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.
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.
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.
|1||Tomas Abyu||Salford Harriers||M||1||2:20:49|
|34||Lisa Finlay||Dumfries Running Club||FV40||1||2:59:06|