A few Fridays ago, on my way up to Edinburgh for the weekend, my alarm on my phone went off.

“9pm: Sign up for 7 Reservoirs Race”

An odd time to open entries to a race but nevertheless I was straight online to Entry Central signing up, knowing full well that the race would hit its maximum capacity within minutes. 

The Harmeny Pentland Runners 7 Reservoirs race is now in its fourth year and is taking place on Sunday 6th December. I’ve ran it in 2013 but wasn’t happy with my performance on the day, so this year I hope to enjoy it and better my time.
The race takes place in the Pentland Hills, just south-west of Edinburgh, and although takes in some spectacular scenery is mostly on low level so very runnable. The winter conditions expected from a Scottish winter are what make this race challenging, with changing terrains and unpredictable cold, rain, ice and snow possible.

After signing up for the race on the Friday evening and with exactly 13 miles scheduled in my marathon training plan, it was a no-brainer to take on the route on Saturday morning. I took advantage of the sunshine and sported my skort and vest to recce the course, with Nige alongside me on the bike and in charge of photos!

As the race name suggests, the route takes in seven reservoirs, starting and finishing at Threipmuir. The race registration at Harlaw Farm is easily accessible from either Currie or Balerno, nearby villages a short drive from Edinburgh, and from there its a short walk to Threipmuir Farm for the start.

From the start, you run along the north side of Threipmuir reservoir on a gravel path and through a small forest towards Loganlea reservoir. After a left turn, a long private road stretches out in the distance and after only a mile or so there’s quite a tough climb to the top. Some runners choose to stick to the tarmac, others veer to the grassy verge on either side of the road, but the long hill is the same and at the top another left turn brings a spectacular view and a look to the race route ahead.

The next section of the race is my favourite, through the valley towards Glencorse reservoir and the path, although undulating, feels mostly downhill on soft, narrow trails. A few stiles get in the way of running fast and freely and I remember short queues to get over these during the race, although some more serious runners choose to jump the walls instead.

As you approach Glencorse reservoir and dodge the few sheep grazing at the side of the path, the terrain changes to a smooth tarmac road, which as I remember has a tendency to turn to sheet ice in December! The road is flat though and passes the reservoir usually busy with boats and fishermen, before the route takes a left towards Bonaly and a sharp incline through muddy tracks.

The trail along the top of the hills towards Bonaly is tough and seems never ending but at this time of the year looks very pretty, with the path intersecting bright purple Scottish heather. In the Winter, when the race takes place, it’s very different scene with frosty, sharp, brown bushes surrounding you. At the top of the path down to Bonaly you are greeted with spectacular views, reaching far across the city towards Arthurs Seat and even to the Forth Rail Bridge. The descent is lovely, as long as you stick to the edge of the path, which is grassier and softer than the path made up of large, sharp edged rocks.

At the bottom of the steep hill is Bonaly and during the race, this is a water stop. From here, apart from a sharp incline from the car park, the route continues relatively flat and sticks to smooth roads and country lanes towards Torduff and Clubbiedean reservoirs.

The last few miles towards Harlaw, the last reservoir on the 7 Reservoirs route and back to where the race started, is always the worst for me. At this point during the race a few years ago I started to feel pain in my foot and struggled to put weight on it. Mentally I find it hard to forget and miles 11 to the finish bring back horrible memories (one of which stands out in particular, my younger sister Tess breezing past me as I struggled on, I won’t live that one down!)

When I recce’d the route on Saturday as part of my marathon training though, I tried to block out bad thoughts and focus on getting through the miles. I told Nige to stop taking photos, got in a bit of a strop after I was taken out by a mountain biker going far too fast on the trails, but finished strong and just thought about having ticked another training run off my schedule.

If you’re looking for a scenic, undulating trail run with lovely views, close enough to the city while still feeling miles away, give the Pentland 7 Reservoirs route a go. Due to its popularity the race is full up for this year, but it’s definitely worth taking note for next time. Even if you don’t want to race, the route is a great distance for marathon training or just an opportunity to do an off-road half marathon and explore the outskirts of Edinburgh and the Lothians.

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