Chip time – 3:30:02
Position – 270/2619 runners
Age catagory – (Under M40) – 131/735
So the training was complete and I was in the best physical shape of my life. I tapered really well and did nothing physical for days on the lead up to the race. At 7am, I met with my fellow runners Andy and Kenneth at the pick up point close to Bught Park, Inverness. After a long wait queuing at the toilets, we managed to get on the last bus and we set off for the start line at Whitebridge. The bus took well over an hour, but it was actually nice to relax and chat to other runners who were in the same nervous position.
The bus arrived at the drop off point about 915am and we made our way towards the start line. We had a few trips to the bushes and we got changed into our race gear. We dropped the bags off at the kit vans and we headed for the start line. I passed a few friends who were stood between the 4 and 5 hour markers and wished them all the best for their race. Everyone was cold and eager to get going.
At 10am, the countdown finished and we were OFF! Running through the start line to the sound of bagpipes was fantastic and something I wish happened at every race. The scenery was absolutely fantastic and it was great to see Loch Ness from a different viewpoint. The 360° of hills was a good backdrop and it was easy to forget that we were only 26 miles from Inverness.
We set of very slowly with Andy, Kenneth and I running in tandem. We were passed by quite a number of runners who used the downhill as a reason to go off all guns blazing. The first 4 miles passed very quickly and they seemed effortless as they were all downhill. It was hard to stick to the dedicated pace of between 7:20-7:45 a mile but I knew it would do us good come the later stages of the race. I was just getting into a steady rythem when we approached the first hill. It was about 250 ft of incline over one mile but the three of us put our heads down and grinded out a 7:43. Maybe this was too much, too early, as I remember blowing out my arse at the top and seeing that my heart rate was over 170bpm. Thankfully we passed a food station so we were able to grab a gel and a bar for energy. We clocked the 10k distance in about 47 minutes which to me was perfect timing.
From here, it was a gradual downhill slope to get level with the Lochside at mile 10. It equalled about 80 ft of decline every mile and we managed an average pace of about 7:35. For me, this is where things got noticeable harder as we were starting to run on the flat for the first time in the race. The three of us were still together, with Andy and Kenneth chatting away like they were out for a casual Sunday stroll. I, on the other hand, had to stick to the occasional words of ‘all good’ or ‘good pace lads’ because I was starting to get a little tired. We forced out a 7:59 and two miles of 7:54 to reach the halfway point at 1:39:41. We passed an official photographer and managed to be in a line for this beauty of a photo to be taken.
Miles 13 – Finish Line
Miles 13 – 18 were flat and took us towards the village of Dores. Each mile was getting harder and I remember the splits getting slower and slower. I had been setting the pace since the beginning so I passed the reigns over to Kenneth who took a turn at the front. I thought we had lost Andy but it turns out he was about 5 ft back, snacking on something that he picked up from the free station. The average pace had dropped to just over 8 minute miles and my heart rate was bang on 170bpm. Even though we were tiring, we needed to leave something in reserve for the ‘hill’. Much to our surprise and delight, a friend met us at the Dores Primary School on his bike and he cycled alongside us for the next few miles, passing on words of encouragement. I can’t believe he wouldn’t give me his bike for a few miles.
Bang on mile 19, we hit the hill. It was about 200 ft of incline over a mile and although it doesn’t sound a lot, it seemed to go on for ever. We slowed down the pace and got over the hill, before I got a bit light-headed. I thought I couldn’t keep up with Kenneth and Andy so I told them to go on without me. Kenneth told me to ‘man up’ and we pressed on. It took about 5/10 minutes, but after that the dizziness had gone. We managed to bash out a painful 7:58 mile on the downhill to regain some time.
We were now approaching Inverness and we had 3 miles to go. The long stretch of Island Bank Road was upon us but each step took us closer to the end. The crowds started to gather in the Streets and I saw a few familiar faces which gave me a boost to quicken the steps. Each time I checked my watch, it seemed that only 20 seconds had passed since the last glance. I was sore, dehydrated and desperate for the run to finish. Finally we crossed the Ness Bridge and we took the last half mile towards the finish line. That last few minutes took an eternity and I really started to struggle. Kenneth was a few feet ahead, looking fresh and ready for more whilst Andy was hanging in there. We pushed to the line and crossed it together, hand in hand and in a remarkable 3:30:02. It felt like the perfect moment for a man hug.