The Lochaber marathon is an out and back course that starts in Fort William and heads out on the road towards Mallaig to the turning point. The course is fairly flat apart from a couple of small climbs in the last mile, I always said a decent time is weather dependent due to the out & back nature and the fact that Lochaber is the wettest part of Britain!
This was my first marathon in 2 years since the last time I scraped a sub 3hr in 2:59:46 at the same race (having being roared home by the Gruesome Twosome – Brendan Moriarty & Peter Gallanagh)! The weather started of overcast with a slight breeze and that was as good as it got as the forecast was downhill from there! Myself, Iain Burns and David Lafferty were the Bella team on the day with myself and Iain starting with 6:40 / mile pace in mind. We settled at that pace on the road out until 10 miles when Iain got bored with my patter and decided to push on ahead! The rain and wind at this point was in your face and I couldn’t wait until the turn with the thought of a tail wind!
With a time of 1:27:13 at the halfway turn, which I felt had been tough up to this point with the wind & rain I was concerned about being able to maintain the 6:40 pace. Iain by this point had created around a 30 second gap in front of me and was looking strong. I was now running on my own with a group of around 20 runners not far behind me. The runners were not the only thing to turn after 13 miles with the wind somehow managing to swing back into our faces with the rain now pelting down – not good when you are 13 miles from home and praying for a tail wind!
By miles 18 – 20, I had slipped to 6:50 pace and feeling the pain into the wind. To my horror I felt the first jolt of pain from the early onset of cramp, with 6 miles to go the wheels had started to come off! I didn’t just feel as if I had hit “The Wall”, I felt as if I was having to push the wall into the wind and rain for the last 6 miles with bouts of cramp starting to hit with the power of a Tazer Gun!
With mile 23 & 24 being the first miles to slip over 7:00 minute mark at 7:12 & 7:13. As I reached the 24 mile mark – BOOM my right hamstring & calf seized bringing me to a grinding halt, as I stood there swearing at myself I had a look at my watch which showed 2:42 and after doing the maths I got it into my head to run through it in the last 2.2 miles. The last turn with 1.5 miles was again into a horrible head wind that just would not go away, the last section is running through a housing estate and finishes on a sports field, by this point I had dropped to 7:30 pace and clinging onto the hope of a PB, as I entered the field I could see Iain in front of me and the clock @2:58:30 so I pushed on to cross the line in 2:59:05 with a new PB! Iain finished just in front with a PB of 2:58:48 and I was glad to see he looked as burst as I felt! David Lafferty finished in a creditable 4:10:06 in tough conditions with only 20 runners out of the starting 336 finishing in under 3 hours.
The Marshalls, supporters and organisers deserve special praise for being out there in awful conditions…the reason us runners run 26.2 miles in terrible weather to go through that pain barrier must be for the love of it!!!