Tag Archives: Loch Ness Marathon

The Loch Ness Marathon, Sunday, October 6, 2019

Peter Hart

The Highest Point in Scotland

Something was not right!

The first half mile was spent adjusting my new running belt, taking it off, putting it back on then readjusting my new running belt. By the time I was satisfied with it, I was already half a mile in. Something still wasn’t right…

My quads, my quads were burning. Around half a mile downhill and my quads were already burning, that’s not right.

2 miles in and I knew that I was not going to get my target time and that this was going to be hell just to finish, if I finished it all!

Fast forward.

I had finished.

I have given all the money I had on me to my kids so they would just leave me in peace for a moment as I watched other finishers and listen to the announcer talk everyone over the line.

I saw Sarah Fawcett and Aileen Scott pass in quick succession in a time that was well under five hours. I screamed and encouraged them as they passed, both had a steely, unblinking focus on the finish line and completely ignored everything I said, until I accidentally yelled  “Come on Eileen!”

Sorry again Aileen.

As I stood watching the pain and joy on people’s faces as they achieved their marathon dreams, I was brought back to reality with the mind numbing spasms from my legs and the realisation that, shit I’ve just smashed that race, that was the hardest thing that I have ever attempted and I smashed it.

That’s when a big wave of emotion came over me and I shuffled off to find my wife as quickly as I could,( which was horrendously slow, painful and resembled the movement of a drunken new-born giraffe.) I gave her a hug and she could tell that I was a bit emotional and so she told me “Come on Peter, you are milking this now aren’t you, it’s time your manned up a bit!”

Probably half of the field hadn’t even finished the race, yet I’ve been milking this for too long!

In hindsight, a deep tissue massage, (elbows and all) followed by a day sitting in the car travelling is not good marathon prep and will never be repeated.

Why did we travel half way across the UK, so far North of the wall that John Snow would be scared, to run a race that was so clearly not a PB course I hear you say?

My wife and I have talked about this considerably in the last few days and we have come to the conclusion that…

We don’t know!

I think the seed may have been sown by the fact that my fabulous wife was 40 years old on the 8th of January this year and so because of this she decided that she would arrange a trip to coincide with every possible marathon I had my eye on for the rest of 2019!

  1. Berlin marathon – she was in Las Vegas.
  2. Manchester marathon- she was in Dublin.
  3. Liverpool marathon- She ran the half.
  4. London didn’t want me, AGAIN!
  5. Errrr, are there any more?

Etc, etc…

bout 53, Loch Ness? Errrr, why not Anna Seeley says it’s a Pb course! (Whatever Anna!)

I had achieved two good times in 2018 and it was getting infectious. I wanted a sub 3hours 30 minutes Marathon.

Loch Ness it is!

So it was I found myself rummaging around at 5.30am in a dark Airbnb somewhere in Inverness, on a windy and rainy Sunday morning. I had to walk the 1.8 miles to the bus pickup point and be there for 7:15 am. It goes without saying that I was late, so I ran down until I bumped into a bunch of striders making their way along the finish line towards the army of buses.

The Scottish bus armada

I have never seen as many buses in my life. It was like a Scottish bus armada. I pictured some marathon organiser sending out a spirited, Dunkirk-esc message to all Scottish bus companies, stating that we need your buses. However, when you Bring your buses please make sure that you are horrendously early, just so we can leave all of our runners abandoned on the top of a mountain, probably the highest point in Scotland, for one hour 20 minutes before the race starts, in the pissing rain and wind!
They all obeyed, to the minute.

I was quite the Fountain of knowledge on the bus journey as we had taken a cruise around Loch Ness looking for Nessie the day before. Arriving at Scotland’s highest point with the excellent addition of Scotland’s worst weather, there was literally nothing there apart from the start line, about eight portable toilets and three or four small tanks of hot water to make free cups of coffee and tea. The planning of this was exceptional as we had about 80 minutes to wait for the race to start and each queue looks like it would take about 79 minutes until you reach the front…

I had a dilemma at this point, do I go to the queue for the toilet or do I go for the queue for the free hot drink? I didn’t have time to queue for both.

I wisely chose the hot drink and then proceeded to wee in a bush as the announcer kept telling us not to wee in the afore mentioned bushes. If they did not want us to wee in the bushes then they should’ve probably given us more than eight portable toilets for 5000 people!

It was time to get serious and the race was about to start. I split the race down into four sections:

  1. The first 10 miles was substantially downhill. (Apart from the uphill sections!)
  2. Miles 10 to 18 are the nice, flat, easy section. (Apart from the uphill sections!)
  3. Miles 18 to 20 there was a quite decent and protracted Hill section.
  4. Mile 20 to 26.2 was slightly downhill or flat section.

As previously mentioned, I knew in the 2nd mile that I was in trouble and by mile 11 I honestly was ready to give up.

The 10 miles’ downhill section had much more uphill than I had expected and I also had to put more effort in to this section than I expected. By the time I got to the flat section between mile 10 and mile 18 it was game up. Whenever I got a flat bit of road and tried to get up the target pace the burning return to my legs, it was the same whenever I ran uphill. So I had a decision to make.

Give up, jog round or give up!

This decision got me to thinking about my team Hart that consists of my little girl Vesper, (aged 4) my boy Carter (aged 7) and my wonderful, supporting and very long suffering wife Emma. (Aged 40!)

I thought about how they had travelled to the edge of the arctic circle to support me. Then the guilt started…

How dare you think about quitting when your family have travelled 300 miles just to watch you run past for 10 seconds.

How dare you think about slowing down just because it hurts a bit when they have stood in a muddy field for hours just to get a glimpse of their dad running past.

How dare I not give every last bit of effort I have in my body when my wife is currently trying to survive and control my two troubled angels and no doubt be using some sort of Jedi mind tricks to persuade them away from their daily fight to the death!

All of this just to be there for me…

Come on Peter, man up and get this done!

The next couple of hours were a blur of thoughts regarding making my Kids proud, Emma and what she has sacrificed for me, various Striders and how they have helped me, trying to make my Dad proud hahaha that literally can never happen and the 7 months of training that I had endured. All of this while Slim shady or Eminem as he likes to be known was banging out “Lose yourself.”

Oh and not to forget the searing pain in the front of my legs!

The course is very beautiful, but also hard. The road that you run down is closed and so apart from sporadic water and energy gel stops and two villages the course is very, very quiet.

Long story short, I did it!

I was about 6 minutes slower than my Pb and a good 10 minutes off the time that I was aiming for, but I am so proud of myself for not quitting and literally putting every bit of energy I could muster into getting the best time that I possibly could.

My legs were/are absolutely wrecked during and after the race. I could not stand up, sit down, walk, lean, lie down or act in any way shape or form how a normal human would. The kids made fun of me because it looks like I had pooed myself, I got stuck in the bath and couldn’t get out, in short, I was an absolute mess. I laid it all out on the course that day.

After the race I made a new rule.

The distance travelled to a race may equal, but would never be greater than the time taken to run the race.

Doing what I do best

Marathons get you, they really do. I love the emotional and physical rollercoaster ride that is a marathon. It can take over everything, most of your time, all of your energy, your weekends, your evenings, your family time, your conversations or you will wake up on the middle of the night and have to do some more calculations regarding average minute mile pace. It never ends. 

Also, this is the biggest secret of running a marathon.

Anyone that has ever ran a marathon will tell you that it’s not easy to bring up in every conversation you ever have that you’re running a marathon soon. You have to be on top of your game to make sure that you don’t miss an opportunity to slip it into a conversation.

Marathons can take over your life, (just ask my wife!) But there is something magical when you cross the finish line of a marathon. Until you’ve done it you don’t understand, you can’t understand yet and you will never understand, because you haven’t earned it yet.

We went to Loch Ness in search of something, what I found was that I have a deep, burning desire to make my kids and wife proud of me and in the pursuit of that I have found that I can go far beyond what I previously thought was possible.
Who knows what the future holds…

Oh and I found the Loch Ness monster…

It’s at mile 19!

Team Hart

Click here for results

PosRace NoFirst NameLast NameHalf TimeGun TimeChip TimeCategory
(Metro Aberdeen Running Club)
(Garscube Harriers)
(Visited 115 times, 1 visits today)

Loch Ness Marathon, Sunday, October 6, 2019

Sarah Fawcett

(No monsters were harmed in this race report)

All I can say is “ I was conned”. I can’t remember who said it is all downhill or flat , but someone did. I entered this one only about 2 months ago, on a whim, and to have an excuse for a short Scottish holiday with my husband to incorporate him cycling and us walking in the Cairngorms.

So having driven all the bloomin way up to Inverness, with a stopover in Perth, it was fairly rude of the weather to be so lousy. The Event Village was already cold and muddy on the Saturday at registration but by the time we got back to the finish line Sunday afternoon , it was a quagmire. Before that though we had to get to the start by transport buses in the dark and rain , an hour’s drive to a howling moor at the top of a hill above Loch Ness in the middle of nowhere.

I’ve never stood in a toilet queue for 50 mins in a bin bag before, but the young Swiss chaps in front of me ( in kilts) gave me a nip of their herbal hooch to warm me up. I couldn’t find my fellow Striders, other than a quick wave to Sophie and Debra from the queue. So no group photo unfortunately.

500 26.2 miles to go.

Then a miracle happened: the start line assembly involved repeated plays of The Proclaimers 500 miles and the rain stopped and as we trotted over the start to the accompaniment of a piped band, we were off, downhill ( as promised).

Now I knew that the people weaving past me at speed would probably regret it later, so I kept a happy steady pace and tried to enjoy the moors, trees, greyness etc. Then we saw the Loch and the route runs beside it for several miles and this is where I was conned because it keeps undulating up and down. Nothing severe but my legs could feel it. I ran with a lovely young Scot called Iain for a while and we talked about his caber tossing and bagpipe playing amongst other things. Mile 17.5-18.5 is a hill that I knew I would run : walk so I sent my husband a text to say I was probably going to take 5 hrs and he could judge when to stand in the cold at Inverness. I had seen Karen for a cheery smile and Aileen and I had passed each other 3 times. She was looking strong and happy in her first marathon.

I was getting tired and properly disappointed when I saw the finish line over the river and knew the bridge was near BUT they only bloomin make you run on to the next bridge don’t they? I managed a hug with my husband at mile 25.5 then walked a minute when I was out of his view before a slow sprint for the line. Thanks Alan for the shout. We were incredibly lucky for a dry few hours in the middle of 2 weeks of rain. The event was very well organised and super friendly. The Baxter’s soup at the end was just what I needed. Aileen and Alan did brilliant first marathons.

Sitting in a lovely restaurant later full of marathoners in their medals with Aileen, Alan, Sophie and Debra who all got the memo about dress code but didn’t tell me(!) we celebrated the other Strider finishers, Peter, Karen and Craig as well as Carolyn Wendy and Mike’s marathons elsewhere. A good weekend.

Dress Code is orange – didn’t you get the memo?


PosRace NoFirst NameLast NameHalf TimeGun TimeChip TimeCategory
(Metro Aberdeen Running Club)
(Garscube Harriers)
(Visited 97 times, 1 visits today)

Loch Ness Marathon, Scotland, Sunday, September 23, 2018

Carol Davison

0 to 26.2 in a year and a half!

I entered the Loch Ness Marathon in November 2017 thinking that gave me almost a year to train. Having not long since completed the GNR, I was on a high! Yeah, I can do a marathon no problem!

Fast forward six months and I was thinking ‘what have I done’, I’m no runner….groan! But because I do these crazy things for Crisis (homeless charity), I had to carry on!

The training went ok until I picked up a ‘niggle’ about six weeks before the race that floored me for two weeks. I was convinced my race was over but with some rest, a bit of physio and a lot of grim determination, I got going again, but with only four weeks to go. I wasn’t sure I was ready for 26.2!

For all the doubts I had, my fellow runners at Elvet Striders had faith in me and a few days before I left for Bonny Scotland, they presented me with two little plaques to put on my trainers. One said ‘DREAM BELIEVE ACHIEVE’ and the other ‘WITH YOU EVERY STEP’! How could I fail with this kind of support…..?

Standing at the start, I just kept remembering some advice I had been given; make it a great race rather than a good time! I wanted to enjoy the whole experience and despite being nervous I was beyond excited!

At last, we were off, the bagpipers a distant hum, it was time to run my Marathon… The first few miles were downhill, great for my confidence and nerves! Apart from a bit of a hill at mile five, I was going great. Around the 7-mile mark, I got my first glimpse of Loch Ness. It was such a beautiful sight. I had to stop and take a photo. This is why I picked this one for my first, I thought, and off I went again!!

The next few miles were fairly flat and I was really comfortable. I was loving it! I talked to people from Australia, Manchester, Stonehenge and Sweden. So many people had travelled such a long way but it was easy to see why. The view just kept getting better; even the rain showers brought amazing rainbows!

Then we hit the hill I had been told about at around 19 miles. I was tiring by then and knew I would struggle to run up it, so I admitted defeat and walked up!

At the 20 mile marker, I kept waiting to hit the dreaded wall that so many people had told me about… I waited and waited, but it never came! I was still smiling and chatting. I was still loving it. Yeyyyy!

Once the ‘nasty’ hill was out of the way I told myself only 10k to go and how many 10k’s have I done!!!

It was a lovely run back into Inverness and despite getting tired and a couple of nasty blisters, I was still smiling! The sun came out and the crowds were shouting and singing along the route and more bagpipes! Just the boost I needed, I told myself to take it steady and you can finish this!

The crowds that lined the finish route along the River Ness were just as encouraging and as soon as I crossed the finish line, I cried. I just couldn’t quite believe I had run a Marathon! Me running a Marathon. I couldn’t run a mile two years ago!!!

And so my first Marathon did turn out to be a GREAT RACE!!


(Visited 179 times, 1 visits today)

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…..

(Visited 41 times, 1 visits today)

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.

(Visited 24 times, 1 visits today)

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.

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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.


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.

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Loch Ness Marathon, Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dougie Nisbet

Oi! Get out from behind there!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.

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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!


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.

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