Race Recce: Seven Hills of Edinburgh

On Saturday, Nige took me on a recce of Edinburgh’s Seven Hills, a race that I’m running on June 21st this year. It’s described as ‘one of the most unusual running events in the country with a combination of road-running, cross-country, hill-running and urban orienteering…14.3 miles in length and with 2200 feet of ascent/descent.’ I know I can cover the distance but with the added ascents and a little doubt in my mind about the exact route, I wanted a practice run through. There are no marshalls or directions given on the day, you just have to get to the checkpoints on the 7 peaks as quickly as you can! Most runners aren’t new to the event so you could probably get away with following the pack, however there are definitely short cuts that only the more experienced or local runner might know about, so its worth cluing up before the day.
Our Strava stats, map and profile
The race starts and finishes at the top of Calton hill, with amazing
views over the city. On the day I’ll be setting off at 9.45am as part of
the challenge, with others following half an hour later as part of the
race. I’m quite looking forward to trying to stay ahead for as long as
possible while being chased down by the fast runners.
Top of Calton Hill for the start, with views of Arthur’s Seat in the background
From Calton hill, the route first descends towards Princes St, Edinburgh’s main shopping street, over North Bridge and up the famous Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle, our first hill on the list.

From the castle, it’s another downhill through Princes St gardens towards the West End, through Dean Village (or the modern galleries’ gardens, depending on your route choice) and then a slow climb up to the second hill of Costorphine.
Monkey-ing around at the top of Costorphine Hill #2
Down through some residential and industrial areas, probably the least scenic part of the route, and onto the third climb to Craiglockhart. This particular ascent, hidden behind the tennis courts, is steep and has you on your hands and knees scrambling up, clinging onto tree roots.

Steep ascent to Craiglockhart #3
Winding through more residential areas and up to the Braids, the fourth hill on our list.

View of the city from Braids Hill #4
Down through the beautiful Braids, hopping across the golf course, along the riverside and up to Blackford, our fifth hill and from the top, one of my favourite views of the city (mostly due to some memories I have with a certain someone from there).
Views to Arthur’s Seat from Blackford Hill #5
Blackford, you can see the majestic Arthur calling and with a descent
past the observatory, through some cute allotments, past the
Commonwealth pool, you reach his steps. Zigzag-ing up the stone
staircase and over his shoulder, you reach the top of Arthur ‘s Seat,
the penultimate and toughest climb of the race.
Arthur’s Seat standing proud #6
You can choose your own path down Arthur to Holyrood Park, past Her Majesty’s palace and it’s then a race back to the top of Calton hill for the finish. The fastest of the bunch will storm around the course in around 100 minutes, while the more modest perfomers will take up to four hours. I’m aiming for around 3 hours.
The last time I ran this route was New Years Eve over a year ago and we took our time, stopping on the peaks and taking in the views. This time round was similar with short breaks for photos and nkd bars, but we competed it a lot faster and hopefully that’ll hold me well when it comes to race day.
Recce fuel c/o the new nkd nibbles
Now I just need to find some hills to practice on in London. Any recommendations?

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