THE worn cobbled stones of the Royal Mile have been the stage for some of most celebrated processions in Edinburgh’s history.
In recent years, the Queen welcomed her grandson Prince William to the Order of the Thistle on the thoroughfare while it also played host to a ceremonious march in memory of feted philosopher David Hume. It was even the backdrop to Scotland’s taste of London 2012 when people packed its famous pavements to cheer the arrival of the Olympic torch at Edinburgh Castle.
But tomorrow, this majestic mile of Scottish heritage will be awash with the sweat of more than 4000 men and women as they limber up to take on the Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest Challenge.
Claire Matthews, marketing director for Men’s Health, said: “Edinburgh has won the Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest Tri-Nations challenge three years in a row, beating England and Wales, and we’re looking forward to seeing whether the Scottish capital can retain its crown for another year.
“Men’s Health readers are a motivated bunch of active guys with a passion for making the most of themselves and their lives. Now in its fifth year, Survival of the Fittest takes the Men’s Health philosophy out of the pages of the magazine and website and on to the streets of the UK. We want to promote the benefits of exercise, keeping a healthy body and mind and prove that you can have a ton of fun along the way.”
Hosted for the fourth consecutive year in the city, the starter’s gun will fire near Castle Esplanade before athletes hurl themselves over a hay bale wall before charging through alleyways on to Market Street.
It is the first of several hurdles as runners – descending on the Capital from across the UK – plough on towards Waverley Station and perform a circuit of some of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
Along the way they will encounter energy-sapping obstacles such as rope climbs, water slides and an 8ft vertical wall.
Upon completing Jacob’s Ladder, the steep stairs running from Calton Road to the top of Calton Hill, they will be met by army instructors who will cajole them along a brutal assault course before returning through Canongate and Holyrood Park where more obstacles await.
Then it’s back into the Old Town, through the wynds that connected Cowgate to Royal Mile, before they emerge in the Grassmarket and on to the finish line at Princes Street Gardens.
All that stands between competitors and the “survivor” tag is an 8ft high Men’s Health Wall of Fame over which they must clamber in front of cheering spectators at the Ross Bandstand.
The action kicks off at 10am but you don’t even have to be a athlete to enjoy the entertainment as an event village – featuring live race commentary, music, MCs, a climbing tower and kids inflatables – is open to all.
Road closures will be in place from 4am until 2pm at Lawnmarket from George IV Bridge to the High Street; High Street from Lawnmarket to Cockburn Street; Cranston Street in its entirety and New Street from East Market Street to Canongate, to allow organisers to construct the challenging obstacles and ensure runners have a route devoid of traffic.
Marshals will be stationed at strategic points along the course to assist competitors across roads safely. Race organisers have made a determined effort to ensure the competition will have a minimal impact on traffic and pedestrians.
The 4000 competitors expected to run the event will be registered at Princes Street Gardens before taking their marks on the Royal Mile.
Runners will be staggered into nine waves, setting off at 15-minute intervals to ensure the obstacles are not too swamped.
Councillor Steve Cardownie, festivals and events champion for Edinburgh City Council, said: “Once again Edinburgh has proven itself to be an attractive destination for major events.
“The city’s unique scenery will provide a spectacular backdrop for this great and gruelling challenge and I wish all the competitors the best of luck on Sunday.”