Training? Who Needs Training?
If you were visiting Edinburgh for the first time yesterday (Sunday 20th October 2013) you might have thought that it was the fittest and healthiest city you had ever seen. The centre of town was full of people stretching, lunging and running. There were hay bales strewn across the Royal Mile and an 8ft wall in Princes Street Gardens.
Edinburgh is a city that does love to run, but even by our standards this was a pretty extraordinary day – it was the Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest. A 10 kilometre obstacle course around the city centre, designed to make you jump, crawl, swing and splash around town, because, you know, running 10km just isn’t hard enough.
Here are Ambergreen HQ we have been discussing entering a team in to some sort of event for quite a while, but it’s never quite happened. Until now. We’re blaming Malcolm for the aches and pains today – he was the instigator of the whole thing – but yesterday Jen, Malcolm, Scott, Doug and myself (aka Craig) met up in our running gear to be the first racing Ambergreen team.
Our training could have been better – Scott had a knee injury, Jen had been treadmill-based and I had all but forgotten about the race until I came back from holiday less than a fortnight ago – but for better or worse we psyched ourselves up. After all, how hard could it be?
Pretty hard, it turns out.
Off With a Bang (or a Fall)!
11:45am and we were off! Running down the Royal Mile leaping over hay bales (and making an unintentional face-plant onto the cobbles, in my case). Down we went to the back of Waverley train station to jump a dozen hurdles before encountering ‘Obstacle 3’ – an entire assault course. None of us had trained for this, but we carried road cones, clambered across monkey bars, crawled through tunnels and completed what I can only describe as a larger, muddier, soldier version of a kid’s soft play area. Muddy from top to tail we ran on only to discover that the next delight was clambering up the steps at the side of Calton Hill. I never knew so many steep steps could be in one place. We made it. Just.
Skip on a little bit and we’ve run a couple of kilometres, gone through some inflatables, struggled up a ridiculously long muddy slope, encountered a fantastic slip-n’-slide and run through an upward-sloping tunnel which never seemed to end. Now we’re carrying sand bags around a little circuit before jumping through tractor tyres and getting tangled in the muddiest ‘spider’s web’ you can imagine. But from here it was all downhill to the finish line, so we were pumped up and excited (if flagging a little). Obviously that would have been too easy, so we soon found ourselves running up the cobbled closes from the Cowgate to the Royal Mile where we were to haul ourselves up onto a lorry and back down. Three times.
The ‘best’ was saved until last though. With just over a kilometre to go we hit the walls in the Grassmarket. Two sets of 6 foot walls. With only two of our team being able to see over these we might have struggled, but thankfully we discovered that Scott is capable of pretty much throwing us over these.
A Test of Will Power and Gravity
We raced down the hill to Princes Street Gardens, knowing that we’d made up a lot of time in the second half of the course and were on track for a reasonable finishing time. There were only three more obstacles to go. The first was ‘The Box’, another of our favourite grown-up jungle gyms to haul ourselves through, the second was the worst we’d encountered: ‘The Wet One’. The aptly titled obstacle was, essentially, a plunge pool. Haul yourself up to a platform, jump in, wade through, climb out and run (uphill, naturally) to the top of the Gardens to get to the final hurdle. The water was a darker shade of brown than melted chocolate, which was grim enough, but when we jumped in (fully submerging ourselves – we’re not wimps) we realised just how ice-cold it was. It was cold enough for muscles to be shocked and joints to complain that they didn’t want to go another step. All being too competitive for that to stand in our way we waded through, waited (shivering) in the queue to get out and duly clambered onto the platform before running up the hill.
The last obstacle was by far the toughest. A sheer 8ft wall. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to get over an 8ft wall, but it turns out it’s quite tricky. It took us 10 attempts to get the five of us over, but with some stand-out team work, pushing from the base and pulling up from the top we were soon all checking out the view from the top of the wall, before leaping down to run – as a team – across the finish line.
Puffing, panting, dripping wet, still covered in mud and with a few joints screaming blue murder we stood in the sunshine under the castle. A little sore, but more than a little bit proud of ourselves. We’d done it.
Never Give Up, Never Surrender
With a backdrop of (what now feels like) insufficient training and last minute nerves we’d run our 10km, not had to admit defeat on any of the obstacles, got over that wall and survived the icy waters of the plunge pool! And we actually felt quite good. Sure there were a few scrapes and bruises in the making, but that comes with the territory, but we had done what we set out to do, and in a reasonable time – 1 hour 18 minutes – as well.
It was only afterwards, once we’d headed to the pub for a well-deserved beer and some lunch, that we realised the other massive plus point of the race. We decided that we would run the race for Cancer Research UK and, on behalf of all five of us, I’d like to say a massive thank you to all the colleagues, clients and family members that donated. At time of writing we have raised £576.25 (inc. Gift Aid) which is a fantastic amount to be able to donate, definitely worth all those bumps and scrapes! If you’ve just realised that you haven’t quite donated and wish to do so, we’ve left it open for another couple of weeks, you can find the donation site here.
We might not be a team of runners, but I can tell you one thing: we can do mud, sweat and a beer (or two), because it’s survival of the fittest, and we’re survivors.