Despite saying earlier in the week I would start the race conservatively and pick it up after half way if I was feeling good, I decide to start on comfort making sure my pace and breathing was easy. Fiona, Gillian and I start kinda together but I'm not particularly chatty in a race so I soldier on alone. 2 miles in 17:30. It's a bit quick but I'm not panicking yet. I take advantage of the downhill sections and easier on the uphills. In the early undulating miles, I'm playing leap-frog with a guy from North Yorkshire. I take him on the downhill, and him me on the uphill. It's gets a bit annoying because his shorts are about 2 sizes too small for his backside and I don't enjoy the view. After about 5 miles I'm pleased that I've lost him.
It's an amazing day, the scenery is fantastic. The trees are every shade of orange, green and brown and the only sound is from footfall and cheerful banter. I catch up with a guy from Cincinnatti who's come over especially for the race. I'm impressed and we agree he's chosen a good day. He hasn't a clue where Fife is tho....
My bag is full of jelly beans and dextrose tablets but for now I try to survive only on what's available - lucozade and water. 6 miles in 54mins, then 10 miles in 1.30. Everything's going so well. I dip very slightly but there's a couple of guys in front of me running around the same pace. One of them has a cracking pair of legs and lovely toned shoulders and from the front he may very well look like Alan Carr but from the back he'll do and I'm happy to follow. I do this for another few miles before the 2 of them disappear into the bushes presumably for a pee....
I catch up with a Geordie sounding woman about 15 miles in. She's feeling chatty but I'm not so I use the opportunity to stop for a paracetamol break as the underside of my feet are starting to ache and in training runs I've normally taken them around 12 miles. On Fiona's advice I have caffeine enhanced ones which seem to do the trick and I feel better almost instantly! At the next lucozade station I catch back up with the Geordie woman who drops her bottle and keeps going. I pick it up and run after her with it. That's my good deed for the day.
I get to the half way point in 1:57. Just a few weeks ago that would have been an 11 minute PB. I laugh to myself that there's no way I can sustain this and I'm bound to crash and burn at any point but I'm still feeling good. The nice legs come back and I try to keep up but they're running too quickly.
17 miles comes in quickly and I can't believe there's less than 10 miles to go. I'm soon stopped in my tracks however as we get to the mega hill around 18/19 miles. I try my best but have to walk up about halfway.
I reach 20 miles in 3.03 and again I'm feeling good. I start to think now that if I carry on like this I'll be under 4 hours! Unbelieveable. We get to the village of Dores and people are out in great numbers. I smile and wave at everyone. I feel fantastic and the people here are really spurring me on towards Inverness.
I charge on and about 23 miles in I see a club vest ahead. It's Gordon and he's walking. I laugh to myself. Not because he's suffering but because he's not going to expect me to creep up behind him. I tap him on the shoulder and he's amazed to see it's me. "Can't have you bloody pass me" he says and we start running together. A few minutes later and his legs are in agony so he walks again. Just up ahead I see another club vest. This time it's Morna. Again I chuckle to myself. I pass by saying "alright Morna?" and she grunts. She definitely wasn't expecting me!
Just ahead of this I see Alan on the corner. It's fantastic to see a familiar face and I remember that Val said she was going to be supporting at around 24 miles so I look to see if she's there too and there she and Pauline are, cheering and waving and saying I look great, I'm doing well and I smile and laugh and pose for the camera and say this is fantastic and I'm loving every minute.
I head towards the bridge full of confidence with just a couple of miles to go, cross the bridge and start heading towards the 25 mile marker. I get here and an invisible force field suddenly shoots up. I guess this is my crash point. I look at my watch. It's going to be so close to 4 hours but I find it really difficult to carry on. I walk for a minute then give myself a talking to and start running again. I see Julie & Pete just up ahead and they're cheering. This lifts me a little but with just half a mile to go I'm really struggling again and am reduced to a walk. I can't believe it. I've come so far and now I'm walking. I can hear the crowds in the stadium but it's a cruel long way round before I get to the end. Again I give myself a talking to and make a push for the end. I finally get to the back of the stadium, turn the corner and head in. I feel great again and sprint for my life to the finish, arms waving wildly. I've done it, I've bloody well done it!!! 4hrs 2mins 27 seconds. It's not quite under 4 but it's a close call and better than my predicted 4:15.
Post Race Blues
Val & Pauline have made their way to the finish line and they're full of congratulations. I'm so chuffed and jumping around like a lunatic. I feel fantastic!! I head off to get my goody bag and look to see how everyone else has got on. Inside the tent I finally find John but by now the life is rapidly draining out of me. I feel sick. I feel faint. I can hardly stand up. It all happens so quickly and before long I'm on my knees on the grass outside. Pauline appears from nowhere and gets me lying down with my feet up on my bag. Gillian's there and I work out through the tears that she's not finished. I feel okay lying down but every time I raise my head the nausea takes over. I do manage brief conversations and speak to Sophie, Karen, Jo, Linda & Sid but then I get really cold and start turning blue apparently! Val helps me get my clothes on which helps but after all the cold lucozade and water I really need something hot inside me. Hurray for the free post-race food after which I feel fantastic again. I'm gutted for Gillian and feel guilty for feeling so chuffed with myself but I worked bloody hard for this and I'm going to revel in the glory for some time to come.