Alasdair McWilliam, a member of Hambleton Athletics and Running Club, recently took the long road trip (via a whisky distillery or two) to take part in the Loch Ness Marathon, which he completed fortified with a double homemade cheeseburger, loaded fries and a thick vanilla milkshake from Inverness’s trip-advisor-topping burger bar “Coyotes”!

Saturday (supposedly a relaxing day before race day), started with the obligatory highland breakfast in readiness for the Torvean Parkrun. Parkruns in Scotland start 30 mins later – so there was time for a “wee” lie-in! There were international visitors there wearing vests from places as far afield as South Africa. Saturday afternoon was spent picking up race numbers at the Expo, and Alasdair accidentally buying a new pair of Hoka shoes. He said, “Well, with the 15% discount and a marathon to run the next day, it would be rude not to!”

Sunday came soon enough and the athletes (all 2,500 of them) boarded a series of coaches at 7.30am for the scenic 50 minute ride to the start line at the end of Loch Ness. Alasdair said, “As the coach pulled to a final stop, a very peculiar sight appeared – one I don’t think I will ever (fortunately) see again – as men leapt off the coaches in front and answered a call of nature without any hint of embarrassment or attempts to find cover or a suitable tree. It was like a scene out of a sci-fi film!”

The usual heavy thumping music played to get everyone hyped for the start until suddenly it fell silent, as a lone piper made his way from the back of the assembled crowd through the middle of everyone to the very front. Alasdair said, “Yes, we were in Scotland and not quite sure why signing up to this unique marathon had ever been a good idea!”

And then they were off! The first 10 miles was pretty much all downhill. Then the halfway point passed with relative ease, despite Alasdair’s body aching. The route then started to go uphill and continue uphill. Around the 20 mile mark, the temptation for Alasdair to quit was very, very real. But the roads had been opened in one direction at that point and cars passing in the other direction showed their support with beeping horns, and people waving madly. Somehow he found it impossible to quit in view of this tremendous encouragement.

And so onwards, the uphill now turning into a downhill and the promise of Inverness in the distance. Alasdair started to think that perhaps he would be given a welcome cup of Baxter’s soup (the sponsors). He remembered there was a promise of some alcohol-free beer on offer (Erdinger), which gave him an extra push to carry on.
The final mile and a half was inevitably the longest. Passing other runners who were sat in bars, reaping the rewards of their own efforts yet still finding time to enthusiastically clap those yet to finish. Alasdair said, “I’m sure they moved the finish from the previous day! Back at the hotel I jumped in the bath to get warm again, then lay on the bed and dozed off for half an hour. On waking, I felt much better and remembering the advice to eat even though I didn’t feel like it, ordered some pasta to be delivered which had never been more welcome. I think the memory of the pain wears off surprisingly quickly, and so a ‘never again’ feeling quickly turned into ‘ooh, where next?’ thoughts.”

What an amazing achievement, Alasdair. HARC would like to say a huge well done and can’t wait to hear about your next adventure!

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