Got back from Fort William yesterday after a very enjoyable couple of days.
The trip up was plesant, with a wee stop in Callander for a coffee and a sandwich and a little walk about to stretch the legs.
It was while we were having our stroll that we came upon the Mhor Bread bakery, that had some of the best looking cakes and breads in the window that I've seen for a long time. A couple of cakes had to be bought for later on in the day - but is wolfing down big cakes ideal the day before a marathon? Probably not - so we settled for a couple of massive pistachio merranges!
The second leg of the trip from Callander to Fort William takes you through, to my mind, some of the best parts of the Scottish countryside. I always kick myself that I've not brought some Jan Garbarek music with me to listen to - it would just suit the landscape perfectly.
Got to Fort William by mid afternoon and I was amazed to realise that our Premier Inn was literally within spitting distance of the start/finish line!!
Unpacked and tootled off to pick up our numbers. We also picked up our "finishers" tee-shirts. Now. I know that organisers do this because, quite frankly, they will be busy enough on race day, but I always think it's bad JuJu to get a finishers tee shirt before you've started let alone finished a race. Mine was dumped in the back of the car - "I'll look at it after the race!"
While we were collecting our numbers in the Nevis Centre I saw a poster - "Record and CD Fair... Sunday 15th April". Came out of the centre and noticed that our hotel was also within about 500 yards to a Lidl store - at this point I checked my pulse to see if I'd died and gone to heaven.
Spent the afternoon doing very little. Unless you count eating an enormous, sticky, merrange while watching one of my favourite comedies of all time on the telly ("Passport to Pimlico" - "it's because we're British that we're fighting for our right to be Burgundians!!") - does it get any better?
Evening meal was pasta in the hotel restaurant ... then off to bed for rest. Big day tomorrow.
As we thought the hotel was pretty much full of other runners and I was disconcerted to see how many opted for the full-fat full-on cooked breakfast. OK it's three hours to the start, but that's a bit excessive. Also amazed to see how many choose to wear their running kit to the breakfast room. "You've three hours yet"!
Anyway. Each to their own. We went a bit of a stroll and met a few other runners - then went back to the hotel to get changed!
A bit of a race briefing in the Nevis Centre that amounted to exactly what you get told at every race briefing - i.e. "do as your bloody told", then we all went out to the start line.
The race itself? I really enjoyed the route. The first mile, through the back roads of a housing estate, was pretty uninspiring, but after that it was basically one long undulating road that went out and back. None of the hills were too taxing, but it certainly wasn't that flat that it got boring - just enough "change" in terrain to keep all the muscles working. Very much like Loch Ness.
I don't normally like "out and back" races. Regardless of whether your near the front of the race, or the back, I personally don't like the experience of "running against the tide" of runners on the other side of the road.
Another aspect of this race that I enjoyed, and again this is similar to Loch Ness, is that it's relatively quiet. Where there are pockets of spectators and supporters they are enthusiastic and encouraging.
But, and this may shock some, I'm a bit of a morose, insular type. If I'm working hard then I am more than happy to retreat into a wee world of my own, block out all external stimuli and just get on with it!
What did worry me, slightly, was that every mile marker was out. My GPS beeped consistently about 400m before every marker. I assumed that at some point I'd come across a "short" mile and it would even itself out...... I assumed incorrectly.
The organisers had had to make a change to the start finish area, and it would appear had inadvertently added about 400m on to the total (just about everyone with a GPS reported this). Maybe I could have got a sub 2:50? Who knows? I understand and sympathise with runners who missed out on the time they wanted because of this...but, from a selfish point of view, I'm happier to get a "PB" on a route that was slightly longer than get a "PB" on a route that was short!
It was a really well organised event. And, as marathons go, also reasonably priced. I might be biased because of previous involvement in organising races, but I'm always much more willing to "cut some slack" with organisers at this level. If I'd paid £40+ to a "big name" marathon. I might be a bit upset about extra 400m.
As I say, it's probably easy for me to be unconcerned, I did talk to others who had just missed out on times and I do feel sorry for them.
The prize giving went on for a bit. There appeared to be more prizes than runners! I did sneek out of the hall at one point for a bit of a rummage through the CD fair (got a Scott Hamilton CD - "nice").
Sunday, post race, we went into downtown Fort William to see what "was happening" as I believe the yoof are want to say. "Feck all" would have to be the resounding response! But we did find a nice Thai/Indian restaurant so a nice curry was had. Sorry to digress here - but talking about "yoof speak" I actually found myself using the term "cats" the other day, in a completely un-ironic way when talking to someone about jazz!! "Cats"?? Feck sake Stuart, next thing you know I'll be saying "Daddy-O".
We ended up doing a really pleasant 4 mile "recovery run" yesterday morning along part of the "Great Glen Way" before breakfast.
Another stop off at Callander and a wee visit to my new "favourite cake shop" was in order yesterday on the way home. Lovely.