THE casual Holyrood Park visitor may be wondering if their eyes deceive them next weekend as hundreds of runners – many in fancy dress – descend on the area to tackle a 10k run with a difference.
The Road Block Run – once known as Urbanathlon Scotland – is providing participants of all abilities with the chance to take part in a fun run with an obstacle twist and raise money for a great cause.
Now in its sixth year, the event has already raised approximately £115,000 for Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland, and aims to add another £22,000 to the pot.
Alison Acosta, who helped organise the event, says: “The tagline we are using this year is ‘Life is full of obstacles – overcome yours’, which applies to the people doing the run and to the people we help. These may be people recovering from a heart attack, people with other chest problems or those who have suffered a stroke and now face their own set of challenges, such as learning to speak again.
“The main idea is for competitors to have some fun. Some people taking part may be more experienced runners who want to do something a little bit different, while others perhaps don’t consider themselves to be that athletic, but want to give it a try. It’s not an intense, hardcore race – there’s a lot of stopping and starting between obstacles so there’s time to catch your breath, and people have the option of running, jogging or walking the course.”
Though, as Alison explains, some past competitors have had to go for a fourth option.
“One year we had the hilarious sight of a load of people dressed as penguins waddling round the course. They were my absolute favourite, the memory of them tumbling down the waterslides still makes me laugh. We’ve also had a group of Where’s Wilmas – the female version of Where’s Wally – members of the Tartan Army, Scooby Doo, Fred Flintstones and so many others.
“We’re expecting about 300 runners in all. Some of them are repeat participants, which is one reason why we change the course every year, while others are joining us for the first time, perhaps because they have only recently been affected by the conditions we deal with.”
One such group of first-timers are the eight runners from Fauldhouse Amateur Boxing Club, who are taking part in honour of trainer Pat Toner, who suffered a stroke two years ago.
Member Mike McGregor paid tribute to the man he describes as the “heart and soul” of the club.
“Pat has been involved in the sport for many years and has trained several Scottish champions, including myself and Colin McNeil. He also trained Olympic boxer Josh Taylor for about eight months. Despite his stroke he still continues to make a significant contribution to amateur boxing and we all find that really inspiring. We wanted to raise some money for the charity that has helped so much with his recovery – and we have a Just Giving page under my name if anyone reading wants to help.
“We’re all running as individuals so there’s definitely going to be quite a competitive aspect. I just completed a half marathon so I think I’m definitely in with a chance of beating all the others.
“A few of the guys are a bit worried that the obstacles are going to challenge them in ways they’re not expecting. It’s all being kept very hush hush so there’s no way to prepare for what they might throw at us.”
Not giving anything away was sponsor Class One Management, which said: “The exact details of the obstacle we have provided are a closely guarded secret, but we can tell you it’s called Diversion! We hope the participants have a great time and that some serious money can be raised for this amazing cause.”
David Mills-Pearce of fellow backer, removals firm Bishops Move, was equally tight-lipped. “I can’t give too much away, but we’ll be sending one of our biggest moving vehicles down and it will be transformed into an obstacle. We’ve been working with CHSS for about six months as we noticed how much perfectly good clothing and bric-a-brac people throw away when they move home. Now anything our clients don’t want gets given to CHSS and distributed throughout their charity shops, and we jumped at the chance to offer more support to this fantastic cause.”
Other race supporters include Historic Scotland, which is allowing the use of the park, and the Scottish Government, which has given permission for the race to cross land outside the Parliament.
Alison adds: “We owe a great debt of thanks to all our sponsors, we couldn’t do it without them.”
n The Road Block Run takes place on September 23 and registration remains open until noon on Wednesday