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Loch Ness Marathon  – 5 October – A ‘Monster’? 

Whilst most of the countries eyes were focused on the Great North Run I headed further north to Inverness for the Loch Ness Marathon. For those unfortunate enough to have had to listen to my views on the marathon you will know it’s not one of my favourite race distances (there that gets the first excuse out the way) however I had set myself the challenge of completing one in my 50th year; actually I had two challenges the other being to survive the 18 week training programme without injury.

With the injury free challenge successfully completed, Jill and I set of on the Friday for Southampton airport looking forward to a relaxing flight to Inverness. Disappointment No 1 – Flybe cancelled the flight 15 minutes before departure time due to technical problems. After a rescheduled flight to Edinburgh we then were on a 3½ hour coach ride to Inverness. Up to this point following my training regime my alcohol intake for the week had been nil; as the coach entered a pub car park on route for a ‘comfort’ break this was about to change.  The pint of ‘Nessie’ real ale was that good I just had to buy some* bottles for the rest of the journey. So when I arrived in Inverness at nearly 11pm (instead of the planned 4pm) my legs were rather wobbly and it had nothing to do with running.

Sunday morning saw an early start to the day as runners had to be at the stadium (where we would finish) by 7.45am to get on a bus that would take us to the start. The bus journey was about an hour’s ride but with some excellent scenery and conversations based on lack of training, the expectation of hills on the course, should a long sleeve top be worn or not and other such marathon runners’ tales it soon passed. I struck up a conversation with a girl who it turned out came from Portland (not Dorset but Oregon); the coincidence was that I happened to have the Portland 10 T-Shirt from a couple of years ago in my bag which I had intended to use to keep me warm at the start area and then throw away. There will now be people in the USA looking at her new T-Shirt wondering what the phallic looking design is supposed to represent (those who have seen the T Shirt will know what I mean).

Unlike the crowds at London it was easy to get to a decent position near the start line, before the gun went we had a marching pipe band playing through the crowd from the back to the start line just what was needed to get adrenalin flowing.

In all of my races in the last few years I have always maintained negative splits, this works well for me and it was my game plan for this race. I knew that on an extremely undulating course it was going to be difficult to maintain consistent mile times, and so when I went through the first half in 1:25 I told myself this was due to all the down hills. The 16 mile point saw the first of the longer up hill drags and when it took me 7:35 to complete the mile I was not that concerned; then at the 18 mile point (here comes excuse No 2) I started feeling pains in my upper back leg (the big round bit above top of leg) and half a mile later I found myself having to walk. The last 7 miles were a combination of shuffle and walk with a bit of running thrown in, my aim now had become finish this race without giving myself any long term injury. I finally crossed the line in 3:17:04, disappointed with the time but pleased I had managed to complete it. 

The race goody bag was excellent, I am sure I was not the only one that struggled to carry it. In addition to the T Shirt it included three cans of soup, a large jar of pickled onions, a large jar of pickled beetroot, a stack of special offer leaflets and other bits and pieces I cannot even remember; it was sponsored by Baxter’s!

I almost forgot my other aim – be in a fit state for a few beers on the Sunday evening.  No problem on that front, only disappointment was I did not manage to find any Nessie real ale so I had to settle for some Caledonian dark ale which went down just as well.

Would I recommend this marathon? Difficult question for someone who would not recommend London or the marathon itself - If you are looking for a well organised scenic challenging marathon without the crowds of London, then it’s for you; if you want a PB and don’t get on with hills (especially down hill) then avoid it.

There is a saying ‘what does not kill you only makes you stronger’; I certainly have benefited from this experience it has strengthened my belief that the marathon is not for me. Having now maintained 18 weeks of training without injury I look forward to getting that red shirt back on and getting some ‘proper’ racing done over cross-country and distances that suit me – watch this space!

Stewart Little

* For ‘some’ read four large bottles!


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