Tag Archives: Loch Ness Marathon

Loch Ness Marathon, Sunday, September 24, 2017

Nina Mason

At the start of 2017 my resolution was to try and regain my running ‘bug’ – the last few years had seen this fade (not to mention my fitness). I needed a challenge to help me stick to any sort of training plan, so I entered the Swaledale Marathon – giving me six months to prep with the aim of getting round.

It was all going reasonably well during the spring, and I started thinking about what came after June….I needed something to keep my momentum going. We were planning a week in Scotland in September, and I spotted the Loch Ness Marathon. The only other road marathon I had done was London in 1998, and I thought it would be ‘interesting’ to give one a go. Race reports were favourable – perfect. Race entered.

Swaledale came and went and I felt like I was enjoying running again. I had this foolish idea that if I could do 23 up and down in the rain and the mud, 26 on the road couldn’t be that bad…..could it?

September arrived and found me in the Highlands. The start was beautiful, up on the hills (no sign of the Loch until about 6 miles); the first few miles downhill overall but with some ‘pulls’ (reminded me a little of Dent); the support was superb, every house and village we ran through people were out cheering, handing out sweets; and the event organisation brilliant. And yes, stunning scenery.

As for my race – torturous. A fast-ish first 6 miles (I tried unsuccessfully to slow it down); a decent half-Marathon split, then an utter slog for the next 13 miles. I don’t feel that I would have got round more quickly/easily with better pacing – more training perhaps! Do I mention I finished behind someone dressed as Nessie? But I got round (and had a fab week away).

As we all invariably do, I look back to try and benefit from any insights I may have gleaned from the whole experience:

  • if road marathons are your ‘thing’ then I heartily recommend the Loch Ness Marathon, it’s a superb event.
  • I have ultimate respect for anyone that runs this distance, in whatever time; it’s a LONG way, and a long time to ignore that little devil in your head telling you ‘just stop and the pain will end’
  • the huge blow-up Nessie, chip-timing, and a finish with crowds and a ‘proper’ clock almost won me over…..almost. But I prefer those events where despite being nowhere near the ‘sharp end’ I still have the chance of winning a bottle of wine just because of who turned up on the day!
  • long roads….not my thing. Give me so much mud it sucks at your shoes, lung-bursting, thigh-burning uphills, trying to get my breath as I fumble with a gate latch, eye-watering ‘don’t fall! don’t fall! don’t fall!’ tumbling downhill over heather, roots, bog, stone…..

So – an experience, and reaffirmed what I enjoy about running. For now, Swaledale remains my favourite race, and I may try to get some fell races in (and for now, focus on XC!). For what it’s worth, I got a new marathon PB (beat my ‘98 London time by 25 min) but I won’t be planning to better that anytime soon….not for another 19 years anyway…..

Loch Ness Marathon, Sunday, September 28, 2014

Dougie Nisbet

Nessie.Not since London have I trained so seriously and systematically for a marathon. The training had gone well and I was reasonably confident of finally getting a sub-4 and being able to stop doing marathons.

And so into the taper, and just the small matter of a few old favourites that I would slip in as, I told myself, ‘part of the taper’. GNR, well it was a half-marathon and I needed to do that distance a few weeks before the marathon anyway, and then the LDMT, that was all hills and an endurance slog, so that didn’t count, and perhaps just a cheeky little fell race the week before. I’m sure it’d be fine. What could possibly go wrong?

Through the half-way point of my 5th Loch Ness Marathon in around 2:01, pretty much on race target and on schedule for a negative split. Still feeling fine. This was looking good and I was confident that this was going to be sub-4 day.

There may be trouble ahead.Hello Wall. I've been expecting you. In the Loch Ness Marathon they quite conveniently provide a physical as well as metaphorical wall for you around the 19th mile. It’s not a particular big hill, but it’s not really what you want to see around this stage of the race. The wheels on the bus stopped going round and round and I knew with certainty that the game was no longer afoot. Rather than hit the wall head-on I sidled up to it gently, put an arm around its shoulders and said, “Look, I’m sure we can sort out a deal here. What if I accept the race is blown and just concentrate on getting to the finish in as little pain as possible?”. I think the reply was along the lines of “Whatever”. I took my foot of the pedal, stopped running and started jogging.

Same time next year.It was still pretty tough but it could’ve been far worse. My tactical defeat saw me shuffle over the finish line in 4:21, (remembering not to ‘Garmin’ the finishing photo Alister!), almost exactly the same time to the second as two years earlier, where, co-indidentally, I’d done the LDMT and GNR and a fell race or two during the taper too. This year the lesson has been well and truly learnt though. I lost 20 minutes in the second half of the race due to running out of energy. All that careful marathon training down the drain. Don’t waste the training. Respect the taper.

Loch Ness Marathon, Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dougie Nisbet

The first time I read the notes I nearly missed it. But there it was; “the buses will NOT stop on the way to the start”. Well this would be fun. A ninety minute drive along bumpy highland lanes was not good for the bladder and, as regular readers of my annual trip north know, I have a horrible fascination with the toilet facilities en-route between Inverness and a small spot in the middle of nowhere 26.2 miles from Inverness. They weren’t kidding though. It was all very business-like and efficient this year. Even the early morning walk to the coaches that would leave Inverness at 0745 was interspersed with marshalls telling me that the buses would be leaving on time and I needed to get a move on. But hitting checkpoints with seconds to spare is kinda my thing, so I wasn’t worried. And I don’t drink a gallon of lucozade before stepping on a bus that is heading on the road to nowhere without any stops. Years of GNRs and bus trips after sessions in the Look Out Inn had trained me well.

I got on a nice bus with a smiley driver and settled down to doze and enjoy the view. The chat around me drifted over my head as I watched the buzzards soar overhead. Some time later in a glorious watery sunny morning I stepped off the bus at the start nearly getting trampled by the stampede to hit the portaloos. There was just enough time to enjoy the view and get my bag on the baggage bus before the Lochaber Pipe Band did their stuff and it was time to head for Inverness.

My last few weekends had involved some hefty fell races and I had no idea what to expect. I was fit, but not marathon fit. And I certainly wasn’t fast. So it was more with curiosity than trepidation that I tested myself on the first few miles to see how things were going to go. I’d also decided to try and be a bit more disciplined with nutrition, and was taking a shotbloks at each water stop, whether I felt like it or not. It was a decent plan and around 8 miles it became apparent that I simply didn’t have the speed so I concentrated on my pace with the view of finishing comfortably rather than, well, uncomfortably. I still had a brewery in each leg from the previous Sunday and it would be daft to try and convince myself I had the form that I wanted, rather than the form that I had. I learned that lesson, and learned it well in the Liverpool Marathon.

Now that's the way to finish off a race. The drinks and food stations were interesting. Clif Bars and Shotbloks and gels. They were being offered in half-packs and feeling adventurous I scoffed one down. I wasn’t feeling quite so adventurous a couple of miles later when I had to put on the hazards and pull into a lay-by. Oh dear, I hope there wasn’t going to be an incident. I leaned on a tree for a few minutes and waited to see what happened as my stomach leapt about; would it be the Gay Gordons or the Dashing White Sergeant? Gradually things settled down and I pulled away from the curb and rejoined the traffic.

The rest of the race was a tough but sustainable grind and I ran steadily all the way to the finish. Across the line to receive my medal, where they do things properly (not like the GNR)! You choose the prettiest lassie (or laddie) and they place the medal around your neck. Always a nice touch. Another nice touch and a bit of surprise was a chilled can of non-alcoholic beer in the goodie bag. Don’t knock it – it’s far more refreshing than a sickly sugary drink and I was very grateful for it. An even nicer touch was the return of a draught beer tent in the event village, and ever the shrinking violet I decided to get a pose for a photo to match my previous one from 2010. I was a very happy chappy.

Loch Ness Marathon, Sunday, October 2, 2011

Dougie Nisbet

The hotel had opened up for breakfast at 0530 for the Loch Ness Marathon so I wandered downstairs and started tucking into porridge drowned in maple syrup and washed down with strong coffee. Some time later I stepped outside into a dreich Inverness morning and walked the short distance to the coaches at Bught Park. Organisation was pretty smooth and I hopped onto a double-decker so that I could go upstairs and get a good view. Before long the mixed escorted convoy of buses and coaches left Inverness for the adventure that is the Journey to the Start.

Glad to get to the finish, methinks. The 90 minute drive to the start is, without a doubt, the most exciting part of the day. It starts with buses and coaches jostling for position as they hit the A9 dual-carriageway south, then a hair-raising wacky-races-style sprint up the hills out of Inverness to see who can get in the best position before the turn into the remote countryside. Then things settle down on the single-track before the inevitable toilet stops. Who will crack first? One by the one the buses lurch into the passing places as the mutineering and generously hydrated occupants realise that they will not survive another cattle-grid. In one beautifully choreographed routine I observed (officer) 8 lasses step confidently onto the heather, 4 of them immediately forming a neat privacy cordon of survival blankets while the other 4 enjoyed the privacy within. Presently they all swapped places before heading back to the coach, while everyone else was still frantically looking for suitable shrubbery. Obviously old hands.

The starting area eventually appeared out of the mist. Remote and surreal with DJs, music, baggage trucks and a lot of heather. Having no taste for haggis, golf or whisky, and not living in Scotland, my credentials as a Scot are pretty thin, but I do get goosebumps when the Lochaber Pipe Band walk down through the 3700 runners before crossing the Start line and then step aside and continue to play while the race is officially started.

Nessie. With the race and rain underway we belted downhill the first few fast miles towards Loch Ness. Always a tricky one to balance, knowing that energy reserves will be needed later on but not wishing to ignore the chance to get some time in the bank on the easy downhill sections. I wasn’t marathon-ready and wasn’t at all sure how best to judge this one. Entertainment was courtesy of a flamboyant visitor from Singapore who whistled and sang and took photographs until eventually he faded into the mist.

By half-way I stopped to use the facilities again (Pinus sylvestris) no doubt due to some excessive Black Isle hydration the previous evening (Milvus milvus) and my time was looking unexceptional. I was feeling pretty good though and although my legs were beginning to hurt a bit I had a good rhythm going and I plodded on. The famous hill at mile 18 came and went and I ran steadily all the way to the finish and was happy that I’d ran the race about right. When I checked the results later I discovered that Fiona had also been running and had been a mere hour ahead of me at the finish.

I think this must be my favourite marathon. Not too big, not too small. A great elegant moody brooding course. It’s worth doing at least once.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Tomas Abyu Salford Harriers M 1 2:20:49
34 Lisa Finlay Dumfries Running Club FV40 1 2:59:06
183 Fiona Shenton FV50 3:22:32
1315 Dougie Nisbet MV40 4:17:02

2363 finishers.

Loch Ness Marathon, Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dougie Nisbet

The thing is, you never really believe it’s going to be anything but Glory. And as we rolled out under the starting banner flanked by the Lochaber High School Pipe Band this cynical Scot who usually has precious little time for indulgent patriotism did feel ever so slightly teary. The backdrop is stunning and surreal and the beauty of this race is you just aim for Inverness and keep the Loch on your left. Elegant and beautiful. Job done.

This is such a strange race. You do most of the downhill stuff early on and this is where you need to get the time in the bank. At the half-way point my average pace was under 08:45 minute miles and I was convinced I was on for a flyer. I was way faster than last year and I was already dreaming of a scorching performance. Smokin’! By the time we’d reached The Hill at Mile 19 my projections had been drastically revised. I knew that if I got over The Hill and I was still averaging sub-9 minute miles, I would be on for a sub-4.

It was not to be. As we crested the hill I had my suspicions that things were not panning out well. It was around about this point I did the last bit of overtaking I was going to do. Two lassies from the Troon Tortoises (now that sounds like a cool club!) were running side by side, mysteriously attached by a short cord of rope. The reasons soon became obvious as the leader yanked the partially sighted one to one side as a bloke in front stopped unexpectedly without putting on any brake lights. The race was apparently being audio described and as I edged past I heard “There’s a guy just gone past wie a dod o’ tartan roond his heid. He looks a right egyt”.

You can’t expect to do a good marathon time without putting in the heavy lifting. Even my taper amounted to little more than watching lots of telly. So I wasn’t surprised when at mile 22 I saw my average pace nudge over the critical 09:09 min/mile pace and I saw the piper stood patiently at the mile marker waiting for payment. I knew the game was up. I was finished. I was no longer racing, I was just getting to the finish. I made a few ambitious attempts to latch on to the (now steady stream) of runners flowing past me but my legs seemed to be full of lead.

Despite having a decidedly hellish last few miles I still reckon that the “death or glory” strategy is a legitimate race category. It may not be sensible, but it is exciting. It is a race after all. I was well ahead of my times compared to last year until the 19 mile mark. After that, it’s all a bit of a painful blur. My time? Two seconds slower than last year. That’s one second for each pint of Red Kite Ale I had last night. I can live with that.

Loch Ness Marathon, Sunday, October 4, 2009

Andrew Thompson

Andrew and Phil I was aiming for 4 hours and thought to get this I would have to run the first half quicker and hope I had enough gas in the tank/legs to get through the tough final miles. The start is in the highlands and the route drops down to the Loch side. The middle miles run alongside the waterfront, so there was excellent scenery throughout. I think I saw Nessie at one point but it might have been the impact of an energy gel mixed with Lucozade playing tricks on my mind, I wasn’t prepared to jeopardize my sub 4 hour aim to go back and check.

First half went to plan, crossing half way at 1.52 and the good pace continued until around 17 which is when the course changes and the hilly section begins.

I was worried that I was going to come to a grinding halt at 20 miles, which happened in my last marathon. The downhills that followed the ups gave recovery time though so when the 23 mile marker came and went without the dreaded thunderbolt I knew I was going to make it.

There is a very cruel end to this race, where you run past the finish at about 24 miles, only a small bridge away from the end but they send you on a loop round to the next bridge and back again- very demoralising but instantly forgotten once the finish line was crossed. I ran 3 hours 54 minutes, which I was delighted with.

An excellent race with great scenery and a good atmosphere throughout. Highly recommended!”

Dougie Nisbet

Jings, Crivvens and Help Ma Boab were just three epithets that didn’t cross my lips as I tumbled over the finish line just 3 and a bit minutes the wrong side of 4 hours. There were times when I really thought it was going to happen – that I was going to duck under the elusive 4 hours, but not today.

Nisbet of Nisbet The day started promisingly enough with orderly queues of runners filling up the endless queue of coaches that parked neatly around the start. Unfortunately, just as I was about to alight, they turned out not to be endless after all. There was a lot of radio chatter and hairy bikers flashing by on snazzy motorbikes, but no more buses. This was looking interesting. Eventually, 50 minutes late, a queue of bulging coaches departed Inverness. 50 minutes; remember that number.

About an hour later, somewhere in the Scottish Highlands, the inevitable happened. Not to me, because I’ve long since ignored the bladder-busting pre-hydration tosh that is often routinely promoted as essential pre-race preparation, but to the poor sod sat at the front of the top deck of my bus, things were getting desperate. He started politely enough by asking the Germans packed on the stairs to pass a message to the driver, to pull over if possible. This got lost in translation. Then we passed a coach that had succumbed to its rebellious passengers, and our chap got a bit agitated, and decided to take more positive actions. He stood up decisively, leaned over, and pressed the bell! If he thought that was going to have the desired effect he was sadly mistaken. For the next 5 miles our bus was “Just Stopping” (in the middle of nowhere) according to the neon sign, then we passed another coach in a passing place, and it was all too much. This time he jumped up in a state of agitation and pressed the bell at least 5 times with a noticeable lack of interest from the driver. At this point I heard some ladies behind me say “Oh look, the poor man, he’s obviously in real pain!”. Laugh, I almost didn’t.

Finally he cracked; our hero jumped up and, with his face a picture of pain and frustration, announced he was getting of the bus NOW. He climbed over the Germans on the stair and was lost from view, then the coach lurched drunkenly and suddenly into a passing place. A cheer exploded throughout the coach and at least 80% of the coach, clearly wishing to show solidarity, followed our bell dinging hero out to the facilities.

It was all very well behaved. The ladies went to one side, and the gents to the other. There was a grey area where, well, I’ll spare you the details. But barely(!) 3 minutes later and we were all clambering back on the bus and congratulating our rather bewildered hero who clearly was unaware quite how much so many people had felt his pain. All that was missing was a sign saying “Contaminated Land – do not enter for 100 years” and you would never have know we were there. Then again …

So much excitement and drama, and we hadn’t even reached the Start! The coaches eventually arrived at the Start 10 minutes after the race was supposed to have begun. We just about had time to get off the coach get changed and put our bags on the baggage bus. The atmosphere was pleasantly peculiar. There we were, about 7500+ of us, in the middle of the Scottish Highlands, listening to a DJ pumping out music and firing us up, and all around were mountains and glens. Weird. But Cool.

Dougie is narrowly beaten by the man who came third in the Scottish Arnold Scharzenegger lookalike competition 2005 Lately I’ve been running races badly so I’d decided to take a bit of time and do a lot more thinking and planning for this one. I’d considered a few options and talked to many old-timers before coming up with a Plan ‘A’ and a Plan ‘B’. Both were for sub-4 targets but Plan ‘A’ largely focused on pace, and Plan ‘B’ on heartrate, although they both followed the principle of running a negative split. I used the calculator at marathonguide.com as a guide. However the route is very uppy and downy and about 2 minutes after the race started I abandoned both plans in favour of Plan ‘C’, a hitherto undeveloped plan that went along the lines of “Let’s see how it goes without going ballistic too early”.

For Striders thinking of doing this Marathon don’t be fooled by the course profile. True, it has an overall drop, but it has lots of nippy little hills that the profile sketchers decided weren’t worth making a fuss over. I’d say it’s a fair bit harder than Edinburgh (Phil?). One thing I think I did right was ‘allowing myself to run faster’ on the descents. A lot of runners seem to hold back on the downhills when in fact you can gain quite a bit of time just by letting yourself go without increasing your energy expenditure very much. I passed the half-way point in 2.02 and for at times I thought I would pull back the time to sub-4 then another cheeky little hill would suddenly appear. Then I hit a biggie at mile 18 and I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I heard my name shouted around this point and looked round to see Phil who was hobbling cheerfully along ‘not really racing’. For Phil this race could be classified as a ‘quarter of a Hardmoors’ (and a little less hilly), so just a little bit of warm down really. Given that this is only a week later, Phil finished in an indecently respectable 4.16. Some people have no shame. A mention too for Anna Seeley who ran a blistering sub-3.30.

I ran all the way and was doing 8-9 min/miles towards the finish. I judged it about right. I’d been worried that by running a negative split I’d feel that I could’ve gone faster earlier but there was little danger of that. I was pretty much done in by the finish and my mile pace kept slipping as I tried to pull it back down. It was a good race plan and I simply wasn’t fit and strong enough on the day to run it. Next time! Oh, And it was bit hot. Scotland. Loch Ness. October. Off course it’s going to be hot!

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Simon Tonui Birchfield Harriers M 1 2:20:13
774 Andrew Thompson M 354 3:53:56
1019 Dougie Nisbet M40+ 268 4:03:31
1233 Phil Owen M40+ 319 4:16:43

2,171 finishers.