Tantallon Castle – Edinburgh Castle
As preparation for our 60 mile Speyside Way run in March, myself and Andrew Milne woke on a cold snowy Tuesday morning (not together that is) to eat a massive breakfast and jump on the train from Edinburgh to North Berwick with the plan to run the 26 miles back home. Our train pulled in at 9:20am to a grey and rainy North Berwick to be met by a friend of Andrew’s who was going to drive is a couple of miles to the start of our run at Tantallon Castle.
We jumped out the car at the bleak looking entrance to the castle trying to warm up before we started our run. I was pretty full from breakfast and starting to buzz from the black coffee thrown down my neck on the train. Stretching and taking the obligatory start line photos, we were greeted by a member of staff who had come to the entrance to raise the saltire to the top of the flagpole in preparation for opening up for the day. Glancing at 2 guys in full running gear stretching and clearly preparing to start a run the staff member looked at us and asked if we were coming in for a tour…after a brief moment of hesitation and disbelief I replied “no thank you we are just off for a run” the member of staff clearly sensing a sale to be had then mentioned the £5 would grant us entrance to the castle and a tour, once again after a moment of hesitation I thanked him and declined the offer in favour of our planned run to Edinburgh as opposed to a castle tour in shorts at -1 on a cold wet Tuesday morning.
We headed off around 9:40am and stopped at 9:41am to pee in the bushes before once again heading off along the coast for Edinburgh. We started the day full of excitement to be running this route for the first time and mentioning how nice a route it would be in the summer! This was also the first time we had ran such a distance since Jog4Hampden so the thought of not having to do this all over again the next day was giving us that extra caffeine fuelled spring in our step. After a couple of miles we entered North Berwick and headed off the A198 down to the beach to watch the stormy sea for a moment or two before finding our way back onto the long straight section of the A198 again. Our route took us past our second castle of the day (Dirleton Castle) and on towards Aberlady where we stopped of for a coffee and a bit or warmth from 10 miles of rain and light snow.
Leaving the warmth of a local hotel, once again fuelled by caffeine, the weather changed in our favour and remained mainly dry for the rest of the day. It was around this point that we went off road and started to follow the John Muir Way (a 45 mile path that runs from Dunbar all the way to Musselburgh) for the next 5 or 6 miles from Aberlady to Cockenzie. This is the second stage of the route but we were travelling in the opposite direction the route follows, something we are used to after completing the West Highland Way in reverse last year. This part of the route started with us making our way though a woodland path on the very outskirts of the Gosford House grounds and then following a lovely couple of miles of trail that hugged the coastline towards the huge hulking figure of Cockenzie Power Station.
After passing the power station, not wanting to run beside the slow moving hearse that was tailing us as we ran, we decide to drop down towards the sea and follow a slightly slippy wet sea wall that took us off the John Muir Way towards and through Prestonpans and onto our next coffee stop in Musselburgh. This stop would take us to around 20 miles for the day and leave only 6 or 7 miles until it was over, something we looked forward to.
I lowered myself into the seat of the coffee shop slowly, and for the first time felt my legs tense up and beg me to call it a day. Putting these feelings to one side, I watched Andy line up a shot of OJ with a Sprite chaser and ending with his first ever espresso shot. I’m not sure what he thought of it but I knew it would give him enough of a boost to get the last 6 miles done. I was once again pumping caffeine through my now black coffee stained veins and was excited for the last leg of our run knowing this part of the route like the back of my hand.
It wasn’t long before we passed through the outskirts of the city running under the ‘Welcome to Edinburgh’ sign. With our legs now starting to feel the miles, it gave us a small boost knowing that we were back in the capital and heading towards the castle. We dropped onto the ghostly looking Portobello promenade, running by the once overcrowded beach with the smell of salty sea air and the one remaining Wimpy that I’m aware of in our nostrils, I resisted the lure of the arcade lights and headed towards Holyrood park and the Scottish Parliament.
The last 2 or 3 miles towards the Parliament were tough miles but ones that needed to be done. These miles near the end are the worst, you know its almost over and you just want it to be over so there is little enjoyment in them. Arriving at the parliament left us about a mile to the top of Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile and onto the castle esplanade offering some great views of the city.
As we made our way slowly uphill towards the Castle and only minutes away from the end, it was at this point that Andy thought it appropriate to tell me that come March we would not even be halfway through the Speyside Way….and backed this up with a tweet at 9:48pm that evening to say “Speyside, we’ll still be running – probably hopping, enjoy that thought”. After thinking about another 40 miles on top of what we had just ran I tucked that thought of dread safely away to be relived in a few months from now and continued running towards the castle. The feeling of dread was soon swapped with the feeling of pure joy knowing we had just completed a 26 mile run fairly pain free considering the amount of training I had done in the last 2 or 3 months.
After shaking hands and embracing, we congratulated each other and took a photo for posterity and like that……we’re gone