In almost 'perfect' conditions for marathon running, sunny but not too hot, both my son, Russell and I, smashed our PBs for the 26 and a bit mile race. Russell, who is to blame for getting me into this running lark, was ninth overall (out of almost 2,200 other finishers) in the tremendous time of 2:41:41. He was hoping to get below 2:45:00 which would qualify him to start with the elite runners in next year's London Marathon, and didn't he do well, beating his target by over three minutes and knocking over eight minutes off his previous best.
I wasn't that far behind him, though, completing the very hilly course in 3:15:21. I hadn't intended to run that fast, my aim was to get somewhere near my Barcelona time of 3:29:26, and I'd set my pace on my Garmin sports watch thingy to five minute kilometres but it kept on losing contact with the satellite, so I had no idea how fast I was running. But all the hard training and long runs was worth it in the end, as I won the Over 60s category (out of 50 other old 'uns) and came 140th overall. Russell had said that if I ran well I could possibly get into the top three, but I never thought that I would actually win it. My prize was an engraved quaich plus a £100 gift voucher from a sports clothing store.
As all my running friends know I'm not that observant when I'm running, I managed to totally miss the Sagrada Familia when I ran in Barcelona but I did manage to spot Loch Ness during the race (mind you, you do run alongside it for about 23 miles).
I read in their publicity blurb that the Loch Ness race is the third biggest in the UK (after the London and Edinburgh marathons) but it must surely be one of the most picturesque events in the whole marathon calendar. All the competitors are taken by bus/coach (half a mile of coaches, in fact) out to Whitebridge, then run back down alongside the loch's south eastern shore, heading north east towards Dores on the northern tip of the loch. From Dores, the race heads directly into the centre of Inverness, finishing at the Inverness Queens Park Stadium.
We met up with our old friends Ros and Neil after the race and had a well-earned drink in a local Inverness hostelry in the evening. Ros and Neil had spotted me with about two miles to go and gave me a great cheer, which was really encouraging, as I was beginning to flag a bit by then. The final 'lap' of the town was pretty tough going, my legs ached, I felt faint, my chest hurt, in fact everything was feeling a bit 'uncomfortable'... I'm just glad that the race is only 26.2 miles and not 26.3 miles, as I don't think I would have made it.
Brian, the commentator (a good friend of Russell's), gave me a big build-up as I came into the final straight, but I wasn't that aware of what was going on around me, I have however since seen it on the race video... I look more knackered than I felt. After the race I treated myself to a massage to ease the cramp I was getting in my calves. My masseuse, by the way, was a very attractive young lady, but I couldn't have cared less, it could have been Vlad the Impaler for all I cared.
My other son, Harvey, was too late to enter the marathon but took part in the River Ness 10K, finishing in a very creditable time of 48:48. The former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq, who also ran in the 10K event (54:55), was on hand to present the prizes to the overall winners of the main race, Simon Tonui (2:20:13) and Joice Kirui (2:48:23), who are both members of Birchfield Harriers.
This was the second time that I have run in the Loch Ness marathon, the first was in 2007, and that was the first time that all three of us had run in a race together. I suppose I must 'thank' Costa Blanca News for making me redundant, as it is a lot easier training in the morning rather that running in the heat after a day's work. I did promise that I would never enter another race that involved training during the scorching heat of the Spanish summer (it's no fun getting up at 06:00 to get the long miles in before you fry), but never say never... who knows... it's a lovely race.
PS – a special thanks to Eileen for putting up with me and washing my sweaty running gear and to my running partner Paul (Elliott) who got up at the crack of dawn to accompany me for the first half of my long runs.