Streets of glory - Edinburgh Rat Race
Edinburgh will be reclaimed by hundreds of scurrying creatures this month. Claire Sawers meets the people behind the Rat Race
Adrenaline junkies, urban adventurers, extreme sport addicts, nutters – call them what you like – but, later this month, 600 of them will be running around Edinburgh in an annual two-day race that turns the streets, hills, rivers and parks of the city into one big adventure playground. Now in its fifth year, the Edinburgh Rat Race sees competitors spend the weekend trying out new activities – some of them daft, others more difficult – all of them done in the name of fun.
The competitors will have the chance to road-test their physical stamina and navigation skills, (an A-Z map is recommended, and sat navs are for wimps) whilst also getting messy with games that sound like something straight out of It’s a Knockout. In the past, racers have been asked to wade through weirs, speed cycle without brakes, dodge flying eggs and scramble over a finish line slicked up with banana skins and butter.
John Laughlin, who is planning this year’s race course, is a full time adventure racer himself, so is accustomed to events where you might be expected to snow-shoe, canoe, rollerblade or cycle your way around a mystery route.
‘You’ve got to be physically fit to take part, but also game for a laugh,’ he says. ‘We like to plan things that are a bit of tongue-in-cheek, so racers could find themselves getting pretty muddy or embarrassed. They might have to do karaoke, or wear fancy dress, but we also want people to get a taste of sports they wouldn’t otherwise get a go at.’
He’s not giving away any details about this year’s secret course, but hints that parkour, rock climbing and kayaking might be involved, with the possibility of some taster sessions of boxing or BMX riding thrown in.
There will also be a culinary challenge, which has become a regular fixture now at Rat Races around the UK. In the past, racers in London and Edinburgh were asked to chow down on jellied eels and deep fried Mars bars for extra points. Apparently neither local delicacy went down very well, but luckily only one heroic swallow was all the organisers needed to see before they dished out the points.
This year’s contest in Edinburgh (home of the first ever Rat Race) begins on Saturday night with the Mean Streets Prologue, a three-hour sprint around checkpoints with teams winning points for completing challenges. On Sunday, the Adventure Class race kicks off, with teams speeding round the course in the fastest time before finishing in Princes Street Gardens.
Competitors need to show up with a bike, helmet and running shoes, but after that, boats, wheels, ropes and whatever else might be required will be provided on the day. ‘It’s basically an opportunity to try out things you might normally get arrested for,’ says Laughlin about the course, which will take racers underground, into the water and out of town, via national monuments, parks and shopping malls. ‘This year’s Saturday event kicks off at 5pm which should be quite funny,’ he laughs. ‘I’m looking forward to seeing teams with their A-Z’s out, running past confused shoppers on Princes Street, or dodging Hen Parties at the beginning of a big night out.’
Rat Race takes place in Edinburgh, Sat 19 & Sun 20 Jul. Entry is from £35 per person. Entry to the event village is free for spectators. Full event information and training tips can be found at www.ratraceadventure.com or by telephoning Rat HQ on 0845 009 4365. Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT), is the official charity partner of the Rat Race. To get involved with fundraising or make a donation, please contact Jill MacRae on 0141 249 6885 or at The Beacon, 176 St Vincent Street, Glasgow.