I admit to being a bit more nervous than normal in the build up to the Loch Ness Marathon after all, I had only done one training run a week and the furthest I had run was 15 miles. Anyone who’s ever run a marathon will know the feeling when the race creeps up after being ages away for most of the training. There’s always that mix of excitement and nerves in the last couple of days and that ‘oh my god what have I done?’ sensation the day before.
I normally drive to races but it was Allison’s turn this time and we were joined on our trip by our friend Graeme, who had also done very little training due to a leg problem. Thankfully, changing shoes 3 weeks before solved the problem.
We arrived in Inverness late afternoon and headed straight to the Bught for registration and the pasta party. The only other time I’ve been to a pasta party is in London and Paris but I must say, this was easily the best. Baxters soup, pasta and apple crumble was just perfect to set us up for the next day. We had a wee walk round the Expo to see the guys at Run4It and invested in some more gels for the next day and also treated myself to a massage ball which would come in handy in the days after the race.
Race day arrived and a cooked breakfast was in order to provide energy for the day ahead. The bus journey to the start was stunning with some spectacular views of Loch Ness and the Glens. “This is actually a long way to run” came into my head as we wound our way to Fort Augustus and then to the start. First stop was to hand the bag in then join the queue for the toilet, always an important step before the start of any race! We got ourselves into position for the start and we didn’t seem to wait that long before the race was under way. The first few miles is usually taken up by zig-zagging to find a space to run in and in this case, its a single track road so the grass verges became popular.
A big deal is made of the hill at 18/19 miles but nobody mentioned the series of short, sharp hills in the first 8 miles. I quite enjoy running on hills so it wasn’t an issue for me. I felt pretty good through the first 10 miles and felt fairly relaxed, listening to my body as I ran. My pace was pretty consistent at around 8min miles, which was what I was aiming for. I passed through 15 miles still feeling pretty good although I was aware that I was now into unknown territory for this race. The hill just passed 18 miles was quickly upon us and it was pretty challenging but then many of the routes I had run on prepared me well for this. It was a winding hill with breaks which would finish roughly at the 20 mile mark and being able to keep running at a quicker-than-expected pace whilst passing so many people who had gone too fast up until then and were now walking, gave me a lot of confidence.
Marathons usually start at 20 miles as that’s where your training is tested and you find out if you’ve paced the race well until then. I can only recall feeling good in the last 6 miles of a marathon on two previous occasions out of a total of 12 and so I expected this not to be an addition to it. How wrong I was! I still found myself flying past many runners and I now knew I was going to beat my anticipated time of 3:45. Mile 23 ended my chance of sub 3:30 but I wasn’t caring, I felt great and wanted to push on and see what I could achieve. We reached the riverside in the centre of Inverness and I was still in good shape but the slight incline onto the bridge and then over the river felt pretty tough and I was now keeping things ticking over to get to the finish. The last 400yds seemed the longest of the race until I could see the finish line and I was able to grit my teeth and muster up a sprint to the line. Reaching the line and the 30 seconds immediately afterwards is a surreal time where you are hit with every emotion possible and so its a good idea to take your time at this point so you look less like an emotional wreck by the time you meet your friends!
I was stunned and delighted to finish in 3:32:57 in what I would happily describe as the best race I’ve ever run and now forms the blueprint for every race I will run from now on. I was also delighted that Graeme finished 5mins behind me to claim a PB. Amazing! I firmly believe Metafit classes made a huge difference to my performance and quite probably Graeme’s. The post race massage was brilliant as it meant I was able to walk in a normal fashion again and then it was off to get some soup and stovies as provided by the sponsors, Baxters. Delicious and essential post-race fuel!
This was the first time I’ve run Loch Ness Marathon and I will definitely be back. The organisation was impressive, the route was amazing and the level of support from everyone involved was fantastic. Thank you.