What I love most about running is the endurance part and going longer distances, preferably in stunning nature.
Hearing the good experiences from other runners about the Loch Ness Marathon and never been up there (but always wanted since I watched movie as a child) made me sign up for it as my first marathon. The training went well, without any injuries or other involuntary breaks. I stuck to a plan and followed all the dos and don’ts of marathon training successfully (until I went to the sports expo one day prior race). Just during the last week, I started to be paranoid: I felt something in my knee, I was sure to get a cold and my 1 mile jog the day before race ended with horrible side stitches.
I was still nervous about possible injuries that might sabotage my run when we arrived in Inverness and we went to pick up my race number. At the Event Village we met Allan, Melanie and their two girls and I finally calmed down a bit after Allan told me about “maranoia”. And thanks to my two X chromosomes I forgot all the stress once I spent some time shopping at the Sports Expo. After an early dinner (without beer because I was once again afraid of sabotaging my run), I went to bed early as well just to find myself broad awake until 1am (I’ll definitely have a beer next time!!!).
Allan and I met the next morning to queue for the busses. I am bad in estimating, but there were loads of busses and everything was still well organised. The busses left Inverness at 7.45am and it was a one hour journey to the start on the high ground between Fort Augustus and Foyers. At that time, you realise how far the way back would be and nervousness is likely to set in again. The view up there is amazing though and once we left the busses we were busy queuing for the portaloos and dropping our bags off, so no time for thinking about what lies ahead of us. While the weather in Inverness and around Loch Ness was rather mild, there was rain and cool wind up there in the hills. The advice of Yan to wear an old jumper until the start saved me (thanks for that!!!) and the smiling children on the truck for the bag drop off also did their bit to spread a warm atmosphere. The atmosphere at the start was special in general: After Allan and I wished each other luck and separated to find our pens (I ended up surrounded by Germans, why is that?), there was a Piper Band making its way through the runners, which gave a lot of us goosebumps. At 10 am, the race started with “500 Miles” (I was so happy about that song that I again forgot to be nervous) and off we went making our way back to Inverness.
Apology for the poor route description that follows now which I blame on the adrenaline on that day which blurred bits of the race in combination with my short-term memory and a bad sense of orientation. The first miles are undulating but rather downhill, it needs a lot of control not setting off too fast. The race is on minor roads at this point through forest on both sides (once you left the high ground behind) and there were still a lot of runners around me so I was concentrated on overtaking runners or let them pass. It was after Foyers (about mile 7) when we finally had the Loch to our left, the forest to our right and it was just quiet and peaceful, the only thing you could hear were the steps of other runners. I caught myself admiring the view quite often and I still felt good and strong after 13 miles. Although we runners were alone pretty much of the race, the support was massive. Every time we passed a farm or a village there were people on the road shouting and cheering, screaming and playing music from balconies or just clapping. It really, really helped a lot and I almost started crying every time we passed the crowds (I again blame that on my extra X chromosome). I think it was around 18 miles when we left the Loch at Dores and there was a bit of an uphill. People talk a lot about this “hill”, some are scared and some refuse to even call it a hill. Well, it is a climb and at that stage of the race it is tough but it’s definitely doable (if you do hill training 😉 ). I was of course not feeling so fresh anymore, I could feel my back and my legs but I was not hitting the wall or anything like that (my fueling payed off – yay). In fact, I could even pick up the speed a bit once we arrived in Inverness and I was surprised when I overtook another runner I know from local races who is usually a bit faster. Since this was my first marathon, I had no time I was aiming for, just wanted to complete and enjoy it, but running faster than expected was the icing of the cake I wouldn’t refuse.
There was a pleasant light rain in Inverness and again huge support from people on the streets, but I just wanted it to end at that point. The last mile was the hardest, there were two voices in my head of which one was convinced the best thing would be to walk while the other kept me running. I couldn’t even appreciate the Inverness Castle (good that I did this the day before)… After the bridge on the home stretch, all the tension and misery disappeared and I sprinted to the finish (that’s how it appeared to me, I won’t say how it looked to others). I was so happy that I hugged random marshals and people handing out the goodie bags and medals. I had a creepy smile all over my face, but at least I was not crying, which was quite unexpected after my emotional experiences on the way.
Allan, who has never done this race before, finished way ahead of me and managed to smash his PB for marathons on this not so easy route. Besides being such a brilliant runner, he was also a huge support for me. Happy but exhausted we took the mandatory photos, grabbed some warm soup (I must mention it again: the organisation and the atmosphere throughout the whole event is great!) and (tried) to walk back to our cars with stiff legs.
All in all, we would highly recommend running this marathon (if you like running on roads 😉 ) and I already think about booking a hotel for next year.
Finally, I’d like to point out some obstacles that turned out to be the real challenge of running marathons (to me):
- Queuing for the loos
- Resist the desire of wearing all the nice stuff (those comfy socks!!!) you bought at the Sports Expo. On the next day … At the race….
- Conquering a hanging bridge and a steep uphill to where your useless support (not really of course) has parked the car
Allan Dunbar 03:27:37
Juliane Friedrich 03:46:20
Vicky Lyon 05:56:30