Looking down at that full pint glass, it just seemed like a step too far. I was burping, sweating, feeling a bit dizzy, it just wasn’t going to go down, no way! It had to though, I needed to get it right, so down it went, with me gurgling and gagging with every gulp. Finished in two scoops, perfect! I then made my way back to my desk…because this was last Wednesday, around 4pm, I was at work, as I usually am, but it was the final week of preparations for the 7 Hills and 7 Beers. Yes, I’d just downed three pints of very fizzy water, using a technique I’d read on the internet. I started with a single pint of still water on Monday, and by Wednesday I’d progressed to three pints of fizzy water. Yes, it was a bit silly, but I had to do something. After last year’s fiasco, I couldn’t start the run just expecting to be better than last year. What had I done? Nothing. So why would I be better? I wouldn’t. Simple as that. So changes had to be made. There’s no point researching a route that shaves 10seconds off your run, when you can’t finish a pint in under 10minutes.
To remind you, the challenge is simple: a pair of runners, doing the 7 Hills Of Edinburgh run, stopping for a pint of beer between each hill, at a unique pub. Dead easy…on the surface, at least. Last year the previous record was smashed by a solid performance from Gordon Cameron and Chris Henty, and they were congratulated on the day by the previous record holder, Mark Adams. Their new record, 3hrs 08mins and 48secs. It was a great day out, and after a year we thought we could give it another bash. Things were different though, a year had passed, and many teams had benefited from the knowledge of 2014. With hindsight smarts, the record was definitely going to go!
So, there we were, on a cold and dry November Saturday morning on Calton Hill. The weather was perfect for this, but maybe a little cold for hanging about. Emails had been sent, pairs assembled, and finally 8 teams had signed up to give the 7 Hills and 7 Beers challenge a go. Some were there for a laugh, others to give it a serious attempt, and technically Graham and I were one of the latter. In a bid to ensure that people pass each other throughout, and that the pubs on the Royal Mile were not overwhelmed, we staggered the start in reverse order of expected finish time. I loosely ordered them in what I thought was the right order, maybe, and set them off a few minutes apart.
Gio and Rich led the charge. They were only drinking half pints, and were just out for a bit of fun, and headed off before a group photo.
Jeff and Britton followed. Probably deviating from the usual route to hit CAMRA-approved premises only. And good on them, too, I really wanted to be on their team.
Jamie and Stewart, HBT’s finest. Jamie looking to actually finish the route this year!
Neil, John and Mark, Carnethy’s trio, speed and endurance abound, but could they drink…and keep it down? All eyes were on Mark!
Ross and Michael. Michael had been collared by Jamie through HBT, and I’d paired him with Ross. These were the dark horses, Michael is fast but unknown on drinking, though he is HBT so he should be. Ross is frighteningly quick and light, but can he drink beer? He does have a beard, and I guess that means something with ale drinking.
Peter and Nick – Portobello and Dunbar’s dream team. From the outset, these were the guys to watch. Doggedly competitive once running (Peter), super-engaged (Nick), 7 Hills veterans, and both considerably quicker than me on the flat. Peter was struggling with a cold, and despite his claims I knew this meant two things: He pulls out after mile 1, or he gets into it and punishes himself to the very last.
Thomas and Johnny Knox, Anster Haddies father-son double act. On paper, these were the guys that should win it. Fast! However, they said they knew most of the route, but not Corstorphine Hill, and on to Craiglockart, i.e. the tricky bit. So, you know, they were definitely going to get lost. *Spoiler alert* They did.
Graham and I (Jim), on attempt two at the record, after a poor 3hours 13mins last year. Graham had done little training, other than his usual 100mile week, and excessive home drinking. I had placed some focus on drinking, and also a bit of work on route choice. Ok, a lot. We went off last, as it seemed right seeing as we put it together, but we both knew better teams were ahead.
So, to the run itself, well…with everyone already on their way, it gave Graham and I some peace to go for a pee. Then we took off at noon, on the button, taking an alternative route down to Waterloo Place, and over North Bridge, through North Bridge Arcade and onto the Royal Mile. Ahead, roadworks diverted us round St Giles, which was annoying. Ross had already ploughed over them, without a care, but we bottled it. Into the Ensign Ewart, pretty much the favourite choice of the day. The barmaid was serving somebody else, but an off-duty barman realised our urgency: “2 pints of your weakest beer? Coming right up!”. As the pints settled, it was time to see what practice had made…..it made perfect! 2 scoops, sunk in seconds! Graham aghast! It worked! It worked!!!
Up to the castle esplanade, down through Haymarket, zig-zagging across roads and junctions, through Roseburn and finally into the Hampton. “Ah, so this was why you were round yesterday, wondering what time we opened?”, says the barman. “Three guys were just in, told us all about it!”. My recce had been rumbled. Two pints of Deuchars. Scoop, scoop, gone!
We burped our way up Murrayfield Road, then angered some motorists at the junction with Ravelston Dykes. Golfers put an end to a potential shortcut, but no worries, up to the Tower, turn and down. Little did we realise that Thomas and Jonny were nearby….but heading a different direction, specifically towards the airport, bless.
It’s a long drag to Chesser, mainly along straight roads, and here Graham started stretching out. Inch by inch, foot by foot, yards, then finally up to about 50yards. He was pushing, trying to get the next order in, giving me something to chase, and it was a great strategy that we played for the rest of the day. We got to The Pub to see Gio and Rich leave, and the Carnethy trio, along with Ross and Michael. Inside Jeff and Britton were finishing up. We were catching people, but where were Peter and Nick? Two Deuchars, I think, finished sharp.
We caught Jeff and Britton on the ascent of Craiglockart, everyone exchanging some cheer. Only now did any alcohol start to take its toll. The climb, grinding, slippy, seemed to go on for longer than I’d expected. Over the summit, and down passing Gio and Rich. Like last year, we ran the full length of Greenbank Drive and up to the Buckstone. The Carnethy Trio were just coming out of the hotel, saying that they’d finished their beer, but for some reason they were heading into the Buckstone for another as it was too easy, chuckling as they went. Inside the current record holder, Gordon, was waiting and mightily amused.
“Has Peter been in?”, I ask desperately.
“Is he drinking?”, wondering if he’s going for the record, despite his illness.
“Yes, he finished a pint of Best really quickly”.
Damn, that means they’re up for this. A quick photo with The Trio, a sinking of pints, Deuchars, Graham lagging, and we’re off.
We passed Jamie and Stewart coming off the summit of Braids, they were heading back to the hotel. The crux of this run was plotting a route round accessible pubs in this area, and a few teams were heading back to the two licensed places at the Braids Hotel (the hotel itself and the Buckstone outside). Peter and Nick may be ahead, but I had a trick up my sleeve. Copying Rachel’s team from last year, I had a look for golf clubhouses that may be open for a beer. I called the course and they confirmed that if the weather was good there was a competition on, and there’s likely to be somebody in the clubhouse serving beer. Nice! A game changer, checkmate! So I went for a recce late on Thursday, to check where the entrance was, and to plot a suitable route to Blackford. After uploading the route online to Strava to ensure the route was fairly straight, I deleted it, just to keep the secret to myself. Running down to the clubhouse, I rubbed my hands with glee when I saw the door open, and the golfers welcomed us in! Yes!! We got the beers, three cans spread across two pint glasses, and we were told to sign the guest book before we left. As I lifted the pen, I spotted the two names before the first empty line:
Peter Buchanan. Nick Williamson.
The swines!! How did they know?! Afterwards Nick said that in the 10mins that my route was online, he had noticed it and picked up what I was doing! Oh, he’s good! I love it!
Outside we met The Trio, and sent them upstairs to…em….pay the bill we’d forgot to pay. (Sorry!). Then a blast down my reccied route to Blackford. On the summit, Olly and co were there, taking photos and cheering us on! Cheers, Olly!
Our next stop was The Salisbury Arms, across from the commie pool. We took the steep line down Blackford, and started weaving through the houses, passing Swany’s on the way. Little did we realise Peter and Nick were inside. Once in the Salisbury Arms, things got rough, our sixth pint, and it did not go down well. There was a moment when a burp may have led to being sick on an old lady in a wheelchair, which would have been a personal low point in both our lives. Thankfully I kept it together, and Graham was still strong, consistent, as ever.
Onto Arthur’s Seat. As we ran up towards it, two figures were cutting their way up to the summit. Peter and Nick, our nemeses, dressed all in black, like Milk Tray men, but drunk, and more likely to just trash your bedroom. I shouted some friendly abuse, they returned in kind! We were catching them! Or were we? They were quite high up. Onto the summit, and down the steep side, wondering if we were sober enough to do it…we weren’t, but we gave it a go anyway. A fast descent, and Graham started to lead us in, ready to order pints and get going. Into the Kilderkin, Peter and Nick ran out, we nailed the pints and set off after them.
We started the grueling climb, suffering. We hadn’t gone to the toilet since we started, so we were nearly 4 kilos heavier than when we left Calton Hill. It was a rough climb. Ahead, Peter and Nick had finished, they had smashed Gordon and Chris’ record by over half an hour. However, two men, one lean and mean, and one looking really quite pregnant, were wheezing their way to the trig point looking to do the same. We finished in 2:22:43, beating Nick and Peter by about 10mins, and the previous record by 45mins.
After some photos, and congratulations, we jogged back down towards the Kilderkin. On the way, we passed most of the other groups. We were relieved to see Thomas and Johnny back on the right track. Finally, back in the pub, we celbrated with some beers! And some more beers. And people came and went. And then I woke up in bed, with a screaming hangover, and a slightly annoyed wife. I have no idea what happened in the end, maybe other can fill that part in?
So, what about the results? Ok, here they are, I don’t have numbers for Jamie and Stewart, or Gio and Rich. I took times and “pub times” from timing people in and out of pubs on Strava. I know, I’m a saddo. It’s notable that the first 5 teams all beat the previous record. I guess that knowledge really made a difference!
|Distance (Mi)||Time (h:m:s)||Pub time||mins/pub||Run time||mins/mile|
|Jim & Graham||15.50||2:22:43||0:22:40||03:14.3||2:00:03||0:07:45|
|Nick & Peter||15.60||2:32:02||0:22:40||03:14.3||2:09:22||0:08:18|
|Ross & Michael*||15.80||2:43:44||0:41:29||05:55.6||2:02:15||0:07:44|
|Thomas & Johnny||16.00||2:45:46||0:16:55||02:25.0||2:28:51||0:09:18|
|John, Mark & Neil||15.00||3:02:34||0:34:20||04:54.3||2:28:14||0:09:53|
|Jeff & Britton||16.10||3:33:12||0:47:11||06:44.4||2:46:01||0:10:19|
|Gio* & Rich*||16.00||3:40:05|
|Jamie & Stewart||16.00||3:41:00|
*Challenge only, either not drinking in all pubs, or only drinking halfs.
Also, it’s not a typo, the first two teams took exactly the same amount of times in pubs. From dodgy estimates, of course, but they are pretty similar.
Fastest runners of the day: Ross and Michael!
Fastest drinkers of the day: Thomas and Johnny!
Fastest Half Pints of the day: Gio and Rich!
Most improved: Jamie Thin, for breaking that elusive 7(!) hour barrier!
Most skullduggerous: Nick Williamson, and his sneaky, ingenious GPS snooping!
Spirit of the day: Jeff and Britton, they took it easy, and enjoyed the beer!
So, there ye go! With the record claimed, I think Graham and I can start to discourage everyone from ever doing this ever again!