This is what the organisers, WildFox Events say about this event:
“The Glencoe Marathon, the first marathon to be run through this amazing landscape, links the great Glencoe with Glen Nevis. Taking in the Devil’s Staircase, a gruelling 500 metre climb over the eastern edge of the truly fearsome Aonach Eagach Ridge, runners will be rewarded at every turn with views of some of the most stunning and dramatic mountains in the Scottish Highlands.”
And then there was the route description:
“This is the wilderness – a tough off-road 26.2 miles with a total ascent of 1608m.”
“The route is in two phases both of which start near sea level, climb to a peak and descend back down again.”
Well… this sounded good enough for me 🙂 I planned the Glencoe Marathon to be my main event of the year and signed up for it very early in the year. My training included running a marathon every month (sometimes more) and going to the gym in the early months of the year. Then Jamie and I bought a house and there was plenty to do in the garden and no time for the gym, but I felt fairly fit cycling to and from work everyday and doing some runs in between marathons 🙂
But as important as training is, I like to have a running buddy on the day. However it was difficult to convince people to get excited about Scotland in October! Finally I managed to convince Dorota, and I was over the moon when she signed up! I still can’t believe that we met by accident running the South Downs Way. We are very good friends now and run together all the time 🙂
The day of the run was getting closer and because Scotland is so far North, Jamie and I decided to drive there and make a holiday out of it.
We set off from Guildford after work on Friday and headed for Sheffield. If you’ve ever done this journey you know that Friday at 18:00 is the worst time to do it. But there we were, trying to keep each other entertained through the traffic.
We got to the pub that we were staying in around 22:00 exhausted, but went for a pint to relax and chill out for a bit before bed time.
The morning was beautiful and I was very hopeful that after 5 hours of driving we would see Scotland in similar weather. Jamie was a bit more sceptical… or realistic 😉
We picked Dorota up from Glasgow Airport on our way to Fort William. We decided to stay in Fort William as this is where the race finished. I’ve never done a point-to-point race before, but working out the logistics was quite exciting.
When we got to Glencoe we were spoilt for beautiful views, I couldn’t wait to do the run!
After all the driving we were so happy to be able to relax and go out for a curry. Yes, I know: curry before a marathon?! It happens to be my favourite English cuisine 😉 You could wake me up in the middle of the night and I would happily eat curry! So yes… we went for a curry the night before the race.
Once back in the B&B, we got our gear ready, packed our compulsory kits and went to bed.
The morning was very chilly and I was a bit worried about what was to come. I had a kilt with me but decided very last minute not to run in it, I didn’t want to jinx it!
Jamie, Dorota and I drove from Fort William to the race start point at the Red Squirrel Camp Site in Glencoe. The morning was beautiful with clouds floating over the Lochs.
We got to the camp site and Jamie carried on to his adventure – an attempt to run up Ben Nevis.
Getting out of the car was quite painful. I was cold and I was feeling grateful that we didn’t decide to camp, although I didn’t notice anyone actually complaining about it.
We had 2 priorities – registration and toilets. Once all was done we went for a cup of hot coffee offered to us by the lovely marshals. They got up very early to be there for us and we really appreciated it 🙂
We then realised that the envelope that contained our race numbers also had the wave that we were supposed to be in. Oh well… we just had to make sure not to choose the first wave. The waves were letters in alphabetical order and we decided to go for D for Dorota 😀
The excitement was quite high at that point and we both really wanted to start running.
Once it was our turn, all the runners from wave D gathered by the start for a short race briefing. The race director called us “Group D, D for Gazelles”, I was very happy with that comparison.
We started running to the sound of bagpipes, which was touching as always.
We ran out of the campsite and then followed a single track road that lead to the “main” road we had to cross.
This is when we first met Gerry, he knew a surprising amount of Polish and we had a short conversation with him. It always surprises me when people speak Polish, it’s not an easy language to learn. In fact (or according to the Internet) it is 4th toughest language to learn for a native English speaker after Japanese, Korean and Arabic! Very impressive 🙂
We were running along the Glencoe pass. The route was taking us up and down, through bog and burns (<- check out my knowledge of Scottish stuff from my Scottish friend Sandie) 😀
It’s very useful to run with a phone. Apart from the obvious security reasons, I tend to take pictures and notify Jamie on my progress (usually every 10 km). People can also communicate with me more or less successfully (as I’m running) but more about this later…
We were still at the point where we were trying to avoid going into water, so we were jumping over puddles and snaking around the bog. I had the feeling all of this may be pointless.
After another climb we got back to the main road, where another lovely marshal helped us to cross it. And there it was – the first water station – result! Don’t you feel like you’ve already got some distance under your belt once you reach the 1st water station. Well, I do!
We went back onto an off-road path and this meant the return of the bog. It was tricky, it was deep. Dorota was still trying to avoid getting wet but I just went for it. I didn’t see any point in even reducing the damage at this stage, what was ahead of us was clear, BOG!
We couldn’t even run, it was soooo deep and it’s not like you could tell how deep it was, sometimes it got you up to your ankles, sometimes up to your knees. The bog monster was trying to swallow us whole!
But guess what? This was exactly the challenge we signed up for and it was a beautiful sunny day. It was stunning.
Eventually we got to the end of the bog only to reach the base of the Devil’s Staircase. It took us over 1.5 hours to do the first 10km. Oh dear… I was getting worried about the 4 hour halfway cut-off.
So there we were, climbing the Devil’s Staircase and I thought to myself, it’s the perfect time for a food break. See, my priority is to stop for a picture over stopping for food and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to multitask. We were climbing up the snaking route and I tried to munch on my Clif Bar, but as it turns out breathing is more important than eating! I decided to do one at a time in this case and focus just on walking up and breathing 🙂
We saw someone coming down, they were pulling out of the race due to footwear malfunction. I felt really sorry for this guy, he looked like such a strong runner and the sole of his shoe simply fell off! That must have been so frustrating 😦
Fortunately all we got was bog damage:
We got to the top and the views were fantastic! The air was crystal clear and the sky was blue without a single cloud. We were amazed – this was Scotland in October. We could see for miles and the lochs were reflecting the blue sky contrasting with the rusty foliage. Stunning.
We got to the top of the first big hill, then we could enjoy the descent until the next big hill.
It was so warm we took our long sleeved layers off and I was thinking that maybe it was a mistake not to use a sun cream.
The steep descent was great! It was worth all the bog and climbing. Both Dorota and I really enjoy the downhills.
It was a technical course and on such a beautiful day, we had to be cautious of the walkers, but this is when we managed to make up some time.
This is usually the point when Dorota and I become annoying to the other runners, as we get passed stopping for pictures quite a lot and then overtake again due to our speedy downhills. Sorry Ceri Morgan, here’s a picture of you 😉
We got to the feed station that had Mars bars, I think we were both hoping for deep fried ones, but I guess you can’t have everything 😉
We carried on down and got to a hydroelectric smelter and this was the sign that we were in “The Electric Village”, Kinlochleven mainly known to us as the half-way point 🙂
We had some fuel and took some more pictures and met Gerry again.
This was a great station with a lot of snacks and drinks, loved it.
Dorota and I carried on after having some food, the route took us by the road and eventually into the woodland, this was the second big hill and it was tough.
The route was quite steep and lead us up and up and up. We couldn’t quite see where we were going as the path was leading through trees, but the higher we went the less trees there were and eventually we saw the top. Hurrah!
And the view was yet again stunning.
The route flattened and the hard bit was that we could see the path in front of us going on and on for ages.
However we never fail to entertain ourselves:
Dorota did some climbing:
We met a dog:
It’s all good fun! You must be thinking, how do we ever finish races with all this mucking about 😉
I was feeling really hot, so used the burns to cool myself down and wet my buff that I covered my head with.
Eventually we got to the next feed station, I was really pleased as I had run out of water by this stage. They had Lucozade – I’d never had Lucozade before (you don’t need to comment – I know it’s weird). It perked me up quite a bit and I absolutely loved it.
We carried on and there were some technical bits waiting for us:
And a smiley shepherd:
And more technical bits:
And then… there it was, the last feed station with toilets and everything. And it wasn’t just a standard feed station, they had port and cheese!
In fact, the drink selection was quite impressive, there were slush puppy drinks if you were hot and mulled drinks if you were cold. We had both! It was so great that we didn’t want to leave. Just the thing you need 10 km (ish) from the finish.
These marshals were also amazing, they didn’t seem to mind if we wanted to stay, just asked us what we would want for Christmas 😀
Then the route took us up again, not by much this time:
Here’s a ram for you:
And a pretty bridge:
We were both very tired at this point and running slower.
Finally we got to the woodland, which was also beautiful but much cooler.
Here we met Sara, who said that she was trying to keep up with us, which proves that it’s best to run with a friend. You will struggle at different times and therefore effortlessly keep each other going.
The woodland was so pretty, all the greens were very juicy, look at this moss:
There were a few descents in the woodland, some of which were technical. We had to be more careful as it’s not so easy to run fast downhill when you are tired.
Eventually we got to a track and this was much easier. We didn’t have to pay attention quite so much here and were going faster. We managed to overtake quite a few people during the last long slope.
Now we could see Ben Nevis and I knew that Jamie successfully ran/walked up it and was probably back now and waiting for us at the finish.
And then with 1 km to the finish line, I had a crisis and had to stop. I don’t really know what happened but I just couldn’t run anymore, but then Dorota said that we could make it in under 7h. There are other things that will motivate me more than time: dogs, pictures, food… but when it’s a major thing like this, I will dig out the last bits of energy and keep going.
We got to the final field and could see the finish line, but this field was a bog! This actually made me laugh, at this point it was just the last obstacle before glory 😉
Dorota and I crossed the finish line and Jamie was waiting for us there. We got our amazing medals and hugs etc.
It turned out that Jamie did his Ben Nevis climbing in Dorota’s leggings. He texted me whilst we were running, to check if they were mine and if he could borrow them. Because I was running I misread his message and replied with an optimistic ‘go for it’ thinking that he meant my leggings – which is of course a perfectly normal thing to do 😉 This is the danger of texting me when I’m running 😀
So here’s a picture of Jamie in Dorota’s running gear:
Thank you Dorota for still talking to both of us 😀
After cleaning our boggy shoes in a river we went back to our B&B, showered, changed and headed into town for a much deserved refuelling session.
Thank you Wildfox Events for a great day and looking after us so well!
In case you were wondering (finding this on the Internet proved quite hard) how long does it take to go up and back down Ben Nevis, it took Jamie (he’s quite fit) 3.5hrs.
By now you’ve read through nearly 2500 words, but this is not the end. I completely forgot that because this was my main event of the year I ordered a hoodie. It arrived in the beginning of November and was a great surprise. I looks so neat and I love it, thank you!
Here’s Trevor modelling it for you:
You can see my time on the sleeve. For those interested in stats: faster runners finished sooner and slower runners finished later.