This event has been on my radar for some time, and I have to say it lived up to my expectations. Registration takes place on the Saturday so it’s a chance to see the finish area and wander around the event village at Bught Park, Inverness A good expo, bar, food and some live music was on offer along with a Kiddies 5k and an Open 10k event.
We chose to stay half way been the finish line at Inverness, and the start near Fort Augustus. A beautiful log cabin on an estate with additional facilities of a indoor heated swimming pool and games room, plus a really good local pub 5 minutes walk away, and a bargain price for 3 nights. Angie Clarke and myself were running supported by our Partners, Derek and Darren and then Laura Herbert and Sonny joined us. Additional support arrived when we discovered Angie’s Mum Irene and Dad Geoff (Mr Paparazzi) were in Scotland and they extended and diverted their tour to be there and cheer us on.
All runners were taken by Coach to the start point which was a single track road above the clouds in the highlands, the road was closed and no access to any vehicles except our convoy of coaches. Arriving there it was fresh! The views were phenomenal, just mountains, heather and clouds ! The usual queues for the porta-loos didn’t deter us we had a whole forest to squat in, far cleaner! Hot drinks and baggage buses were also provided at the start.
The start was great, downhill! Angie and I ran together for 8 miles and passed Irene and Geoff at the 7 miles point in a very small village called Foyers. By now they had prepped all the other spectators around them and they all cheered us on through. The downhills were equalled out by the undulations and the camber of the single track road meant finding a good running line essential to be kind on the joints and to save yourself falling off the road into ditches.
After approx. 8 miles Angie and I split up, after perfecting my uphill power walking I was able to keep a faster pace. Trust me the marathon is rolling and well over 50% of the people adopted a run/walk strategy on the steep inclines. The Marathon was very well organised with water stations, Energy stations with Shoc Bloc, Gel sachets provide by Cliff and Electrolyte drinks provided by Huell the event sponsors. They had first aid points and marshals on mountain bikes throughout the whole event.
The route took us alongside the Loch Ness River, with the Loch on the left it was beautiful, on the right varied between woodland/forest and open land. The road ahead was in parts framed with tree’s both sides often making a tunnel effect. On a few occasions the sheltered areas had a distinct cold feel.. and during the rain periods it helped us to pick up our speed a little!. When the sun came out it was glorious.
A small village named Dores marked the mile 17 point and Irene and Geoff reappeared, how they got there on the few roads that existed and with so many closed I don’t know but what an uplift it gave us both seeing them there. The weather didn’t let us down either, 4 seasons in a race!
As you approach mile 19 signs appeared warning you “It’s about to get a wee bit hilly” (it was a long uphill, not a wee hill at all !) and “just another wee one” then thankfully by mile 23 “its all down hill from now on!”, maybe not quite but it was eventually flat and heading into town the crowds were building up and cheering us on, many with jelly babies in a bowl for us to grab on our way past. Mile 24 I heard our crew long before I saw them, it felt great. The only downer from that was they nipped over the River Ness walk bridge and we had to run away from the finish to turn on the main bridge to head back to the finish. This felt like the only long mile, the rest had passed really quickly, but hearing my friends shouting out for me was fantastic.
Running into the finish I dug deep and tried to wring about the last ounce of energy. I was able to get through the finish zone and meet up with everyone to cheer Angie in. Great Medals and T-shirts. A Baxters hot meal was laid on for runners and a Loch Ness Pen, Cliff bars and magazines included in the goodie bag.
Loved the event and one I would return to one day. 4,000 runners of mixed abilities meant it felt friendly and sociable. The 500 mile journey home ruined me more than the marathon!
Nessy decided not to make an appearance, but who knows, maybe next time.