Lord Provost Donald Wilson is a man on a mission – to get the city more active. Clare Smith, who is gearing up for the Total Warrior endurance race, is convinced he’s on the right track as she joins him for a training run
It’s 8.30 on a glorious Friday morning, sun bouncing off the rippling waters of the Union Canal near Shandon.
Alongside the hot-stepping commuters, dog walkers and lycra-clad cyclists, stands Edinburgh’s Lord Provost, Donald Wilson; he’s not suited and booted but kitted out in serious-looking trainers, shorts and a distinctive white T-shirt with his chains of office printed on the front. “Some of the staff got this for me,” he laughs.
The LP has a daily to-do list of serious Chambers business to attend to, but keeping fit and encouraging others to do so is just as important to him. The majority of us pile on the pounds in our 40s, but the LP fought back and is now training for his second marathon.
Since I pledged to take the 12k Total Warrior obstacle challenge, I’ve been accepting invites to classes and sessions from friends to keep it interesting. So, when the Provost offered his support I accepted, gladly. In the hazy morning sunshine our 5k route headed west towards Ratho and I wondered how on earth he fits it all in to a busy schedule.
“You need to plan,” he said. “Particularly marathon training when you have to be running for decent lengths of time, you need to organise it into your working week. August is a particularly hectic time but I’ve committed to my second marathon and I know I need to keep the training up. I’ve got to the stage where I really miss running if I don’t do it, it’s become part of my routine. I feel so much better for it – mentally and physically – and I suppose I’ve become a bit of an evangelist, encouraging others to give it a go.”
But even when out running, he’s still working. We discuss how he uses his long training runs as time to organise his thoughts, come up with ideas and to network. Just last week he went running with the Italian Consul General. I love that idea. Networking while running.
He tells me his running history, how he began with a 5K for charity and hasn’t looked back. I ask what pushed him into doing a run for charity rather than hosting a dinner or an auction. “At that time, running 5k was a huge challenge for me. I’d never run in my life. Hosting dinners and events – I do all the time. I thought people were more likely to donate money if I did something that would really stretch me. And they did.”
The LP is known for his charity work. And after his first 5k he really did get the running bug. In April this year he completed the London Marathon in five hours and raised over £6000 for local causes.
And now he’s inspiring others to join his running club and enjoy nature’s gym. He tells me that by setting an example, fitting running into his schedule he’s had others at the City Chambers follow his lead and become more active.
Our 5k easily became 6k which underlines how much easier it is to exercise with a buddy. The Lord Provost’s words will inspire me over my last few weeks of training. So if you see Donald Wilson out running it, say hello. But don’t stop him running. He’s a man on a mission.
• Total Warrior takes place in North Berwick on September 12-13 www.totalwarrior.co.uk/edinburgh
Donald’s five runs you have to try
Holyrood Park: “This is the perfect place to run no matter what distance or incline you want to tackle. When I was just starting out, one of my first challenges was to have a go at running the flat route that snakes around the park. Once you’ve developed a bit more confidence, you can dare yourself to race 5k to the top of the Crags!.”
Innocent Railway Line: “Holyrood Park is a great starting point for runs. I like heading out the park past Jocks Lodge and ending up at the historic Innocent Railway Line. With options of 10k, 15k or 20k routes, I enjoy this run for a distance challenge. Because it is flatter I find it slightly easier than climbing the Crags.”
Harrison Park: “I live in Gorgie and that’s my local ward as a councillor. Harrison Park is not too far from my home so I often go here at weekends. A run along this route is relatively flat, provides you with pleasant views of boats along the canal, and the other week I noticed a little island complete with a homemade Wendy house!”
Wester Hailes Fun Run: “I have a soft spot for this race as it helped me get into running and, rather crucially, to enjoy it. The free-to-enter fun run is 5k so suits beginners, joggers, children, and runners that want to do something a bit different.”
John Muir Way: “I recently went cycling along the John Muir Way and it was a fantastic experience. It’s a continuous coastal path and I made it out to Aberlady. I enjoyed the cycle so much I’m determined to make it my next running challenge. The biggest challenge to me isn’t the physical pain of running, it’s the mental push and being able to stop your mind from caring about that pain! I’ve found that distracting yourself with different scenery is a great way to trick yourself into doing that.”