Clare Smith gets some much-needed encouragement from Festival tourists as she trains in Princes Street Gardens and then discovers nature’s gym as she tackles Blackford Hill and splashes through the Braid Burn
Edinburgh. What a city. When I return from meetings in Glasgow and stomp up Waverley Steps (ok, escalate – can’t be a warrior in heels) I often try to imagine what it must feel like to be a tourist, casting curious eyes on our capital city for the first time. It’s a breathtaking place – which only gets better with the annual migration of Festival visitors.
This week these visitors have added a different kind of value to my life in Edinburgh. As we leave the office for our weekly beasting with Kieron Ross from Race Fitness, we emerge onto the normally quiet Regent Road. “Treat the tourists as obstacles to be dodged!” Kieron barks, launching us straight into the “perfect warm-up to engage our brains and our muscles”.
Destination: Princes Street Gardens. Despite working a mere hop, skip and a dodge from the Gardens I reckon the last time I wandered through them was five years ago with visitors in tow. And I’m missing out. Edinburgh City Council has done us proud: the gardens look smart, green and inviting. And today they’re full of tourists, Buddhists, sunworshipping office workers and now wannabe warriors.
We weave down into the grass expanse and begin. In pairs, one runs whilst the other does sit-ups. The grass is wet and there are murmurings of getting muddy. Kieron laughs, gleefully pointing out that this is nothing and we need to toughen up to be ready for the Total Warrior course in September.
September used to feel ages away. But I’m hurtling towards it now. Slightly worried. Five weeks to go...
Up steps, down steps, short hills, planks. Some American tourists become our cheerleaders. “You go girls!” And “Hey yeah – you got this!”. It’s like being a Festival show with an appreciative audience. Quite motivating actually – we push on. A Buddhist monk nods and bows to us as we pass him. I wonder if this pain is karma for all the years of Freddos, Hula Hoops and Chablis.
Princes Street Gardens is famed for its benches. And today they serve a new purpose as we do dips working our triceps and shoulders. And then boom! Another hour’s session is under our (Lycra) belt and the working day continues.
Later this week I do a one-to-one with Kieron. We meet at Blackford Hill. Forty years I’ve lived in and around Edinburgh and I’m ashamed to say I’ve never explored Blackford Hill. Off we trot, up through dappled sunshine slowly but surely. We pause for what I hoped was a welcomed breather – but Kieron picks up a three-foot-long log and thrusts it at me. “Balance it on your shoulder, use the other hand for balance, let’s go!” To be fair, the log he’s carrying is longer and heavier. I follow. That’s the thing about Kieron, there’s no “do as I say”, he’s right there with you, running, jumping, demonstrating. Everything I’m having to do he does too.
Up and round we emerge at the Hermitage Golf Course and Café. Dog walkers having morning coffee (with scone) look at us like we’re mad, running up hills in the bright summer sunshine. Time for a photo looking back over the city, basking in the morning glow. Inside, I’m happy that visitors will see our city at its best today.
Across Braid Hills Drive, more up. Legs tired. We pop out onto Braid Hills Golf Course. The last time I was here it was snowing and the husband and I made snow angels. I could really use a lie-down right now.
Then the descent. We don’t retrace our steps, another reason it’s great running with a guide, new scenery and routes to discover. To distract tired legs, arms and feet.
We’re about 15 minutes from the planned end of the session, and Kieron has a surprise for me. I don’t like the wry smile on his face as he pauses to get his camera out. “Right, let’s do this!” and he leads the way. Slap bang into the Braid Burn. Like a plump, loyal duckling, I follow. And I kid you not, it’s lovely. Invigorating and a childhood flashback all in one chilly splash. We wade a couple of hundred yards and for once I’m insistent on photographic evidence of the scene.
Are city running tours a thing? They should be. I’ve discovered amazing new places on my own doorstep and I’m a fully subscribed member of nature’s gym.