Helena Stroud is our social media guru, keeping our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds full of lovely stuff. She has recently taken part in the Loch Ness Marathon. Here is her recap of her monster-hunting adventure
I caught the marathon bug back in 2014 when I decided, having walked the London to Brighton shedding tears and toenails, that I really liked doing big, painful challenges. Having never run before, my first step was obviously to sign up for a charity place in the London Marathon. I’m a medal-fixated person and thought that crossing the finish line on the Mall would be the pinnacle of the achievement, newly acquired bling weighing heavy on my neck. I soon discovered, though, that the real, long-savoured joy of a marathon is in the training rather than on the day itself. I loved training for my first marathon, beyond anything I had experienced before. Those long, wintry runs on a Sunday, heading out of the door on weekday nights for a once-unheard-of 8-mile jog that I was now finding easy. I drank it all up and wanted more.
A knee injury during the London Marathon put paid to my long runs for quite a while; a frustrating and depressing thing for someone who has just found out that long distance running is what they love doing. But come 2017, with finally no more twinges from my once-dislocated kneecap, I felt it was time to train for another marathon.
I had just started working for a small charity called Prospect Burma, and was quickly impressed with the incredible work they do to provide educational scholarships to deserving students from Myanmar. I decided to train for the Loch Ness Marathon, as I’d heard some great reviews of it and fancied having a go at spotting the monster. Fast-forward 16 weeks and I found myself in Inverness, a bit nervous about getting to the race twinge-free.
We were bussed to the start of the race, round one side of Loch Ness and up a hill, the smell of the bus’s burning clutch in our noses as we got out. It was a decent morning for a run; a bit drizzly but not chucking it down, though on the hill we were right in the middle of a cloud and all the runners stood around shivering.
When we were finally let go, we were piped through the start by a local pipe band and off through the Highland countryside. This is the real allure of the Loch Ness Marathon – everywhere you turn you’re surrounded by heather, moss, lush green grass and the distant mountains (though surprisingly few views of Loch Ness itself). It’s as close to a trail run as you can get while still being a big road race. It was a lovely run: scenic, friendly, and I had some great chinwags with other folks along the way.
Over the last year my focus has switched very much from road to trail races, so this was the biggest race I’d done since the London Marathon. For trail fans though, it’s a nice one. You have sheep to stare at you and dogs to bark encouragement as you toil through the miles. You also get a tin of soup and some shortbread in the goody bag, which makes a nice change from the usual tat!
I ended up raising over £1,000 for Prospect Burma, which I was really pleased with, and got a time of 4 hours 42 minutes – a PB for me after my disastrous London Marathon time. I left Inverness very contented indeed, though still without a sighting of the elusive Nessie. Ah well. There’s always next year…