Great Edinburgh Winter Run

Great Edinburgh Winter Run

The first weekend in January is often a pretty miserable time of year with the post-Christmas comedown. Having a running event pencilled in the diary is a great way to get the New Year off to fantastic start, particularly if it is a destination race.

I had the opportunity to combine a trip to Edinburgh with a 5k run to kickstart my 2017. The Great Edinburgh Winter Run is part of the Great Run series, which offers mass-participation events across the UK in a range of distances for all abilities. Simplyhealth have recently become the new title sponsor of Great Run series and this event in Edinburgh would be their first as a partnership.

I was joined in Edinburgh by Jayne and Bibi from Veggie Runners, Helen from Too Fat to Run, plus journalists Hannah and Dominique. We listened to a presentation from Simplyhealth on their ethos of helping people to make the most of life through better every day health. The new partnership with Great Run allows them to help even more people to get active by running, jogging or walking together.

On the morning of the race, we arrived at Holyrood Park and saw Arthur’s Seat rising up above the city and knew we were in for a hilly run. Despite only being a 5k, it was still set to be a challenging course with a steep elevation and descent. The circular route travels up Queen’s Drive around Arthur’s Seat, passes by Dunsapie Loch before returning to Holyrood Park.

After a few pre-race photos, we slotted into our starting pen ready for the warm-up. It was pretty crowded so there wasn’t a great deal of space to move, but the atmosphere was fantastic with 3000 people gearing up to run.

Great Edinburgh Winter Run

We were set off and before long the climb began, getting gradually steeper and steeper. I kept plodding away, focusing on keeping my body upright and eyes straight ahead. Around me I could hear the laboured breathing of the runners and the encouraging cheers of supporters. Each kilometre was marked by a bagpiper to give that authentic Scottish experience.

The climb was worth it for the panoramic views. Although misty, we could see across the city and out to the Firth of Forth. It’s quite unique to be able to climb a mountain (actually a dormant volcano) in the middle of a city.

The course seemed to level out around the shoulder of Arthur’s Seat allowing for some recovery. Around halfway, I saw Jayne and Bibi who had stopped to take selfies in typical blogger style! Of course, I ran straight over to get involved in the photo.

Great Edinburgh Winter Run

What goes up, must come down! Around 3km the steep descent back to Holyrood Park began, making for a fast final section of the race. I tried to shorten my stride and quicken my cadence as I went charging down the hill letting gravity do the work.

Great Edinburgh Winter Run

We were welcomed across the finish line by the uplifting voices of the ‘Sing in the City’ choir. I finished in 30:41, not too bad for a far-from-flat course! We cheered in the final runners from the Simplyhealth team as they each crossed the finish line to receive their medals.

Great Edinburgh Winter Run

Later that morning, Holyrood Park hosted the Great Edinburgh XCountry race which saw elite athletes competing in four separate events. I stayed to watch the action as teams from Great Britain, the United States and Europe battled it out. Coverage from the race was broadcast on the BBC, so I tried to get myself in front of the camera but unfortunately they were more interested in the elite athletes. Mo Farrah actually walked right past me as he arrived for the race- very exciting!

Great Edinburgh Winter Run

The Winter Run really whet my appetite to take part in more events from the Great Run (or even Great Swim) series. They have loads to chose from but the Great North Run in particular has been added to my bucket list, being the world’s largest half-marathon.

I visited Edinburgh and took part in the event as a guest of Simplyhealth and Great Run, but all opinions are my own.

Have you ever visited Edinburgh? Have you taken part in any of the Great Run series?


  1. January 21, 2017 / 7:54 pm

    It looks fantastic, although very tough- well done on a great time!
    I went to Edinburgh in October for the first time in about 15 years! I did the Portobello parkrun, and then walked up Arthur’s Seat later that day- walking up it was tough enough!
    How exciting that you saw Mo Farah too- seeing the elites race must have been a very exciting experience.
    I did the GNR once, and I am glad I did it, but the course wasn’t the best in my opinion- lots of dual carriageway and only the final mile or so by the sea. The bag drop was awful and not at all secure (you just climbed onto a bus and threw your bag on the floor or on a seat, and at the end you just got on one and rummaged about until you found it- totally awful for a very expensive race). Plus the metro queues to get back to the city were so long we nearly missed our train home (which was about 5 hours later- we thought we had left ample time), so I would not do that again. Not as bad as the Great South run though- terrible organisation- the marshals didn’t even know where the bag drop was, awful finish area (no-where to meet up after) and a fairly dreary route. I shall be sticking to more scenic half marathons and 10 milers. I don’t think I would try another Great Run event as the two I have done have been expensive and not that enjoyable. But that’s just me!

    • January 27, 2017 / 9:21 pm

      Oh that’s a shame about your experience at the Great North/Great South run- a few people have mentioned that they were badly organised 🙁

  2. January 21, 2017 / 7:50 pm

    Edinburgh is not too far away for me, so I’ve run a few races there, including this one. The year I ran was FREEZING and as I ran down the hill to the finish it started to snow. I found the hilarious (you’ve got to laugh or cry!) so all the race photos are me laughing like a lunatic. At least it gave me a great memory!
    You should come back on the weekend of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival – both the 5k and 10k take in Arthur’s Seat and it’s a great weekend of running.

    • January 27, 2017 / 9:22 pm

      It was surprisingly mild when I did this race, I was expecting it to be freezing. I’d love to come back for the marathon festival, sounds fab!

      • January 31, 2017 / 9:31 pm

        You’d love it. You can run one race or take on the challenge of multiple races which is great fun (sadly no bonus medal for such a commitment though!)

  3. January 21, 2017 / 6:02 pm

    Glad you enjoyed it – the XC looked good on tv as well. I LOVE running around Arthur’s Seat! I used to have family in Edinburgh and more recently, went through a phase of going up for work and made sure I made the most of the running around there and it’s a nice little achievement to make it up. Have fond memories of sledging down it as a child on a discarded bread crate as well!

    • January 21, 2017 / 7:06 pm

      Ah sledging down Arthur’s Seat sounds super fun! Must be great to visit there for work and family, I really want to go back to see more of the city.

  4. January 20, 2017 / 8:15 pm

    I love Edinburgh although I can’t say I’ve ever been for a run while I’ve been there. That looks like a pretty challenging 5k course. While I’d never heard of Simplyhealth before reading this race report, I had heard of the Great Run series and have taken part in a couple of their events. Unfortunately, the most recent event I completed – the 2016 Great Birmingham Run – wasn’t very well organised. I never want to experience a similar level of chaos at the end of another half marathon. My race day experience made me slightly reluctant to enter more events in the Great Run series. Having said that, I have already entered the inaugural Birmingham International Marathon. As a Brummie runner I felt that I had to support my local marathon. Hopefully the marathon will be more organised.

    • January 21, 2017 / 7:07 pm

      Oh no such a shame that it was so badly organised! That really puts a downer on a race when it’s chaotic and disorganised. Hope the marathon is a better experience for you.

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