Photo shows thousands of runners on Old Military Road ready to begin the marathon
Marathon

Debbie’s Loch Ness Marathon Race Report – 23/-9/2018

The Loch Ness marathon was a bit of an afterthought on my race calendar. After struggling the last few miles at the Stirling Marathon, I wondered if my Edinburgh Ultra run in October might be a bit ambitious. One way to know for sure was to sign up for a long-distance event a short while before, as a sort of dress rehearsal so to speak. When I’d been picking races at the start of the year, Loch Ness had been on the shortlist, and when I decided I needed a practice run before the Ultra, it seemed the perfect choice.

I felt quite well prepared. I made a point to be more adventurous with my running routes and had trained on all kinds of terrain. I’d even gotten myself a running vest backpack hybrid thing (anyone know the official name for these?) so I could get used to running with supplies on my back. Some of the runs were a little on the short side and the most I made it to was 17 miles in training, but the long runs had gone well and with three marathons behind me, I was quietly confident I would sail through slowly but steadily.

Photo shows Debbie standing in front of an inflatable dinosaur
Debbie meets Nessie

And then of course, things started going wrong. Two-thirds of my support crew bailed for work reasons, and our initial plans to bring the dogs with us turned into a bit of a logistical nightmare. Not only that, but the week before race day I started feeling a bit nauseous. And by a bit nauseous I mean I couldn’t eat anything (anyone who knows me personally will tell you this is very out of character) and despite eating no food I was somehow puking my guts out anyway. We initially blamed it on the take-away I’d eaten on the Saturday night, but as the symptoms persisted and I had to take time off work we eventually concluded it might be some sort of stomach bug.

Meanwhile, I was receiving emails from Loch Ness with all my race day info and the generic advice to consider withdrawing if you had experienced any health issues or illnesses close to race day. I had a quick look, and with no real deferment or money back options, I decided I’d be getting my money’s worth one way or another! I feel this needs a disclaimer: Please don’t run stupidly long distances if you’re not feeling well. Not only will it hurt, it will hurt more than usual, for much much longer.

Admittedly, it would look pretty dodgy if I took the whole week off work and then ran a marathon on the Sunday. So I tentatively made it back to work on Thursday even though I still didn’t have much of an appetite and was surviving on a bland diet of crackers and super thinly-spread peanut butter sandwiches. Any hopes of carb-loading on the build-up to the event were lost, although I did lose 3 lbs in weight. I figured the lighter load to carry would have to compensate for my lack of fuelling.

By Friday I was almost eating like a normal human being, and on the Saturday my mum and I piled into the car with the two dogs to pick up Jenny, my cousin and wonderful last-minute addition to the support crew. We made it to registration at about 4:30 pm, and I ran in to grab my number and timing chip before quickly exploring the expo.

Photo shows Debbie and Jenny looking happy in front of a smaller inflatable dinosaur
Debbie and Jenny – part of her support crew

 

While the place had looked almost abandoned on the outside, there was a totally different atmosphere going on the inside the tent. Inside there was live music and hundreds of people all exploring the various running stalls. Only the reminder that I had just spent a lot of money on a shiny new pair of trail shoes kept me from looking at anything too closely.

I headed out to take some photos with the ‘giant-ass grey dinosaur’ inflatable, that Jenny bemusedly informed me was probably supposed to be Nessie, and it was there we managed to quickly catch up with Pauline (who has also written a race report which you can find here). She was excited that Charlotte had chosen to pace for her, and was hoping for a minimum of sub-4 hours or even better. As someone still trying to get sub-6, this was mind boggling to me as a goal for someone’s very first marathon. We wished each other good luck and made vague plans to try and meet at the start line before heading to our respective hotels.

By sheer luck, the room we were staying in was at Fort Augustus, which meant the bus to the start line wouldn’t be leaving until 8:40 compared to the super early start of 7:15 for those staying in Inverness. As I get travel sick and have a pretty strict pre-race breakfasting strategy, this worked out amazingly well, as I had a much shorter journey to the start line than the average runner that day.

In between engaging in chatter on the bus, I quickly noticed that we were going up. A lot. I had been warned about a hill at mile 18, but no one had really described the route as particularly hilly so I sort of assumed that a lot of it would thus be going downhill. I was right. Sort of.

The start line was completely surreal. We disembarked up a mountain in the middle of nowhere, and if not for the other 50 busses parked along the road I would have assumed we were in the wrong place. There were some low-lying clouds and complete wilderness for as far as the eye could see, the view only ruined by the backs of several runners admiring the view from deep inside the hedges.

It took my innocent little mind far too long to realise they were peeing, mostly when it occurred to me that there was no way one gentleman was getting much of a view standing with a tree right in front of him. And there was a lot of runners who resorted to the bushes, to the point I dreaded to think what the toilet queue would be like.

Photo shows people leaving the coach in the middle of nowhere
Just off the bus

 

I couldn’t even see the start line, but there was a massive gathering of runners further down the road so I followed the crowd until the line of busses ended and I found a startingly long queue. I assumed it was the loo queue, but thankfully took the notion to check.

‘Nope, this is for tea and coffee.’

Tea and coffee? At a race start? In the middle of bloody nowhere? This was a new one for me and I was simultaneously impressed by the organisation and confused by the concept and logistics. I shrugged it off and tried to wiggle my way through the groups of runners until I found another queue. The problem was I couldn’t find the end of it.

The loo queue extended well passed the baggage drop area, to the point that it seemed they were having difficulty getting the bags checked in due to the other queue being in the way. There was music and the guy on the mic was advising everyone to get the bags dropped off first before joining the toilet queue. The bag drop would be closing first and there was no way anyone wanted to be lugging around a rucksack for 26 miles. I was super glad that I had only brought the essentials with me and clambered off the path into the heather to get around the mass of runners congregating at the bag drop.

Big mistake.

What looked like heather and grass was actually covering a small burn, and my left foot was fully submerged and the right one splashed. Wet socks and I hadn’t even started yet. Disaster!

Photo shows Debbie looking slightly apprehensive before the marathon.
Debbie looking relieved to be off the bus

 

By the time I found the end of the toilet queue, I decided it wasn’t worth it. There were toilets along the course, and my stomach and bladder had been surprisingly cooperative considering the hell they’d given me earlier in the week. I chose not to look a gift horse in the mouth and squelched my way to the runners gathering at the start.

I felt a stone in my sodden shoe and figured I should get it out before the race started, and it was there I found a tiny little beastie trapped between my shoe upper and my sock. A tick! I’d only spent 30 seconds in the heather and I’d found a bloody tick. I launched the beastie into the distance before it could bite me (I’m renowned for my terrible throwing, so probably a metre away at best) and thanked the little stone in my shoe from saving me from Lyme disease before launching that away too. Phew. One disaster, at least, had been averted.

After that I kept as far away from the grassy side of the road as possible, accidentally getting in the way of all the faster runners heading toward the start. This was when I saw some amazing fancy dress, including a giant fluffy elephant and someone with a man-sized squirrel tail. Congrats to the fancy dressers who decided to add an extra layer of difficulty onto their marathon! I am in awe.

I checked my mobile and saw I had no service, so had little hopes of meeting Pauline before the start like we’d planned, but I kept my eyes peeled just in case. Then she suddenly appeared in front of me with barely ten minutes to go, smiling but a little frantic. She’d lost her pacer, Charlotte, somewhere in the crowd and was frantically looking for her. I was about as useful as a chocolate teapot and could only wish her luck and a hug before she ducked back into the crowd.

Strava took a few attempts to find any GPS, but I managed to get it going just in time for the 3 2 1, go! It took me about 4 minutes to get over the line, so I got to enjoy many choruses of the Proclaimer’s song ‘500 miles’ that they had on repeat. The first section swerved delightfully downhill in such a way I was mightily tempted to pick up speed. But I was thinking of my Ultra, and saving energy until later, and maybe even a sub-6 if I could hold a steady pace. I let myself be overtaken by the masses, and to my frustration, still finished the first mile too quickly in 11 and a half minutes. That was closer to half marathon pace, and I had a good deal further to go.

People getting changed in the heather near the baggage truck, the queue for the portaloos extended back well beyond it
People getting changed in the heather near the baggage truck, the queue for the portaloos extended back well beyond it

 

Mile 2 flattened out a little, with a few undulations here and there but nothing noteworthy, and I hit it after 24 minutes. Now that was more like it! Thirteen-minute miles were perfect for my plan to go steady for as long as I could, and if I could keep them up over the duration of the race with just an occasional slip up, sub-6 was in the bag.

Of course this was only mile 2, and due to illness I hadn’t ran in over a week. I’d planned to taper with an occasional short run but I hadn’t been in any state for the running part. After almost a week cooped up in bed, my lungs felt a bit raw in the fresh air. I also felt a little niggle in my right hip, which had never been an issue until then. I figured everything would loosen up eventually and kept on plodding.

At mile 2 and a half I was surprised to find civilisation in the form of Whitebridge. I had thought the route was almost entirely countryside so I was very pleased to see the occasional supporter out to cheer us on. And it was in Whitebridge I came across the one thing I had to stop and take a photo of. It wasn’t a spectacular view, or the Loch Ness Monster. It was the street sign to Thain Road. Being a Thain, the photo was completely necessary. I tried to make it a selfie, but between the angle and my front-facing camera turning the text backwards, it was taking far too much time and I had to settle for a photo of just the sign. Whitebridge also, unsurprisingly, had some lovely looking bridges with equally lovely views. Sadly my name wasn’t on any of the bridges, thus there are no photos. Google away if you’re interested!

Photo shows a picture of Thain Road in Whitebridge
This was right up Debbie’s Street!

 

Coming out of Whitebridge we hit the first water station at mile 3. I’d just bought new running bottles and they were larger and heavier than I was used to (hadn’t had a chance to test them like I’d hoped either, it took me forever to work out how to open the straws!), so I skipped the water bottle in favour of using my own supplies to lessen the weight of my pack. The single portaloo at the water station had a queue five runners deep, so I figured I would try my luck at the next one.

Mile 4 passed in a 13-minute blur of gorgeous scenery, and mile 5 was equally spectacular. I don’t think there was a single view that couldn’t be photographed and turned into a postcard. Mile 5 had the first big hill though, and I hadn’t been warned about this one. I started running it, but quickly realised I should save my energy and trudged up it rather reluctantly, not happy about changing my steady gait.

I met a lovely lady on the uphill, but she had lost her group and was now running solo. It was her first marathon (and last, so she claimed), and she whooped on the downhill and sped off before I could warn her not to get too carried away on the downward slopes. Great fun in the short-term, havoc on the quads in the long term. I’m assuming she must have known what she was doing though, since I never managed to catch up to her again along the route.

Mile five swooped down and then back up again for mile 6, with an energy station and Clif gels available at the top. Or there should have been anyway. By the time I arrived, they had just run out, and I heard one of the volunteers huff a frustrated ‘it’s the ones at the back that need them most!’ I heartily agreed on behalf of those behind me, but thankfully it made very little difference to me as I hadn’t trained with Clif gels and there was no way I would be experimenting with them on race day. My nutritional strategy du jour involved 3 cereal bars that I would be reluctantly nibbling away at like a lethargic guinea pig.

The next water station came up soon after and thankfully there were public toilets and portaloos available. Everyone was queueing up for the public toilets since they had appeared first, so I didn’t have to queue at all for the portaloo! Several minutes potentially saved. Score! I was rather pleased with myself, and even with my loo break all was going according to plan.

Time to head for the baggage truck?
The walk from the bus to the Start. Look at that picture postcard scenery!

 

At mile 7 the road eventually drew alongside Loch Ness so we could see it up close. Again, many wonderful photo opportunities missed, but I did see a few runners stopping for a quick snapshot or a selfie. The sun was shining but it was a little brisk with some cloud cover – perfect race conditions for me. But all those little ups and downs along the course were starting to accumulate in my quads, and my niggly hip had spread down to my knee. Despite having been perfectly fine during training, it seemed my right IT band had decided that now was the time to file a complaint. I gave it a stern talking to, not at all impressed since I’d even remembered to stretch and foam roll the damn thing for a change. Maybe that was the problem?

My legs were getting achy at mile 8 despite going deliberately slow and I was starting to get worried. I felt like I should be at the half way point before feeling this sore, but mile 8 was practically a third of the way there, and I could handle another two-thirds, surely? (This is how I convince myself to run long distances, keep doing random maths until the distance seems reasonable).

Still, I was needing a pick-me-up, and when I happened across the electrolyte station just after mile 8 I quickly weighed up whether to try it or not. I hadn’t really trained with electrolyte drinks before, and with my notorious stomach, I didn’t want to do anything to upset it. Just as I was passing the table, a random study I’d read in Runner’s World magazine came to mind about athletes getting the same benefits from sports drinks by swishing them around in their mouths rather than drinking them. Feeling very clever, I rinsed my mouth out like I was at the dentist and instantly felt a little bit more energised. Whether it was a placebo effect or not, I was happy and scarpered on.

It was about this point I fell into pace with an elderly gentleman. We’d been doing some leapfrog overtaking for the last few miles, but we were oddly in sync for mile 8 and got to chatting. Turns out, he’d come all the way from Japan, and after a few days of golfing in St Andrews and around Loch Ness, he was running the marathon. I was in awe of his itinerary, and that was before we got to chatting about previous races. I asked if this was his first marathon, since it seemed most of the people I’d chatted to that day were attempting their firsts. Nope, it was his first time in Loch Ness, but he’d done Dublin last year, and London, and a few others. I asked how many marathons he’d done, and he smiled bashfully and said “around 350”.

AROUND 350! Let that rattle in your head for a bit. Give it a moment to sink in. That would be the equivalent of running a marathon every weekend for about 7 years. That’s over 9000 miles of just running marathons! (I worked out the 7-year thing while I was running, the 9000 miles fact required a calculator post-race). I was in awe of his experience, and my previous three marathons felt paltry in comparison. I admitted I was hoping to get under 6 hours, but was looking more at 6:20-6:30. He laughed and said he was on track for 7 hours.

And that’s when it dawned on me. If he was on track for 7 hours and I was running with him…I wasn’t going to be anywhere near my finishing time! He stopped to walk just after we reached Inverfarigaig (can any locals tell me how on earth to pronounce this?), and we went our separate ways as I was determined to make up some time. I passed the water station just before the 10-mile mark and continued on as steadily as my tightening IT band would allow.

Photo shows thousands of runners on Old Military Road ready to begin the marathon
Lining up at the start

 

The sky had been getting a bit darker, but I didn’t think anything of it until the heavens opened up quite suddenly. The runners around me started pulling jackets out of nowhere, but I deduced it would be a quick shower and there wasn’t much need. The rain was freezing, but I decided an ice-bath on the go would probably be good for sore muscles and kept on plodding. One runner had even sought shelter in the trees and quickly overtook again when the shower finally passed.

I must have looked a very soggy and sorry state, as a marshal on a bike checked up on me as the rain finally pattered to a stop. I assured him I had a waterproof in my vest bag, I was just too stubborn to haul it out just yet. Incidentally, the only reason I had the waterproof was because I knew it was part of the mandatory kit list for my Ultra run and I wanted to get used to lugging it around. They might be on to something with that mandatory kit list because I was damn happy to have it later!

Things took a turn for the worse around mile 11. My energy had waned and I needed to walk for a bit. I wished I was at mile 20, because that was precisely the point I had hoped to hit the wall, should I have to hit it at all.  I tried to walk, run, repeat, like I had learned from Linda in the latter stages of Stirling, but I was pretty awful at counting intervals so I made myself run to the next puddle, or to the next passing place sign, or that one funky looking tree branch in particular. It was at this point I kind of lost my sense of wonder at the scenery. I’m sure it was still very nice, but I wasn’t appreciating it very much when I was using it for running cues.

Mile 12 passed in much the same way, and my Japanese friend finally overtook me for good. I tried to keep him in sight, but my legs were dead and I was starting to feel a bit queasy. I was beginning to wonder whether it had been a good idea to try running this so soon after being ill. One of the marshal vehicles overtook, and I considered flagging it down for half a second before I realised I’d have to suffer a very long and hilly drive back to Inverness. Apparently, my aversion to driving on country roads is stronger than my aversion to running 14 miles. Good to know.

Photo shows Debbie against the beautiful backdrop of the Start area
Debbie against the beautiful backdrop of the Start area

 

The sign for mile 13 was truly a welcome sight, especially with my morale at an all time low. I was half way! I was heading home! It might have been my longest half marathon time ever at 3 hours and 7 minutes but I convinced myself it was only 3 hours to go if I kept to my steady pace.

Of course, the steady pace was a thing of the past but I was very deliberately and carefully keeping myself in denial at this point with my bad and heavily biased math. I’d also been doing a lot of reading about how mindset can affect perceived difficulty, so I was using every trick in my admittedly small arsenal. I wasn’t nervous, just super excited. And look at me, still running a little after 14 miles. So strong! I haven’t puked once yet, super impressive!

Yeah, I’m pretty sure I was reeking of desperation at this point.

I wasn’t the only one. It was around this point I encountered a lady who was also having a tough time. She sniffled and apologised for having a cry, but her stomach was aching and she was struggling. I felt super sympathetic but had nothing to offer in the way of advice. If it was anything like my stomach felt in Stirling, the only way to make it feel better was to finish. She wanted to FaceTime her daughter, but of course wasn’t getting any signal out in the middle of nowhere. I really hope she finished okay!

I staggered into a jog for a few minutes just in time for the cycling marshal to loop back around and he said ‘you’ve got a good rhythm going, keep it up!’. I gave him a big thumbs up and smile until he rounded the next corner and I could ease into a walk again. I wondered if he would hear me if I threw up against the next tree.

Thankfully, the nausea never came to anything, and with the sky threatening to open up again I stopped at the electrolyte station at mile 15 to get my waterproof out my bag and put it on. One volunteer was particularly lovely, and helped me get my arms in the armholes and my bag back on my back since my hands were freezing. I also came up with a bright idea. I had two water bottles that were just a bit too large, and the electrolytes from earlier had given me a boost. So I popped the electrolytes into one half empty bottle, diluting them even further for my stomach, but also letting me drink them whenever I wanted! I spared myself further stomach upset by putting the lid on wrong, and letting some of the electrolytes drip all over the road for a few hundred meters.

Photo shows Debbie at the Start area before everyone started lining up to race
Debbie at the Start area before everyone started lining up to race

 

Physically I felt awful, but I gave myself a major pat on the back for strategic improv. It was just too bad I couldn’t magically strategise myself to the finish in a way that would still get me my medal.

Mile 16 was a bit of a boost, since that meant less than ten miles to go! I’d run tonnes of ten milers! It was so in the bag! And the course seemed a lot less undulating, so my quads were grateful for the break. Just after the 17-mile mark I hit a water station, and fumbled to try and refill my second water bottle. I was completely confused why it was so difficult, until I glanced at my left hand and found it had swollen up like a balloon entirely of its own volition. I’ve had minor swelling in my hands while running before, but this was a whole new kettle of fish. Oddly, the right hand was fine.

I caught up to a fellow runner and introduced myself with something along the lines of ‘look at my giant balloon hand!’

She gave me a confused look, and then reassured me her hands had swollen up a little too. It was an odd beginning to a beautiful friendship that would span over miles 17 and 18. My new friend had a mighty fast power walk going on, and I elected not to jog for a while so we could keep pace and chat. This was her second marathon, but her first had been in France (she was French), and involved a lot of wine-tasting and good food on the way around some vineyards. I’d heard of this marathon before, and while it sounds wonderful I think it will have to remain a distant dream for me and my volatile stomach.

I felt totally spoiled with the number of water, fuel and electrolyte stations on the way around (apart from a strange dearth of them between miles 10 and 13), not to mention the option of tea and coffee at the start, but my new friend spoke wistfully of orange slices and fancy foods and 14 wine-tasting stations in her previous marathon. The half-munched 87 calorie cereal bar I was still working my way through just seemed a bit lacking after that but I dutifully nibbled on.

I had been warned of the hill at mile 18, and at first I wasn’t much impressed. My legs were sore, but we stomped up it easily enough. Alas, it was at the first summit that me and my new friend had to part ways, as she needed to rest for a bit and I refused to stop for fear of not getting started again. I started jogging on the flattish bits, up over another small hill to what I thought was the top, only to realise the hill wasn’t finished. In fact it got steeper. And bigger. I salute anyone who managed to run up that hill. Had the race started at the bottom, I still doubt I would have been able to run up that hill. If you can call it a hill. Really, it was a stack of smaller little hills, all piled together to create one massive leg cramping monstrosity.

Photo shows a beautiful highland scene of heather and mist
Seriously, that start area was heavenly, and draped in quintessential highland mist

 

The little cheerful ‘it’s all downhill from here, sort of!’ sign after 19 was both uplifting and a little infuriating. My legs were aching and I was naturally suspicious. I also knew that, downhill or not, I was about to hit the hardest part of the race and I’d already had a pretty rough time of things so far.

I trotted where I could, playing my little game of running to the next thing of interest until I hit mile 20. Six miles to go! That was basically a 10k, but my mind seemed to shy away from the idea of 10K, so I reframed it as two little 5ks in my head and for some reason this seemed far more doable. Two 5ks to go!

It was at this point I was re-overtaken by a chirpy American lady (it was a super multi-cultural field running that day, it was amazing!) with some sage advice. ‘I figure it hurts either way, might as well go for it!’ And off she ran into the distance, powered by positivity and some magical second wind that had eluded me thus far.

Her logic was sound, so I followed along the best I could until the next electrolyte station, where I gave up all pretences of diluting drinks when the volunteer let me pour about 3 cups’ worth of electrolytes straight from the vat into my bottle. I didn’t even care if I threw up anymore, if it helped me get there, I’d take it. And I would be getting there come hell or high water. Personal bests might have been flung out the window but stony determination had set in. A 5k had never beaten me before, and two of them wouldn’t either!

So I picked up the pace and overtook some people who had been forced to walk… And then they overtook me again, because between my naturally slow walking pace and my determined spurts of jogging, I was averaging approximately walking pace. It turns out heroic determination will not miraculously return your legs to pre-race fitness. Damn.

I convinced myself it didn’t matter, and found a road marking for mile 22 even though there was no sign posted. No matter, I’d take it. Besides, there was a sign just further along the road that was probably it.

The sign said 4km. I was very confused.

It took me another half-mile before my tired brain realised we had joined up with the 10km race route. How exciting, I could now count down to the finish in kilometres! I love kilometres, they happen so much quicker than miles.

Mile 23 was a sight for sore eyes (5km to go!) and all of a sudden, we were out of the trees and in Inverness. A supermarket! A roundabout! Civilisation! I could almost taste the finish. But the roads had started to open again, and it took a few marshals to slow the traffic and direct me around the roundabout and onto the next road. I eeped whenever there was no pavement and the cars got a bit too close for comfort. I made myself small and jumped into the verge more than a few times whenever I saw a traffic situation developing.

The water and fuel stations on mile 23 were ignored as I managed a shuffling jog downhill and towards the centre, finally on pavement and feeling excited. Thanks to registration the day before, I had a vague idea what the finish area was like, and the closer I got to the centre and the banks of the River Ness the more optimistic I felt. And then I saw it. A runner, complete with medal, limping on the other side of the road. I was close!

Photo shows Debbie with her finishers medal
Debbie with her finishers medal. Her hand no longer looks like a balloon

 

Mile 24 passed in a blur of slow-paced excitement, and things were looking incredibly familiar as I hit mile 25. It was the city centre! There was the river! And the footbridge! And the finish line was just on the other side. The only problem was, with the roads open and my fellow runners lost in the crowds on the pavement, I hadn’t a clue where to go. I found someone in a high-vis jacket and asked ‘across the footbridge?’ as I jogged passed, and he nodded. Then I grew suspicious when a second later I heard him ask his buddy, ‘wait, was that a runner?’

I was not instilled with confidence, but thankfully found another marshal a little further along. Nope, it wasn’t the footbridge. He looked apologetic as he explained I had to go all the way up to the road bridge before doubling back on myself to get to the finish. Under normal circumstances, I’d have been a bit huffy about double backing on myself, but that didn’t really compute at this point. The finish was close, but the road bridge came first. Made sense. At least the road bridge was in sight. I’d make it.

I felt like I was running entirely on my own, weaving in between tourists with suitcases and people with shopping bags, but before long I was over the bridge and on the road home. There were runners everywhere, all having already finished and sporting their medals. And all with equally good news: I was super close! Not long now. Some were congratulating me, even though I hadn’t finished yet! I made sure to congratulate them too.

I even encountered a familiar face. Having finished his race and walking back, I saw the elderly Japanese gentleman again and gave him a big cheer and a wave. I don’t speak Japanese, but I’m pretty sure his friend asked who the hell that crazy girl was waving excitedly while hobbling at a snail-pace. After spotting him, I checked my watch and sure enough, it was just over 7 hours. His pacing skills are clearly far more developed than mine.

I spotted the marshals close to the finish and had a walk break before I attempted my final sprint. A passing finisher laughed at me and said ‘really?’. Yes, really. I needed all my energy to make my sprint finish look good. Jenny would undoubtedly be taking a video!

So I rounded the corner as though I’d been running for the entirety of the time and gave my best attempt at a sprint finish. The announcer called out ‘Here comes, Deborah. Such an inspiration!’ and Jenny’s video shows my confused face as I suddenly remembered that I’d had to sign up with the name on my ID rather than Debbie. A few spectators started cheering for Deborah and I tried not to seem too bemused as I crossed the finish line. One day, I hope they’ll let me sign up as Debbie, even if it’s only for the announcements.

Photo shows Debbies Bib number, t-shirt and well-deserved medal
Bib number, t-shirt and well-deserved medal

 

My chip time was a hefty 7:07:24. My longest marathon to date. A marathon of a marathon. A lovely lady placed a medal around my neck and directed me to the goody bags. They even had small sized t-shirts left! Strangely, there was a single plastic fold-out seat left standing on its own in the middle of the park just near the finish, far away from any other seating. I fell upon it with all the grace of a beached whale, and found the seat was facing toward the massage tent. The tent was still open! Usually it’s closed by the time I get there. A massage sounded wonderful!

And before my very eyes, one wall of the massage tent was hauled down with terrifying efficiency. Oh well. So close, maybe next time.

But they did still have food for the runners, and my support crew kept my seat warm for me while I limped out of the tent with some hot soup and a plate of chilli and rice. The chilli was cold, but for once I was somehow managing to eat after the race, and I was hungry enough not to be picky. It was the best thing I’d ever tasted.

Loch Ness was certainly not my best race. For a supposed practice run, it turned into a bit of a disaster in its own right. Still, I’d like to think I raced the best I could on the day, and that it was the circumstances preceding the race that made me hit the wall so early. I plan to do a few 15+ mile training runs before the Ultra just in case my illness can’t be blamed entirely.

In terms of elevation, the course really is mostly downhill, but the undulating periods in between make it seem as hilly as Nessie’s back when running it. Do not be fooled, it might be downhill but it isn’t a fast course. If you manage a PB there, I heavily suspect you’ll manage an even better time on a flatter course with the same level of fitness.

On the other hand, my nutrition was better. I managed to keep all my food down, and even eat straight after finishing! The reduced pace might have helped with this, but I’m still counting it as a win and will stick to the cereal bars for the time being, perhaps with the addition of a super diluted electrolyte tab.

It was my hardest run to date and in hindsight I probably shouldn’t have even tried. But sitting on my little plastic throne as the event village was torn down around me, my shiny new medal around my neck and plate of cold chilli in my hand, I knew it was totally worth it.

 

 

 

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  1. […] her first marathon, and in a great time. Debbie will be sharing her experience of Loch Ness in her own blog post later this week. A few Footers were also participating, with Chris getting his best marathon time in 3 […]

  2. Gary Fiddes says:

    Well Deborah (lol !!) what a great read. Thank you for taking the time to blog it. Have been thinking about this race for years and after reading this am off to sign up for next year !

    Sounds like you had fun even if you didn’t hit your target. Hope your feeling better now and the Ultra training is coming along as you hope. Good luck

  3. […] less horrifying than I do.    For a different perspective on the same event, she also published a guest post from Debbie Thain.  You may remember Debbie from our adventures in Watch the […]

  4. Thanks for posting, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your race story. Good luck on the next one!

  5. […] just behind me. Stuart and Charlotte also came over for a chat with us. I also managed to find Debbie prior to the race start. She came and joined us on the front row, but headed towards the back when […]

  6. […] lot of people can do. As the weeks rolled on, I think 5 or 6 Brechin Road Runners signed up for the Loch Ness Marathon and they said it was such a good marathon to enter. They were trying to persuade me to sign up too, […]

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