Recent events have caused me to augment my default selection of training routes.

It started when I signed up for the Seven Hills of Edinburgh race. After the Rock’n’Roll Edinburgh Half Marathon was cancelled, I had been looking for another race to fill the void. Initially I dismissed the Seven Hills race as an option because it seemed full of, er, hills, and that really wasn’t my thing. I had been training for the Paris and Edinburgh marathons, and although most of my training routes typically included a loop of Holyrood Park, which climbs about 155m (510ft), I didn’t really go out looking for hills. However, when couple of twitter peeps I follow signed up for it, I took another look at the Seven Hills race description. Going beyond the hills headline, it looked kind of fun. I signed up.

Craiglockhart Hill

Craiglockhart Hill

The race has no fixed course; runners complete seven hills in a fixed order using whatever routes they want to navigate between them. Extensive research (googling race reports) informed me that there were various route options, some more adventurous than others. I decided I better take a closer look. My first objective was Corstorphine Hill, and my first attempt to run it took me relatively close to the summit, before I lost my way and nearly ended up vaulting into a bird pen at the top of Edinburgh Zoo. It seemed my orienteering skills required as much honing as my running skills. I tried harder the next time. I even printed out a map. I got closer, but wrongly figured that a great big radio tower must be the summit and missed the real thing again.

I decided it was close enough, however, to move on to objective two – Craiglockhart Hill. For my first attempt, I took the long way round from the tennis centre, and found a gap in the wall which I figured must be the one mentioned in the seven hills race notes. Turned out it was a different gap. Half an hour later I found myself at what I though must the peak, but (and sadly this is not actually a joke) I had the wrong fucking mountain, and was on Craiglockhart West rather than Craiglockhart East. Back to the map for second attempt. Right summit this time.

This is before you *get* to Craiglockhart Hill

This is before you *get* to Craiglockhart Hill

I moved on to Braids Hill and Blackford Hill. Clearly the earlier experiences were counting for something as I hit the jackpot on run one. This is not so bad after all, I thought.

The date of for the race was approaching. Despite my newfound orienteering confidence I began to feel a bit apprehensive about the fact that I had never run a hill race before and was soon to attempt seven at once. I felt the need to ease myself into it. This feeling coincided with a brief sojourn in Tokyo where I had zero hills in sight. Fortunately the day after I returned I found a hill race not too far away, and not too long – the Traprain Law Hill Race. I scooted over and signed up on the day. It turned out to be a hard slog but great fun.

I finished well down the field, but I was not last. I learned that technique and experience are important both going uphill and going downhill, and I didn’t have any. I tended to lose time on both ascent and descent and gain some on the flat.

With Traprain in the bag I approached the Seven Hills Race positively. Though the race was really tough at times I completed it and enjoyed it. Afterwards I noticed that my flat times had improved. I attribute that to the hills in training and races improving my leg strength, cardio fitness or both. As a bonus, the hills introduced an element of variety and fun.

Increasing the average amount of "going up" per "going flat"

Increasing the average amount of “going up” per “going flat”

Now I try and incorporate a hill on almost every run. It has become a challenge to run up them without pausing to walk, and while I am not quite there yet, I am getting close. Corstorphine Hill and Craiglockhart Hill are now regular alternatives to my usual circuit of Holyrood Park.

It has definitely improved my fitness and speed. My last two races, the Stonehaven Half Marathon and the Dundee Half Marathon have both delivered PBs.

Really, I have earned some fell shoes.


  1. juliaL49 says:

    Doing the 7 Hills Race is definitely a hard task and it is amazing that you just went for it. Hills training features in a lot of expert training advice 🙂 Although it is probably “just” that you work harder and therefore reap more benefits more quickly.

    However, I would argue for fell shoes you have to work harder still because fell running is not just up and down hills. (Not that I could comment on that – I only did one race that took place in the vicinity of an area that is potentially very suitable for fell running)

    • mockjogger says:

      Maybe I need to look into fell running a bit more. I haven’t got those fell shoes yet, but the old season sales are coming up soon …

  2. hillsiderunner says:

    That’s a very impressive performance at the Seven Hills for a first-timer. Found your website via your Haddington half-marathon report from 2013…. unfortunately this year’s run (yesterday) was sunny. Has been interesting tracking your progress, as I’m just a bit slower than you over the half marathon distance. I have the hope of the sub-4hour marathon in my future but am aiming to improve my performance over the shorter distances first.

    Will probably give the Seven Hills a go next year.

    • mockjogger says:

      Thanks! What time did you get at Haddington? I regret I missed it this year, but I was lying on the beach at the time so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much. Seven Hills is definitely worth a go, it will be a must for me next year. And good luck with the sub-4 – thats my big target for the next one.

      • hillsiderunner says:

        My plan for about 1hr 50 went awry after the 7mile mark (had stomach cramps for a few miles after drinking my first bottle of water and had to take some walk intervals between miles 8-10) … I ended up rescuing a sub 2hr instead (by a couple of minutes). I’d a delicate stomach all that morning and made the mistake of skipping water before the race at at the early water stations … but looking back that was a mistake, so a lesson learned.

        I have another half-marathon in 5 and half weeks and will have another go then.

        Seven Hills looks lovely for sure. I also have my eye on the 7resevoir Pentlands half-marathon in December,