Words: Lesley McKenna
I was not 100% sure what to expect when I got to Edinburgh for the 2006 Rat Race Urban Adventure. I have never done an Adventure Race of any kind before and the adventure events I have seen are all of the extreme variety, involving big rivers, ravines and very rough ground so I was wondering how the spirit of adventure racing was to be conjured up in the relatively tame streets of Edinburgh.
To add to the uncertainty, I had also never met my fellow team members before and none of them had any prior Rat Race, or adventure race, experience. It really was a leap into the unknown.
I met my team mates at the briefing on the Saturday afternoon at the event village. There was a great buzz around the place, largely enhanced by the great weather and band on the main stage. There were a lot of very fit, organised and professional looking people getting their bikes ready, but fortunately there were also several people who seemed unsure of exactly they were doing and where they should be, like us. This was actually really nice to see and I realised that a large number of the competitors were here purely for the fun of doing the Rat Race.
My fellow team mates were Simon and Paul, but we decided that we were going to combine our efforts with our fellow Visitscotland team so we would be running in a group of six rather than three, with three women and three men. We were to be competing in the Rookie section of the race in the Mean Streets Prologue which is a three-hour navigation race around the city of Edinburgh.
In total there would be 507 people running around Edinburgh on a Saturday night looking for check points!
The name of the game is to get to as many of the check points as possible in the three hours, with each checkpoint being worth a certain number of points. The catch was that we were not to be given maps or location descriptions until 6pm and then would not get the values for the check points until 7pm when the actual race started. This all added to the anticipation a great deal.
We were one of 14 Rookie Teams and there were another 155 Adventure teams who would go on to the main event on the Sunday, so in total there would be 507 people running around Edinburgh on a Saturday night looking for check points!
I do a lot of cycling in my off snow training schedule but I do not run very often so I was wondering how my body would hold up to three hours of running around on the hard streets. In the end I didn’t have to worry, as the time zoomed by and I didn’t even notice how hard it was.
As the race got underway we were very glad that we had marked all the check points on our map beforehand as it became a dash from check point to check point – and map reading while running proves to be pretty hard. As there were no rules as to the order the course had to be completed in, there were teams going in every direction which caused plenty of confusion for the bemused public!
Some of the check points involved tasks, one task being crossing the canal via a bridge made out of inflatable boats. Needless to say there were a few wet Rat Racers after that. Another check point was in a bar and there were more than a few Rat Racers taking the opportunity to have a quick refreshment before moving on to the next check point. It is very easy to get caught up in the chase for the big points and trying to come up with the best route but all in all the atmosphere was great and exceptionally friendly between the competitors.
We made it back to base with around 15 minutes to spare and no energy left. We had managed to clock up 295 points and had come a surprising 3rd in the Rookie section. We had seen a lot of the city and had had a lot of fun in the process and were now very much looking forward to the Vegas party and also to watching the main event on the Sunday. I am now really looking forward to next years Rat Race and maybe I will even try the main event next time!