Well, it'll be done then! (Final post on the marathon - honest!)
Delighted to say that both Audrey and I managed to complete the scenic but undulating course without any major problems, other than those usually attributed to distance running - boredom, minor aches both during and after. And both in decent times too, well within our respective targets - Audrey finishing in 5 hours and 7 minutes, me stumbling over the line after 3 hours and 41 minutes, leading home the runners for MS Society Scotland, apparently in 528th place out of 3,500.
Perhaps needless to say, running the 26.2 miles along the banks of Loch Ness is the biggest challenge I've ever faced, and Audrey even rates it as harder than the trek she made through Pakistan to the foot of K2. But it was a cracking day and, on reflection, both of us really enjoyed our achievement.
The day started at 5am for us, as we got up and ate as much as we could stomach (pasta carb-loading the night before had pretty much filled us) before leaving Keith at 6am to get to Inverness for half 7. Buses were scheduled to leave for the start at 8, but it was nearly nine before 38 buses set off from the finish to the start at Whitebridge meaning a delay of almost an hour before the start at 10.50. That was the only sour reflection on the day however, and organisation after that was terrific - Malcolm Sutherland and the race organisers should be proud of their event which has become the third biggest marathon in the UK behind London and Edinburgh.
And then, with the swirl of the pipes, the race began, and the long, lonely 26.2 miles back to Inverness was in front of us. Audrey and I parted within a couple of hundred metres, and she watched me weaving in and out of participants stretched right across the single track road until I disappeared (I know - it was mean). I powered on, through 8 miles in the first hour and 15 in two, phoning my Gran on the way and receiving text updates on the Old Firm game from my uncle. Support in Dores - at 16 miles - was awesome. It appeared as though the whole village had come out to support us, including several folks who were handing out sweets and biscuits!
At 18 miles, my wee brother phoned me from Australia, giving me an excuse to avoid running too fast (if at all!) up the rather steep hill! By the three hour mark I'd reached 22 miles and only had four to go... but my legs were done. No energy left and my bones were creaking! A water stop, loads of Lucozade and a wonderful woman at 24 miles who handed me some jelly babies kept me going along the River Ness. Then the noise of the crowds carried me through the last mile or so and into the stadium. Hugs all round as I crossed the line, and a tear or two shed, more out of relief and exhaustion than pain.
So that was it, my race over - a muffin, a bottle of water and a Mars Bar, a terrific massage and then I changed before returning to the finish to welcome Audrey home - exhausted, blistered and emotional but thoroughly delighted with her achievement (and no, she didn't hate me!).
Special mention to the volunteers at the water and Lucozade stops every 3 or 4 miles, the First Aiders (with whom neither of us got too acquainted with) and to all the runners and passers-by who lent their support with encouraging words and cheers. And to the guys running for Help for Heroes, in full military gear - complete with pack - who made the rest of us look weak. Our effort looked poor in comparison - thanks guys! Also, our respective partners, Fiona and Si, who have understood (I think) the commitment we made 13 weeks ago and supported us through it - right to the end.
And finally, to every single one of you who has sponsored us to run, a lot of whom have been bloggers - some I've met and some I have not. Thank you! We've raised just under £1,500, pretty much tripling our target for MS Society Scotland. Thank you so much. That support above everything kept us going at the dark stages of training and the lows of the race. So thanks for having faith in our ability to complete this challenge!
Now, when do the entries open for Edinburgh Marathon 2010... Audrey?