Loch Ness Marathon: Report and results by Darren Barnett

Race Date: Sunday 1st October 2023

Hello fellow Striders, although I’ve been a member of the club for a few years now I guess not a lot of
people know me since I never go out on any training runs during the week. With the Graves leisure
centre being less than 1/2 of a mile from my front door this would be my default run group on a
Wednesday evening, but with the joys of working late in Rotherham and young children to take care
of, the running takes a bit of a back seat unfortunately.

As many of you on Strava who follow me will testify, I tend to either go for a run early in the
morning when the household is still in bed or go out late in the evening after spending a bit of time
with the children, having tea (sometimes), and seeing that all the homework has been done for the
following morning. Saying that, I do follow a lot of the Striders on Strava and even though I haven’t
met you all, I feel as though I know what runs you do, who you run with, how far you go and the
trials and tribulations running throws at you from time to time. That said, I do turn up to run races as
and when I can, which gives me the opportunity to chat to some of the Striders and make myself
known, as I feel I don’t involve myself like some of you guys do within the club.

Now with a bit of my background covered, back to the Lock Ness marathon. I chose it simply
because I didn’t get in London or Berlin (London not been successful for ballot in the last 6 years) and
I thought if I was going to put some effort into running 26.2 miles it had to be some big race or an
iconic race, I didn’t want to run a marathon around Milton Keynes or Leeds….. It had to trigger some
excitement or sense of adventure (You know what I mean)? …..So, I turned to Google. Which is
where Loch Ness cropped up as being one of the marathons in the top ten most scenic marathons in
the world, Result! No need to look any further, no silly ballot to get in, or a qualifying time, it looked
picturesque and ticked the adventure box for being in the wilds of Scotland…. I was sold.
So, I signed up. This would be my third marathon having done Manchester in 2021, and Boston
(USA) in 2022. I duly booked my AirBnB, and my flight from Luton (£48 each way), it cost me more to
park the car than it did to fly one way! I did contemplate driving, but an eight-hour drive after
running a marathon didn’t appeal to me.

The training began on the 1st June, 4 months should do the trick plenty of time to prepare,
although I didn’t find it easy running in the few weeks whilst on holiday in the summer. With three
months to go before race day I mentioned to my son’s friend ‘Charlie’ who is studying at St Andrews
if he fancied running, which he did along with his fiancé Maggie. At least I’d have someone I knew to
talk to whilst I was in Scotland.

So, with the training in the bag I flew on Saturday 30th Sept from Luton to Inverness on a
9:30am flight, with my longest training run being 17 miles the doubts began to creep in as to ‘have I
done enough’?, ‘should I have done more long runs’?…. Too late now, the race is tomorrow!
I located my AirBnB roughly a mile away from the finish line and dropped my bag, then over to
the race village to collect my race number. I phoned Charlie and arranged to meet up later that
evening, he kindly agreed to cook pasta for us all to fuel the marathon in the morning.
I went to bed around 11:00pm, with a check of the weather forecast… 70% chance of Rain
tomorrow, due around 11:00am. Now I’m thinking what to wear, it’s not cold but it may be wet…..
It’s now 12:00 midnight and I’m still toying with what kit to wear, ‘stop thinking of what to wear and
check the weather again in the morning, make a decision then, now lights off and get some sleep’!
Woke up at 2:00am with the rain hitting the roof…. Check the weather app again, rain for the
next hour then stopping, starting again at 10:00am (start of the marathon). Get back to sleep! I don’t
want to be tired in the morning. Needless to say, after having little sleep I watched the display on my
watch move to 6:30 for the alarm to ring out. I ate my 2 bowls of porridge, put on my ‘3 miles’
bedded in Nike vaporflys (don’t want to wear them out doing needless milage). And off I went to the
finish area to board the marathon bus over to Whitebridge 26.2 miles away to the start of the race.
I rang Charlie up as I entered the park ‘Where are you?’ ‘I’m in the queue boarding the bus’
came the reply…. I know it’s wrong to push in but with it being only me, I guessed nobody would
mind. We boarded the bus together as it started to rain, not much but enough to make you think I’m
going to get wet, and have I packed the right gear? The convoy of busses set off and little did I know
that we’d be on here for another hour as the bus route went along the north bank to the head of the
Loch at Fort Augustus then along the south bank before reaching our drop point at Whitebridge.

On the bus Charlie, Maggie, and I soon got chatting to the people around us with one guy ‘David
Crookes’ asking if I knew a fellow Strider called Catherine McKeown, I said the name rang a bell, but I
didn’t know her personally (he’s the guy to the right on the bus photo) it turns out he knows
Catherine and went to Sheffield Uni back in the day, Ironically living in his namesake ‘Crookes’ area..
The girl also in the photo ‘purple top, centre’ let slip that she had run the Loch Ness marathon before
the previous year, and got a sub 3:00hr time, a bit more digging and she revealed she had come
second in the female category!! Rosa Donaldson, we are mere mortals not worthy to be on the same
bus as you! With the bus window being ajar to acclimatise it turned a bit chilly, so rummaging
about in my bag I pulled out a £9 top I picked up in the charity shop the day before only to be told by
the guy to the right of Rosa that he had actually picked up the same top only to put it down again to
buy a cheaper one at £4 (if only I’d have gone shopping a bit sooner) to which we had a laugh about.
The time passed quickly chatting along and as we neared the end of the journey the rain stopped,
and the sun came out, ‘things were looking up’.

After an hour on the bus the convoy of buses pulled up in the middle of nowhere but with
whisps of mist on the hill tops and stunning scenery all around it reminded me of being in the Peak
District. The doors of the bus opened triggering a mass stampede for everyone to get off and find the
nearest bush for a bit of relief. The marshals directed everyone to the portaloos, but this fell on deaf
ears, nobody could wait! This prompted calls from the marshals’ for everyone to check their legs for
ticks apparently the ticks cause Lymes disease which can be rather nasty if bitten and untreated. So,
with the bag pipes piping us to the start, £9 charity shop top ditched it was a blast of an air horn and
we were off for the start of the 2023 Loch Ness marathon!
Now this marathon is similar to the Boston marathon I ran 18 months before in that it starts
with a downhill and around 17-20miles out there’s a bit of a hill. Only this downhill lasted for 10
miles! My plan was to run the down hill at an average pace of 7:15/7:20 and hold on to this until the
end, if I could, I may just get a PB.

The first 5K was a dream, running downhill taking in the stunning view ‘what’s not to enjoy’! In
my head I’d convinced myself get the first 10 downhill miles (easy miles) out of the way then I’ve 16
miles left to complete the marathon. Passing small pockets of supporters along the way the miles
soon flew by, I’d say if there were 300 supporters in the first 23 miles, I’d be overestimating it. I got to
the halfway mark in 1:33:46 which was only just over 1 min worse off than the GNR I completed 3
weeks earlier, and at the end of that race I was wiped out, it was a case of so far, so good. Although
the miles were ticking off consistently at my planned pace, I knew the test would be around mile 17-
18 when the hill at Dores starts. I got to the start of the hill and yes there was a climb, but it wasn’t
‘that bad’ (comparing it to some of the hills we have to contend with in Sheffield). It was a case of
head down and keep on going, that was my mantra to get the hill out of the way. I found I did
overtake probably a dozen or so runners on this section, some walking some just going slower due to
the incline. Top of the hill summited it was now downhill for a mile or so, another smaller hill to
summit and then the last 4 miles predominantly downhill to the finish.

Entering the last 3 miles my pace did slow but I was still on for a PB, more people were starting to spectate and clap the runners as we came past, into the last mile… I could hear the announcer on the Tannoy willing the runners home, but he was on the opposite side of the river, ‘just got to keep going’ turn left over the bridge
another left turn onto the north bank, and we’d be into the last 800 metres. It was tough to keep
going but this was a marathon after all. Into the park past a large inflatable Nessie and over the line!
Job done! I’d done it, I’d completed my 3rd marathon.

I collected my goodie bag, t shirt and medal. As soon as I stopped running my legs started
moaning., so as I was walking through the village I noticed the massage tent, so I promptly paid the
£15 to try and get some life massaged back into the tired legs. With the massage over I lifted myself
off the table and in doing so cramp set into my left leg causing me to drop down onto the floor like a
sack of coal. By the look on the poor girl’s face who’d massaged my legs she must have thought I was
having a heart attack, I stretched off and hobbled back to find Charlie who’d ran an impressive time
to say it was his first marathon and injury had prevented him training for the last few weeks. It was
also at the finish line where I bumped into one of the other guys from the bus, he was nursing a
bloody toe, his large toenail had come off during the run, but like everyone else I talked to he
enjoyed the event immensely.

In summary the race was wonderful, for me everything about it went to plan. The best parts
were the journey to the start line on the bus chatting to Charlie, Maggie, David, Rosa and the other
two guys who’s names I can’t remember. The route running through the wooded areas smelling the
pine trees, taking in the stunning vistas across the loch and of the hills. The feel I got of the whole
event was relaxed, the fact that there were no pacers I found put less pressure on me to keep up
with someone to chasing a finish time. Would I run it again…. Yes definitely, I’d even go as far to say it
surpassed my experience of my two previous marathons in Manchester & Boston (USA). A big shout
goes out the fella who passed me at around the 15 mile juggling 3 balls, I kept with him for a while
chatting and in that time he never dropped a single ball.

The race was won by Moray Pryde 2:22:04 (Lothian Running Club)
With the first female being Melissah Gibson 2:43:45 (Ealing Eagles Running Club)
Other notable finish times are:
Myself Darren Barnett 3:09:40 (Steel City Striders)
Charlie Glover (3:34:21)
Maggie Barlow (3:46:43)
David Crookes (4:58:19)
Rosa Donaldson 3:02:40 (Glasgow University)

Strider results:

Finish Position Name Time
Darren Barnett 3:09:40
Giulia Neri 3:38:40

Full results: here


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