For the ninth year in a row, runners descended on Inverness in the Scottish highlands for the Loch Ness Festival of Running. Sportsister’s Louise Hudson joined 8,600 runners from 41 countries who took part in either the Loch Ness Marathon, River Ness 10k, 10k Corporate Challenge, River Ness 5k, and, new for this year, the 400m Wee Nessie.
Inverness is a very picturesque city, and a great base for this event. It’s surrounded by stunning countryside with the River Ness snaking through the city. Not forgetting, of course, Loch Ness that’s just a few miles away. The largest of all the Lochs in Scotland it is a truly spectacular sight, and it’s little wonder that this marathon which follows the Loch’s banks for much of the 26 miles is known as one of the most scenic in the UK.
The number of entrants was split pretty evenly between the marathon and the 10k race. As I lined up for the 10k event it was great to see so many female runners taking part, with over half of this distance’s entrants being female. There was a real mix of standards from the first woman home and course record holder, Cathy Mutwa of Kenya, finishing in a time of 34 minutes and 46 seconds, through to plenty of 10k novices.
Both the marathon and the 10k routes are point to point races, both finishing at the event village in Bught Park in Inverness centre. Both events follow the same course for the final couple of miles.
For the marathon runners the final four miles is the only section of the course to run through built up areas, with the last half mile along the banks of the River Ness. The rest is in open countryside as runners cover almost the full length of Loch Ness, along undulating roads with a final killer hill at the 19 mile mark.
This year the start was altered from previous years, with runners starting on the high ground between Fort Augustus and Foyers before dropping down to the banks of the Loch. It was anticipated that this would make the course faster, and it did with many PB’s being set.
The 10k route started on wide roads with plenty of space for runners to find their feet and settle into their own pace. It wasn’t a particularly scenic start, and the only hill of the course was at the very beginning.
But by the 3k mark we were running on small country lanes on the outskirts of the city. This meant the field became more bunched, not helped by the wet weather and large puddles that were forming on the road side, further narrowing the course. After a couple of kilometers on smaller lanes the route snaked back into the city and more and more supporters lined the course.
The route finished, like the marathon, along the banks of the River Ness, with a view across the river to the finish line and the event village. After crossing over the bridge you see the final kilometre marker and you’re on the home stretch.
I couldn’t fault the organisation of the 10k event. There were plenty of toilets at the start, they put on a good warm up including bagpipes (despite the pouring rain) and it only took a few minutes to get the large field of runners across the start line. I’m told the set up and transport for the marathon runners was also very good.
I also really liked that after finishing my race, it was only about twenty minutes until the leading marathon runners were approaching the final part of the course. So I had just enough time to collect my medal, stretch and cool down before heading back to the finish line to see Ethiopian Tomas Abyu cross the line in 2 hours, 20 minutes and 50 seconds. The rain then stopped and made way for the sun and it was really inspiring to watch the marathon runners start to come in.
I was really impressed with the whole set up of this event, and with the addition of the 400m Wee Nessie race this year they really have catered for all the family.
On the Saturday before the racing began competitors and their families and friends were encouraged to head to the event village to enjoy the Pasta Party and on race day the village was alive with food and drinks stalls, live music, bouncy castles and even a climbing wall.
Would I do it again?
I’d definitely like to return for the marathon, but will make sure I get plenty of hill training in first. I’d trained beforehand and had an idea of what to expect but a bit of motivation was needed! Luckily I was using the Nike+ GPS app for my iPhone, which kept me going towards the end of the race, the OneMorePowersong function is a favourite and helped take my mind of the last few hundred metres before I crossed the line.
While it is a long way to travel to from many parts of the UK thanks to the airport and good rail links it is still very accessible.
Want to give it a go?
Next year’s event will take place on Sunday October 2nd. For more info see www.lochnessmarathon.com.
- It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful setting for a marathon
- Both the marathon and 10k courses are good for setting PB’s
- By offering different distances it means marathon runners can entice friends and family to come to Inverness too and take part in one of the shorter events
- The whole city is buzzing with runners all weekend which makes a great atmosphere
- The marathon route is quite undulating, with one major hill in the latter half so be prepared!
- If you are looking for a marathon lined with crowd support then this is not for you
- The city’s restaurants get booked up well in advance – so make sure you book in early for your pre race carb-load!
Louise Hudson, Sportsister,
The Women’s Sports Magazine