IT’S not for the faint-hearted. But if your idea of fun is running almost 12,000km across Edinburgh’s hilly terrain whilst taking in an army assault course and at the end of it battling an 8ft wall, then the Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest is the event for you.
As the organisers proclaim, only the fittest will survive the event, which returns to the Capital for the fifth year in an even bigger and tougher format.
For the first time, the event – expected to attract around 3500 participants – will start and finish in Princes Street Gardens, giving spectators the perfect view of the wacky obstacles awaiting the unsuspecting competitors.
“Edinburgh always provides a stunning cityscape and historical venue for our urban event,” says Jim Mee, creator of the Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest series. “The hilly landscape creates one of the toughest routes of the series, and this year competitors can expect to face a few new obstacles alongside some of the old favourites.
“Everything is a bit more this year. There’s a bit more distance, there are more hills, and there are more obstacles going in.”
For the first time, the race will start and finish in West Princes Street Gardens, giving spectators a prime location to see the brave competitors both fresh-faced at the start line, then looking a little worse for wear during the final stages.
Obstacle courses include the “Braveheart Charge” down the Royal Mile, a colossal hay bale wall, an army assault course area and the infamous Men’s Health “Wall of Fame” – a sheer 8ft high construction, which competitors must scale before they are able to officially call themselves a “survivor”.
The route takes in the hilly Royal Mile, Calton Hill and the Radical Road, giving participants an extra tough dimension to the course.
“The Radical Road will be a pretty tough one in terms of where it comes on the course. It’s the third big hill so it’s the hardest bit physically,” explains Jim, who is managing director of Rat Race Adventure Sports, which organises the event in Edinburgh, as well as Cardiff, Manchester, Nottingham and London.
“We are starting and finishing in West Princes Street Gardens. This is going to allow us to go up to the Castle and back on to the Esplanade, so we are incorporating more of the iconic streets.
“We want to keep it current and make sure people aren’t doing the same course every year and we want to get the most out of a very dramatic cityscape. Out of all our events, Edinburgh provides the most dramatic backdrop without a doubt.
“The views are stunning – people get a real aesthetic event as well as a real physical challenge. You definitely work a bit harder on the Edinburgh course, but you also get a lot more.”
But when the hard work is over and done with, the event offers its competitors the chance to relax and unwind in its signature beer tent, where they can celebrate conquering the course alongside the spectators.
Rat Race Blonde ales and ice cold lager will be a welcome sight for the competitors – especially after conquering the “Wall of Fame” – and last year participants “decimated” the beer.
“We are expecting about 3500 people to take part on the day,” says Jim.
“We get a lot of supporters coming along and one of the reasons we want to start and finish on Princes Street Gardens is so that they don’t have to leave and they can create a bit more of an atmosphere.
“The top guys might do it in an hour, but most people will probably do it between one-and-a-half and two hours.
“Some people might take three or four hours though if they’re taking it leisurely. They might take in a pub along the route!
“There’s always obstacles at the start and finish which makes for pretty good viewing. We’ve got hay bales and an 8ft sheer obstacle.”
Entry to the 2014 event is open until capacity is reached and costs £65 per person or £60 per person when entered as a team of five, and £55 per person for a team of ten.
To enter online and order specialist clothing for the event, visit www.ratrace.com.