Loch Ness Marathon – Feel My Pain

Blisters are gone, bruised nails are almost grown out, and the idea of running no longer gives me nightmares. I’d love to say The Loch Ness Marathon went well, I suppose in some respects it did – I made it over the finish line… eventually.

I trained hard, running the Edinburgh half-marathon earlier in the year and slowly building up my weekly mileage. Some weeks went well and others made me want to quit, the only thing that kept me going was my JustGiving page and the fact that we’d already booked accommodation up north. As luck would have it, I developed a chest infection a month before the marathon and was unable to shift it before the big day. I paused my training and considered pulling out all together, I’m fairly stubborn and tend not to give up (especially when sponsorship money is involved).

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail
       – Benjamin Franklin

I’ve taken part in marathons of a different nature at Loch Ness before, dancing with Daft Punk and Fat Boy Slim – I assumed this would be a piece of cake in comparison. The most painful and tiring piece of cake I’ve ever faced, even worse than Christmas cake with excessive amounts of marzipan. Does anybody truly like marzipan?

I’m so impulsive. I signed up to the Loch Ness Marathon without really looking into how it worked. I booked a hotel close(ish) to the start line and investigated the logistics during the drive up. EdinBloggette absolutely loves this about me, my spontaneity is infectious and she gets really excited about my poorly planned excursions. We once walked an hour for a picnic through ash fields when I got the directions wrong.

Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it
      – Oprah Winfrey

We arrived at our hotel and soon found out that the marathon would not be as straightforward as Edinburgh’s. Firstly the roads would all be closed off and my idea of “rocking up to the start line” started to seem unlikely.

LNM2015-Route-Map-updated-Jan15

We were staying at Foyers, about 6 miles from the start. Upon arrival we found out that the road to the start line would be closed in the morning, instead we would need to get to Inverness at 7am, to be bussed back down to the start for 9am. We drove the entire route to the registration point in Inverness the day before and my heart sank on the way there. 26 miles was a long way in a car, I had a sneaky suspicion it would be much worse on foot.

I always thought of running as just dancing forward
        – Tom Hiddleston

The staff at the registration points had different views about whether or not we could drive to the start, in the end I had e-mailed for advice and was told we could (even though the roads were closed). It was a stressful drive so early in the morning but we made it there, two hours before the race was due to start. I was still feeling pretty awful from the chest infection but was determined to get through the day on good intentions, and energy drinks, and gels, and Alan Partridge on audiobook.

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Quite possibly the most scenic portaloos in the world. Discuss.

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After an hour in the cold, a bus arrived with some more people and so did my feeling of dread. I was totally unprepared and coughing up my gatorade. I thought happy thoughts, it’s only a run, a simple run. Just one foot in front of the other. Forever.

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There was no turning back at this stage, the only way to see EdinBloggette again would be to run to Inverness. As I listened to Alan Partridge describe his own birth I laughed a little too loud. I was the crazy loner laughing at the start of a marathon. If only I was laughing at the end.

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The pipers soon took attention away from me…

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I felt strangely patriotic as the pipers passed. I can’t imagine Morris dancers igniting a fire in my belly, but the pipes and drums in such a beautiful setting was just what I needed to get over the start line.

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And We’re Off

Within moments we were running, I was running, actually running. It had been almost a month since I last did this and the first five minutes went by reasonably quickly.

To be honest the first 13 miles went by without any signs of distress, I even stopped along the way to take a few photos and phone EdinBloggette for some pep talks.

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The views alongside the Loch were incredible, we didn’t get to see them until about 6 miles in – after a fairly tough incline. For some reason I thought it would be a flat run, it didn’t seem too hilly on the drive, but it did go on forever.

Top tip: If you plan on running Loch Ness Marathon, don’t drive the route the day before. Certainly don’t drive it four times!

Loch-Ness-Marathon-Profile

I made it to the half-way point in 2hrs 20 mins, I had a pretty gentle pace which I thought I could maintain. The next 5 miles flew by, I was actually enjoying myself, there was no sign of my cough and I started to think I could finish with ease. Stupid wishful thinking.

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At mile 18 everything crumbled. My ankle gave way and I had to have a rest. I tried to run again but couldn’t, instead I limped for the remaining 8 miles.

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The beautiful scenery came to an end and I struggled up one of the worst inclines I’d ever faced. This was torture. Cheers from the crowds and offers of jelly babies almost brought me to tears. You hear of hitting a wall when running long distances, the wall had collapsed on top of me and I couldn’t get up.

I hobbled along like Gollum, there was no way to shift the pain and the end was nowhere in sight.

At this stage my phone died, I’d lost my only friends, Alan Partridge was gone and I could no longer text EdinBloggette or receive my pep talks.

Carry on I thought, you can make it.

I made some friends along the way and we dreamed of the finish line together, eventually they left me too, I was certain I was in last place. What if they closed up by the time I finished?

The next four miles felt like an eternity. I thought Strictly Come Dancing lasted forever, this was a whole new level of boredom – painful and tedious.

EdinBloggette walked to meet me 2 miles from the end, her enthusiasm and positive outlook would usually get me through any dark time, this nightmare wasn’t one I could wake up from. I walked with her for the longest two miles and crumbled into a heap at the finish line.

It took me 6 hours to reach the finish, I had a target of 5 hours and will aim for that next time. I’ve come to terms with the ordeal and will face another marathon, just not Loch Ness, not this year at least.

My JustGiving page is now closed, but if you feel for me after reading this and want to donate then please visit a new page I set up to raise money for Macmillan.

http://www.lochnessmarathon.com/event/2/baxters-loch-ness-marathon/

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