The tag line for the Loch Ness Marathon is “If you are going to put yourself through Hell, you might as well do it in Heaven” that sums up the Loch Ness Marathon.
Inverness is the Capital City of the Highlands of Scotland and this is where Loch Ness and the mythical monster are to be found, along with over 4000 people boarding buses at 06.45 on a Sunday morning in September to run along its majestic banks back to Inverness.
It takes about an hour to reach the start of this race and it definitely cuts down on the toilet queue if you are in one of the front buses. The start is at the top of a mountain and there is a lot of buzz, even at such an early hour the Scouts are there giving out much needed tea and coffee, the local radio is there with such inspiring comments as “the buses which brought you here have now left, the only way now to get back to Inverness is to run” and other such gems. The baggage trucks are in position but are not doing any business as everyone is holding onto any warm clothes they have until the last possible minute, including me.
About this time I met up with Leon, who was running this for the 5th time (I think) we had a quick chat but he was with his marathon groupies so I left him to be adored by others.
I am always amazed by the amount of people I meet at this marathon who tell me this is their first marathon, maybe that is the pull of the tag line and when I tell them this is my second time, the next question is inevitably “is it really as hilly as it looks” to which I always answer “yes there are lots of hills, but they are all followed by downhills” so plenty of active recovery time, I don’t like to tell them about the hill at mile 18 / 19 which goes on for about 1km, I thought that would be a nice surprise for them.
A nice downhill to start, accompanied by a pipe band, always brings a tear to my eye, or maybe it was the biting wind? At 10:00 off we go, to run back to Inverness, at this point you cannot see the Loch it’s just running through the most stunning scenery you could ever wish to see, the sky at this time was blue and all was well with the world, then at 8 miles the sky darkened and the rain came down, which was quite pleasant for about 10 minutes but then it showed no sign of stopping so was getting a bit annoying, eventually it did stop and the sun popped out, by this time we were running along the Loch, this would be our route until we got nearer Inverness. Since not many people live along this side of the Loch there are not many spectators so it’s nice to chat to fellow runners, with a very big overseas representation you never know if they will understand you, but that all adds to the fun.
I was just drying out at mile 15 and the rain came on again, but not for long this time, and I still had the hill to look forward to, after this it becomes a road race with the last 3 miles into Inverness with the crowds and the sound of the finish in your ears you run parallel to this then across a bridge and back to the finish, where you are given a medal, t-shirt and a tin of Baxters soup. I know the Scottish have a reputation for being tight, but when we got to the airport to go home, there was a sign saying that tins of soup could not be taken on board in hand baggage since they were classed as liquids and were over 100mls, so you had to leave them, so really you did not get a tin of soup, you only got a loan of a tin of soup, anyone who has tasted Baxters soup will testify it should not be classed as a liquid.
As you would expect the aid stations were plentiful and very cheery, sadly not giving out Malt Whisky, maybe next year!