Hill Running, Falling, and Crawling

Something I learned- and learned quickly, for that matter- from being a runner here in Edinburgh is that what we in the Northeastern United States would call "small mountains" are considered to be "hills" in Scotland.

So, at the start of last year when I mindlessly decided to  sign up to go for a run in the Pentland "hills" with my running club, I horrendously underestimated the pain I ended up putting myself through. But despite the achey muscles that plagued me for the better part of a week after that fateful day, I found myself signing up once again this year to conquer the Pentlands. 

Call me crazy- because anyone who finds running in these hills fun truly is crazy. Myself now included because I do, in fact, consider waking up at 8 o'clock in the morning to slosh through muddy puddles and huff and puff up steep inclines to be a rather fun way to spend my Saturday. 

The group that trekked out to the Pentlands this past weekend was a unique one in that, as opposed to last year, not all of the participants were in the Hares and Hounds running club. As an EdEx event organized by Edinburgh Uni's Sports Union, the event was open to all students- meaning there were plenty of naive non-runners to scare. 

We split up into three different pace groups, and headed our separate ways, each with a couple of Haries leading the troops (I was not one of them as I don't frequent the Pentlands and my sense of direction is horrible).

The group that I went with took a fairly gentle route on some narrow trails around one of the hills before ascending the peak. And while I do say "trails" I think it's important to mention that sometimes our fearless leader led us way off the beaten path, testing the limits of the range of motion of our ankles and arches. 

I found the view above to be particularly stunning in the way that the light is filtering through the clouds in a very celestial manner. It almost made up for torture I put my feet through. Almost.   

As you can see, my trainers took a right beating from the mud and dirt that the hills graced us with. My shoes were actually pretty pristine prior to Saturday. But any hill runner (or cross country runner) will tell you that there's no avoiding the aesthetic damage to your shoes- hey, it makes them look well-loved! 

This photo doesn't actually do the steepness of this incline justice- I was essentially crawling up to the top, hence why I'm sitting down. 

This photo gives you a little bit of perspective on how vast the Pentlands really are: there are multiple peaks to explore, and the whole area is about 20 miles across. I was told that there's actually a race in which runners take on the entire Pentlands, covering every single peak in the range. And you thought I was crazy. 

This rather glorious selfie was taken at the top of the highest peak that we reached that day. I was clearly very excited to be at the top, but I certainly wasn't thinking of the impending doom of going back downhill. While you might think that downhill is easier, you have to keep in mind that these aren't gradual hills. They're not only long, but steep.

As one of our leaders put it, running downhill is basically "controlled falling" in which you should let your arms flail out to the sides so you look like a maniac, and give in to gravity. Apparently, "the worst way to run downhill is to walk." This couldn't be more true, since every time I started to walk downhill, I fell. 

Of course, pictures like this were necessary. I mean, why else would I put myself through this ordeal if I didn't get a photo out of it? One of the things that amazes me about the Pentlands is how close it is to the city center. I mean, after just a 15 minute bus ride, we were running through some pretty darn beautiful nature. And I think that's what makes Scotland, and Edinburgh in particular, so unique: that you can be having this wonderful urban experience one day, and then the next you can hop on a bus and find yourself in the rolling hills. It is truly incredible. 

To end this blog post, I'll leave you with a rare, unflattering, bonus-selfie of me with my Sainsbury's chocolate chip cookies and some crazy-eyes because I was so enthused to have them in my possession. And this moment captured here, ladies and gentlemen, is what made those many miles of running up some pretty insane hills completely and entirely worth it. 

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