Monday, October 20, 2008


Another Brick in the Wall

Hey hey hey Kids

Back from holiday and feeling refreshed, revived and re.... eeeer another word beginning with re

Here ye are - hope ye enjoy the ramblings

Kindest Regards


The Marathon

Loch Ness is a large freshwater Loch in the highlands of Scotland. By surface area it is the second largest in the country but by volume it’s by far and away the largest. In fact it contains more water than all the lakes of England and Wales combined; you’re dead impressed I can tell. But instead of trying to imagine how much water that actually is let’s just say it’s fecking deep and if you dropped your wallet I wouldn’t recommend diving in to recover it.

And not only because it’s 750ft deep as black as ink and as cold as ice but because it’s home to a MONSTER! (da da da da DAAA!) At least its home to a monster if you’re the kind of person who believes in Fairies, Hogwarts and thinks Merlin is the latest BBC fly on the wall documentary. If on the other hand you are sane; then it’s just a fecking big lump of water. Don’t swim in it cos you’ll die of exposure if you don’t cramp up and drown first of course. I’d suggest that if you want to find monsters then look under the bed with any luck an earwig might crawl in your empty skull and significantly increase your IQ.

It is amazing how one forged photograph from the 1930’s sparked such a craze. A grainy fake made by a p*ssed up London gynaecologist having a laugh on holiday and the area has been swamped ever since. Thousands of gullible tourists flock there year after year to gather at the tackiest visitor centre in the Northern hemisphere. Happy to be fleeced for over priced plastic tat made in China before being shoo’d out the door with their ‘Nessie net’ in the futile hope of sighting this mythical creature. It doesn’t exist you faaaaaaaaaaaanies!

However despite being a magnet for the worlds simplest people the Loch is also very picturesque and at over 23 miles long somebody thought it would make a nice backdrop for a foot race. Just add another three miles trotting round Inverness and hey presto you don’t just have a marathon; you have the ‘Loch Ness Marathon’ cue more Nessie tat and cach’iiiiing the cash registers are open again. This just goes to prove I am also rather simple because I entered the fecking thing!

Many thoughts were running through my head as I sat on the bus taking us out to the start of the race but the main one was ‘wish I’d gone for a p*ss’ before we left. It’s fairly unique getting a bus to the start but due to the rural nature of the route they have to do it this way. You just can’t have a 1000 cars pitching up in the @rse end of nowhere, it would be gridlock. So instead they bus you out (via London it seems)

As I crossed my legs and read the pre-race blurb there were some fairly dire warnings on public decency at the start. ‘Respect the local residents and use the portaloos provided’ it exclaimed in bold black lettering. Squirming in bladder filled discomfort I prayed we were close to our destination. I was on the 3rd bus of 30 so had high hopes of maintaining my decency …..

‘Pssssssst’ the pneumatic door on the bus slid open and I sprang out like a gazelle and smacked straight into the back of an orange clad runner ‘oomppff’ picking myself up and apologising profusely I glanced behind him ‘Aw for fuu-‘ the queue for the portaloo was already enormous. A quick guesstimate suggested there was a ratio of approximately one loo per 3000 participants. Given that practically everyone was in the same nervous state as me decency was going to have to take a back seat as I sprinted towards the nearest bush.

Fumbling with the cord on my shorts I looked down just in time to see a lady in a bright blue tracksuit squatted behind the bush, her face a rictus of horror as I guddled inside my scants. I was already on my heels before her high pitched squeal started. The next three shrubs were similarly occupied ‘Jesus chriiiiiiist!’ I sobbed as the pain became excruciating. I could wait no longer I just popped the wee fella out and let rip into a nearby drainage ditch ‘Ooooh yeeeeeeees’

The remainder of the day was always going to be a let down after the relief and satisfaction I experienced in those short few minutes of bladder emptying bliss. Even when a snooty woman without a bush to hide behind ‘tutted’ at me in disgust I simply smiled and told her I was going to turn round on the count of three unless she departed forthwith. The water level in the Loch increased by a few feet by the time I’d finished I’m sure.

Bouncing down to the start I was just in time for the ‘warm-up’ a group aerobic session organised by a girl from the local gym. Given there were 1500 of us crammed onto a single track road her standard routine of large sidesteps and elaborate twirls could have done with some modification. It accounted for at least 15% of the field before we’d crossed the start line. St Andrews ambulance personnel attending the wounded in the urine filled ditches as we galloped past.

I remember reading the course description when I received my race pack. It portrayed the route as ‘undulating’ but downhill. ‘The Marathon will start on the high ground between Fort Augustus and Foyers’ it said ‘and will drop down to the banks of Loch Ness at Foyers’ it continued. That’s good I thought, starting high and dropping to low ground; excellent. It even warned about excessive speed in the first half due to this drop in altitude. Woo Hoo! Should be quite a fast course then …..

Undulating (Verb used without object) 1. to move with a sinuous or wavelike motion; display a smooth rising-and-falling or side-to-side alternation of movement: i.e The flag undulates in the breeze.

Or my own preferred definition: Undulating (Adjective used with anger) 1. F*cking Hilly i.e The road undulates like a b@stard!

‘J.j.jj.esus ff.ffu.. h..h.ere comes another undule’ I wheezed to Karen as we braced ourselves for yet one more hill. This was my running partners’ second marathon, quite what had possessed her to enter a second was beyond me (and her at that moment) but I was certainly pleased to have the company. We were nine miles in and had climbed three Munros in the process. This was proving to be a tougher challenge than the Edinburgh marathon ‘Still g.g.glad you e.nn.tered’ I puffed as a mountain goat tumbled past towards a watery grave in the Loch ‘oh l.l.loving it!’ she replied sarcastically as one last painful bleat preceded a loud splash below.

Better take a ‘gel’ I thought as we passed the nine mile marker. It’s essential when you are running a marathon that you take in calories while you’re on the move. If you don’t you will ‘hit the wall’ a metaphor for completely depleting your glycogen reserves and running (quite literally) out of energy. This is on top of all the ‘carbing up’ you have to do the week before a race. I was planning to do this refuelling at 9, 14 and 18 miles.

There are various theories on what is best to take as fuelling on the move is a balancing act. Some people rely on energy drinks, others take energy gels, and some have dried fruit. What you have to be careful about is fluid balance. Too much and you need to go pee-pee all the time, too little and you will take fluids from the surrounding tissues which can lead to ‘digestive upset’ I’d plumped for an energy gel which I washed down with some energy drink. Double the energy I surmised …..

Thirty minutes and three hills later I was feeling a tad queasy. My lower intestine was rumbling as the gel also seemed be experiencing an ‘undulating’ transit ‘are you alright?’ enquired Karen as she noticed my pained expression ‘fine’ I mumbled quickly ‘If you want to pick up the pace I don’t mind-‘, ‘great idea’ I blurted out before sprinting off into the distance. The next toilet wasn’t for another three miles and I knew I wasn’t going to make it. It was time for a ‘Paula pitstop’ and I scanned the side of the road for suitable cover. A heaven sent tree caught my eye in the far distance ‘yes!’

I confidently predict that was the quickest mile of my life never mind the race. I definitely managed a personal best over the distance. My running style being not dissimilar to the famous Eric Liddell; head back mouth wide open and in my case buttocks firmly clenched! For the second time that day joy was soon unbounded. The tree sadly will never be the same again. I definitely wasn’t having anymore gels!

I rejoined the race and got myself into a decent groove, no idea now whether Karen was ahead or behind me now. Another half hour and the 16 mile marker was approaching. We had been warned about a steady climb from 16 to 18 miles; I feared the worst given they hadn’t felt it necessary to mention the preceding fifteen miles of hellish torment! Gritting my teeth I attacked the hill.

The hare and tortoise analogy seemed to be true. I was slowly working my way through the pack as faster runners ground to a halt on the hill. Maintaining a steady pace and a workmanlike grimace on my face I ploughed onwards until the last crest appeared along with the 18 mile marker. It was literally all downhill from here on in. Eight more miles and the torture would be over. I felt elated and proud, I was getting into a much better rhythm now, my stride lengthening and my pace quickening.

The 20 mile marker passed by and I was still feeling good! I was well into unknown territory but with only 10k to go I felt pretty confident ‘I can p*ss on 10k’ I thought as the sun broke through the clouds for the first time that day ‘woo hoo’ …

Fast forward three tenths of a mile and Ham is experiencing a major propulsion failure, despite gritting his teeth again it’s having no effect. Two more tenths and major warning messages are coming from his legs ‘The muscles just cannay take it Captain’, ‘wur running on empty here Sir’, fight it I scream in my head ‘ye cannay change the laws of physics!’ comes the reply in the voice of Lieutenant commander Montgomery Scott, USS Enterprise ‘Oh great now I’m f*cking hallucinating’ I mumble as my legs grind to a halt.
And that my friend is what it’s like hitting the wall! Nothing you can do about it, not a sodding thing. I sooooo nearly got to 21 miles but oh no I never even saw it coming. A head on smash with a brick wall and I’m now reduced to hobbling. All the niggles and pains come to haunt you now. You realise that you’ve been held together with sticky tape and bogeys for the last ten miles and now it’s all unravelling.

But there was no way I was not finishing; not now, not after getting this far. Pausing for a stretch and a quick blub I regrouped and pushed on. I was able to hobble at a slow jogging pace. Walking was actually more painful than jogging which didn’t bode well for the finish but right at that point my only focus was to get this awful experience finished as soon as possible. If I walked I’d only be out here longer.

I managed to get into a nice rhythmic hobble. Difficult to describe but imagine a man moving gingerly to protect painful piles whilst simultaneously walking over hot coals. Add in the occasional agonised staccato scream and I could have been mistaken for a Jazz singer ‘oooh aaah’ shuffle shuffle jump ‘yeah oooh aahhh’, shuffle jump shuffle

The 22 mile marker appeared just as I heard a familiar voice in my ear ‘I am never doing this again!’, ‘Ooh aaah me either’ shuffle jump ‘aaaaah’ Karen was limping heavily, ‘my calf keeps cramping uaaarghhh!’ this seemed as good a point as any for us both to walk/hobble. Comparing notes I established she’d managed to avoid the dreaded wall but was now suffering cramps. Sorry though I was to hear she was suffering I was mighty grateful to have company again.

The last four and a bit miles were the longest of our lives. It just seemed to go on for ever and EVER! We did manage to pass a pantomime horse that was in the process of being put down. A valuable lesson when choosing your fancy dress option; pick a protected species. In the last half mile we even overtook an old biddy that looked well into her 70’s. Up until then I hadn’t had a competitive thought in my mind; I was racing me and nobody else. I did feel slightly guilty about the elbow into her ribs but she wasn’t beating me!

The last 100metres were fantastic, we could see the line and hear the crowd going wild; well clapping politely whilst looking at their watches. You cross that line and it all seems worthwhile, you forget all the pain, all the hours pounding the roads in training. The endless pasta, the early mornings, the late nights. You hold that piece of metal in your hands, you look at it and you think ….. 26 miles for this piece of sh*t!

4hrs 38mins of my life that I’ll never forget. Would I do it again? …….


Ps I didn’t really dig the pensioner in the ribs!

Pps I tripped her up

Ppps Of course I didn’t!!!

Pppps It was Karen

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