I have had a pretty duff year so far with several colds and heatstroke at
the Lairig Ghru, so when my wee brother mentioned he was thinking of running
the marathon, I jumped at the chance of a different challenge.
As it was, my brother injured himself dinghy sailing and couldn’t train!
He’s thinking of doing the Coigach Half (Achiltibuie) in three weeks time
As my road shoes were about 8 years old, I had to dish out loads of cash for
new ones. And then I had to find some tarmac – euch. Actually it wasn’t too
bad and I ran to work and back once and managed a 20-miler 3 weeks before
The marathon route goes from the high ground between Fort Augustus and
Whitebridge on the south side of Loch Ness and drops down through Foyers to
the Loch, past Dores and into Inverness. The start was at 10am, but because
we had to be bussed to the start, we had to arrive at Inverness Ice Rink at
7am. If you wanted to catch a bus in the Highlands that day you were stuffed,
they were all in Inverness!
We got to the start at 8:45 – which was just as well as the queue for the
portaloos was 25 minutes! It was quite chilly at the start and I left my
extra clothes on until the last minute. We could see some of Loch Ness a
long way in the distance and it put into perspective the sheer distance
26 miles is! (OK, for you Ultra runners it’s just a short Sunday morning jog)
I found the 3 1/2 hour post and did some loosening-up with my bin bag on
and chatted to Graham from work. Some attempt at a countdown and we were
off! Although there were over 4000 runners entered, this is a relatively small
marathon and we got to the start line in about a minute. As the start is so
high up, tne first few miles are quite a lot downhill, and the temptation to
go too fast is very great. But as I am very old and very wise(?) I ran at
at a relaxed, easy pace.
It wasn’t all downhill though and in fact there are several quite steep
uphill bits. I was very careful on these and told myself that the few runners
passing me here would all blow later on! I suppose the good thing about
tarmac is that you don’t need to watch your feet much and can enjoy the
scenery more! And the scenery is good.
Six miles in and we were at the loch-side. My GPS watch said I was averaging
7:15 minute miles, but that was probably about right for the net descent.
You would think that beside the water the road would be flat, but actually
there were still a lot of bumps. This part of a marathon is usually very
enjoyable as the pain hasn’t really started yet. I concentrated on a steady
pace and in no time at all hit the 13.1 mile point. A good moment, but my
legs were already starting to feel well-used. Still, only another 4 miles to
Dores and the end of the loch and then only another 9 miles after that.
We had been well-doused with quite cold rain a couple of times, but by the time
we got to Dores, the sun was out, it was warm and there were crowds! Well
at least 20 people cheering. I caught up with the French chap I had met on
the bus (again) and we ran together up the dreaded Dores hill. I seemed to
remember from last time (2008) that there was this hill and then it was all
down hill to Inverness. In fact there was this hill plus several others which
all conspired to lock up the leg muscles and slow the pace. Head down and
At last we were on the egde of the town (sorry, City) and with only 2 miles to
go, finishing was now a possibility, no probability. The last couple of miles
are always a mixture of non-responsive legs, huge amounts of pain and the
relief of knowing you can get to the finish without any assistance. It is
quite hard to grin and acknowledge the cheering spectators when your quads
are on fire. I managed to pick up the pace in the last half a mile and I think
I crossed the line actually running rather than hobbling. A very good moment.
The French chap came in just a few seconds behind me and I asked him whether
he was still going to climb Ben Nevis the next day (!). Apparently he was!
Adam was also running, but I didn’t see him at all as he was miles in front
and clocked a massive 2:48:12 and 15th!!
Big thanks to the organisers, volunteers and supporters – a lot of hard work.
Although I had a great day I won’t be doing too many marathons – I want the
shoes to last another 8 years! Our times were:
D. Ball 3:28:42 275/2810
A. Gray 2:48:16 15/2810