Having gotten lucky and managed to grab myself a nice hotel room on eBay for a fraction of the cost to the initial buyer I cancelled my hostel room and was set for a comfortable and quiet weekend in the Highland Capital. Yes, it was time to try the Loch Ness Marathon for the second time, having ran four hours and fifty-two minutes last year.
Saturday morning, not too early I picked up Rachel and her sledge full of huskies (don’t ask. No, you don’t want to know. OK… here.) After the longest ever drive to Inverness (road works, slow people, more road works and towns which don’t sell lunch…) we headed straight for registration. The rest of the day would be pleasant; browsing the expo, the Run 4 It sale, eating with friends and enjoying my nice hotel room with riverside views and real coffee. On the way to Inverness, while hunting for lunch, I managed to pick up this little beauty:
My target would ideally be 4:30:00 but anything under last year’s time would suit. Training had gone reasonably well, having ran more long runs than last year; including 17.5, 20 and 23 mile runs. I had tapered well (too well) and fuelled up well (again, too well). I had managed to get an early night and a decent sleep, besides feeling hyped up to the level of a baby kangaroo on Haribo and speed. Breakfast consisted of fruit, croissants, coffee, juices, cereal and more. I had my gels and race nutrition in bottle and on my belt. Everything was in place to beat not only last year’s time, but my target time too.Sunday morning was an early start. Despite the race starting at 10am, I found myself crawling out of bed five hours earlier than that. You see, the race organisers seemed to want us at the start line 1.5 hours too early, the bus journey took 1.5 hours, we did not want to be rushing for the last bus so aimed to arrive 30 minutes before the buses were all gone, there was a 20 minute walk to the buses and I wanted plenty time to freshen up and feed myself in the morning.
Since Naomi had agreed to shout at me when I inevitably went off too quickly, due to my consistent lack of ability to understand pacing in any way, we started together. The first ten miles were fantastic, with each mile coming in somewhere between 10 and 10:20 minute miles. I prayed that each mile felt like this. They didn’t! I’ll spare you the details of what went wrong, but some aches and pains meant that the next ten miles were spent with very little running on and off. My mile splits now looked more like banana splits, with everything from 10 minute miles to 18 minute miles. By the time I sorted myself out, my legs were already sore and I was as tired as I was going to get, so managed to run the rest of the Marathon and even clocked up a 10 minute mile and an 8:45 min/mile pace for the final 385 yards.
The weather was perfect for the race though, with nice temperatures and barely any wind. Coming through the line with a disappointing 5:12:51 chip time, I don’t think I’ve finished with this one just yet. The crowds once I arrived back into Inverness were brilliant. Full of cheer, loud, happy and having a great time. The other runners were friendly and talkative (well, for the first half anyway). The scenery was lovely on the odd occasion I felt the ability to take it in. If you do decide to do this one… yes, the hill at 18 miles is as bad as everyone says (nah, not really… (maybe))!
The rest of the day was spent with friends at the finish line and out for dinner in pizza express (unfortunately, with no giant waiter) later on. The next morning I made full use of the late check-out and fantastic breakfast that the hotel had to offer. The best thing about this race was the thing that convinced me to run it again – the number of friends that I had running it, all of them doing brilliantly.