Sitting in the Look Out Inn after the GNR I was talking tactics with Andrew (“delighted with 3:53”) Thompson. I was saying I wasn’t ready for Loch Ness but intended to run it for a sub-4. He said, “Death or Glory?, I like your style”. I must say, I kinda liked it too.
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.