Well this was it, it's what the last 93 runs through wind, hail, rain and shine have been about.
And it was worth every step...........
Left Livingston at 10am and arrived at Dave's in Stonehaven just after 12.30 despite an impromptu stop in bushes on the way up.
Weather was looking nice, bit overcast and quite still. Had a bit of lunch then pressed on up to Aberdeen to pick Mike up. The journey from Aberdeen to Inverness took a bit longer than I expected and we arrived just after 5pm. After a bit of searching we found our home for the next 2 days, a lovely BnB about a 10 min walk from the river front. We unpacked then headed out to pick up our racing number and chip then on to Wetherspoons for some nice cheap pub grub washed down with a few beers. It felt a tad odd sinking a few pints the night before a marathon but I figured Dave and Mike knew the score so put my trust in them that this was the right thing to do. Decided to call it a night just after 10pm since it was an early start in the morning.
Here it was, the day had finally arrived and all the previous week's nerves seemed to vanish. I guess in no small part down to knowing this was it and there was no going back, so I'd be as well trying to enjoy it.
Following a bit of continental breakfast we made our to the pick-up point and had to run to the bus after a bit of an unwelcome shouting at from officials telling us the buses were about to leave, just what you need with a 26 miler ahead of you. Oddly we had to wait for 10 mins before they eventually set off. The buses were packed to the gunnels which pleased me no end since I figured the more people, the smaller chance I had of coming last, a real fear believe me.
I sat with Dave whilst Mike sat in front with a bloke we never knew. Mike struck up a conversation and asked how many marathons had the guy ran. " One, this is my second'. Thinking of an answer like 4 hours plus he asked what time the guy was hoping for 'Under 2hours 30 mins'. he replied.
As the buses climbed up high above Loch Ness the weather took a turn for the worse and it started to rain. After about an hour on the bus we finally arrived at the start i.e. at the top of a hill in the middle of no-where. By this point it was very cold and I was both glad and surprised at how effective a black poly bag is to shield the wind.
After a bit of waiting about for people to make their last 'visit' before setting off and handing in their bags the gun went and we were off......................
This was it, the last 4 months and 93 runs had come down to this, the training and prep was over. Just had to try and put into practice everything I’d learned.
I was rather happy to note the first mile was pretty much all downhill. This made for an easy start and allowed me to settle into my pace quickly. Having been used to running myself for the previous 93 runs having Dave and another 3000 odd people for company it felt a little odd but welcoming. The fact there was no traffic either was a huge plus since hopping on and off the pavement is something I'd become quite accustomed to these last 4 months.
The first 4 miles seemed to slip by rather quickly and as I passed the 6 mile marker the thought of just 20 left was a bit of a mental mile stone as I’d covered that distance 3 times previously. The first 6-7 miles had a lot of downhill, something I wasn’t really used to so although I lengthened my stride I made sure I never over stepped or ran too quick. Having Dave for company meant we were able to chat and as a consequence the time seemed to pass quick as did the mile markers.
As I approached the halfway mark the runner density had decreased which felt a bit more like I was used to albeit with Dave for company, if that makes any sense.
Miles 14-19 weren’t too bad and as I passed mile 20 the thought of ‘only a 10k left’ felt strangely welcoming. At mile 20 and a half probably the toughest hill awaited. It’s a long steady climb and takes a while to even off. Unlike a lot of runners, I was luckily enough to know this was the last bad bit to run thanks to Dave so knew once I climbed this it was going to be flat thereon.
Miles 20-23 though getting increasingly harder passed without too much pain. At that point in my head I knew I only had the equivalent of my shortest training run (3 miles) left to go so I dug in deep and keep at it. I was keen to reached 24 as then it only left me with a mile to go until the last mile. (I know that sounds a bit silly but when you’re physically knackered you get silly thoughts like that). As I neared marker 25 I could hear the dulcet tones of the ginger headed Scottish TV presenter Brian Burnett over the tannoy system. At that point I knew home wasn’t far now. As I came down the hill towards the river looking over the other side you could see the finish. All that was left to do was to run up to the bridge, cross over then head for home. Thankfully as the tiredness grew my spirits were lifted with the ever present encouragement from the spectators. As I got over the bride and turned for home I know I only had about another 5 minutes left to run.
I dug in deep and pressed on encouraged by Dave. Then finally there it was, the most welcoming sight ever, the finish line. ‘Come on, lets go for it’ Dave shouted. I lifted my legs and made for a sprint. At that point both my calve muscles started to pulse making staying upright a bit difficult. I ran as fast as I could without falling over and crossed the line in 4hour 16 mins and 52 seconds. As I got over the line I punched the air then felt overcome with a swath of emotion and had to cover my mouth to prevent myself for looking like a right prat.
I’d done it.
As I walked / wobbled away from the finish I grabbed as many of the free bottles of Lucozade and water as I could such was my thirst. We soon met back up with Mike who has smashed his own PB coming in just over 3 hours 20 mins.
We joined the queue for food and was soon sitting down tucking into a hearty meal of baked potato with chilli and a roll in soup. Thirst was high on the list so a pint of the black stuff was soon down our necks. As we started to walk back to the BnB to get changed the marathon time was now well pat the 6 hour mark and people were still running in. we cheered and encouraged the, knowing how well they had done. Running marathon regardless of time is a remarkable feat in itself and seeing anyone complete this deserves all the praise and congratulations going.
We got back to the BnB had a welcome shower then headed back out to ‘Spoons for more food and drink. Whilst there we met a lot of others who had ran the marathon and it was fantastic hearing each and every one’s own story.
One chap worthy of mention was an Aussie named Tristan. He had lost his job about 10 months ago and decided to use all his redundancy to run one marathon a week raising money for UNICEF in the process. He had been to virtually every corner of the world and only had something like another 20 to go – fantastic story.
Left Spoons about 10 as I think the day had caught up with us so bed was sounding very welcoming indeed.
Down for breakfast at 8am and left for home around 9am. Dropped Mike off in Aberdeen then down to Stonehaven to drop Dave off. Had a quick coffee then headed home.
This was such an brilliant weekend for all sorts of reasons. Achieving a target I’d set myself just a short time ago felt great and has definitely spurred on to more of the same.
I met some great people and learned a lot about myself. If you ever have the opportunity to do something like I’d suggest you grab it with both feet and do it.
You never know, you might just enjoy it.