The Lakelands Hospice team (who I am raising money for) travelled up the day before and after a bit of wondering the streets of Inverness and a carb-tastic pasta dinner we all went to our hotel rooms for an early night. The next morning we had a good breakfast of Scottish Oats to keep us going and then went to catch the bus convoy to the Start. The race started about 50 minutes late due to a bus breakdown but when we eventually made it and the sun was shining. There was a great atmosphere, despite the long queue for the toilets! Bagpipers marched across the start and then the race officially begun.
I wanted to take it slow at first, so I tried to run at a 10 minute mile pace. However, I couldn’t quite go that slow and it ended up being more like 8 minutes! The scenery was so beautiful it was impossible not to enjoy myself. I was just happily jogging along, looking to my right at the autumn leaves in the surrounding forest or looking to my left at the awe-inspiring Loch Ness. There were no signs of Nessie herself, although I did see a suspiciously large shadow in the Loch at one point ;-). I foolishly got a bit over excited at about 10 miles, as I was averaging a 9minute/mile pace, meaning if I kept it up I would finish in under 4 hours. This made me carry on at the speed, overtaking loads of runners on my way.
A few runners who had taken part in the marathon last year warned me of a killer hill at 18 miles. I took an energy gel at the 17 mile marker in preparation but as I turned the corner, I saw ahead, a mass of runners going almost vertical up this hill! I refused to do any walking and steadily dragged myself upwards. The hill ending up lasting for a mile and with the 20 mile marker not far off I was really starting to feel worse for wear. I was sick of the energy gels and Lucozade Sport drinks and my body was running on autopilot. I had my eyes almost closed and leaned forward hoping my legs would catch up before I fell over.
At 23 miles I realised that my form had dropped considerably so I decided to walk for three minutes, get my heart rate to an even beat and then give it the best I had for the remainder of the course.
Those last 3.2 miles seemed to go on for ever and ever. To make matters worse, you can see the finish (Inverness Stadium) as you get into the city but they make you run all the way up one side of the river and back down again before you can get there. As I turned into the stadium, with the finish line in sight, I broke out into a sprint, determined to shave off as many seconds as possible. The memory of crossing the line is like remembering a dream, I can’t quite describe it. It was a mixture of pure joy, loneliness, relief and pride. A wee laddie gave me my medal and I proceeded off the track to collapse in a heap. I ended up 1255th out of 3500 people at a time of 4:16:38
I would like to thank everyone who helped me to reach my target of £850. Your support means a great deal to me and even more to the people at Lakelands Day Care Hospice. If you haven’t sponsored me yet it’s not too late, please go and donate at www.justgiving.com/thommckiernan