Loch Ness marathon is a special race for me, not just because I’ve ran every one, running it in 2005 six months after having a brain haemorrhage was a big tick in the box of my recovery. This year was no less special; it still reaffirms how lucky I am to be here and have the health to run.
I put no pressure on myself to run a fast time ( fast for me) it was a month after the 24 hour race at Perth and that had taken a lot out of me, I felt my muscles have recovered but my reserves are still low, my batteries are on a trickle charge with still a fair bit to go. At Perth I went through the marathon in 4 hours 21 mins so just to be ahead of that will do me fine.
Breakfast at the B&B was at 6.00am, four hours before the race so I thought I’d be adventurous and have the cooked one after my big bowl of porridge, but not too adventurous, it was the veggie option.
The bus journey was long and uneventful but nice to sit and blether with Pauline, Julie and Marcus, the bus stopped near the start, we got ready to get off then it moved on for about half a mile before letting us off. As we tried to walk up towards the start two volunteers with our health and safety their priority, were having a very hard job trying to hold the runners back until all the buses had gone past. King Cnut had more success! I hope this hasn’t put them off volunteering again, there nothing grumpier than a pre-race runner bursting for a pee!
The Pipe Band marching through the runners just before the start always brings a lump to my throat as I remember the apprehension I felt when they came through in 2005 then the elation I had at the finish.
Then we were off, I ran the first three miles or so with Grant from Fife AC who was having an easy start, he has also ran every Loch Ness, he told me that Collette, who I know from the Glenrothes 50km has also ran them all too and when she goes home to Ireland, Dublin Marathon at the end of the month will be her 200th marathon. (Congratulations Collette xx) When Grant commented on the pace, I thought it was a bit quick for me, even though it’s all down hill for the first few miles, I let him go on. I was feeling fine; my muscles were fresh having only done a handful of five mile runs and one nine mile run since the 24 hour race but I knew this wouldn’t last. At 13 miles I looked at my watch for the first time and I was surprised it was just before 2 hours. I had no push for the wee hills earlier and just eased myself up them, my quads were starting to hurt and felt empty.
Although I carried a couple of gels I also had a couple of mouthfuls of Lucozade at every station but the Fifer in me thought what a waste, it’s a pity the bottles aren’t half the size, even that would’ve been too much. That stuff is too concentrated and just sits like a brick in the guts if you drink too much. I thought Nessie is going to be flipping out the Loch like a dolphin on such a sugar rush once all that wasted Lucozade runs down into the loch! I had considered pointing at the loch and shouting “Look there’s Nessie!” but I chickened out, folk would’ve know for sure that I’m nuts!
At around sixteen miles I found a new best friend, I was chatting to guy who now lives in London but hails from the Black Isle, I said my first marathon was at the Black Isle in 1992 which is no more. I pointed to the pins holding my number and told him I still use the same ones that I used then. He then asked if it was me that had a wee story in the race magazine and when I said “Yeah” He replied “You look a lot younger than in the photo!”
The support at Dores was phenomenal; they were so noisy and enthusiastic and lifted the spirit of every runner going through. I kept glancing behind on the wee climb out of Dores getting a last look at the cracking view down the Loch before it disappeared, a tonic for a tired body. My quads weren’t screaming at me but were shouting loud and abusively, I am good at listening to my body but I told them to shut up and get on with it. At the hill at 18 miles I started to feel better, I think the change to a shorter stride and slower pace was more to my liking. I wouldn’t call it a comfort zone but a zone I’m used to, running slow, staying relaxed, keeping a good posture no matter how sore and tired I am but I had wished I’d brought some painkillers with me. Mentally I’m always good and 26.2 miles isn’t scary for me but there is no such thing as an easy marathon no matter how many or how far your previous adventures have been.
On the long down hill I let gravity work its magic pulling me down closer to the finish. I tried to push on but I had nothing left. You could hear the finish from the other side of the river, just along and over the bridge; I was looking forward to the new finish, no more plodding up and round the stadium with the sharp turn to the finish, just straight along. Once over the bridge I tried to wind it up a bit but my legs weren’t playing, they’d had enough. I managed to keep a little energy for some fun at the finish, I’d remembered a video Mel, another Carnegie Crazy… err… I mean Carnegie Harrier had posted on facebook of her finish at Stirling 10km, it was lovely and made me smile and I jokingly asked if I could borrow it for Loch Ness. As Bryan Burnett shouted my name I thought yeah, let’s go for it. I raised my arms over my head and gave huge waves and blew kisses to the crowd, but on my rush for the line I forgot to high five some one in the crowd, oops, I’m sure Mel won’t give me a row for not getting it right!
Although I was awfy tired and awfy sair it didn’t detract from the sheer pleasure I get from running Loch Ness, I even manage to finish within my goal, 4hrs 14mins although that wasn’t really important. I’m alive and kicking having monster fun.