I ran the Lochaber Marathon!

For a summary, placing and results of the Lochaber Marathon 2011, go to: Lochaber Marathon Summary.

On Sunday the 10th of April, the day of the marathon, I woke up at 7am.I was excited and had laid out all of my clothes the night before and was getting even more excited when I kept getting good luck messages from friends and family on my phone and on facebook.

It was good to know that people were thinking about me and backing me all the way.  My friend Emma who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year text me and said:

Morning my fine athlete. Nice day for a little jog! I’ll be with u every step – u r a VERY special girl. Just remember if it hurts it’s nothing compared to the pain cancer sufferers feel. How’s the butterflies? Xxx

Damn right Emma!  It was a good message to receive and put into perspective the real reason I was doing this and had to give it my best!

We were staying at the Achintee Farm B&B, a really nice B&B which is at the foot of Ben Nevis.  The owners Scott and Heather are so nice, it makes staying there as if you are part of their family.  Scott is a very funny man and always makes us laugh – lots.  We stayed there in June when we climbed Ben Nevis and we will always stay there now whenever we venture over that way again.

We went down for breakfast at 8am, I had porridge, which I couldn’t finish, and orange juice.  I was fed up of eating so much as part of the ‘carb loading’ but I was concious that I wouldn’t be eating again properly until mid to later afternoon so I forced a slice of toast down too.

Once we had had breakfast we went upstairs to get all of my stuff together.  For the marathon I was wearing my nike shorts, my new sauconys (with about 200 miles in them), my black nike pro top, my pink nike top (with the pocket in the back for gels) and my Breast Cancer Care bib with my name on it.  Pink and black.

I was going to run with my music in one ear so that I could soak up the atmosphere / listen for traffic etc in my other ear.

Frozen Garmin!!

I gathered my Garmin up and noticed that the time was stuck at 8:10am.  It was frozen!

Nightmare!!!  My running partner, my running tool, the gadget I use to make sure I don’t go out to fast and make sure I pace ok – was dead!!!  Not only did I use it on all of my runs, but I use it to log the data and review it later.  If my Garmin was dead then I’d have no way of actually recording the marathon for all to see (or for me to review!)

It’s happened before and I’ve pressed the two buttons on it at the same time until it restarts, but it wasn’t doing it for me.  Arrrrrgggg!!!

I was shaking anyway with nerves, now this was a whole other kind of shaking!!  I was on google trying to see what I could do, then my gf calmly took it from me and pressed the two buttons together forcing it to restart.

PHEW!!!!  What I had done was unplug it from the wall when the power supply was still connected to the garmin.  This can sometimes force it into a freeze.  It was working now anyway… and my heart rate was back to sort of normal after the fright. 😉

Nevis Centre at 10am

We went to the Nevis Centre at 10am to meet Julie Ann, my Dad, step mum and friends Jackie, Fiona and Jodie.

Jackie, Fiona and Jodie had spent the whole of the last week (4 days of heavy rain, 3 days of sunshine) walking the 95 miles of the West Highland Way and met us on the Saturday in Fort William.

Jackie had said she had a project that she and Jodie had been working on and she unveiled them at the Nevis Centre when they got there.

Two big banners – one for me: Go Lorn, Road Runner, Meep Meep and one for Julie Ann – Julie Ann ran a Marathon!

It was great to see and a nice surprise.  My brother, his wife and my neice and nephews turned up just before we went in for the race briefing in the Nevis Centre.

Race Briefing

The race briefing had all of the usual information, a summary of the route, what to watch out for, and a summary of the conditions.  It was described as better conditions for the spectators (ie sunny) than for the competitors.  Little did I know it was going to be so hot!

They said that 404 people had registered for the run (just over a quarter were women) and went over the usual safety information.

Pre race nutrition

As usual I had my caffiene boost lucozade about an hour before the race start time.  80mg of caffiene, thank you very much!!

Whilst we were getting photos taken I took on a caffiene gel as part of my pre race energy to keep me going. It wasn’t exactly warm and I’d had my warm up trousers on until about half 10.  There was a bit of a cool breeze around the car park, a breeze which I was quite glad of during the first half of the race!

Race start

After the race briefing we nipped to the toilet, then we went out to the start on the shinty course.  Jackie said I’d be too warm in what I had on, but I’d chosen it so I was sticking with it.  I should have listened to her as of course I was too hot… about two thirds of the way round I had visions of me crossing the line and taking all of my tops off and airing my torso with only my sports bra on!! lol…luckily I didn’t do that when I finished!

As I was walking over to the race start my Dad caught up with me and grabbed my hand, his voice was breaking the way it does when I know he is very proud of me.

He had seemed to have thought hard about what he was going to say to me and said:
I won’t wish you luck as luck isn’t in it because I know you can do it’.

I’m glad I had my sunglasses on as I’m pretty sure I cried a little.  It was nice to know he is so proud of me.

At the start I was with Julie Ann and we were about a third of the way into the pack.  We were going to run together for the start then see what happened after that…

Lochaber Marathon Race Strategy

I had a strategy for the marathon – to split up the run into 6 mini runs:

6 miles
4 miles
3.1 miles (halfway)
6 miles
4 miles
3.1 miles (finish)

It was based on how I ran the 26.2 miles up Loch Lomond in November when I found myself splitting the run down into mini sections.  I found it helped me keep going when I knew that I was doing it bit at a time.

I also had a pace strategy… which would get me in in around about 3:30 if all went well.  Although based on my training runs, my realisitic goal was 3:30 – 3:45.

Miles 1-10 – 8:15 min miles
Miles 11-23.1 – 8:00 min miles
Miles 23.1-26.2 – 7:45 min miles! (if possible?!)

The pacing was fine until about mile 15 when I lost it and had to give in to the heat and the weather.  Oh and the pace band fell off after 5 miles… lol.

I’m just glad the course was as flat as it was!

Miles 1-6

I started off well at between 8:00 – 8:18 minute miles.  I was running with Julie Ann, but I was consious that the pace was above what our training pace had been, and whilst she is more than capable, I know that she likes to start off slower and warm up during the start of a run.

It felt a little strange, as usually we would be chattering away, but today was different.  We both had an earphone in one ear and I think the nerves were perhaps getting the better of us… as well as concentrating on running in the crowd.

After 3 miles I noticed a guy running in front of us with sandals on… I’d met him at the half marathon at Balloch to Clydebank.  Paul from the Skint running website. Crazy I thought!  running in sandals… bare foot running it’s called.  I need all the help and support I can get without worrying if my feet are ok!! 🙂  I think he got to 20 and dnf. 😦

We had a brief chat, then I pushed on, and didn’t mean to, but I left Julie Ann.  I felt bad that I hadn’t said goodbye, but then it might not have looked too good…’see ya’…we’d agreed anyway that we’d start together then see what happened.

The first 3-4 miles was on pavement, then it moved onto the road.  The main road to Mallaig – the A830.

I kept a constant pace at around my target time and felt good.  I had my race band on my Garmin strap, and after 5 miles, it fell off… great I thought.  But I knew my pace targets for the distances so it was ok.  I looked around and the scenery was stunning.

I took a caffiene energy gel at about 5 miles after warming it up in my hand for a while.

Miles 7-10

I continued to feel good, my pace was constant and I felt strong.  The weather was ok, and there was some cloud cover preventing the sun from getting too hot. There was also a slight wind coming off the loch which was pleasant at points.

At about 9 miles in the leaders were on the other side of the road and on their way back to Fort William.

We were all running mainly in single file although there was traffic on the road, it wasn’t bad and they were making way for us all.  I took on another caffiene energy gel at 9.5 miles.

Miles 11-14

This is where I started to pick up the pace a little and where I started to over take people.  I was mainly overtaking guys who were slowing or walking after possibly going out too fast.  It actually felt good to still be feeling strong and for my strategy of starting a bit slower to maybe be working.

Up to the half way point I was doing 7:47 – 7:59 minute miles (target 8:00) and I was pleased when I got to the turning point.  After the turn there was a slight downhill back to the 14th mile when I still felt strong. I took my fourth caffiene energy gel and ploughed on.

At about 14 miles I saw Julie Ann on the other side of the road and cheered her on she was on target for about a 2 hour half marathon I think and seemed to be doing well.

Miles 15-19

Then after the 15th mile it started to get hard.  It was hotter…the cloud cover had gone, and so had the breeze.  I was starting to wonder why I worn so many tops – especially the black underlayer doh!!

That’s what happens when you train through the winter then the marathon is on an unseasonably hot day!

The route was good though, nice and flat with only a few gradual inclines and declines, but nothing show stopping. There were a few supporters in the laybys but I think many had opted not to drive on the road we would be running on.

Mile 15 slowed to 8:15 and 16 was 8:11.  Still a good pace.

By mile 16 my water had run out. I’d started with a litre and a half in my back pack … and I hadn’t thought I would run out.  But I should have put 2 litres in it at the start!  By now I could have done with some of my supporters along the route. 😦  Or at least have someone I didn’t know read my name off my t-shirt I was wearing!

I was meant to be looking at the run by splitting it up into smaller sections… 0-6, 6-10, 10-13, 13-19, 19-23, 23-26.  But by mile 16 I started splitting it down into mile sections. ‘Just one mile to go til I get to 17 miles’, ‘Just 1 mile to go until I get to 18 miles’.

And I was desperate for water.  I couldn’t remember where the water stations were, but from mile 16 when I ran out, to about 19 there seemed to be none.

When I finally got to one at mile 19 I grabbed two 330ml bottles of water.  I drank some, and let some splash over my hands and legs, and poured some over my head.  It was so refreshing!

Miles 20-23

It was now getting very hard – hellish in fact.  I’d taken another energy gel at about 19 miles and had quite a few more bottles of water, but I was still splitting the distance down and aiming to get to just the next mile before continuing onto the next mile.

It was hot, I was hot and tired.  My legs felt heavy and sore.  At one point, I passed a water stop which had been emptied and after it saw lots of rather full water bottles strewn across the pavement… I really needed the water so I bent down, mid run to pick one up… bad move!!  The change in movement almost sent my legs into a cramp, but I managed to regain myself and keep running.

I didn’t really care if someone else might have had the bottle before me, I needed the water.

It was getting so hard, I had to pull myself back and remind myself why I was doing this.  I remembered the message Emma sent me about how it would never be as bad as what cancer sufferers have to go through.  And I remembered all the people who had supported me in donations, and by being here for me.

I managed to catch up with a woman who had a red camelback on, I tried to stay with her and did for a few miles.  I tried to pick up the pace, but when I did my legs felt like they might cramp, so I listened to them and just kept running.  I probably should have run along side her and chatted to her to take my mind off the pain.

My pace started to drop slightly… mile 19- 8:29, 20- 8:44, 21- 8:50, 22- 8:28, 23- 9:17.

I was passing a lot of people, guys mainly who were walking and as I was counting down how far I had to go, I’d let them know as I passed them.  ‘Only 5 miles to go…’  I don’t know if it helped any…but it sure helped me!

Miles 24-26

I passed another water station and only managed to get one bottle.  I’d been picking up 2 bottles from each stop and this time I was frustrated that I could only get one.

Not long after a marshall on a bike came past me and asked if I was the one looking for the another water.  I was so releived and grateful to him.  He said he’d be cycling along so if I needed any more to let him know.  It was very reassuring.  I decided I didn’t need my last energy gel and didn’t have any water to wash it down with anyway.

Mile 24 I was really feeling it and instead of breaking the distance up in miles, I had actually reverted to counting the distance in km and time… 1km to the next mile (0.61 miles)… 5 minutes to the next mile….2.2 miles to go…just 20 minutes to go…. I looked up and could see the massive Ben (Nevis) towering over me.  How beautiful it was.

At mile 25 I was tired and emotional and it wasn’t helped when the Gabrielle song ‘Sunshine’ came on my ipod.  A song which reminds me of when my Granny died and how she inspires me to do well, make her proud and always keep going.

My Granny used to live in the Lochaber area so it always reminds me of her when I go there. She used to get the Corran Ferry when she travelled from Fort William home to Lochaline, and would sometimes have to drive the road I was running on if the ferry wasn’t on or if she missed the last ferry. I imagined her moving up here from London in the late 60s with her husband, my Grandad.  I was blown away and carried along by the song.

‘Sunshine through my window, that’s what you are. My shining star.
Making me feel I’m on top of the world, telling me I’ll go far.
Reaching out, for the highs, you inspired me to try.
I felt the magic inside, and I felt that I could fly.
I’m looking at the world in an optimistic light.’

The funny thing was the sun was beating down and Granny was all around me, but could she not have arranged for the sun to shine a little less or the clouds to have hung around a bit longer??

I ploughed on and go to 26 miles through an off road concrete track… up towards the estate I would run through to get to the finish at the shinty field.

There was a b**tard of a slight incline to get up, then you were into the estate.

I was counting 10ths of miles by now… 0.8 miles to go, 0.7, 0.6, 0.5, 0.4… was this never going to end!??

I remembered the corners we turned going out and knew the end was near.  0.3, 0.2 and I ran into the Shinty field.

I saw all of my supporters cheering with my Road Runner banner and ran past them smiling… 0.1.. 0!!

I had done 26.2 miles (before I crossed the finish line) and stopped my garmin dead on 26.2.

I ran on knowing that I had run a marathon, and crossed the finish line.

The finish!

My time was 3:40:12 and I was so pleased to be finished.  I kept walking (as I’d read to do)… and took off my water pack and left it somewhere on the Shinty field.

I walked back to the crowd of people and looked up and saw my gf, my Dad and to my surprise Emma!!

She had managed to make it here to see me finish!  I hadn’t seen her since just after she had been diagnosed and by now her hair was just growing back into a very unusual short style for the very femme girl that Emma is.  But it suited her and she looked good.  A very good sight for sore eyes!

She inspired me to choose breast cancer care as the charity for me to run for as she was diagnosed in May last year.  She has been very positive through out her treatment and is finally on the mend.

I gave her a massive hug and I’m sure I started crying.  My legs were so sore, but I was so pleased to be finished.

I asked Emma to walk with me and talked to her about hard it had been and how pleased I was to see her.

I kept walking and took my Dads hand and walked with him for a bit.  I told him about the song and how it helped and how it reminded me of my Granny.  He was very proud of me.

I kept walking painfully around, trying to loosen off my legs.  I pretended to have races with my nephews, but couldn’t even attempt to move any faster than a slow, painful walk.  They had fun laughing at me anyway!


When I finished, I immediately took a lucozade and drank it, then had a for goodness shakes milkshake and a banana and some more water.  The recovery must begin now.

My gf noticed me getting cold and gave me my fleece and windproof jacket from my well prepared bag of post race stuff I thought I’d need for after it.

I did it!

I walked with my gf and hugged everyone and tried to keep walking to see if I could ease my legs off.

I went to see if I could see Julie Ann coming in, and she came in about 40 minutes after me. She looked quite happy and fresh, and did really well.

I was the 17th female across the line and the 119th to finish overall.  I ran the whole way and I am proud that I finished it with a good time, in such hot conditions.

Run: 26.2 miles, 3:40:12, Pace: 8:24, Calories: 2,610.

Ave HR: 170 (83%), Max HR: 195 (103%) – at that damn hill going into the estate.

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9 Responses to I ran the Lochaber Marathon!

  1. Paul says:

    Great race report! Well done again! I did indeed DNF at 20. Disappointed but not beating myself up over it 🙂

    Good work!

    • lornpearson says:

      Glad you liked it Paul. It was a good day for me, I had lots of friends and family supporting me and lots of support and well wishes from the people who had sponsored me etc. It was a good experience for me, learned a bit and would like to try another marathon (or the Lochaber one again next year).

      I hope the dnf hasn’t put you off. What are your plans now?

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