My sixth Loch Ness Marathon had greater personal significance than those before because I was doing it for the charity SAMH which supports people in Scotland affected by mental health problems. My dad died suddenly in June, on the morning I was signing up for the marathon, so I thought it only fitting to run in his memory. In the following weeks – running helped me cope with the shock of losing my dad.
Training was initially tough as Scotland was basking in mediterranean like temperatures with the mercury regularly soaring into the late 20’s early 30’s. My regular Tuesday night’s with the Harriers helped me get quicker as I pushed myself harder. My minute per mile pace was dropping – this gave me some joy. I threw out the rule book and didn’t follow a training programme. I initially started by doing back-to-back longish runs at the weekend rather than a big long run and a rest day. I got scared and went back to a big long run then a rest day! I didn’t include any speed work contrary to other training progammes I had ever followed. I also replaced some runs with hill-walking towards the end confident I had bagged the miles and it was okay to go and bag mountains instead. I had done all I could – it was race day.
As the busses pulled away from Inverness it was clear and cold with mist swirling around the tree lined hills above Loch Ness. There was the usual nervous chatter onboard as we approached the moor high above Loch Ness at Whitebridge where the race starts. I had chummed up with my friend Kevin from Glasgow and in an unprecedented move for me we ran together. I had a feeling it wouldn’t stay like that and at about mile 6 he was off. I tried not to be mentally defeated and just thought “keep it steady, its very early yet.”
Later the sun came out and I felt good especially after a couple of cups of the isotonic drink that was being handed out by the cheery volunteers at regular intervals. As we approached Dores the heavens opened and I could feel my SAMH t-shirt sticking to my skin as the rain poured. It wasn’t to last, thankfully. I saw my mum and Aunty at Dores before they saw me and stopped for a quick chat before the horror hill. I just kept things really slow – I couldn’t believe how many people were walking – the vast majority. The sun came out again and the view down the loch was breathtaking.
The next 6 miles were probably the toughest as my thighs burned in pain but I just kept saying to myself “pain is only temporary”, although I can testify a day after as I write this, that’s NOT the case. Thankfully the initial approach to the outskirts of Inverness is a lovely dowhill so I was keeping my minute per mile pace in the 8 minutes region. I could see Kevin in the distance – I had caught up with him! This gave me a focus as he looked like he was slowing, “maybe, I could catch him!” The crowds were out as I approached the city centre, cheering and smiling and shouting words of encouragement, it made all the difference as I gritted my teeth, kept checking my watch doing the mental arithmetic. I had pretty much worked out with 5 miles to go I could do it under 4 hours, but, there’s still doubt. Then, I was confident I could practically walk the last mile and would still get under 4, but there was no way I was going to do that!
I have never been so relieved to get over that finish line. The emotion of it all got to me and the tears came, a fellow runner gave me a hug and told me she felt like crying too. I pulled myself together. Caught up with Kevin who had came in 2 minutes earlier. Thoroughly delighted to have ran a PB for the Loch Ness course at 03:53:15 and all for a great cause.
1st Male: Mohammad Abu-Rezeq, Altrincham & District AC 2:22:56
1st Female: Sheena Logan, Fife AC 2:51:11