative route to the finish, avoiding the congested, inner-city route of the half marathon.

Since I had to anyway wake up early, get ready, and head to the start to cheer Raghs any, it removed the biggest hurdle to my vacation runs – inertia against getting out of the bed ;)

2015-05-31 08.03.24Start zone was the usual combo of peppy music, long loo queues, and nervous energy mixing with rain in the air.

2015-05-31 07.52.44

Raghi was dressed up smartly in a bright tee, my Surrey half cap, and topped up with a bin liner to keep warm and dry1.

It was the first running event of this scale that I’d been to – my biggest event had 4000 runners, while this one had over 20,000 – and it was interesting to observe the variety of people and outfits, and the organisation.

It took a while for the race to get started, and another long while for last of the runners to get going. Once they were off, I started my run too – across Holyrood palace, the Scottish parliament, and then Holyrood park opposite the Dynamic Earth. Found a good vantage point and stood there cheering and taking photos, including a long burst set that became the gif below.

Edinburgh half marathon in front of Holyrood park
Edinburgh half marathon in front of Holyrood park

The route so far had been easy – mostly downhill, on pavement or across grass, almost parallel the race route. The hard, and most beautiful part of the run was next.

I headed first west, then south, on the trail path around the base of Salisbury crags, then up the Queen’s drive along the base of Arthur’s seat. The section on Queen’s drive had the best views of Edinburgh I’ve seen. Stopping to shoot this panorama was also a very convenient excuse to let the HR climb down after the short uphill effort.

Views back towards our hotel from Queen's drive
Views back towards our hotel from Queen’s drive

Atop Duddingston loch, there are trails running up to Arthur’s seat. These are a longer, but less rocky and steep alternative to climb up to the peak. Running up to the peak was (is) a dream, and this was a perfect opportunity – cool, wet weather, with hardly any tourists around. Sadly, I was on a schedule – to be at the finish before Raghi – and had a slight knee niggle. Arthur’s seat has to wait for the next visit.

Finish somewhere in the distance, Jacob's ladder below
Finish somewhere in the distance, Jacob’s ladder below

Soon after the loch, I took a steep trail path downhill, which turned into a long series of treacherous steps, called Jacob’s ladder. Next up was a long and fast, but boring run section directly towards Portobello beach, and the race route.

From Portobello beach to the finish, I ran on the race route, except that I didn’t run extra 5K out and back loop that the race was doing to make up the extra miles. While the section inside Holyrood park was the scenic one, this was the fun section of the route.

Runners close to my speed had long passed, so I didn’t have to bother about pacing. Running ahead to take photos, to cheer people along, to chat with bystanders, even have a short play session with a dog.

Blisters are braille for Awesome
Blisters are braille for Awesome

Met and saw a lot of awesome runners on this section that day, but my favourite was this lady (and her bridesmaids) who was running the half marathon as part of her hen do!

Half marathon for a hen do!
Half marathon for a hen do!

Got to the finish at just over 12K mark. The first vacation run was over – got beautiful views of one of my favourite cities, perfect running weather, and awesome cheering along the run route. Couldn’t have asked for a better start to a (hopefully) long list of vacation runs.

Raghi was in soon after, sad at breaking her previous half marathon PB by only 20 or so minutes! But happy at having earned another medal to add to her tally2

One medal closer
One medal closer

Likely next tourist run venues:

  • Exmoor coast, in July
  • Croatia, in August
  • Isle of Wight, in September

I’ll try to get a streak going…

P.S.: This post was inspired after reading Justin Bateman’s post, Run like a tourist.

Full gallery:

  1. Thanks, Mr. restaurant manager at the hotel for getting us that bin liner from the kitchen. With a smile! 
  2. Despite this medal she was still behind my total by one, and I was about to earn another one next weekend at the 235Km Dragon ride. Thanks to her ‘easy’ medal earn from Yateley 10K series, she’s now even with me. 
Run like a tourist – Edinburgh edition

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