‘The off-road marathon is an epic trail run that ascends a total of 1,608 metres through the heart of Glencoe and into the foothills of Ben Nevis.’
I camped with my family at Glen Nevis campsite which was near race registration and the race finish. I didn’t sleep very well as I had a head cold and felt very shivery. Due to the clear sky the temperature plummeted overnight so when I got up at 6.00 on sunday morning the tent was frosty.
Billy kindly got up and put the stove on and made me a hot cuppa. I glugged this down along with a banana and 2 wheat free blueberry muffins. Then headed off to the Glen Nevis visitor center where a coach was waiting to take us to the start.
When we arrived at the red squirrel campsite, the race start, where Yan and Mark had opted to stay, it was still very cold and I was wearing all the clothing we had been advised to carry: 2 long sleeved tops, my waterproofs, hat and gloves and I needed them. There was free tea and coffee and snacks available which all the runners took advantage of. I took off my top layers and packed them away, I was feeling quite ill but I had been looking forward to this race for ages and was determined I was going to give it a try at least. I met up with Yan and Mark and the excitement grew.
At 9.00 we were off. Right at the start there is a hill as you are coming out of the campsite and up to the A82. There were marshalls there to help us across the road then we followed the track up through Glencoe. This was a great part of the race and I was enjoying the undulating terrain and magnificent scenery. As we came to the top of the Glen we were again helped across the road and started heading uphill. I was thinking, this is strange I can’t see the other runners up ahead but a small group of us headed up anyway, I felt my calves start to burn. At this point we heard shouts of ‘you are going the wrong way’ from the marshall below. We had missed the track we were meant to be following, so to my relief we headed back down and continued to contour along following the road. There were a few grumbles from the runners that it should have been better marked, to be fair most of the route was marked with orange arrows and there were plently of marshalls to keep us right.
Back on level ground I was making my way along quite happily, trying to picture the’ Devil’s staircase’ that lay ahead when suddenly I tripped over a rock and landed on the ground. I bounced up as quickly as I could and several runners asked me if I was OK. I was really annoyed with myself for falling this early. My knees were bleeding quite a bit but luckily I was just metres away from the first feed station. I limped along and 2 very kind marshalls patched me up and reassured me it was only 4 miles to the next station if I wanted to carry on and see how it went. At this point I was feeling really low and was tempted to phone Billy to come and rescue me.
I decided to try to make it to the next feed station. We started heading over the moors to meet the ‘Devil’s staircase’. It was very boggy and several runners were saying ‘this is rediculous’ ‘much worse than last year’ There had been so much rain on the days leading up to the race that the ground was water logged and we were going in knee deep at points. I was thinking if this is what its going to be like for the next 20 something miles there is no way I am going to make it. Another runner reassured me that the going would get easier once we were on the staircase. At least the ground was firm by then and we began snaking our way up the hill. I had been looking forward to this as I have never walked this route. The views were incredible, and as we reached the top I began to feel a bit more positive. I could see Mark up ahead and I tried to keep him in my sights.
Reaching the top provided more delights we were so lucky to be racing on such a clear day.
I enjoyed the long downhill into Kinlochleven. By this point the air had warmed up considerably and I stoppped to take off my long sleeve and ate a packet of crisps.
After a breather here we started on the uphill climb out of Kinlochleven. Following this we had done most of the climbing and the route was more gentle. The track laying out in front of us did seem very long at times and I was glad there were so many feed stations with energy gels, lucozade and all kinds of goodies.
I was having issues with my gps watch it hadn’t started properly at the beginning and then went off at some point around halfway so I was guessing how far we had come. I caught up with Mark a couple of times and he advised me on how far we had come and reassured me that we had run further than my watch was suggesting.
Once I started to glimpse Ben Nevis in the distance I began to feel much better. I caught up with Mark again at the last feed station, 6 miles from the end and they even had iced drinks here which was perfect as it had got very warm by now. The last 2 miles were all downhill on forest track, Mark said ‘Im going to try to finish in under 5h30’ and off he flew down the hill. I was relieved to hear the sound of the PA at the finish coming through the trees, I was so glad I hadn’t thrown in the towel at mile 4.
It turned out Yan had a fall as well, and had also taken some time to help a fellow runner who had got into difficulties. I think we all found it a tough race, it lived up to it’s name as being one of the toughest marathons in the UK. It was worth it though. The scenery was amazing and the support crews along the way fantastic, I highly recommend it.
position Time Cat position Gender position
124 Yan Horsburgh 04:51:37 11 111
261 Mark Dawson 05:29:57 79 223
265 Sadie Kemp 05:31:16 20 39