Race Review : Loch Ness Marathon 2022

I love the Loch Ness marathon. I have run it 3 times and each time it did not disappoint. Sure, the second running was cold and wet, and less fun, a week after Manchester 2021. They became my slowest road marathons and it knocked me back a little, but only a little. You should rejoice being alive each day, let alone being able to plod around a marathon route in the highlands, around a world famous lake. Not everyone is as lucky.

Given our grandfather and father both dying of heart attacks, and us descending into our 40s like pigs diving into a trough of fried chicken, my brother decided last year that he wanted to start running several races a yet for the sake of his longevity. I was already running between 12-14 ultras and marathons over the year, with a strength and conditioning coach advising me between races and he wanted in to the party.

Brother Coveting my Manchester Marathon Medal from 2017

And so after his surprise announcement that he was running the 2021 London marathon (again for charity) I took him on the South Coast challenge, day 2, and other than the pig farm and then flint, he loved it. And we planned his 2022 in conjunction with mine.

And so in 2022 he would, according to the plan, run his first trail 50K. South Coast Challenge day 2 was 47. And we would run the Amersham Ultra in March with Lewis Clark to tick that one off.

The Boys

He would also take part in his first multi-day event. He does love his camping after all. And so we ran day one, and slogged out day two of Race to the Tower in June.

The final part of his tripartite race calendar was a road marathon, so he could attempt a PB. And for this, after running London twice, we signed him up for Loch Ness, the UKs most beautiful marathon, in my opinion anyway. But hey, what do I know?

We both flew in on the Saturday, and I went to the Race HQ/Expo at Bught Park to collect both of our race packs. They do not post them out, so you need to go to the EXPO with ID and the sign up email. I did this for me, but had to use the force on a couple of elderly ladies who were manning the table for my brother’s number. This is how it went down:

Me : Hi (shows first old lady my brother’s confirmation email).

First old lady starts looking through the envelopes for my brother’s number.

Me : (to second old lay) it is for my brother. I am picking his number up.

Second old lady : What? What? You can’t do that you need a letter.

First old lady finds my brother’s number and hands it to me.

Second old lady : You need a letter.

Me : (I show both numbers) but I have my own number.

First old lady : He has his number.

Second old lady : (to first old lady) But he needs a letter.

Me : I don’t need a letter.

First old lady : He doesn’t need a letter.

Me : I have my number.

First old lady : He has his number.

Me : (under my breath) move along.

First old lady : move along, move along.

With numbers in hand we chilled out at the hotel. Luckily, and this really made life a lot easier, there was a Beefeater attached to the hotel, we literally needed to wander through the lobby and we had all the food and drink at our fingertips and would eat all our meals there. It was also a 15 min walk from the race HQ, finish and what is the pickup point for the buses.

For this is a point to point race. You get the buses from 7:15 to 7:50 and they throw you around the seats as they swing around the tight bends on the north end of the loch for 45 minutes until you read the south west corner, high in the hills, surrounded by heathland and fir trees.

The toilet queue almost stretches back to Inverness, and you have to weigh up when you join it versus dropping off your bag in one of the lorries, and losing your extra layers. Me? I have a bag to drop with clothes needed for the end, but I get throwaway tee and hoodie from one of the many charity shops in town. It is cyclical, and ultimately philanthropic, because any throwaway clothes picked up near the start are then donated back to the shops. They could even go back to the stores that we bought them from in the first place.

My brother had not really run since Race to the Tower in June, no, scrap that, he hadn’t done any exercise since then and he was still suffering from niggles. It is that pesky aging process he wants to delay for as long as possible. But with no strength and maintenance gym work, or any additional exercise outside of the races themselves, it will get tougher for him. I remember just racing last year, no real work outside rare gym visits, and it hit me hard.

I had agreed early on in the year that I would run all 3 of his races with him, and we did, for the muddy 50K of Amersham, the two hard days of Tower, and this, a road marathon that at times I thought I could run at a decent clip, and put some demons to the sword, even a week after Berlin. But no, I am true to my word, to my brother more than anyone, and so from the start, after the lengthy toilet queue, and dumping off the shared bag, we started on the way.

Now, I am all about the evolution of kit for the betterment of my racing and, more so, upping the comfort factor. When I ran Berlin I wore a t-shirt under the Berlin mara vest, calf sleeves, knee support, and the nutrition/phone belt stocked with Torq gels. But, I had dressed for the first mile and not the 5th, so sooner rather than later I ended up stopping, removing the t-shirt, and the calf sleeves and binning them in a charity clothes bit, then suffered the rest of the way around with the Torq gel wrappers cutting into my flab and I still, a month later have a scar. For Loch Ness I decided to write a lot of these wrongs. For one, rather than wear the constricting calf sleeves around my ankles, I threaded them over the belt of the nutritional belt, effectively blunting the Torq gels so they didn’t cut me. I did wear a vest under my t-shirt but would dump that later. Things would improve and I kept my stops to a minimum.

And so we started down the long straight A-roads as part of the lycra clad conga. We had a plan to run each hour with a specific KM total in mind. And as we hit our stride, coming down from the highlands, and through picturesque valleys we kept to that for the first hour, even with time to slow to a walk, and take on water. My brother stopped for photos as we continued and hit our target for the second hour too, as we descended to the loch. We always run with the proviso of running the downs, walking the ups, and then run/walking the flats if, and only if, both of us are cool with it. It makes for a very relaxed race, even if a little slow. It is no man left behind and we keep the pace of the slower of the two.

The third hour we pretty much stuck to our plan too. We always have this idea that if we can get to KM30 running then the last 12 we can always walk/jog in under 2 hours. It is an unwritten rule/agreement that this is how we roll. Neither of us wants to be broken.

3 Races

My brother’s foot has been having issues. I really do need to get him to Profeet in Fulham to get his right foot and it’s pronation looked at. He is constantly hammering the outside of his foot when running and here, much like his other races, he was doing himself some damage. So he stopped at the First Aiders and was given some paracetamol. He seemed disappointed, but am not sure what else they could have done? Biofreeze and tape?

I was waiting for him on the side of the road at this point, on a verge behind an ambulance and people kept asking me if I was alright (which of course I was). The ambulances got a lot of use for this race. I have mentioned it before, but since COVID the race numbers are down, but also I think a lot of people’s training has lessened. In the pens at Berlin, Manchester, Yorkshire and here, people were openly saying that they had barely trained, or were undertrained. Welcome to the club.

My brother then went for a toilet break, leaping up the bank and into the trees and I had more time to rest, and more people asked if I was alright. Upon his return from his micturition, my brother leapt like an overweight salmon, and landed awkwardly, jarring his leg and from then, the race took on a different complexion.

We would be walking now, marching it in at our sub 10 minute KM up the long hill at mile 20, then the sharper uphill a few miles later before we hit Inverness and enjoyed those last few miles, thanking people for their “well done” congratulations and then we were across the bridge, crossing the River Ness, and were running the finish straight to get the photos we deserved.

And then we were done, my brother had completed his first full year of races, his first 50K, his first multiday, and his first road marathon outside of London. Job’s a good un. And then it was warm clothes on, the bag drop is still outside on the field, and it often rains, so I was glad I learned my lesson from the last two times and used a waterproof bag, medal photos with Nessie and then back to the hotel for a steak dinner, plenty of beers and a nice early night as we would be up at 5am to get a cab to the airport.

The Bling

Bobble hats, 20th anniversary race tees and the all-important bling.

In Summary

The race never disappoints. It was and is how I remembered it from my previous runs. The idea was to introduce my brother to a road marathon that wasn’t London. I did that. Tick. It is also, in my opinion the perfect UK road marathon. Stunning scenery. Tick. Great organisation. Tick. A decent sized file of 5-7000 meaning you can stick with the crowd if you want but can also it’s not so crowded you can find and enjoy roads to yourself. The town is gorgeous. The food options great. And I would highly recommend it.



NEXT UP: DRUIDS CHALLENGE (3 days x 33 miles)

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