Loch Ness Marathon — A Bonny Day Out
Perfect conditions prevailed over the Scottish Highlands on Sunday, with an eight-strong squad heading north of the border to Inverness. Practically every coach in Scotland convened in Inverness city centre to convoy 4000 nervous runners out to the start, way out in the wilderness. After driving for well over an hour, the thought of then running all the way back was pretty daunting. We arrived to a scene from Braveheart — stunning skies, dramatic hills, enchanted forests and a full rainbow… soon to be reminded it was 2016 by the sight of portaloos, puffa jackets and foliage-based ‘urinals’. Och aye!
After a ceremonial farewell from the bagpipe band it was time to go. The first five miles were mainly downhill which, with the fortunate tailwind, made for a steady start. We wound our way along country lanes before dropping down to the shores of the magnificent Loch Ness for the most beautiful marathon I’ve ever taken part in. We ran through villages where the locals were out in force with plentiful vocal support and much-needed Jelly Babies. A long uphill drag between miles 17 and 19 called for a little mental ‘encouragement’, capped off with a sign declaring ‘downhill from here…sort of’ at the top. What this actually meant was ‘sort of not’ as a few undulations took us through to mile 22.
With the toughest part done, we headed towards the city centre where the streets were lined with well-wishers — including my mate Will who was dishing out high fives. The final mile took us along the banks of the River Ness to the finish line where I got a name check which, with the tannoyed Proclaimers ‘500 miles’, made for a memorable finish.
One by one we all safely crossed the line and headed to the finishers tent for soup, stew and a fiddle band playing Celtic classics. Replenished and relieved trip we shuffled back out to be greeted by yet another rainbow. A perfect end to a great day.
I can’t recommend this event enough for anyone looking for something a little different. Relatively cheap, brilliantly organised, well-stocked aid stations, great marshals, ‘Nessie’ t-shirt, Bobby Dazzler medal, hearty post-race scran, and a wonderful Highland welcome.