Chip time – 3:48:36
Position – 62/391 runners
Age catagory – (Under M40) – 3/15
It was May 2017 and I decided it was time to move away from my regular training and book an event which would test my longer distance ability. I researched local events and I was drawn to the Fort William Marathon due to its location and scenery. As a person who appreciates a good view or two, the thought of running a marathon with Ben Nevis as a backdrop made me a little excited. I paid the free, signed up and trained hard for 8 weeks. I trained on both road and trails and I genuinely thought I was fit enough for a 3 hour 45 minute finish.
It was 6am on race day and I left Inverness to travel down to Fort William. I arrived exceptionally early so I had to sit and wait in the car park for ages. I always arrive early, but arriving 90 minutes before the race start was a bit stupid. After an hour of nervous waiting, I met with a chap I knew called Chris and we set off for the start line. At 9am, Chris, I and the 390 other runners got piped off the start line and my first marathon commenced.
1 – 13 Miles
I started nearer the back and I quickly made my way through the inconsiderate slower runners who started at the front. The first few miles were all very lumpy and bumby, with a few hills to get the legs working. I distinctly remember looking into the foreground and being amazed at the views. Although I only lived 70 miles away, Fort William was not a place I routinely visited. It took me a few miles to get into a rythem and my average pace after 4 miles was about 7:40. It was at this stage I realized that I had been running alongside another chap since the begining and we started speaking. I have no idea what his name was, but he said he was from Glasgow and he was running for a 3 hour 20 minute finish.
Miles 5 and 6 were both uphill and I could feel the legs burning. I clocked the 10k distance in exactly 47:00 and things were going pretty smoothly. Miles 7 – 10 were all downhill and I generally thought I would be running across the finish line with the chap around the time of 3 hours and 20 minutes. We started talking about our running backgrounds when we suddenly turned a corner and staring me right in the face was a long uphill section of trail. I had to slow down but the chap took off up the trail like a hare, there was absolutely no catching him. I banged in a few 9 minute miles and as I was running towards to war monument, I saw the chap in the distance, a few minutes ahead. I passed the crowds who gathered in the layby and I clocked in the half marathon distance in 1:45:51.
Miles 13 – Finish
If I remember the route correctly, this is where we started running on the canal path. This is the absolute spot where I remember the wheels coming off. The path is flat for about 6 miles and I should have been banging in 8 minute miles easily. Instead I was exhausted, sore and completely drained. The first half had emptied the tank and there was nothing else to do but plod on at a slower pace. I remember lots of runners going past me and I knew my head had given up. I remember my average pace for the canal path being about 8:45 and I knew my dream of finishing the marathon in 3 hours 45 was going to be tight.
At the end of the Canal path, the route took us towards Ft William and then back up the main A82 towards the Nevis Range. I’m not sure how it even happened, but the heavens opened and worst rain I have ever experienced fell down on us. It was like a tropical storm with the rain immediately turning into puddles on the pavements. I remember being soaked through to the skin and my toes slipping in my trainers. I would later realise that my toes pushing against the top of my trainers would result in 4 lost toenails.
The last 4 miles were uphill and a constant battle with my head to not stop running. Unfortunately that plan failed dramatically. In those last few miles I must have stopped about 6 or 7 times and at the time, I had absolutely no reason to. I was simply annoyed at myself for running so slowly and missing my target time that I stopped to become annoyed at myself. Albeit that sounds stupid, it was. The last 3 miles crept into the 10 minute mile bracket which on reflection, was completely avoidable. What felt like a 500ft climb was only about 80ft and with about half a mile to go I could hear the finish line. The speaker was shouting through the runners who were crossing the line but this is where I became determined. In this last half mile alone, I passed 6 runners, trying to get the best position available. I remember digging deep and getting a random energy boost, using it to float over the tree stumps which laid bare over the trail. I recall slipping on some wet grass going around the last corner and nearly falling on my arse. This is where I saw the cheering crowds who clapped me all the way to the finish line. It was my proud moment which I will never forget. To the medic that sat me down on a chair and force fed me a banana, thank you 😂