The inaugural Fort William marathon took place on July 26. I decided to turn up to tootle along the 26 miles and see what it was like, along with about 300 others. I’ve done a few marathons (on a mission to run an alphabet of marathons, so this is F), all bar one (Glencoe) have been on the road. Since being with Westies for the last year and running hills and trails the last 2 years, I’m looking for more marathons/long races that are not on pounding tarmac. The Fort William marathon promised to be multi-terrain.
Beginning at the Nevis Range Centre, the first 11 or so miles wind up and through Nevis forest. Although there is incline here, it is all gentle stuff for hardened and not-so-hardened Westies. One of the best things about this race is the views of that big humphy Ben Nevis. For most of the race, on a clear day which this was, you can look at Ben Nevis looking at you sweat yourself silly. The views/sights this race offers are probably the best of any mararthon I have run, bar Glencoe.
Having delighted in running along trails – both wide forestry track and narrow-no-overtaking paths delightfully lined with nettles for added spice – we emerge at Spean Bridge where there is a fast run down a road towards the Caldonian Canal at Gairlochy. Great views, despite a little too much tarmac. Turn left at Gairlochy onto the Canal path … which is initially a bonnie run…but after 6+ miles where every turn looks exactly the same on a flat, straight path, i was getting a bit bored. Even the austere, dark, shadowy North Face wasn’t taking away from the monotony. It doesn’t get a lot better when turning onto the A82 circa mile 20/21. Running along the road side was all but zapping the energy from my legs. And it’s uphill.
However, the final 2 or 3 miles are back on track (woot, woot). Depsite being uphill (runnable, nothing steep) my legs found some bouce and started pushing harder, happy to be running on muddy trails among trees. I tottered past the finish line in, for me, a respectable 3.46.
Prior to the Fort William Marathon was the Lochaber marathon which ran along the road side of Loch Eil – an out and back, which, personally, i found a torturing bore (lack of views, all along the road side). Pleased to say that, despite half of Fort William marathon being on tarmac, it does offer a varied terrain run (the first half preferable to the second half) with some of the best views. Indeed, if you’re ever a wee bit scunnered with running up hills and would rather run to simply look up and admire them, then this marathon might well do the trick.
It aint a hill run. It’s only half a trail run. But i’d recommend it.