This year was going to be even more special; there were ten of us that would be completing all ten of Baxters Loch Ness Marathon.
Pauline and I arrived early Saturday afternoon at Amy and Ewan's our B&B for nearly all our marathons. Pauline wasn’t running this year; she’s still recovering from the 24 hour race at the Commonwealth Championships the previous week. To say I felt as if I was still recovering from just doing her support sounds a bit feeble but standing for 24 hours did take a wee toll, my calves and achilles tendons felt tight, and I was awfy tired. My batteries were flat from my own 24 hour race at the Glenmore 24 on the 3rd September and were on trickle charge. I’d only done a handful of 5 mile runs since Glenmore, rest and recovery far more important than trying knocking out some last minute marathon training. But not being marathon fit or marathon trained wasn’t going to stop me having a good time and by that I don’t mean the numbers on my watch!
We had to be at registration for 4.00pm Saturday for a photo and we were presented with a t-shirt, crystal memento and a cup cake. It was fun watching Pauline hold my jacket, my bag and my camera trying to get photos without the official photographers elbow in the shot.
On the long bus journey to the start, I had to have a wee smile, a bus in front stopped to let some poor burstin’ soul off for a pee and since the rest of the buses couldn’t pass on the narrow road, a few others took the opportunity to pee, this happened twice, the slow journey to the start took even longer than normal. Time was tight when the buses got to the start, so with no faffing, I took off my jacket, fleece and tracksuit bottoms and put them in my bag and handed it into baggage. It was drizzling but the forecast was for it to brighten so I decided to be brave and just run in a short sleeved top, vest, three-quarter length tights and my wee kilt, no Buff, hat, gloves or sleeves. Wrong choice, it was announced that the race would be delayed for ten minutes so everyone had the chance to get to the start on time, I had no problem with that just that I had to stand and chitter for even longer, I hadn’t bothered taking a bin bag or throw away clothes. (I’ll remember that for next year)
The Pipe Band came through the field of runners; it always brings a lump to my throat. Then we were off, I knew I was running a faster pace than I planned but I was trying to generate a bit of heat, the rain was no longer a drizzle but stotting down. Steven, another Carnegie Harrier, running his first marathon, came along side me and he told me all of the miles so far were sub 9 pace, I don’t look at my watch, I laughed and said “I don’t do sub 9, actually I don’t think I’ve done sub 10’s this year!” Not to worry I’ll hang with it for as long as I felt comfortable or at least until I warm up. We stayed together until around nine miles; Steven pushed on to finish in 4 hours 6 minutes, absolutely brilliant considering he had no specific marathon training.
At Dores the support was as great as ever, I high fived all the kids. On the gentle start of the hill I started to feel a bit more comfortable, I kept looking round over my left shoulder until I was at the best viewpoint for looking down the loch. I turned round walking backwards for a few paces and shout to folk around me “Look behind, scenery break!” I think a few thought I was nuts but still looked back briefly, a Wee County runner went by me and she said. “Thanks, I’d forgot about that.” On the steeper climb of the hill, I kept an easy short shuffle, I’ve never been fast at Loch Ness but I’ve never walked either and I wasn’t breaking tradition. I went past Wee County runner; she was walking, and said “Well done digging in.” I replied I was doing micro shuffle, she laughed and said that’s what she calls “The Mince”. Walk, mince or micro shuffle, whatever technique works use it!
Once over the climb, which in my mind is just a slog, there is no such thing as a killer hill, it’s just the pace you choose to go up it that kills! It was time to lengthen my stride, relax and let gravity work its magic on the long down but ouchy ouchy, my quads and glutes weren’t for relaxing, if they could make a face it would be of one that’s just sooked a lemon. I suppose that's what I get for trying to run marathon pace when I’m not marathon trained and especially on a course that is mainly down hill. I wasn’t prepared for this race but I knew that even running at an easy pace there is no such thing as an easy marathon, it’s a long way, it was gonna hurt but my next incredulous thoughts were “My legs weren’t as sore as this at the Glenmore 24! The last time I had around 4 miles to go I’d already ran 104 miles! So as a gnarly old ultra runner another 4 miles would be nae bother. Get on with it!” But even for a gnarly old ultra runner it did hurt but with my squiffy mentality it was still fun and a privilege.
I slogged it out, hauling my jarring legs in, at around the 25 miles a guy in front stepped off the road and leaned against the wall, I shouted “Come on, hang in there!” as I went by, his reply was reminiscent of an alpha stag at the autumn rut! Why do men have to be so vocal when they puke?
Pauline was standing by the bouncy foot bridge just after 25 miles; it was her turn to shout at me “COME ON!” I answered just as loudly “ALRIGHT!” The last mile, the bitter sweet, so glad to get it done, so proud to achieve. My apologies to my friends that shouted to me as I approached the finish, I didn’t acknowledge you because I couldn’t hear you, the crowd en masse were deafening! Thank you all for your support.