I entered the Lochaber Marathon as I would be there to support my other half who was doing this as her first marathon and I could support her by running round the course just as well as supporting her by standing on the sidelines.
With the Highland Fling Ultra and the West Highland Way Ultra coming up my plan was to treat the Lochaber Marathon as a training run. In order to help me not to race it I would adopt a run/walk strategy at a ratio of 14/1.
We got to Fort William just before 5pm on Saturday, registered, checked into the Backpackers hostel and headed into town for dinner at the Grog and Gruel Pub/Restaurant. They do an extremely nice fresh pasta meal which served us a bit too well from a carb loading point of view. We spent the rest of the evening in the hostel chilling and reading our books. A good night’s sleep saw us up at 8am for breakfasts. The race start was scheduled for 11am.
We woke up to glorious sunshine and hardly a breath of wind. It was chilly though with frost on the car but the sun sorted that out soon. Conditions looked perfect.
The race course at Lochaber is very straight forward. After a few twists and turns in the first mile you head out on the A830 westwards along the shores of Loch Eil until you hit the turn point at 13.1 miles and retrace your steps back to the start.
I lined up leaving a reasonable pack in front of me to discourage me from racing but I think my head wasn’t in race mode anyway. I went off at quite a leisurely pace (if you can call 4:15-4:20 min/km leisurely). My bowels hadn’t really settled from last night’s dinner either so they were keeping me occupied. From the off I walked for 1 minute every 14 minutes letting a reasonable amount of runners pass to then repass some of them. A large pack of runners had formed just ahead of me and I would overtake them and then they would go past again, but they gradually got away. This puzzled me a bit as run walk wasn’t really supposed to work like that. Overall I had settled in a 4:30 pace including my walk breaks and I was happy to stick with that.
There was a slight headwind on the way out and I was looking forward to the turnaround point. I had 2 toilet stops on the way out and another one on the way back. Not a problem I usually have as I tend to stop hydrating 60-90 minutes before the race to let things settle. Well during the 2nd half of the race things did settle especially after my last toilet stop, although this stop did have its own mishap as I tried to navigate my way through some bramble bushes rather unsuccessfully. The bushes kindly left their bloody mark while some of the other runners must have been thinking: What an earth is this guy doing!
The wind was behind us on the way back which lifted my mood but more so from mile 19 onwards the run/walk strategy was coming into its own. As runners were getting slower over the last miles of the marathon I was either getting faster or holding my pace and I went passed everyone who had overtaken me early on in the race. I took 5-10 minutes out of people who I passed with less than 5 miles to go. I finished in a decent 3:13 hrs which included 11 walk breaks plus my toilet antics and felt reasonably fresh at the end.
My girlfriend Fiona finished her first marathon in a stunning 3:27 hrs and executed her plan to perfection.
I popped out for a short 20 minutes recovery run this morning and overall my legs feel fine. A little stiff to start with but they soon warmed up to the idea of running again.
I now have just under 2 weeks to the 53 mile Highland Fling Ultra Marathon which takes in the southern half of the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Tyndrum. Plan for this week is to cover roughly 50 miles and then taper for the Fling next week.