Adventure, Reviews

Rat Race – Urban Gym, Edinburgh

What a simple yet genius idea. Taking the gym to the streets. Taking the routine of running slumped over a treadmill, IPod taped to your ears, eyes listlessly stalking the mute TV on the wall and introducing  you back to the world of outdoors.

Edinburgh’s Urban Gym has regrouped and restyled and its going to be pumping. There is no way this cannot work and work successfully. Racing around the cobbles, breathing out mist, laughing, and sweating with similar minded people. At the minute the group assembles at 6.30pm at Castle Terrace every Tuesday and Thursday evening, but as it grows in popularity, surplus days will topple on.

For a fee of £29 a month, you get to race, you get to make friends, you get to enjoy the benefits of a personal trainer telling you what to do. Over a pre-planned route, the coach Kyle Farningham, gets to lead you on a mini adventure, stopping at various points along the route to beef up those muscles with splashes of circuit training.

The beauty of it lies in the casualness of it all. The streets of Edinburgh are relatively empty, lit only by streetlights but  when 6.30pm chimes people fitted in their jogging gear carrying nothing but a bottle of water emerge from the shadows and meet in the centre. Then off they run.

You pass people all dolled up, setting off for a night on the beer, or in their suits returning home from a day at the office. They turn and watch as you struggle to do push ups against a railing in the middle of the city. Yet somehow you do not even notice them, and you certainly do not care. Because you are on a high. The crisp air, the salty skin, the goose bumps, the lycra, the laughter, the panting, the run. It is a beautiful sight to behold, a slice of freedom in the city.


The Most Exciting Thing you have ever done -Kyle Farningham Interview

The most exciting thing you’ve ever done, people hate that question, I hate that question. We hate it because our answer is usually not that exciting and it forces us to admit that. That does not apply to Kyle Farningham. No, his answer made me smile, “The most exciting thing I have ever done would be the ‘The Trip to Remember ‘, a 45mile cycle from Dublin to Arklow, a 90mile row across the Irish sea from  Arklow to Portmagdog and a 15 mile hike from Portmagdog to the summit of Snowdon. I suppose that meets the criteria!

Kyle is a personal trainer and Rat Race Urban gym manager based in Edinburgh. This summer he decided to practise what he preached and applied as a crew member on “The Trip to remember” . He credits  the owner of the gym he works in with the choice of challenge. “His words, ‘You are mental enough.’ ” However it is one thing applying but a whole other kettle of fish to actually follow through.

On the 8 July 2011 he met his comrades for the next 36hours for the first time. They included Mark Cooper, famed with running Amsterdam to Barcelona, the equivalent of 50 marathons in 56 days. Mark Beaumont who boasts a World Record for his 18,296 mile bike ride around the world and Shaun Quincey, the second person in the world to sail the Tasman sea solo. “As you can imagine, I felt completely out of depth as having only cycled two miles to work and back each day and the furthest I’ve run is the length of my street to catch the number seven.”

To write the distance down does not do the challenge justice. You have got to picture yourself there, dismounting the bike with chafed thighs, rowing for 90 minute stretches at 2am slap bang in the middle of the notoriously rough Irish sea and then hiking a mountain bleary eyed, smelling of crap and drenched to the core. However, do not doubt the appeal, the beauty of these expeditions lie in those rare and magic moments only explorers get to experience. Kyle recalls his pinnacle moment; ” As morning broke the sun beat down on us. The mood lifted due to the sight of the Welsh coastline. This was enhanced when a pod of dolphins guided the support vessel along the water as we listened to the Pogue’s – it was all very surreal.”

He concludes the interview with a classic line, “It started out as The Trip to Remember and it will forever be a trip that I will never forget.”