Total Warrior: Clare Smith’s endurance battle week 11

Clare Smith training in Holyrood Park.
Clare Smith training in Holyrood Park.
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Clare Smith is venturing where other 40-somethings fear to head – the Total Warrior endurance race where the obstacles include fire, ice and mud – so she’s not going to balk at running up Salisbury Crags . . . is she?

TUESDAY night saw Holyrood Park teeming with people – cyclists, walkers, runners, ultimate Frisbee-ers, football training sessions. I’m not sure if I’m just noticing this more because I can now proudly say I’m part of this fitness movement, or if there are more people doing more. Sort of like when you buy a new car you suddenly see the same kind everywhere you go.

But certainly this summer’s night the extinct volcano was a hive of activity. And it was about to host a Warrior training session for 50 people, led by Kieron Ross, trainer from Race Fitness.

After a warm -p of relay racing with medicine balls, planks and star jumps, we set off. Up over the brow of the hill known as “Haggis Knowe” and then through “Hunters Bog”.

The climb begins. And I’m last. Thankfully I’d enlisted my friend Jude who ran with me, along with one of the pacers at the back. And it goes up and up. The group pauses at a point to let us catch-up (masquerading as doing squats). Kieron explains there’s an option to peel off and return to base camp for those who wish, or continue up and along the brow of Salisbury Crags. Show of hands. Everyone bar me and Jude plan to go to the top. We set off. Allan, the poor pacer assigned to chaperone Jude and me tells me the view from the top is spectacular . . . That it’s a lovely night too – we’d probably see to Fife . . . but never mind, maybe another time . . .

There’s something in his tone. It’s disappointed and goading at the same time. And from an absolute no-way-will-I-make-it-up-there stance, I man-up, U-turn and dig deep. Not to be outdone by these whippet-like whipper-snappers, I manage to pant to Jude: “Come on. Let’s do this.” Allan demonstrates the short piston-style run that’s best for up hills, and use of arms. He also says there’s no shame in just walking. Just as well . . .

Legs like jelly, lungs on fire, we reach the top. And once the blurred vision and panting wears off, I appreciate the view. It is truly awesome. The city, the Firth of Forth, Fife, the Pentland Hills. I don’t have my phone to take a picture and clearly I’m not about to go down and get it. So I urge you, you don’t have to run up there, a walk would be equally as satisfying – go and see it for yourself. We head back. Allan shows us how to negotiate steep declines – small steps from the knees. I’m a master at this and manage to make conversation with Hamish McAndrew from Run4It, in between panting.

Hamish explains this group is an extension of a weekly running group the shop facilitates. ‘Every Monday night at least two pacers shepherd about 20 or so through the Meadows, Arthur’s Seat or wherever. It’s really popular. Feedback is that people like running in a group, you push yourself harder and are introduced to new training ideas. It’s safer too, women and people new to the city can run without worrying about dark nights and quieter streets.’

I get that. I’ve been doing the Portobello ParkRun on Saturday mornings and it’s the same thing - I try harder to beat people pushing buggies or just not to be last . . .

Time’s not on my side

IT’S 33 sleeps until Warrior, 12/13 September. And whilst I’m busily trying to prepare myself for what lies ahead, David Gaffney, Warrior event director, is preparing the course ready for the 4000 or so competitors.

He reports, “Six flat-bed trailers stacked high with bits and pieces of masochistic obstacles have arrived at Balgone Estate in North Berwick ready to be assembled by a five-strong team of equally masochistic builders.

“There are more than 30 instruments of torture (or “punishing obstacles” in Total Warrior speak) creating the 12k adventure playground. And with just four weeks to go, you might want to hope for some drier weather . . .”

David tells me the fastest person round their Leeds course (my trainer Kieron) completed the 12km in just under 57 minutes. And the slowest person spent a full three-and-a-half hours more than that out on the course. I’d like to think I’ll be somewhere between those two extremes, but frankly I just want to get round it in one piece.

It’s not like I’m going to be wearing a watch anyway – not with all that mud to crawl through.