With three weeks to go until the Loch Ness Marathon, yesterday was scheduled to be the longest run of my Hal Higdon Marathon Plan. Two of my friends from my running club are joining me at Loch Ness and we decided to escape our usual well worn roads and tow paths and headed to the Greenock Cut, a 7 mile trail loop around Loch Thom and the acquaduct that provided water to the town of Greenock for 145 years. To make the run long enough, we planned to run the loop three times.
The day was early autumn perfection: Sunny, a breeze and not too warm. I expected to do most of the run on my own as the guys are significantly faster than me, but we stuck together for the first lap, running between 10:30 and 11:00 minute miles. This is my goal marathon pace, but by the end of the lap it was clear to me that I was not going to be able to maintain the pace for another two laps. I sent the guys on ahead and plugged myself into my podcasts.
Each lap started with a mile of steady uphill. I had decided that I would attempt to run the hill for the first two laps, but it wasn’t far into the second ascent that I needed to stop and walk, getting to the top with a run/walk strategy. My pace quickly dropped off to between 12 and 13 minute miles and I found myself walking more than I would have liked for the middle of the run.
The views of the Firth of Clyde, Argyll, the Southern Highlands and Arran were spectacular. My photos do not do it justice, but I appreciated and was pleasantly distracted by it for two laps. The third lap? Barely noticed anything but the path in front of me and the next bend in the hillside!
The third lap involved a lot more walking than the first two and each time I stopped running I wondered if I would ever manage to start again, but I did and often managed to run just a little bit further than I thought. Much of the route is flat and follows the contour of the hillside and I was able to see a stone bridge or a bend ahead to aim for. And in this way, somehow, the run was done. All 21.44 miles.
I then ate what was possibly the most divine tasting Solero ice cream I’ve ever eaten.
The run took me 4:29:11 (I even got sunburnt). The time however does not put me on pace for a sub 5 hour marathon which is a little disappointing. Part of me is still hopeful, as I was particularly tired this week, despite the cut back run last weekend, and my Saturday parkrun time was rubbish. Part of me is preparing to be ok with 5+ hours, after all it is my first marathon (and my last!!), I have picked a tough course and a marathon is, well, a marathon!
So now to the taper, prepare for taperchondria!