Loch Ness

Beautiful Loch Ness,
The truth to express,
Your landscapes are lovely and gay,
Along each side of your waters, to Fort Augustus all the way,
Your scenery is romantic…
With rocks and hills gigantic…
Enough to make one frantic,
As they view thy beautiful heathery hills,
And their clear crystal rills,
And the beautiful woodlands so green,
On a fine summer day…

                                                                               William McGonagall

The words of Scottish poet William McGonagall (generally acknowledged to be the worst poet in history) about Loch Ness certainly ring true in parts. The scenery was stunning and starkly beautiful, the hills gigantic (and we felt frantic) but oh to see it on a fine summers day.

We woke up on Sunday morning – race day – to dark skies, torrential rain and extremely blustery wind. There was no question about it – we were going to get cold and wet. But we were in the far North of Scotland in October – what could we expect?

Turns out we were incredibly fortunate – we did get cold and wet waiting at the start but as soon as the gun went off and the pipers started playing the rain (almost) stopped and the wind dropped, and at one point (some 3 hours later) we did see some blue sky and sunshine.

Video courtesy of Jain Reid

Race logistics

The Loch Ness Marathon is net downhill and can’t be used for official records and PB’s. That said, it does also have a significant amount of uphill and is certainly not an easy course.

The start of the race is between Fort Augustus and Foyers on high moorland and the best part of 4,000 runners are bussed there mainly from Bught park, Inverness (the race finish), though there was the option of being picked up at other points on route. The journey takes an hour. Runners were asked to be at the bus stop from 6:45 -7:15 and buses left at 7:30. For some reason the buses waited until they were all filled then left in convoy which meant some people were sitting for 45 mins or more on the bus and then everyone arrived pretty much together at the start-point around 8:30 a.m. The race started at 10 a.m.

This was a very exposed and chaotic area with long queues for an inadequate number of toilets (we waited for an hour before giving up). To add to the confusion the toilet queues came down in front of the bag drop trucks. Tea and coffee were provided though again the queues were not clear, long and off putting.

By 10 0’clock we were extremely cold and wet despite our throw away tops and bottoms. Some runners were just in their running kits with maybe a plastic poncho or foil blanket. Although the weather cannot be controlled, it seemed to us that the start area was disappointingly disorganised for a race that has been operating for a number of years.

This was a pity because once the race was underway – to the music of 500 Miles and a piped band – the organisation was excellent. Aid stations were frequent and efficient, marshals were supportive and friendly and the finish area was well organised (though very muddy) with marquees for shelter, hot food available for all runners and concession stands for supporters.

Richmond parkrunners on tour – with Jain and Jarryd

Cam modelling her new volunteer top at Inverness parkrun

Obligatory race number shot with Nessie

Walking towards the race start – definitely in need of larger bin bags

Jain’s photo en route

The weekend and results

The chaotic race start did not dampen what turned out to be a very chilled and successful weekend’s running for us.

We stayed in one of the nicest hotels of our travels – The Ness Walk. This hotel wasn’t yet opened when we booked it and we’re sure that prices in the future will be much higher than we paid on this trip. With a welcome glass of champagne and all the comforts you might expect in a 5* property, we had the perfect antidote to the trials and tribulations of the Scottish Highlands weather.

Saturday morning saw us at Inverness parkrun for parkrun’s 15th anniversary – three laps of a grassy Bught park (although for some reason we had thought we were going to Alness parkrun 16 miles away – sorry guys) and Saturday evening we had a meal (at Bella Italia – surprisingly good) with the usual collection of old friends and new acquaintances.

We made our customary plane friends – though Steve (on the way out) was already a Comrades runner so no hard sell was needed. Instead a date to meet to run Box Hill repeats in January to kick start our 2020 training was agreed.

Inverness was small enough for everything to be walking distance and this made for a very relaxing weekend.

We did exert ourselves a bit on the race though. The course was challenging with a 16k ‘downhill’ section (which was not devoid of ‘ups’) before hitting the Loch at Foyers. After what appears to be a relatively flat section of the route, at 28Km the Strava profile shows a long up hill section and then a more or less downhill run in. Of course during the race the ‘up-hills’ appeared to be much more dominant but after the race the ‘down-hills’ certainly made themselves felt!

Despite this, we were both delighted with our times – Jacquie 3:56 and Cam 3:19 – which qualified us for our start pens at Comrades. Cam’s was her second fastest marathon time and Jacquie’s earned her a third place v60.

We would highly recommend the Loch Ness Marathon with just a few words of warning: be prepared for the start – lots of warm throw-away clothes and waterproofs; take it easy on the steep downhills; be ready for the up-hills; expect to hurt afterwards.

A marathon for brave hearts!

Strava course profile

Happy finishers with medals

FV60 3rd prize – a Quaich for a celebratory whisky!