Standing at the start line with my brother Jon listening to the pre race briefing, my emotions were running high.. Nerves, fear, doubt.. “This is not a road race, this is the hardest off road marathon in Scotland”
Graham from the trail team was racing too and it was nice to meet up again briefly at the start and share our pre-race excitement.
Graham set off in the first wave and myself and my brother in the second. We quickly lost each other in the mass of runners who seemed to be off like a shot.
This was 26.2 miles & 1600m of ascent I was reiterating to myself, trying not to get caught up with the rush.
I slowed down to a speed I knew I could maintain and managed to keep myself under control.
Passing the Clachaig inn, crowds of supporters were cheering us all on and the climb up the side of the A82 began.
A narrow, slightly boggy path led the way for the first 5 miles. I had to stop briefly to take my jacket off as I’d over dressed thinking It was extremely cold but I think that was just pre-race nerves.
Not wanting to be a sweaty mess and be struggling in the first 5 miles I packed away my vapour storm jacket and just ran from there in my Berghaus base layer which was perfect.
I think I got to the first 5 mile check point in just under the hour.
I grabbed a cup of water, handful of jelly babies and took to the bog.
There was no longer a nice defined path from this point to the start of the devils stair case.
It was a bog fest – An every man for himself moment.
After the tough mudder there was a small section of running alongside the road
until the start of the devils stair case.
I looked up to see what looked like colourful human ants, zig zagging their way up the steep climb.
I ran upwards one step at a time until the steepness forced me to power walk. A man playing bagpipes was a welcome sight at around the half way mark and again my emotions started to run high. This was an awesome race and what an amazing country I live in!
I pushed myself onwards and upwards as fast as I could until I reached the top of the devils stair case.
There was no false summit, the top was actually the top and I looked onwards to the amazing sight of a long downhill section straight ahead.
The kind MRT marshall who offered me a few sweets at the cairn was my new found best friend.
8 miles in the bag and thoughts of the Goat fell race crossed my mind..
“that would be that race almost finished right now” I was thinking..
I forced myself to focus on the mission ahead and battered on towards Kinlochleven taking in the breathtaking views of the Aonach Eagach and surrounding peaks – spectacular!
10miles, 12miles.. The miles were flying by on this section and I was enjoying every second.
Before reaching Kinlochleven a marshal shouted to me that I was 10th female over all at this stage.
I got really emotional after that, trying my best to hold back the tears as I knew i still had another half marathon and a few more mammoth climbs still to go.
I reached Kinlochleven and the half way mark in under 2.5 hours and was happy to be met by my family here who were great support!
I didn’t stop here for fuel and decided to keep going to the next stop.
Not sure if that was a wise move looking back now as the hill out of Kinlochleven was a beast!
I ran as far as I could but I was reminded at this point of Chamonix and the famous ” alpine flats” I was back there, lungs bursting, hands on knees, pushing myself up as quickly as I could.
My energy was draining and I had to remind myself to fuel and not get carried away.
I had eaten a torq bar and a few gels but was craving something savoury.
Sea salt pretzels seemed like a good idea at the time but chewing them got muddled with inhaling so that was a non starter.
A nice man I’d caught up with gave me some Kendal mint cake and after 10 mins or so that had kicked in nicely, sugar is best I thought!
After this horrendously steep section, the path opened out revealing incredible views of the mamores.
My mint cake had ran out again and I was craving all sorts of food I didn’t possess.
I remembered my bag of jelly babies and after popping a few managed to focus on reaching set points ahead.
A runner just in front had been with me for a while and when I slowed down or speeded up so seemed did he.
I thought if I could catch up with him, maybe he would also like a jelly baby and maybe we could spur each other on a bit.
I reached him and he happily took a few jelly babies and we got chatting.
Jim was his name, a keen runner who had done a few marathons and ultras but nothing this hard he said.
We came across a fuel stop at 17 miles in the middle of nowhere. What a blessing! I grabbed a cup of water and a banana and Jim did the same.
We carried on running together until the 19 mile mark , talking about races, our jobs, dogs, life and how good a cup of tea was going to taste at the end.
Things were seeming better and I could nearly allow myself to say ” only another 10k to go”
Coming out the glen the wind had picked up and was gusting quite hard.
We had been extremely lucky with the weather with only light drizzle. Perfect running conditions compared to
the imminent storm that was due to arrive later in the day!
I looked up and recognised what looked like my brother in the distance.
I looked down at my garmin and that was it – Only another 10km to go!
That is just a lunch time run I thought..
I pushed on with Jim and caught up with my brother Jon. Jim by this time had got a second wind so he pushed on away from us after a few miles or so.
The last 10km were tough, lots of small steep sections and rocky ground.
Cramp was threatening both of us and thankfully we had each other to keep each other going.
The last food stop, 5 miles from the finish was the most amazing of all!
Hot fruit punch, love hearts and dry roasted peanuts.. Maybe we had actually died and were in food stop heaven..?
With a well needed boost, off we headed. The sight of the mighty Ben came into view and we were nearing the last few miles.
Thoughts of Steve Birkinshaw and other incredible feats of endurance were spoke about! This was only one marathon, Folk do way more extreme stuff than this…
An unexpected climb before the final descend through the forestry was a cruel reminder of how brutal this race was.
We pushed as hard as we could to the top and finally reached the forestry track to the entrance of Glen Nevis.
What a welcome sight.
Even the down hill sections were proving challenging at this point but we were nearly there!
Every corner seemed never ending but after a few more the event marquees came into view and we knew we were nearly there.
0.3 of a mile..
This was it.. This was the end.. We had done it!
A proud moment and it was incredible to share those last miles and finish with my brother.
Our very first marathon and one I don’t think either of us will forget in a hurray!
A superb race and a brilliantly organised event.