The carrot & donkey technique


Posted by in July's Magazine

If you think of the best places to run in the world, Leith may not be the first place that comes to mind. However I truly believe not only that Leith is the best urban area on earth, but it’s also the best place to run. I’ve been running all over the place since I was 13. That’s 30 years, eek! Scotland is miles better than Australia to run in, and Leith is definitely the best place I’ve lived for interesting runs.

  1. You can easily get somewhere scenic: Whether a short jog up to Holyrood Park to go around Salisbury Crags/Arthur’s Seat or to the nearest cycle path for an easy perambulation out to Cramond, there’s loads of exit routes to non-traffic routes. You don’t need to drive a car to get to an interesting run route.
  2. There are a variety of easy blocks to build up with: If you’re just starting to run, beginning small and building up is the most enjoyable method of improvement. Leith has lots of small square blocks that are easy starting points. If you try the blocks between Leith Walk and Easter Road, you’ll find it’s impossible to get lost, and there’s actually not much traffic. Just mind the dog poo – an urban problem not unique to Leith. Consider it agility training!
  3. Wear what you want: Seriously folks, who said that you have to run in lycra, apart from Superman perhaps, however this PT doesn’t even own a pair of ‘running tights’. Wear what you feel comfortable in. Leith expresses itself in a diversity of fashion, or anti-fashion. You don’t need to conform to clingy ‘active wear’ to set out for a jog. Some folk say that changing into special running clothes makes them feel like more of a runner, some folk say it makes them feel like a dick. It’s up to you what you wear – an Aussie ultra marathon runner called Cliff Young used to train by chasing sheep around his 2000 acre steading in his wellies. My grandpa Cornelius was a baker and keen runner who used to train in his underdacks and three holey woollen jumpers. Aye, he was totally bonkers. You could definitely get away with this in Leith, probably not Stockbridge or Morningside.
  4. You don’t have to wait for the sun to go down to run: In many climates it’s too hot to run during the day. Sunny countries are inconvenient. There is little risk of sunburn in Leith. In fact, you can go running anytime of the day – it will never be too hot! In the darker months, our streets and cycle paths are pretty well lit too.
  5. Refuel Heaven: What do you like to eat after a run? Chances are you’ll find it on Leith Walk. Whether it’s carb loading at Origano or topping up protein with a steak quesadilla from Los Cardos (ask for half the cheddar and get a pot of guacamole instead of sour cream to make it even better). I can remember a dinner party conversation a decade ago where we talked wonderingly about sushi on Leith Walk. “Wonder when that will happen?” Well it’s here! And White Sushi (opposite Pilrig Church) is pretty good and cheap to boot. Fresh fruit and vegetables, sources of repairing antioxidants, can be had from the very fine Tattie Shaw’s greengrocer at the top of the Walk.
  6. You’re Not Alone: Weekend mornings are no longer the preserve of folk doing the ‘walk of shame’ from a particularly good party. There are high-viz flashes zipping up and down and jogging on the spot at junctions (BTW, you don’t have to jog on the spot when you wait for traffic. Personal choice, I guess). Leith Links is abuzz with fitness freneticism.
  7. Leith is Dense: Apparently Leith is the most densely populated suburb in the UK (outside of one borough of London), so there’s always a loo stop nearby. Some people feel safer running when there are more people around. Also if you’re running in a park don’t be surprised if one of the friendly old geezers offers you encouragement – they do mean well.
  8. Greenspaces: Even though we’re losing urban trees left, right and centre, we’ve got some lovely parks. Pilrig Park is my favourite as it has a braw view of both Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat from the top of the wee hill (also useful for hill sprint intervals, should you fancy it).
  9. Centre of the Action: There’s always something going on in Leith, so whether you run or choose an easier walking pace, getting out and about on foot is the best way to see what’s happening.

Leith Market is a good pedestrian destination; they’re having a ‘Celebration of all Things Leith’ on Saturday 29th April between 10am – 5pm so why not pop along to Dock Place? (There is also an open day at Custom House.) Loads of activities are taking place, including a rave for kids and adult space hopper racing! Riding a space hopper is excellent cross training for serious runs – it’s like doing dozens of squats, so join us for some serious fun. ν

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