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Loch Ness Marathon
Sunday 29th September 2013
PaulB

Well I canít compare this marathon to any other as I decided to tackle the ďundulatingĒ course in the Scottish Highlands as my first full marathon. The even is a one-way run from a grid reference point between Fort Augustus and Dores on the north-eastern edge of Loch Ness, following the loch to Inverness before finishing in Bught Park in the city.

Because of the one-way route, the organisers provided a bus service to transport the 4,000 runners from Inverness to the start. Leaving the hotel just after 7am to catch the bus, I felt like an extra in a zombie movie. The River Ness was covered in fog and through the darkness there were hundreds of track-suited, half asleep people shuffling to the meet point.

The journey to the start was uneventful and warm tea was welcome at the top as the wind was whipping around us. A pipe band marched through the field and, bang on 10am, we were off!

I was aiming to run ďunder 4 hoursĒ and a couple of strong training runs had given me the feeling I could shoot for about 3:50. The first 6 miles is net downhill, although there is a fierce 45-metre climb at about 5 miles. That was fine, recent hill training and the Kimbolton Half meant I trotted up the hill gaining places and continued on to Foyers, where we had our first batch of spectators.

It was going well and I got through the first half in 1:53 and 20 miles in 2:56. However, shortly after 20 miles, the wheels came off. Aerobically I was still fine but my legs were truly trashed. Every time I tried to up the pace they cramped and I slowed to a shuffle/jog with 10 second walk breaks just to try and keep going. The killer was the 70 metre almost continuous climb over about a mile and a half from 18.5 to 20 miles. Determined to not let it beat me I dug in and got to the top, but without enough left to keep the pace to the finish. The final 20 metre climb at 22 miles was me done in.

From feeling confident of holding on to a 10k in an hour at the end, the last 10k took 1:02 and I could feel the 4 hours slipping away. Coming into Inverness and finally getting some support really helped and cheers from Sue, my wife, lifted my spirits, although I did drop down to another cheeky walk once out of sight! The final push to the finish delivered unexpected support as Karen and Ian Richardson had travelled 4 Ĺ hours from their holiday in Northumberland to cheer me on to the finish! This lifted me enough to push to the line for the last 100 metres.

My Garmin read 4:00:01 as I stopped it. So near, and yet so far! Then the official time came through on text as 4:00:00. By the skin of my teeth, Iíd done it!

The race itself was very well organised with plenty of energy and water stations, all well managed and staffed. The scenery was sublime (how many other marathoners have seen soaring buzzards during a race this year?) and the weather was perfect. Iíve now calmed down enough to be happy with my result and Iím already scheming on how to improve. My big mistake was not enough hill training. My standard 20-mile route had 70 metres of ascent and descent (including Houghton Hill near St Ives) but it wasnít enough to prepare me for a race with 210 metres of climb and over 500 metres of descent. I think the descent actually hurt more than the climb although the continuous climb for 1 Ĺ miles was really tough.

Iíve done my first marathon and I am already scheming on where to do my next (flatter but not so flat to be dull) and how to come back and tackle Loch Ness again (although not next year).

Iíve received a huge amount of support and encouragement from club members and clearly benefited from training with you all (well the ones I can keep up with!). Thanks to all of you.

Paul

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