Speed of Light

You can’t really come to Edinburgh and not bring your trainers. Well, that’s not quite true. The first time I visited, in 1997, I ended up, for the first and last time, in a strip club. ‘Titillating and demeaning at the same time’ was how one friend described it. And that was before the curry. That was not the reason I was up there earlier this week. Rather, I had been invited to join a panel discussing ideals in athletic endeavour. My specialist subject was failure, about which I am something of an expert.

I arrived early enough in the evening to get a run in before dinner and bounced out of my hotel for what I thought would be a gentle hour of stretching the legs. Before I had even hit my stride the outline of Arthur’s Seat emerge from behind a supermarket. I had seen it before, of course, it is impossible to miss. But I had never thought about running up it.

Arthur’s Seat by daylight

90 minutes later, and two cruel (remember, I am a Londoner) ascents done my thighs were humming with cramp. For the first time in years I ran as cold a bath as possible and stayed in it as long as I could bear.

The view though was spectacular. Train lines etched out of the city, the Firth of Forth was placid – it even looked warm. After a curry (no strip club) and a decent night’s sleep I wobbled out of the hotel in wet running gear and ran and down it twice more. 24 hours later I can only just walk in a straight line. And to think that I’ll be doing that for 50 miles through the dark in 2 months time.

At Arthur’s Seat for sundown

I am not the only one to have been taken by the view – it plays a key part in David Nicholls’ million-copy selling One Day. More recently Angus Farquhar of the NVA has create a work of art from 4,000 fell runner and walkers across Arthur’s Seat called the Speed of Light. It is an astonishing spectacle of light in motion and a miracle of choreography since it involves runners of all capabilities maintaining the same distance of 10 metres between themselves in ascent and descent, for nearly two hours before changing light suits in a seamless transition unnoticeable to the naked eye. If you are in Edinburgh for the festival you must track it down as anyone can take part. It runs from Thursday 9 Aug – Sat 1 Sep 2012, more info at the festival website.

Speed of Light


About Robin Harvie

I have been running marathons for ten years. But when I couldn't around faster than 3 hours 12 minutes, I decided to see how far I could run before I keeled over. Turns out pretty far. In September 2009 I took on the Spartathlon - 152 miles from Athens to Sparta. Non stop. Why We Run is about that journey and about why we run at all.
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2 Responses to Speed of Light

  1. Bill Coles says:

    Hi Robin – liked your talk in Edinburgh. Here’s a little review – suitably flattering, I hope. Very best, Bill

  2. Robin Harvie says:

    Hi Bill, Thanks very much – glad you enjoyed it. Liked your post on The Man Who Planted Trees. A beautiful book. Robin

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