Distance – 26.2 miles
Terrain – Road
Hilliness -866 foot elevation – lumpy!
First finishing time – 2.29.31
Last finishing time – 8.38.59
Goody bag – Yes with T shirt / Medal and freebies…
I completed the Loch Ness Marathon on 6th October 2019, this is my experience of the day…
Loch Ness Marathon Eve
The day before the race, I picked up my number from the expo which was a gazebo in a large field in Inverness. Here, the volunteers were really helpful and encouraging – it was much quieter than the London Marathon expo, that’s for sure! Outside there were backdrops which enabled you to grab a photo with your number which I thought was a nice touch. You also had the opportunity to pose with Nessie herself!
The big day..
The actual day of the marathon was a really early start. I arrived for the bus at 645 and there were possibly more buses than there were runners! It took about one hour to get to the beginning of the race by coach where you are dropped at the top of some mountains and it was bloody freezing! I absolutely loved the bagpipes which was a nice touch – what I didn’t like so much was the half a mile queue for the toilets – I ended up having a bush stop with the lads which was interesting to say the least! In the end most of the women were so desperate and were just squatting in full view of everyone..
On the walk to the start line, ‘500 miles’ from the Proclaimers was on loop and it was pretty awesome to hear all the runners singing at the top of their voices! Once the race started, there was an immediate downhill section – I ensured that I pulled back to my usual long distance pace and didn’t get swept up in the herd who were tearing down. Or those weaving in and out of the runners at sprint pace, yeah you know the ones, you usually see them walking at mile 3.. 🙂
At mile 5, we were already seeing a sharp ‘up hill’, this was the perfect opportunity for me to remove some layers on the walk up and take in some nutrition. Once at the top however, there was another steep downhill… it pretty much went like this until mile 13.
I was careful not to get caught up in the ‘going out too quickly gang’ at the beginning of the race as the real marathon starts at mile 13. I definitely run ‘with my head’ so it was important to run my own race and not to pay too much attention to what others were doing….
The Loch came into view at around mile 6, and needless to say it was absolutely beautiful. I looked for Nessie but I think she was still napping. The views were just absolutely breath taking.
Mile 13… (it started getting interesting)
At mile 13, my stomach decided it wanted to turn itself out which meant a good 20 minute wait for the toilet… that’s when I actually found one. Unfortunately the toilet situation was dire. When I did eventually find a loo on the course, there were only 2 or 3 – this wasn’t ideal for the number of runners. The marshals also seemed to have no idea when the next loo was. Since the marathon, I have since learnt that many of the loos were off the actual track – so they were not sign posted very well. I don’t think I have ever seen so many bare bums in my life, people were just so desperate and going in bushes at the side of the road. I also used this method twice… When you’ve gotta go and all that…
From around 17 miles, we were greeted with a 2-mile hill…. I used a walk / run method for this, especially as my stomach was in absolute bits. this was definitely a more challenging section of the run and it doesn’t level out until beyond mile 19. It was a time when you really did need to dig deep.
From mile 19, it was a steady plod into Inverness. From the top, it was time to come down but it was important not to get too carried away – my legs were really tired at this point!
There is one final uphill stretch around the 21 mile point but from there onward it levels out and remains essentially flat all the way to the finish line. At mile 22, my trusty Garmin notified me that I had 10% battery left – bloody marvelous! So, all music had to be switched off which was playing through my watch.
Speaking of music, I asked all those close to me to give me funny songs that either brought back a memory or made me smile whilst sporting a grimace during the run. This was a brilliant idea given to me by Fran Bennett (our lady Crusader at the Fareham Crusaders) – it certainly kept me going! My fav recommendation was from my sister Jenni- ‘ Donald whars yer troosers’
Mile 23 / 24
Around the 23 mile mark, the route edges into the quiet tree-lined residential streets of the built-up area. By 24 miles I could hear the cheers from the other side of the river as I was actually running parallel to the finish line! Doh!!!! That last mile was rough and I ran with a stranger for that last bit.
Loch Ness is a great Marathon but don’t underestimate it – there is a lot of downhill, but so steep that you need to brake. The race also has steep climbs so it’s definitely a test of endurance. Did I ever tell you that I hate hills?
I’ve had lots of questions as to what Marathon I preferred out of London and Loch Ness, but it would like be choosing a favourite child. Both are so different, and it would be difficult to decide as both have their pros and cons.
Pro’s -Friendly, absolutely stunning, amazing meal and goody bag, lovely route, the downhills, the atmosphere at the start of the marathon, peaceful, free soup!, less congestion than other bigger marathons.
Con’s – Lack of toilets! (definitely needs a review), can be lonely at times, no supporters, rubbish left by runners, the early start, the damn hills!
I hope you enjoyed the write up. Did you run the Loch Ness or are you considering this race? I would love to hear your thoughts!
May your miles be long and your injuries few
As I am currently tapering for a Marathon, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to discuss the mental side of running and building on mental strength. Life is busy sometimes and it can be tough. It can be tough to balance life, work with numerous hobbies! When I look at the women that surround me, they are not only physically strong, they are mentally strong…
I am such a mental runner and recognise the signs of when I start losing my head, usually when my inner voice is telling me ‘everything is hurting’, ‘slow down’, ‘you’re too old for this’, ‘give up’, ‘stop running’. This is where mental strength kicks in, when the little voice in my head gets shut down and I keep pushing.
If you are a runner, you are stronger than you ever know. When your alarm wakes you up for Parkrun or a training run on a weekend morning and you choose to get up rather than snoozing your alarm, ran in the wind or rain or you have swapped gin for a soft drink, you have built on your mental strength.
Pushing on with the training when you don’t want to, one more rep, one more hill, 10 more minutes, one more mile all help develop your mental strength and grit. Running is tough, we run through all weathers and despite obstacles of what is going on in our lives. Running allows us to forget, to be strong.
Some of my friends use mantras to get them through tough races. My good friend Emma (@Vegangirlthatruns) counts whilst going up a tough hill. (I’ve tried this but end up swearing and forget what number I was on) I’ve got other friends who have motivational quotes that they repeat in their head on a loop. Some even say their mantras out loud. A fellow runner was running a marathon and shouted out her mantras to herself and found she had quite a following.
Running isn’t always perfect, sometimes our body just doesn’t want to. this is where positive thinking comes in and remembering all the good runs you have had. Its easy to feel let down when your body doesn’t want to… and during this time it’s good to remember the runs where you have smashed it, felt strong and it all felt effortless.
There is so many ways of developing on your mental toughness – mostly by varying your runs so they provide different paces, efforts and locations. These all build on your mental toughness by making you physically stronger and more confident.
Its important to remember that your mind is designed to scan for danger and so any areas that throw you into an area of discomfort is where the task of developing mental toughness begins. This is when it becomes a case over body versus mind! Tolerating the brain to deal with the uncomfortable moments will take you to a whole new level of mental toughness! Perfect for race day!
Tapering is always tough on the mind – I am currently worrying about whether I have done enough training, whether I should be getting some junk miles in (just in case) but it’s just my mind playing tricks on me. A good friend of mine recommended that I read the Chimp Paradox to help me with any mind demons https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chimp-Paradox-Management-Programme-Confidence/dp/009193558X I have this on order!
What exercises do you undertake to ensure you are mentally strong for race day and training runs. What has given you mental grit to keep going? I would love to hear all about it!
I woke up this morning to the wind blowing an absolute Hooley! I put on my warm, waterproof clothes and made my way to Fareham Parkrun to don the high viz as a run marshal. Tomorrow I have local race (The Purbrook 5), and as I have just returned from injury, I thought I would give my legs a break today. It’s also Volunteer Week! 🙂
Fareham is my home parkrun and there are a lot of familiar faces, I usually run this course but it’s important that we all do our bit – did you know that if you volunteered at your local Parkrun, just once a year, Parkrun would never need to request for marshals. Parkrun can’t take place without the volunteers so it’s an important job, it’s also really rewarding..
Arriving at 8.30am, I was given a large high viz, emergency contact information and a ‘KEEP LEFT’ sign (which was fun taking to the check point in the storm!). My spot today was at the 2KM point whereby there is absolutely no protection from the wind, so I took the full force of its fierceness. The views were amazing though!
Today was a little bit muddy with some puddles. Neil Driscoll (from the Fareham Crusaders) couldn’t resist showing everyone how it’s done. The Fareham course is quite flat but there is an incline at the end, it feels a lot worse than it is – especially if you’ve gone out hard in the first two miles or so.
My job today was to make sure that everyone kept left and that everyone was safe. There was one fall today and the runner was directed to Kirsten at the next check point for some plasters from the trusty first aid kit.
I really enjoyed encouraging the runners, having a little chat with some of them and pumping out my 90’s dance music! It certainly made the runners smile! Vengaboys anyone?!
I love how friendly the runners are, and it made me recognise just how important it is to acknowledge and thank the supporters – which I do always try to do when I can breathe adequately!
It’s so easy to volunteer, simply opt in to the volunteer emails on the Parkrun homepages to find out when your local run is in need of support. If you would like to volunteer on an Ad Hoc basis, you can email your local Parkrun and they can tell you the spots they need.
Happy Parkrun! Oh and don’t forget your barcode! 😊
May your miles be long and your injuries few
I’ve had a pretty bad month this March. Last week I discovered that my poor Marley had a tumor – he has since had this removed and I can only pray that it hasn’t already spread. I also found out that God made my knees on a Friday. During my 16-mile run in early March, my knee decided to give out and was excruciating (and has been ever since). I am yet to get a diagnosis for this and think I am on the 8th diagnosis which is not only frustrating as it is disappointing. Next week I have a scan to find out what’s going on, once and for all….
Since the beginning of March (apart from a couple of short runs), I have not been able to carry out any long runs. I am absolutely gutted at the thought that I may not be on the start line for London next month and the longer time goes on, the more unlikely this prospect is. Needless to say, my mental health has taken a bit of a battering. I’ve been keeping a low profile from social media as this is doing nothing for my anxiety. On the positive side, I have raised a whopping £1600 for the Rowan’s Hospice which they are extremely grateful for.
Sometimes its good to reminded that we can’t control everything. Our society promotes the ability to have it all and to do it all, if you can’t, you’re a failure. You’re not, its ok not to be ok. Its okay to let friends know that you’re not in a great place.
I have been filling my time with Marley cuddles, and lots of Cross training. Yoga has also helped, to enable me to just BREATHE…. And mostly, I’m trying to be kind to myself.
Until next time…
The Brooks GTS remains true to its Acronym being the ‘Go To Shoe’ – As a pronator, I’ve been loyal to this shoe for the last couple of years and find them really comfortable. The GTS shoe is a high mileage, every day stability trainer with maximum support. I’ve currently been wearing mine for Marathon training, so they are getting some good mileage. Even when they were new, I didn’t suffer from any blisters which is sometimes the case with new shoes.
This year, Brooks have released the 19’s with a bold move of a redesigned sole. Risky? Yes.
Brooks have decided to totally redesign the sole with Guide Rails support system. The reason for this is to provide a softer and springier ride. The idea behind the guide rails support system is to make a point that there is not a right way to run and therefore the shoe focuses on individuality rather than directing your foot and ankle into landing somewhere it doesn’t want to! Therefore, everyone’s unique way of running will perform best when the footwear works with an individual’s unique gait.
The shoe weighs the same as the previous edition – it also looks similar to be honest – although the sole looks slightly chunkier than the Brook’s 18’s.
When I put these on, they felt bouncy and secure – the ride felt comfortable with the midsole rails on each side of the shoe, cradling my foot. Brooks version of this shoe is to allow your foot to guide rather than it being corrected.
The heel drop on them is 12mm which is perfect for someone like me who suffers with Achilles problems.
I found the material more breathable although the stripes on the front of the show lead me to think that I had mud or a mark on the front. I wore mine out in the rain and found that they dried very quickly and without soggy socks! The toe box is roomy and there was no slippage from the heel. The rear section of the mid sole has been updated with a new DNA loft foam – foam air and rubber if you are wondering – hence giving your ride some extra bounce.
The laces were generous enough to lace right to the top of the trainer (not like others who scrimp on lace length). The tongue of the trainer is still padded and comfortable. The width of it is just right and helps to improve the fit of the shoe. Overall a winner!
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19 Shoe Specifications
Comfortable and well padded
Great choice of colours
A soft ride
The change may not be for everyone
It’s been a great couple of months for me running wise. I’ve felt fit, strong and above all, confident. I have been working hard with my PT with strengthening my body and so far, so good.
I have been struggling with the early morning sessions (yes I am prone to an 11 hour sleep) on a Sunday for training runs so decided to put the training back until 10am and this is working much better for me.
I’m still incorporating Body Balance into my training which is working well for stretching and doing so by using the Les Mills Interactive monthly plan.
That’s enough small talk, let’s get down to business! There are a few things that most runners don’t like to talk about (I do, because I am gross and brutally honest). I run as a Fareham Crusader, so I get to chat to other runners A LOT! Running isn’t glamorous (only if you spot the photographer in time).
Things you’re not supposed to talk about as a runner…
I’m so sorry Jane (my marathon training partner), I am awful at this. You don’t know what this is? Yeah right!!! So you can only do this when you are running outside. If you try it in a gym on the treadmill, you may get thrown out. It’s pretty much when you are bunged up and you clear one nostril at a time, you get my drift. Don’t be that guy (yes you, runner at Fareham Parkrun) who did this whilst running and I was running behind you. It’s very antisocial. There are actually videos online to perfecting the perfect snot rocket. Fill your boots.
My running friends all know how delicate my stomach is. I have been known to have ducked into pubs, public loos and even bushes on particularly awkward runs. When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go. Funny for me, but not so funny for others who have suffered or perhaps for new runners; this may come as a bit of a shock. I also know some runners who have really weak bladders and have had to go mid race as they’ve not got to a loo in time… a taboo topic..but it’s more common than you think.
I wasn’t blessed with vol-au-vents for boobs and so I get serious bra rub, regardless of what bra/s I wear (Vaseline is my friend). I’m actually scarred from the number of chaffing wounds I have. I’m still on the search for the perfect running bra. The longer the run, the more this force begins to stalk its victims. For some, it presents as a slight discomfort, for others, it can be really quite uncomfortable and can really affect your run..
Oh you’ve only ran 4.89?! You had better run up and down your road at least 6 times, just enough for the neighbours to think you have finally lost the plot.
My face has been like sandpaper this winter. I have been using emu oil and vaseline to lather my face from the elements which have been harsh. Runners are prone to skin problems due to the damaging elements like cold, sunlight, and infection. As I am a sufferer of skin cancer, i have to wear a really high factor in the summer.
I have had my asthma under control for the last year probably because I didn’t end up with pneumonia again for the third time. You can find out more about running with asthma here
Us runners take pride in showing off our manky feet. Yep, we’re damn proud of how calloused, rough, and mangled our feet are. It just goes to show how much time we put into training. Our feet wouldn’t be this ugly without all the miles we put in. You see, it’s our badge of honour! I draw the line at putting pictures up on social media of a missing toe nail. Too much information people! 🙂
Goodbye all night raves and barhopping – unfortunately these do not work well with your training plan. Any runners is aware that they are lucky for any support that they get. Its really important to thank those supportive, awesome people who are watching your race, waiting for you at the finish line, or for me, looking after Marley Moo (my dog). My parents are just around the corner and are really supportive and so I am very grateful for that.
Sometimes, they form because of too much sweat. Sometimes, it’s because there’s something in our shoes that’s causing unwanted friction. It may be because of new shoes. Chances are, if you’re a runner, you have had a blister of some sort. Us runners like to brag about our blisters, hell, sometimes it turns into a competition – who has the largest and most disgusting blister. No doubt, there will be that runner who has taken a picture of their blister. Us runners can be dirty buggers..
Of course, there are lots of positives about running which we DO talk about! A lot! These really do outweigh the above, though I’m yet to find a man who will give me a foot rub..
May your miles be long and your injuries few
This is a bit of a brave post and I have debating for all of the summer months about posting it. In 2012, I was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) and Actinic Keratosis (pre-cancerous skin cancer). Whilst basal cell carcinoma is one of the easiest skin cancers to treat, I had let is fester under my eye for too long and it had grown deeper. If left it any longer, I was in danger of it spreading and it affecting my eye sight, and I required Mohs surgery. I’ve never really blogged about it before. I guess I’ve treated it a bit like a dirty secret.
So far, I have had 5 treatments on my face, and one on my arm – most of the treatments have been for Actinic Keratosis (pre-cancerous cells that turn into Squamous cell carcinoma’s). For these treatments, I have had to apply an anti-cancer drug to the area before sleep. The cream burns out and kills the cells which gave me terrible burns to my skin including open wounds. At the end of the treatment, my skin was burnt and red raw. Yes, I have good make up for running (don’t judge me! 😊) so it’s difficult to spot unless its pointed out. I am also lucky to have had a fantastic consultant and have to regularly go back for checkups.
Unfortunately, the cream hasn’t worked on many occasions and I have had to have Photodynamic therapy which consists of initial treatment of cream to kill the cancer cells, this is then followed by a special light treatment which reacts with the cream to kill the cancer cells. This treatment was excruciatingly painful (think about the shuddery feeling of putting your foot in a boiling hot bath – but leaving it there for 15 minutes).
Skin cancer is real, but it is preventable. Roughly 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultra violet radiations from the sun. I lived in Australia for a year and didn’t think skin cancer would happen to me, and would regularly sit in the sun without any sun factor. Shamefully, as a teenager, I used to lather myself up with baby oil and just bake until I was burnt to a crisp. I naively thought I would eventually end up with a golden tan like my friends. Half of my family are pale, Scottish and freckly so this wasn’t ever going to happen!
Cancer is scary and unpleasant, it’s also really emotionally draining. This hasn’t been an easy post to share but If this post has just reached one person in using sunblock and using sun preventative measures, I have saved one person some sun damage.
My relationship with the sun is complicated. I love soaking up its warmth and energy, but obviously have to be really careful. The sun does like to leave its mark – age spots, tan lines, painful burns – to name but a few. There are, of course, reasons to be wary, especially if you’re logging lots of summer miles. But you might be surprised to learn that running in the sun also does your body good..
There’s something about the sunshine that makes us happy. Our mood is better, we feel more positive – making the sunshine vital to our mental and physical health, but we should also know when enough is enough. Here are a few tips to staying safe in the sun…
Taking these small steps is a no brainer. Not only can they extend your running, they can extend your life.
May your miles be long and your injuries few
I was meant to be doing a bit of Parkrun Tourism this morning but I somehow managed to sleep through my alarm so decided on my local Fareham Parkrun. The weather man promised rain, but it was not to be, and it remained hot and muggy. When I arrived, the air was already filled with excitement and I had a little catch up with my running club members (the Fareham Crusaders) before I knew it the runners briefing was already taking place.
Today there were 216 runners, walkers and joggers. One person was celebrating their 50th Parkrun. Congratulations to Alexandra Brannigan! We also welcomed the tourists and gave a huge thanks to the high viz heroes, for without them, this event would not be possible.
Before we knew it, the Director was counting down 3,2, 1… GOOOOOO! And we were off! It didn’t feel as busy this morning, it could have been due to people taking their holidays. I said goodbye to all my fellow Crusaders and promised a cup of tea in Cams pub at the end. There’s always a bit of chatter at the beginning of this race, the narrow path means that all paces are thrown together, and you can hear conversations about antics from the night before, to weekend plans!
The first mile flew by and before I knew it, we were all spread out along the course. By mile two, the speedier runners are lapping and chasing for that first position. I am proud to say that a fellow Crusader, Jon Isherwood came second overall in today’s Parkrun. What a massive achievement! Not many runners are fans of the ‘lapping’ but I think it’s a chance to see your team mates and friends again and urge them on! Another ‘thank you’ to the two high viz heroes on the turn point and I was halfway there.
The last mile hurt, a lot. I had really pushed myself on this Parkrun and it hadn’t gone amiss that there was a slight incline at mile 3. I looked out to the creek and thought, let’s get this done, so I can get in for a paddle later. Neil Driscoll from the Fareham Crusaders caught me up and spurred me on with me shouting ‘when does this hill end?!’. Finally, a high five from one of the high viz heroes and I somehow managed to remain focused on the home straight and kept my eyes on the cones and high viz jackets and I had finished.
I don’t remember taking a token… but I did. I do remember ringing the PB bell! Ding Ding!
Fareham Parkrun welcomes all runners, walkers and joggers. What makes it great is that everyone is running for their own reasons. This is what makes Parkrun inclusive to everyone!
First home this week was Tom Needham (Bingley Harriers and AC) with a time of 18.20. First lady was Maisie Grice (City of Portsmouth AC) with a time of 18.55. There were 21 PB’s today!
Until next week!
Since running, I have really noticed how bad my asthma is in the cold. In fact, it’s been so bad that I took the time to research whether other runners were feeling the same. Turns out, they were, and I soon discovered that there was a common theme occurring. I was not alone.
I didn’t get diagnosed with asthma until I was in my early twenties and it has never posed me any issues. That was until I started running. This January I’ve come down with Pneumonia for the second time in two years. Unfortunately, I believe this has been caused by running in the bitter cold. The freezing cold air is absolutely no good for my lungs and this is a hard pill to swallow. Will I run on the ‘dreadmill’ for colder runs? I just can’t see it. I love the outdoors too much. I can’t think of anything worse than running and not seeing new things and not actually going anywhere!
Will asthma stop me doing the things I love – absolutely not. Asthma UK have actually said ‘Exercise, including cardio vascular exercise like running has amazing benefits for everyone’s health. this includes improving how the lungs actually work. In fact, Jo Pavey is an advocate for running with asthma and says ‘Being fit has improved my asthma so much. When I was at University and not doing much running, I would really struggle for breath going uphill. That just doesn’t happen when I am looking after my fitness’
As well as Jo Pavey, Paula Radcliffe was also diagnosed with exercise induced asthma as the age of fourteen, so it is not impossible to excel at sports because you have asthma. Worth remembering!
For me, I am going to have to ease back into running gently. Unfortunately, cold weather does trigger asthma symptoms because cold air can irritate the airways. I have tried running with a buff – this has helped to warm the air to my lungs beforehand. Asthma UK have initiated the ‘#Scarfie’ and they are encouraging asthma sufferers to wear a scarf over their mouth -www.asthma.org.uk/scarfie
Luckily, I have never been in a position where I have had an asthma attack, but symptoms to be mindful of are;
There are many things you can do to look after yourself if you have asthma.
The key is if you are looking after your symptoms well, you can enjoy any kind of exercise including running. Unfortunately living in the UK means that if you have asthma, you must be extra cautious, especially in the winter months.
If you need further advice on asthma, its worth visiting the asthma UK official website (www.asthma.org.uk).
May your miles be long and your injuries few