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Baxter's Loch Ness Marathon

By Stuart Nicholas

30th September 2012

I first decided to run Baxter’s Loch Ness Marathon as something different, and to partly complete a personal ambition. This ambition is to complete a marathon at the North, South, East, West and central points of the compass, within the UK and Ireland. I’ve obviously ticked off Cornwall several times, and did a marathon as the third discipline in ‘The Outlaw’ Ironman Triathlon 2012 in Nottingham (central? ish) ... But as this technically doesn’t count, I’m fortunate to obtain a good for age space in the BUPA 2013 London Marathon... And now I’ve conquered Scotland. Next stop is either The Great Welsh or Snowdonia marathon, and then off to Ireland sometime. (i’ll bring my own potatoes!)

So on to the race report.

Matt (my brother) and I flew up to Inverness on the Friday, booked into the Hostel and then explored Inverness until time for tea (it had to be Haggis, naturally) followed by a cheeky pint of local ale (Ooops!) and back for bed. When night struck, the nightclub next to the Hostel came alive with a thick and fast bass pumping through the walls, preventing any decent sleep we were to try and get.

Saturday morning – registration, expo and Pasta Party. Unfortunately the Pasta Party was not unlimited like it was during the days of the Eden Project marathon so it was one plate of pasta, a bread roll and some tomato and basil Baxter’s soup. And a bit of trifle(!). Then we went to Loch Ness, with a light spit of rain in the air. We were stunned by the sheer size of the Loch, from the bus drop off point of Urquhart castle. After looking around a bit and eating a flapjack we decided to walk to Drumnadrochit, a small village nearby. We did so, with enough time for some customary silly photos, courtesy of Matt. We arrived early to the bus stop, so we decided to try and get to the actual water’s edge. As there was no obvious route and no map, we asked the lady in the post office... she described the route and said ‘if you don’t mind getting a wee bit muddeh, you’ll be fine’. We walked through a housing estate, some woods, to eventually a river...which we couldn’t cross as the bridge had been washed away due to recent storms. A wee bit muddy you say?! Throughout this, my hamstrings were alarmingly tight so yomping 6/7 miles may not have helped.. and running for the bus in hiking boots isn’t advisable, in full waterproofs. Sweaty!

So, back to the Hostel and showers, it was time for tea again. What do we have? Lets wander around and see what we come across. Bella Italia? Queued out the door. All you can eat Chinese? Queued out the door. Zizi’s? Queued out the door. Great... so we wandered a bit and discovered a JAMAICAN restaurant, called... you guessed it....Kool Runnings! And it was awesome. Bloody hot though. And we like our spicy food!

Then back to the Hostel for the night, before the incessant bass started again... but it was too late... BOOMBOOMBOOMBOOMBOOMBOOM!! It was going to be a long night. We eventually got some sleep around 3am, up for 6am for porridge and banana. Along with my tight hamstrings and heavy legs, lack of sleep now features. Great, i thought. Morning arrived all too soon. I walked with our two Danish Roommates (both called Andreas, which was handy! It was their second marathon, on the side of their main sport, rowing) to the buses shipping approximately 4000 eager water guzzling, energy bar eating runners to the start, near Fort Augustus.

The buses took the scenic route, which seemed a lot longer than 26 miles (as the run route was a case of ‘start here, and run back to Inverness’) as it took 90 minutes, arriving half an hour before the start. Now, for any race, pre race hydration is essential. Being stuck on a coach for 90 minutes with no toilets was a disaster. So, to spare you the detail, all the empty bottles in our rucksacks were pretty full come the end! And you wouldn’t want to drink the contents!

It was a beautiful crisp morning, perfect for admiring the scenery, and a slight chill in the air, meant the warm up was inviting. But brief!

To start things off, a traditional ‘bagpipe band’ marched through the hoard of runners, all applauding to kick things off. For some reason I felt a little emotional at this point... maybe some purple and gold company was needed. As Matt was doing the 5k fun run, I was the lone STARC member and Cornishman in the pack. No pressure there then, just enjoy it Stuart. Autopilot took over and I found myself lining up for the start, on the estimated 3 hour finish mark.

After we were all at the right places, the pack marched to the start. I found myself amongst the elites. Enjoy this Stuart, it may only happen once. The race was started with a wheeze of the bagpipes, followed by the shrill beeping of our timing chips. We were off. The course lends itself to personal bests as is mostly flat, with a few lumpy bits.

Nothing similar to the Cornwall’s infamous Brick Hill though!

I was talking to an American running in a kilt to spite his Irish father in law (long story) and my Garmin bleeped – 5:38 per mile. Time to rein it in Stu, else it’s going to be a long day in the office. The run was then undulating until mile 19.. Where the biggest hill on the route was looming. I’d fuelled well, used the right nutrition, and was running easily within my capability so I thought, go steady up the hill, and then see what you can do in the remaining six miles, try and make up some ground. Upon reaching the summit, i kept repeating ‘it’s only six miles’, you’ll soon see Inverness Castle then you’ll be home and dry. Take any drink you can, avoid cramping, ignore the pain burning in your legs and crack on.

I was soon at mile 24, feeling the pain but passing people walking and limping to the finish. I’ve been there, done that, it’s a dark place and I’ve not bought a torch along to guide me. Do NOT give in. Doing the maths I knew I was up for a PB, if I could maintain the pace. Time to dig deep.

Along a residential street, over the River Ness, and to the finish in Bught Park. I saw the lead car parked with the rolex timer on with 2.50:00 on it... BLOODY HELL!! I thought. Then looked at the finishing gantry, with 2:57 and some seconds on it, with 200 feet to go. I was a little deflated then but decided to kick and go for it anyway! Chip time of 2:57.27, 31st/4000 odd. The powers of Positive Mental Attitude works wonders. In the absence of Geraldine and the STARC flag at least.

Bizarrely, the lady who gave me my finishers’ medal had holidayed in Cornwall and stayed in Luxulyan earlier on in the summer!

On to a massage, some food, water and a doddery walk back to the Hostel with Matt (who did the fun run but it wasn’t timed unfortunately), for a bit of rest.. Then we went on the beers with the two Andreas’! And the Danes sure do know how to party.

All in all a great event, well organised, a cracking goodie bag and stunning scenery. Highly recommended. Just don’t stay next to a nightclub and run it in brand new never-raced-in-trainers!

Needless to say, after joining the ‘Jager-train’, the ‘aero-plane’- was NOT our preferred method of transport.

Thank you for tacking around three hours of your time to read this race report.

See you at the club :o)