During the first weekend of October, I went up to Inverness (as a guest of Baxters Loch Ness Marathon) to run the River Ness 10km and soak up the Festival of Running atmosphere. Massive Thanks to Loch Ness Marathon and Planit Scotland for a weekend to remember.
I’ve only been to Scotland twice before the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon weekend and both times for less than 24 hours. This trip up to Inverness to run the River Ness 10km was no different as I hopped up there for just the one night.
In short, I had a great weekend, a great run and a great experience but I’m gonna get into the nitty gritty right now so a) I can remember my weekend and b) I can share my learnings and tips should you decide to take part in this epic weekend yourself!
Racing Out Of Town
Given the past couple of years, it’s been a while since I’ve travelled with the main intention being to run. Yes I’ve travelled and done some running – like a parkrun in Dublin, but not an actual event. I think Inverness was the right amount of travel though; far enough to fly, but technically still in the same country so still with the familiarity of ‘home’.
Travelling To Inverness From London
For this trip, I flew up to Inverness via Luton airport. I live under an hours drive from Luton so drove myself up there and pre-booked a car park space in the medium stay (about a 10min walk to the terminal).
The flight was just over an hour, but much more time was spent in the airport waiting for the flight (as with all flying). I was lucky; my flight wasn’t too delayed so I landed in Inverness in time to get to my hotel (via a pre-booked taxi) to drop off my bag and head to the Race Expo.
Another option to get up to Inverness is via the Caledonian Sleeper; an overnight train from London Euston.
Flying does however mean you’re somewhat restricted on what you can carry, especially if you don’t have checked in luggage allowances. The 100ml liquids restriction is something to bear in mind when packing your race day nutrition.
I took just the one gel to test out during the 10km in preparation for my half marathon the following weekend and made sure my water bottles for my race vest were empty (did forget to empty them on the way home though but thankfully it wasn’t a huge issue).
Where To Stay In Inverness
Probably one of the most crucial things to organise before you travel, and do it well in advance. I was lucky enough to be staying at a hotel at the top of Ness Walk, by Inverness Cathedral, so it was only a short walk to the Expo and finish line.
If I were to go back to Inverness though, I’ve got my eye on the Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa which looks ideal but wherever you stay, my tip would be to stay on the left (west bank?) of the River Ness to reduce the amount of walking to / from the finish line.
My room also had a view of the River Ness just the other side of the road, which being on the race routes and if the windows opened would make the best spot to spectate all the runners heading to the finish line.
The Day Before
Arriving the day before with plenty of time meant I had time to mooch around the Race Expo, pick up a replacement race belt (the only thing I forgot to pack), buy a few bits, get something to eat and enjoy the sunshine.
At the entrance to the Race Expo is also where you could sign up for the majority of the events, if you hadn’t already. So those reluctant friends who join you for the weekend still have a chance to get involved.
It should be no surprise to find out that the majority of restaurants were full booked for the evening before Loch Ness Marathon and the River Ness 10km. “Carb loading” with pizza and pasta is a given the night before a long run and Inverness is blessed with popular chains, Zizzi’s, Pizza Express and Bella Italia.
It’s hard to follow the “no new things” when it comes to eating out on race weekend, so it’s best to choose safer items on the menu that you know your stomach can handle.
We were booked into Bella Italia for dinner where I played it safe, having a few garlic dough balls, a pepperoni pizza and a Diet Coke / sparkling water to stay hydrated. The evenings meal was also a great opportunity to meet the rest of my group, including Anna from The Running Channel, to chat about our plans for race day.
We then popped to the local supermarket where I bought some bottled water for my hotel room to ensure I carried on hydrating through out the evening and into race day.
Baxters River Ness 10k Race Day
With a 1030am race start, my race morning was a pretty relaxed one. I headed down to breakfast at 8am, to have my coffee and eat what I could before heading back to my room for my bag before checking out. It was also a good opportunity to use the bathroom before heading to the race start.
Travelling To The Start
I hopped into a taxi at 9am, just before the roads closed for a short drive over to the start line at the Inverness Royal Academy (IRA). If you have the legs for it, I think the walk was about 2 miles (~40mins at my casual pace).
At the IRA, there was a specific bag drop for the 10km runners where we could leave a *small* bag which would be ready for collection at the finish line. The tags for our bags were easy to rip from the bottom of our race bibs and had corresponding numbers.
I kept my layers on as long as I could before I had to drop my bag off, then pop to the bathroom one last time before we started. We were called to the start line based on predicted (or anticipated) finish times, starting with sub 30mins, right up to 1h30+.
I nestled myself in somewhere with the 60minute runners to shield from the wind and right on the dot of 1030am we were set off.
The River Ness 10km Route
One thing I love about running is that you can usually always find the route on Strava, either as a segment or a route. I found the River Ness 10km route as a segment (check it out here) but never really clocked that this ‘flat’ route was actually a fair few uphills yet net downhill.
Straight out of the start line, we were hit with an incline… but sunshine too. It was a busy start but we had pretty much the width of the whole road to use and I knew in no time at all, runners would start to thin out.
It was great to see supporters out on this route cheering on 10km runners especially as it was a different start location to the marathon runners. The course followed some roads before we turned off onto smaller roads / trails heading towards the River Ness.
We eventually joined, or at least I first noticed, the marathon route at the 5km to go (for everyone) mark.
The route then comes directly to the side of River Ness at about 7km, following Ness Bank before turning left over main town road bridge, and left again immediately after the bridge into Ness Walk. Which then leads you directly into the final km to the finish line.
It was just as I was turning onto the bridge that Annas partner, Neal, spotted me and gave me a huge cheer along with the much needed motivation that I just had that one km left. But that km somehow seemed much longer now I was running it, than the umpteen times I’d walked it between the Expo and the hotel.
The Finish Line
Sharing the finish line with the 5km runners and the marathon runners was a great idea. It meant that there were plenty of supporters on that final km leading to the finish supporting all the runners.
The final km was also the only position there were official photographers for the entire 10km so that’s where I am in the images in this post. There then either wasn’t a finish line photographer, or they didn’t catch me crossing the finish line, I’m not sure.
Anyway, once I got across the finish line, I took a walk through the chute to collect my medal (which I LOVE), goody bag and to get some food.
The Post Race Experience
With plenty of time to kill after finishing the 10k, I popped back to the hotel to freshen up and get changed before heading back to the finish line to spend a couple hours cheering the marathon runners on the final straight. I think I was there to see everyone between 3h30 to 5h30 at least!
It really reminded me that there is no specific look for a runner, or a marathoner at that. I saw all ages, shapes, sizes… just people who had done such an epic thing completing a whole marathon. It was pretty inspiring seeing the culmination of the effort of their training to get to this day.
It was thirsty work all that cheering so before I headed back to the airport, I met a few friends in the pub to grab something to eat and rehydrate. It was great to hear their experiences of the day having run the marathon and 5km events.
Tips For Running While Travelling
Before I wrap up this post, I’ve got a few things to share which I would do again / do differently next time I head out of town for a race:
Have a hotel for the night before and the night after. The main reason being having somewhere secure to leave your belongings and to freshen up after your run. I had the whole day to hang out before my flight back and luckily the hotel let me leave my bag there (and change there when I was done running) but I didn’t wanna leave my passport / wallet / car key / house keys all in a random hotel. So I packed them in my race bag and hoped for the best.
Keep hydrated and re-hydration. Yet another reason to have a hotel room to go back to on race day. Or what would actually have helped would be not to wear a onesie and a big jacket over the top, which makes it difficult to use the portaloos in the cold.
Carry a smaller bag to leave at bag drop. I didn’t think of this so ended up using a plastic carrier bag which I had (thankfully) packed in my luggage.
Do a proper, dynamic, warm up. And that’s not least because it was chilly at the start line, but also because of all the sitting I had been doing while travelling the day before. I had so much time at the start line, I honestly don’t know why I didn’t do one – here is my go to dynamic warm up for running or cycling – but hopefully I won’t make that mistake again.
Don’t forget your recovery tools too. I didn’t think to pack things like compression socks, post race oofos or magnesium spray; all of which I rely on to get my post running recovery right! If your hotel room has a bath, you could even pack some Epsom salts and enjoy a post race soak with a celebratory glass of… electrolytes. Which reminds me I also didn’t take my BCAA powder that I normally use.
Take friends and family with you. I think this was my biggest ‘regret’ so to speak so next time I would defo be more organised and make sure I have company for the weekend. Having friends to support and cheer you on, plus take your photos would have made the weekend even more magical.
One great thing about the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon weekend is that there is also a 5km run for adults / children, a wee Nessie event for small kids, in addition to the 10km I ran. And the timings mean that you get plenty of time to catch the marathon runners doing their thing. So there is something for everyone!
Is the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon or the River Ness 10km on your race wish list?!
You can find details about entry to the 2023 Loch Ness Marathon or River Ness 10km here.