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.
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.