Sue and I drove up to Newtonmore on Friday after returning Isabella to her home in Didsbury. Fish and chips in Pitlochry went down well, and our lateness meant that we avoided earlier road closures.
On Saturday morning we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before heading to Aviemore for the parkrun on which I've already reported.
After that we had to go to Inverness to collect my race number, incorporating a timing chip, for the following day's marathon.
By late morning, it seemed that very few numbers had been collected, though it looked busier later, pictured below, before we left.
Tables were laid out for Sunday's finishers to enjoy their cups of Baxters soup, for which a voucher was handed out after we left the 'shopping' area, from which Sue came away with some garish new Saucony running shoes.
Covid seems currently to be being taken more seriously in Scotland than it is here in Manchester. A fair number of people continue to wear masks, and here at the Festival of Running there are open spaces with seating, where visitors can sit in comfort under cover in the fresh air.
The River Ness was quite high.
Baxters' scuba diving team had been busy in the loch and had passed the result of their dredging with a large net to their taxidermy department. That's what we were told, anyway.
We inspected the finish. Maybe the timing of 10:57:01 was left over from last year!
Saturday afternoon - we returned to the Balavil Hotel in Newtonmore for the TGO Challengers' autumn reunion. The meal was attended by about forty Challengers, present, past and future, and their spouses/partners. A lovely evening, and great to catch up with people even if we couldn't get into the hills with them due to my marathon commitment. Well done and thanks to Kirsten Paterson for organising the reunion.
When I enrolled for this marathon, I thought Sue would be able to drive me to Fort Augustus and drop me off shortly before the 10am start. I was disappointed when that appeared impractical, though I now realise we might have been able to sort out some alternative logistics - but there was no way of avoiding a long wait at the start.
So, Sunday morning arrived with a 5:40 alarm and a departure from Newtonmore at 6am. Sue dropped me off in Inverness at 7am, just a short walk from the buses that would take everyone to the start. She went off to climb Ben Wyvis and had a nice day out, benefiting from an 8:30 start for her walk.
The bus to which I was directed left Inverness in a convoy at 7:30, arriving at the start of the marathon near Fort Augustus at 8:45. I thought my main encumbrance would be the cold that I seemed to have developed, but during this bus journey I realised that was the least of my nuisances. I needed a pee. I'd not taken my daily medicine, and I'd taken the spare tablets out of my bum bag. To cut the story short, this meant I needed to have a pee stop at frequent intervals. Not possible on a bus with no toilet, but relatively easy on the marathon route to 'dive into the bushes' every 5km (3 miles) or so. What a faux pas though! And I had stomach ache - just during the run, not before, not afterwards,
The start was at 10:00. There were 44 portaloos for nearly 3000 participants. We were on the top of a moor, so it wasn't exactly warm. The best thing to do was to huddle with others in the 200 metre queue for the portaloos, enjoy a brief period of calm and warmth when in the portaloo, then exit and (in my case) join the queue again.
You could leave a bag with clothes to be taken to the finish, but this was intended for a change of clothes at the finish. I didn't need that, as I had spare clothes (not needed at all) in the car with Sue.
Whilst I cocked up with medication, I got my kit spot on. Long sleeved and short sleeved t-shirts and shorts to run in, and an old fleece and old tracksuit bottoms for the long wait before the start, with a full set of lightweight waterproofs on top. Gloves, buff and cap as well. That meant I stayed warm.
Eventually 10am arrived and people started to move forward, discarding their old clothes used to keep warm, to be collected and donated to charities. The next two pictures were taken from the same point after the start, but before those of us at the back could actually see the start.
There wern't many people behind me, as I discarded the old fleece and tracky bottoms and tied my waterproofs around my waist together with a bum bag full of snacks that I hardly touched. None of these was an annoying encumbrance, and the waterproofs would have been needed if the predicted showers had arrived..
The start eventually drew closer, and I had to keep moving to avoid being hassled from behind by the 'blood wagon'.
Just beyond the start, a troop of pipers played on. I should have taken a picture, but I was afraid of being run down by a following ambulance, so here's a picture from the past.
Given that I'd done no training and was planning to stick to a modest 8 minute per kilometre pace, starting at the back was a good idea. The first few km were mainly downhill and in order to keep to schedule I had to walk more than run. This strategy was partly because I didn't want last year's plantar fasciitis to recur, and partly to retain some energy for later.
Even by the 1 Mile mark (below), the field where I was had spread out nicely.
On we went, jogging and walking at about 8 mins per km pace. After 6 or 7 km I realised that the waterproof socks I'd chosen to run in were a bit too thick, and I could detect that the top of one toe had lost a layer of skin. Next to the tub of vaseline (an essential item for marathon runners) in my pocket were some running socks. It was worth stopping for a couple of minutes to change into these, after which my feet behaved in exemplary fashion. Gloves and buff were stashed in pockets at this point.
I reached half way in about 2 hours 50 minutes - about half an hour after the winner had gone through the finish. That was pretty much spot on my 8 min/km pace, but I lost the ability to calculate my pace after this due to increasingly complicated arithmetic and unscheduled delays due to the frequent dashes to the woods or queuing for portaloos. Anyway the pacing strategy seemed to have worked as I didn't feel too tired and could continue at the same pace apart from the stops, albeit jogging for a higher proportion of the time than earlier.
After starting at around 300 metres above sea level, the course slowly descended on a closed road to the lochside, with good views, though today was overcast and dull. What wind there was must have been behind us, as I didn't notice any - in fact, conditions were excellent for running. It's a shame that I lost about 10 minutes due to frequent visits to the woods.
There were quite frequent water stations, but I didn't drink very much, nor did I eat more than a segment of a Bounty chocolate bar and a few jelly babies. I did take advantage of a couple of gels that were available.
Unusually, I've bought some of the pictures taken by official photographers. Here's one of them, in which I'm quite clearly just out for a stroll!
There were some American ladies going at my pace. They kept stopping to take photos.
Around now I was with an elderly chap and his partner who were running in memory of his mate, Peter Connolly, who died from a brain tumour. It's amazing how open you can be about medical issues with complete strangers who you'll never meet again. It
pissed passed the time; and I learnt about some elite runner techniques that might have saved me some time!
This field of alpaca fascinated the Americans.
I may just about be running in this one!
As we progressed, we were coned onto the left side of the road, leaving the other side for marshalls, and for emergency vehicles to deal with those who couldn't hack it. We got quite spread out around Aldourie, from where a 100 metre ascent (out of a total of around 300 metres on the gently undulating course) slowed most folk down to a modest walking pace. I passed quite a few on this hill as I was still comfortable at a fast walk/slow jog.
Eventually we dropped down to the environs of Inverness, where a few folk had come out to cheer the runners, most of whom had now gone past, so many spectators may have gone home by the time I got to them. There had been folk cheering us on through the villages along the route, but support of that nature was minimal compared with a city marathon.
Shortly before the finish I sped up and completed the last couple of km pretty quickly, at a normal running pace (5 mins/km at the end).
Sue was at the final corner, having spotted my garb from some way off, and was ready to run ahead and take a picture at the finish. But she couldn't keep up, and had to make do with a 'post race with medal' picture, before I went to enjoy some tasty soup, courtesy of Baxters.
So that was a successful outing despite having done no training and my medication faux pas. I was only just outside my planned 8 mins/km pace (actually 8:11 pace) and that was really just down to the additional stops I needed.
Date: 2 October 2022
Wind: 7km WSW
Ascent: 320 metres
Total Finishers: 2556
Position in 70+ age group: 6
Finishers in 70+ age group: 13 (plus 6 women - all over 6 hours)
First 10km: 1:20
2nd 10km: 1:21
Half Way: 2:50
3rd 10km: 1:26
4th 10km: 1:23
Total time: 5:47:09
Best km: 6:18 (km 42)
Slowest km: 11:29 (km 16)
Finishing pace: 5:01 (km 43)
Only 43 of the 2556 finishers got home in under 3 hours.
Isaiah Kosgei from Kenya was a strong favourite, but a local club runner, Dougie Selman, whizzed past him near the end and got nearly 3 minutes clear. Kosgei only just hung on to second place.
Then we returned to Newtonmore for a pleasant evening with some TGO Challengers who hadn't gone home.