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Fort William Marathon: The Best Kept Secret in Racing

Earlier this year I had been training hard for the Limassol Marathon, through ice and sleet and snow, only to have what I considered a disappointing race. I struggled to recover mentally, but I knew I had another race on the horizon...the Fort William Marathon. This event was my first marathon back in July 2015, shortly after the family made the move to London. The main difference this time, though, was that we're three kids lighter with Michael and the twins all back in the US for some time with their friends.

I hadn't thought much about running this race again until Chris, the race organizer, reached out to me to offer me a complimentary spot. This was incredibly generous and given how much I liked the race the first time, there was no way I was going to refuse. Granted, Chris made this offer well before the race in Cyprus.

The posts-Limassol blues stuck around for much longer than I'd expected. I was really down on myself, questioning why I put in the effort and the training and the time. I've been fortunate to have done well achieving my athletic goals throughout my life, and Cyprus was the first massive let down I'd had in a long time.

I trudged on with training anyway, hating every day of it. The physical part of the training was going just fine, in fact, I was getting faster, yet mentally I just couldn't shake my disappointment. On May 27, I had a 150 minute long run on the plan and headed out before 9am for a loop down to Walton Bridge and back. The route down to Walton Bridge is mind-numbing. Long, boring stretch of road, especially when it's hot and your headphones die. I made it down to the bridge, stopped to fill up my water and headed back along the river. I was struggling, badly. I had to stop a few times, then before I got back to Hampton Court, I had a seizure.

I'm used to these by now, so I wasn't terribly alarmed. This one really took the juice out of me though. I stopped to let it pass, then slowly started again, making it to Bushy Park before calling it quits and walking the remaining two miles to home. Sad, dejected, unmotivated, I considered skipping the Fort William Marathon. Before making that decision, I knew I had to take a break. Finally I convinced myself to get the much needed rest my body was asking for.

For the next couple of weeks, I substituted cycling for running to keep up my fitness. That helped and I was able to get back into some form of training; I never got fully back into the swing of marathon training. I was enjoying the cross-training and kept with it. I still did my long runs, knowing that this wouldn't be a PB course and that I could finish with minimal training. I was ready when race day came around.

Having been here three years ago, I was familiar with the course. It's mostly trail running, but not too technical, with some road running mixed in. This year there were probably around 500 runner taking place (there were about 300 in 2015 if I recall correctly).

Waiting to start
The course will always be my favorite, despite it's difficulty. The views are simply spectacular and provide excellent distraction from the pain of running a marathon.

The first three miles are pretty much all uphill, so pacing is critical at the start. Go out too fast, and this course will eat you alive!

When you finally hit some roads, it's mostly a long, steady downhill passing sheep and staring at Scotland's beauty.

Then it's back on the trails before arriving at Spean Bridge, where we were staying and Beth and Henry were waiting for a hug and a high-five!

After exiting the trails at the Commando Memorial, you head back onto the roads until you get to River Lochy.

The route follows River Lochy for what seems forever (it's a long, straight river with not much to look at) and this is when it started to rain, but at least it wasn't hot.

After passing Neptune's Staircase, you get to hang out with the Hairy Coos...they make me smile every time I see them.

The most brutal part of the course is the last 4.5 miles, back up the hill to the starting point at Nevis Range. While brutal, at least you're back to enjoying the views, all the while trying to ignore the pain in your hips and quads.

I made it! 3:44:48 (unofficial) with a new course PB. Most importantly, I enjoyed it! It's absolutely a race I would do again. I would like to thank Chris and all of the race staff and volunteers for another fantastic experience. You know how to make every runner feel like they're the most important person there.


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