Loch Ness, near Inverness
October 1, 2006
Zakary Kihara 2:22:16
Alex Fedorov 2:41:35
No. of Finishers
More and more marathons these days are about the extras. Activities for family members, bands along the course, a festival atmosphere before and after the race, runners in fancy dress and a goody bag filled with junk that no one wants. As if the main point isn’t the race itself.
The Baxter’s Loch Ness Marathon is different. The fifth running of this lovely but understated race on a rainy, chilly day in the Highlands attracted well over 1,000 runners, with even more turning out for the accompanying 5K and 10K. From start to finish, there was a quiet dignity about the event that was both refreshing and memorable.
The point-to-point course starts on a narrow road six miles south of Loch Ness, meanders to the loch, then rolls for 10 miles along its eastern edge before continuing north to the finish in Inverness.
After arriving at the start by coach, runners were treated to a small bagpipe band as they lined up on a country road amid rolling pasture without a building in site. Positioned by the side of the road, the rosy-cheeked pipers blasted out a stirring rendition of Scotland the Brave as runners set off. It sounds corny and predictable but it was somehow perfect.
The epitome of understatement is that the main attraction of this race – the Loch Ness Monster – never even makes an appearance. At least it hasn’t done so far. Nevertheless, during those 10 beautiful miles along the loch, runners couldn’t help glancing hopefully towards the water.
As for the weather, next time Loch Ness may offer crowd-pleasing blue sky and sunshine, but this is northern Scotland in autumn after all. Somehow, though, the rain and mist were entirely appropriate and added to the atmosphere.
Most of the course goes through fields or woodland, so there are few supporters lining the way, but the pockets of people that do cheer the runners – pub owners, B&B residents, assorted farmers and their families – are that much more appreciated. Once again, less is more at this marathon.
The country-to-city course was popular too. From a chilly start in the middle of nowhere, you end up 26.2 miles away amid the creature comforts of Inverness: a hot shower; comfortable clothes; the reunion with friends and family; a guilt-free meal and pint or two of local beer at a welcoming pub. It’s a satisfying progression from the starkly rural to the warm, cheerful glow of civilisation.
The Loch Ness Marathon really delivers. It’s challenging, understated, dignified, mysterious, quiet, beautiful. And if you’re lucky, maybe something else. She’s there in that loch somewhere…