Rat Race

Okay, more racing related material – surprised? On Saturday 15th June Mark, Shona and myself embarked on the prologue of the Rat Race – a three hour run around the streets of Edinburgh dotted with ‘challenges’ – wheelchair rugby, racing bikes with no brakes, carrying sand-bags up chutes etc. We sprinted to the finish line at 10pm having covered around 18 miles. Upon finishing we were awarded with pasta, carrot cake and a map. The map was for the real event. We managed to stay awake until just after mdnight, marking out half of the course for Sunday. After a bowl of Shreddies I crawled into bed for a few hours sleep.

5:30am. Up, shower, race clothes, race number, back-pack, harness, climbing helmet, compas, whistle, head-torch, Shreddies (again) and then into the taxi. By 7am we were standing outisde Edinburgh castle about to begin. Before we could mount our bikes we had to complete a short ‘warm-up’ run down to Princes Street Gardens, back up to the castle, back down then onto the bikes. We did pretty well in the run, getting to the bikes fairly early. Running the bikes out of the gardens, the excitement was building. Out and off with quite some speed we made our way through the streets. The first surprise was a long stair section. Mark made it down with bumpy ease. I made it half way down before chickening out. Realising that we would be out for at least ten hours, we began to slow.

The next task was an abseil into a quarry – in which some ‘locals’ were having an impromptu rave. Once some ratracers were down on the ground it made for an interesting mix of people. One member from each team was to comlpete the abseil. Shona made it look easy as Mark and I scrambled down the side of the quarry.

[From here on in the description is going to get a bit sketchy – it really is too much for me to type it all – but here’s roughly how the rest of it went…]

Back on the bikes and a short cycle later we were hitting golf balls at Braid Hills Golf Club. In order to progress we were required to hit a ball about 100 yards. Mark was over in two, I got lucky and hit that wonderful sweet spot on my first swing and Shona… well… let’s just say that golf is a frustrating game.

The next stage was a long cycle up over and down the Pentland hills. We all found going up hard, we had to walk the majority of it. Coming down was fantastic! I gave my bike a good hammering (and it gave me a few scares in return). After a lot more cycling we arrived at Roslin Chapel for a 10K trail run involving a bit of orienteering. I have to apologise to Mark and Shona for marking one of the bloody checkpoints in wrong grid on the map… sorry guys. Towards the end of the run we donned our climbing gear to traverse the underside of a bridge spanning a gorge.

More running. More cyling. Lots of water. Then Musselburgh for kayaking. I found this very difficult. It may have been that it was now 5:30pm or it may have just been really hard. We had to begin by carrying the kayaks ~100m to the water! They’re certainly not as light as they look. Shona and I jumped in one (with myself getting very wet feet in the process) and Mark took the single. 3K later we were back on land with very sore arms. Carrying the kayaks back took quite some effort. Being too late for some of the checkpoints, we headed to the race finish. I was empty. The final few miles dragged on and on. Hungry and dehydrated I fixed my gaze on Mark and kept pedaling. We walked at slow pace into Princes Street Gardens (compare with how we left) to be confronted with the ‘lard wall’. This was a sloped wall of linoleum pasted in butter and mashed bananas. Beyond this was the finishing line.

I thought, “it can’t be that slippy”. I took a few steps back, launched myself. Flump. Hmmm. Maybe some team effort required here. With me standing on Mark’s shoulders, Shona climbed up. She then pulled me up, Mark following close behind. Running down to the finish was a huge moment of relief. After twelve hours of rat racing it was over. Phew.

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