Well the countdown towards the WHWR entry for 2013 is well underway. So, training on the route for me has now begun, with the first run being yesterday. Ian Minty had organised another 'wee' run starting at Balmaha and would go to Inversnaid and back, around 30 miles. I decided I would run with them to Rowardennan and then 'run' up Ben Lomond and then back to Balmaha, which would be around 19 miles or so. So at Balmaha 11 of us set off at around 9am, with a very mixed bag of experience and ability. The great thing at these gatherings is that everyone runs together, more really being a social event and to just have a run in good company.
(Me, Ross Lawrie, Ian Minty, Nicola Giblin, Mike Raffan, Andy Johns, Jo Rae, John MacLean, Lorna MacLean, Alan Robertson, Lorna McMillan)
The rain over the last few days had turned some sections of the path very muddy, which caused a few trips and falls among the ranks today, but nothing too serious. It was great to see some familiar faces and meet a few new ones. The weather stayed dry until we reached Rowardennan. After a short break the main group continued on its way to Inversnaid. Nicola decided to head back to Balmaha from here and today had been the furthest she had ever run, well done Nicola (watch out Paul). I decided to stick to my orginal plan and headed up the mountain. Cloud covered the top and when I got to the flat plateau below the main climb I decided that was enough as several people passed me on their way down kitted out in full proper waterproofs. I ran back to Balmaha in the hope of catching Nicola, but she had arrived back about ten minutes before me.
A great day in the company of some runnig 'legends'. Lets do it again soon.
The Loch Ness Marathon hadn't been on my 2013 'to do' list when I made my plans for the year. I had 'penciled' in the River Ness 10K, for the 6th consectutive year, for this weekend in Inverness. But around a month before I looked at my remaining races and fancied a longer one at the end of September. I had never run a full 'proper' marathon before so thought, 'why not?'
So, to summarise.......I stayed at a B&B in Inverness the night before as I had to register for the race the day before (Saturday). I headed down to registration, got my number and timing chip and headed over to the 'Big tent' for a pasta meal.
I then wandered back up to my B&B and enroute nipped into McDonalds for a sneeky burger. I wasn't sneeky enough, as I was walking up the hill past the castle with a coo's arse hanging out my gob I bumped into Fiona and Pauline. Caught!
When I got back to my digs I sorted out my running kit and went to bed. Up at the dawn of crack (5am) for a pot of porridge, bananana, flapjack and coffee and I was good to go. I crept out of the B&B and drove down to park at the 'village'. Had a drink of fruit juice before I made my way over to the buses and soon we were on our way down to the start at the south end of Loch Ness. For the most part the trip there was in silence. Occasionally only the noise of a bodily function broke the silence on the bus. It took around an hour for the convoy to get to the start area and the welcome relief of getting off the bus and inhaling some fresh air. I had thought i was clever by getting on the second from the front bus. However, on arriving at the start area the buses at the front were the furthest from the start area, the baggage vans and more importantly, the toilets. In fact the start banner was barely visible from where my bus stopped. There was nothing else for it, pee in the bushes. So hundreds of male runners littered the side of the road with their bits hanging in the wind. After what seemed like forever I reached the baggage van and launched my bag into the right numbered section, only for it to fall straight back out into a big puddle. Bugger.
Then the organised warm up began, which I decided to give a miss and do my own. I took my place in the crowd at the 4 and half hour finishing banner and waited for the off. I didn't have too long to wait and soon we were running. I settled into my pace very early on and just wanted to enjoy the day. The route is very scenic and took a while to reach the lochside. I took full advantage of the water and Clif feed stations, although the clif shot bloks were like chewing rubber and alot of inconsiderate runners had disgarded theirs on the road making it lethal if you stood on one. A number of residents along the route had very nicely set up their own small unofficial water stations which was brilliant. However ,at one of these a runner in front of me, lets call him an arse for reference purposes, lost the plot when a small child accidentally dropped a cup as he went to grab it. Arse. My thanks to all those who manned these unofficial stations as it was great to get a wee fluid top up and a jelly baby and hope that idiots like that don't put them off supporting this event. So 26 miles of tarmac turned out not to be all that beneficial to my muscles. Maybe Hokas would have helped. I had been hoping to get around four hours but had cautiously started in the 4 and half hour group. Around halfway I was on target for under 4 hours but had a wee touch of cramp which affected my second half. On the lochside I stopped for a pee only to hear Fiona Rennie shouting as she ran past, I think in words to the effect of 'I can see your willy'. I turned to laugh, but instead of turning just my head, turned my whole body!, hopefully she had passed by then. So on I ran. At the bottom of the 'big long hill' I spotted Katrina and John, who were here supporting one of their daughters, Laura. I shouted hi and John ran alongside for a few seconds and then sprinted ahead to get a photo of me (below).
Thanks John and Katrina for your words of support. That hill seemed to go on and on and on. But at the top, it was all downhill into Inverness (bit obvious). Shortly after here the route became familiar as it joins the 10K course for the last few miles into Inverness. I knew by now that I would be well over the 4 hour target, but would hopefully scrape under 4 and a half. As we approached the riverside a huge crowd had turned out to cheer the runners on. The last mile straddles the river and from the far bank you can see the finish but you have to run away from it before crossing the bridge to turn into the final straight to the line. So after 26 and a bit miles I finished in 4 hours 25 minutes. It was murder on my calf muscles. Give me an off road/trail ultra race anyday. Although, what a massive medal!
So after a shower I headed back to get my free curry and soup at the event village. Bumped into Ian and Sandra, who both had great runs in brilliant times. So there endeth my first proper Marathon which I had mixed feelings about afterwards. A great well organised event with a fun atmosphere, but boy did it bugger up my legs!!