Survival of the Fittest Edinburgh 2015 - Race Review

Check out our Race Review of Edinburgh Survival of the Fittest - Race footage will be added soon (once editing complete)

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This was our 3rd year at Survival of the fittest; and with our biggest team yet – 31 of us in wave 7 and a few more heading out in earlier waves. 

When we arrived at the event village, wave 1 had just set off and the atmosphere was buzzing. Heading straight to registration we found there to be plenty of staff around and more importantly, No Queues! Registration was quick and easy and the marshals were very friendly and helpful. A good race pack handed out that included race t-shirt (though not a fan of the colour combo) and a Rat Race buff. The event village had plenty of facilities, with food, a bar and merchandise all readily available, and plenty of close-by sections for spectators.

The event had a quick energetic warmup which got us ready, and moments later we were on the start line. A short countdown and we were off – straight down the pathway and over the hurdles, before heading out of the park and immediately into a steep hill ascent towards Edinburgh Castle - the first of many ascents contributing to this race’s nickname of ‘The Hilly One!’

The race led into the castle carpark before a step descent and run into Edinburgh’s Grass Market where we met a series of 6 foot walls before continuing onwards. The city centre was busy with onlookers, most offering plenty of support, others looking rather bewildered about what us crazy OCR fanatics were doing. 

Soon we hit another hill leading up to the Royal Mile and the next section of obstacles – some hay bale hurdles (one of which I grossly misjudged and fell at), flatbed truck climb, followed by a rope climb. I was a little surprised some people bypassed without attempting, and no forfeit / alternative option as featured in many other races these day. The height may have put off a number of runners. I also heard that a number of runners in the elite wave completely bypassed this and gained course advantage, which caused regular OCR competitors a lot of frustration. 

Onwards, another step descent towards Waverley station leading to more hurdles before a long running stretch to “Jacob’s Ladder” – a brutal set of old narrow stairs that really get the legs pumping. Although a very entertaining Russian volunteer at the top giving plenty encouragement.

Soon after we hit another hill ascent – Carlton Hill. The path to the summit filled with obstacles – including a very tight squeeze between sets of tyres, monkey bars, and parallel bars. The obstacles were great but caused major bottlenecks and costing at least an extra 10mins race time.

Further ahead we hit another obstacle intense section with cargo net crawls, a cargo net over hang climb (or A frame alterative), a very unique keg crossing (monkey bar idea but with kegs!), followed by the funniest obstacle – a climb through an enclosure filled with exercise balls and great banter – most of which has to be censored :-) I’m sure you can guess a few! Overall this section probably cost another 10 mins lost – although was brilliant fun.

Finally, a nice hill descent, letting the pace pick up and the legs have a break from all the hill climbs, leading past the Scottish parliament building and into Holyrood Park to a much welcomed water station. Just ahead lay a good length cone carry, followed by an A frame climb and another cargo net crawl.

Next, the toughest section of the course and what really makes this race ‘The Hilly One.’ A brutal, and what seemed never-ending, ascent up the off road track of ‘Radical Road,’ leading towards ‘Arthur’s Seat’.  This hill climb was extremely punishing with most non elite athletes (like myself) often dropping to walking pace. Although extremely punishing, it was also extremely rewarding and the view over the city was amazing!

Finally the peak, and a much welcomed descent lay ahead. Again the pace lifted in a long downhill section followed by some flat running through the long ‘Innocent Railway’ tunnel running underneath the park., before leading out to some near impossible balance beams. After 3 attempts I had to bypass :-( Like many runners I struggled any traction on them, particularly as they were very wet from earlier runners.

A long woodland path led back towards they city centre via a sand bag carry, bungee rope web and goal scoring before a decent length run back into the Grass Market to meet the ‘Travelator.’ A much anticipated obstacle and making me wish I was on Gladiators! Although I later heard others complain this was bottlenecked, I had a clear run and managed to get up on first attempt. No Gladiator-esk wall to jump through but a brilliant and enjoyable addition to the course.

Slightly further on was a very quick slide before entering back into Prince’s Gardens. Another obstacle intense section lay ahead, with plenty of spectators watching on. First up a series of vertical bars to swing across. Overstretched, missed the first, jumped for the second, missed and landed flat on my back in the water – much to the crowds delight. Next was parallel bars requiring full body traverse, hands on one bar and legs on the opposite, before a more challenging version where one side raised as the other dropped. Happily I managed both. Next the rings – another spectacular fail, again ending in the water. Next an overhang wall, rope climb, and tunnel structure before the final run.

Finish line in sight. But first, the last obstacle – the 8ft Wall of Fame! I normally would attempt this unaided but given the bottleneck I took a punty up and over before crossing the finish line. 

Summary

For me Survival of the Fittest was an awesome race, had some brilliant obstacles and was great fun. It is one that I do as a fun run as opposed to competitive. Yes there were delays and bottlenecks on the course but that didn’t subtract from the enjoyment.

For elite runners the course was a major frustration. Too many runners were skipping obstacles and gaining advantages by doing so. To keep a fair race Survival of the Fittest really need to build in a forfeit system to keep things fair, or simply scrap the elite wave and make it all about the fun.

We will definitely be back in 2016!