Loch Ness Marathon 2018
Because the last one was so long I’ll try and keep this one short!
Let me kick off by saying, i can’t pace, it’s not a strength I have or particularly want, my head will always drop at some point, I’m not consistent and I know that. My general race strategy is Go Hard or Go Home! It’s amateur as F***, but hey I’m a maverick and tend to do things my own way. That being said I have never ever ever been stupid enough to attempt to run a sub 8 minute mile in a marathon, that’s just another level stupid, I’m not fast enough for those games! Except on Sunday when out of nowhere I managed to clock up 4 of them! HERO/IDIOT!
Arriving at the start of Loch Ness Marathon is probably the worlds biggest pain in the bum, The race doesn’t start till 10, but you have to catch a coach at 7:15. Which means unless you’ve camped on the field next to the busses you’re getting up sometime around 6am. That’s EAARLLLY for a 10 am start. Being up 4 hours before a race really isn’t ideal in anyones world right?! Now that’s out of the way it really is my one and only complaint about Loch Ness Marathon! Even as I’m writing it I do not care about it at all, because it’s probably the most beautiful, and well organised marathon I’ve run, and I’ve done the leg work.
The logistics of transferring 4000 people form Inverness (the finish) to somewhere/middle of nowhere near Fort Augustus (the start) is an insane achievement, and it worked like magic. The coach ride is long, but beautiful and it gives you time to fuel and think which may or may not be your bag. When you see the Loch in it’s full glory though you will not care anymore about early starts, or coach rides, or life and its woes for that matter. All you will be able to think is how lucky you are to have two legs that allow you to run in this staggeringly beautiful place! The rest of the start is quite frankly hectic, toilets are sparse and queues are long! Again zero cares given because you’re surrounded by mother nature who is rocking out some of the dreamiest views for you, and all you have to do is just pay your entry fee, be there and look at them for X number of hours .
Let me also say this race is net downhill, that does not mean it is easy, if you think you’re going into it with a lovely little downhill jaunt to Inverness you will be sorely mistaken! It’s a hard course. The downhills are plentiful, but the ups are nasty! I found this image on another blog and just bloody loved it so much! So I’ve nabbed it and shared the link if you also want to read another point of view from a previous year. Basically the course is hell’a undulating, and your legs will take one hell of a beating.
The other unknown here is the weather, we had the craziest day of blistering sunshine and torrential showers. It was ice cold at times and quite toasty at others. Scotland as I’ve often thought is in fact a massive weirdo.
My race was also a massive a weirdo!
I stood with Joanna on the start line and I felt comfy cosy. which is odd because I had 26.8 miles in my legs from a measly 7 days before. But for the first time in a long time I felt happy to be running, mainly because I wasn’t scared about how my legs would feel when I ran. I’d loved marathoning again so much I just wanted to get going. We were off before I knew it, my tunes were on and I was flying. I kept looking at my watch knowing those tracking me would be telling me to SLOW DOWN! I couldn’t! That first down hill is a dream, I ran purely on how I felt, which was bloody marvellous. I was laughing at/with myself from the outset because my pace was actually ridiculous. But what i didnt realise was it would continue to be ridiculous for quite some time.
It’s not until a good way in to the race that you get to see the Loch in all it’s glory, it was staggeringly, stupendously, insanely beautiful. I’m the biggest fan of blues and greens and everything mother nature has on offer, and I actually screamed wow on a few occasions. I kept looking at my watch every mile or so, expecting my pace to drop massively and my legs to give way, but it never really came. I adopted the strategy of running sensibly to effort level on the inclines, and throwing myself down the declines like a loonatic. It worked and made me feel pretty unstoppable. Running down hill is an art form in its self and I’ve become rather skilled at falling with style.
The heavens opened hard on a few occasions, around 11, 17 and 20 something miles. This wasn’t a shower this was an insane ‘you’ve entered a new universe and the weather gods here are pissed at you’ kind of downpour. They did not dampen my spirits, instead I laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation and took it in my stride. This really was a bit of a metaphor for this year. How insane was it that I was injured, unable to train and yet running faster than i’ve ever run. it was laughable. So I laughed.
At mile 17 you start climbing and then you continue climbing for 3 miles, this part of the race it is a soul destroying section, there is no denying that. it was the only time my pace dropped to 10 minute mileing (minus the finish – we’ll get there), but to be honest I was proud to hold that pace on climbs after running a full 17 miles faster than I ever have, but more importantly more comfortably than I ever have done before!
When you then get to the downhill at 20, you think you’d be happy right?! wrong!! you have now pissed off your body so much it hates you immensely. I really struggled to pick my pace back up after those climbs, and wondered if walking them might actually have been a better strategy to conserve some leg karma, who knows?! I was pretty pleased to get my times back down in to the 9’s, and faster than I’d run most of Berlin the week before. I knew by this point that if I ran the last 6 miles averaging 9 on the dot I could get my GFA (sub 3:45) so I aimed for that pretty hard. I felt my hamstring twinge at mile 22, ignored it for the most part, but by mile 24 I knew it wasn’t happy. I decided for the first time in that race to not be a dick head. I could push for GFA and end up injured again, unable to run and prolong the misery of this year. Or I could slow it right down, take care of my body and be back to running like a normal person every day, pushing hard for that BQ in 2019. That consolation prize still meant a PB, and it still meant running 27 minutes faster than I’d run the previous Sunday on the worlds fastest course!
As I came in to the finish line I had enough in my legs to push for the sprint, it was perfect! I was laughing and crying at the same time, hysterically!!
My body is insane, your bodies are insane! they are full of the most incredible, unbelievable, imporssible, possibles! Go after them, believe in them, and when they break your heart don’t you dare give up on them! Because in that moment, when you get it, it is so so so so so so WORTH IT!
Loch Ness Marathon is beautiful and stupid and crazy and all the things I love. Scotland is increible. Go run there!