So the Glencoe Marathon was entered earlier this year with all the usual great intentions….. Somehow though despite having some great training this year as well as some great events and races, long runs had been sidelined a little and with this race approaching, I was feeling more than apprehensive.
I certainly didn’t have long miles in my legs but what I did have was a summer where my confidence on the hills – in both short, faster races and long hikes – had increased greatly. The miles in my legs over the longer hikes were definitely also beneficial. Niall and I had had a good few day trips and longer trips away, in particular a great weekend in the Cairngorms wnere we managed 4 summits in 1 day followed by 2 the next day by 10.30am and a cracking hike back to Glen Doll using the “Jocks Road” route – (hint: it is not a road… at times it is not even a path… sometimes it is difficult to identify anything at all…). I felt that with all of this and the previous Ultras I have done as well as the Cape Wrath Marathon I would at least survive. It was certain I would not be running the whole thing and so 20 mile runs tbh somehow seemed a bit obsolete and a way of eating up energy I’d rather keep.
Anyway, it was a cold clear morning. A gorgeous day. My kit was packed and I was ready. Breakfast had been had and I was ready to go. I decided to put my long sleeved top on at the start, and I’m glad I did, as it stayed on, despite the beautiful day.
And we were off!!!!
Niall had warned me that the 1st 5 miles were pretty boggy and reassured me not to get downhearted with slow progress through this terrain as it does not last. He was right. the 1st few miles were initially on tarmac out of the start area and eventually onto smaller paths/trail/trod which required single file running for the most part. After a while we ran up a small embankment to cross the road to the other side and back onto a route of foliage, rocks and muddy steps. I enjoyed this part…. then it became more boggy and for the next section it was at times difficult not to do my usual and start contemplating the depth of the bog and whether there was a chance I would disappear completely beneath the mud. Luckily I needn’t have worried.
It was slow progress but I was finding it ok in that I didn’t let it get to me and I plodded on, knowing that eventually it would finish and I would be on a dry path. And I was. Eventually all of a sudden, I came to a clear end and was on the main path of the WHW. Great!! I might actually be able to run!! That said, I do love crossing the little streams that run down the sides of sections of hills etc and it boosts my confidence knowing I can do it.
Onto the WHW the going was now good and I could pick up the pace a bit. It was tough going in the relentless uphill and finally I was able to see where the 1st big climb would reach to. I followed those in front as everyone snaked their way up the path, running where I could. Eventually I reached the top and I was not the only one to turn and admire the view for a few seconds. Some even stopped to take photographs!! At this stage I was thirsty and realized I had not been taking on fluids and it was a pretty nice day and it was warm having to carry my kit as well. I took a good drink of Pepsi before heading off to basically start the long descent into Kinlochleven. It was a long 5 or so miles downhill and there were places where it was necessary to keep an eye on your feet. I had chosen to wear my Asics trail shoes as opposed to my Inov-8’s for a bit of extra cushioning but with the added benefit of the extra grip. The descent was mainly not steep and was fairly pleasant even though, being a bit of an accident prone type, I had to be a little careful at times not to go face first down the hill. Fairly soon I could see Kinlochleven in the distance and after what seemed like quite some time I came to a water stop where I took on some water, having decided I would only carry Pepsi and pick up water at stops. A short time later I passed through the main stop at Kinlochleven…. Half way!!! This always has a bit of an effect on me.. you feel great having reached half way feeling good… then soon after starting on my way again, I had my low few miles, as you start to tire and realize how far you still have to go. The next main climb was out of Kinlochleven so I kept going up the Devil’s staircase, even overtaking 1 or 2 at this stage (although there was quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing in this respect from now onwards.
It was a tough enough climb but seemed less defined as to when it would end and I only focussed knowing there would be water at 17 miles and then it wouldn’t be long before the 20 mile barrier. 17 miles came quick and I didn’t hang around, merely filling up bottles. I still hadn’t eaten anything but to be honest didn’t feel hungry, was taking on water and Pepsi and was good with that and a few crisps at the stops here and there.
Once over the main climb, it felt like it went on for a while and eventually reached the 20 mile pit stop where they had THE nicest fruit punch with crushed ice EVER (non alcoholic obviously!!). It was to die for and was just what I needed at that stage. With a bit of extra fuel, I felt better and took off, aiming to catch up with a few of the others running around me who were mainly run-walking at this stage. I will be honest the next couple of miles were difficult and I and others around me were struggling with pace at this stage. I even had a small stumble as my knackered legs were just not picking my feet up anymore. We had all slowed to a run-walk and I had now lowered my previous ambition of sub 6 hours to sub 7. I did however still manage to catch a couple of people through this stage and that gave me a boost. Finally I reached the last water stop as I popped out onto a fire road to be told by the marshall that the finish was at the bottom of the 2.5mile descent. The road was all gravel with nothing technical and as I ran downhill the finish came into view. It took another 10mins or so to get there but finally myself and a few others came to the bottom of the descent and followed a small path around the corner where finally the finish was in front of us and we all sprinted for the line. I had made it!!! Niall was there to meet me after his run over 7 Munros that day too!! It was the toughest race/course I have ever done but I am secretly a little proud of myself. It was an amazing day and an amazing route. It is certainly not one for a PB (I think I finished in 6:40-something) but if you are looking for a scenic marathon, it doesn’t come any better than this. An amazingly organized event and one I can definitely recommend!!