Lochaber Marathon – DNF


So there it is. My first ever Did Not Finish.

It’s now 2 weeks and 2 days since the Lochaber Marathon and while disappointed, I’ve moved on.  And to be fair, my DNF could’ve been worse – from both points of view.

On the run up to the marathon I felt my training was going well. I had a few hiccups in terms of off weeks due to work and a niggle in my foot at one point but otherwise all was well. I ran a personal best (1:42:09) at the balloch to Clydebank half and I secured a 22 miler plus a number of other 17, 18, 19 milers wearing huaraches. It looked like the stage was set for achieving my goal of a sub 4hr marathon (secretly 3:55) wearing huaraches.

We left for Fort William at around 6am and arrived just after 9. What a beautiful drive up. It had been cloudy with some light drizzle in the morning but the sun was burning through the clouds and blue sky appeared at a rapid rate soon after our arrival.

I felt a little nervous as I collected my number and complimentary T-shirt but I was one of the first there so it didn’t take long. It was then back to the car for a little over an hour wait.

I refueled with some sports drink and a small piece malt loaf, which I’ve been doing with success for some time now.

10:35. I warmed up.

10:45. Safety briefing.

10:55. Everyone makes their way to the start line. I felt very alone for some reason.

11:02. The klaxon sounded and away we went.

I started a little fast. The target was 9 minute miles or under. I was just above 8 for the first couple of miles but soon settled into a slow but comfortable pace (8:50 possibly).

After the first town it was a beautiful route. Loch eil to the left on the outward leg. Supporters stopped at parking areas to cheer on runners and hand out jelly beans.

At around 6 miles I started to notice it was getting warm. A high of 21 degrees (c) apparently. Once again I was running a hot marathon. This was slightly annoying as the warmest I had trained in the last 4 months was at most 10 degrees (c).

Not to worry. Although I was feeling it, I passed the half way point in 1:56. Still felt strong though and had confidence – I kept looking at my pacing band that said ‘you can do it’ at the top.   
My run time fueling had consisted of a SIS Go gel every half hour. In hindsight it may have been too frequent. At 2hrs 30 I took my 5th, which made me feel full. I didn’t feel I needed it to be honest but ‘stuck to the plan’.

It wasn’t long after I started to get a stitch. I tired to run with it but eventually had to slow to a walk, not far from the 19 mile mark , pressing my side to ease the discomfort.

It was either a mistake to stop or a blessing in disguise. I had a sudden realization that my feet were pretty sore. I had felt something a little earlier in the run, but thought I had stepped in a damp area at a water stop and maybe got a little stone stuck underfoot.

I stopped and took the huaraches off to get rid of the stone that wouldn’t shake.  Nope, the ‘stone’ was a giant blister that had formed and the ‘water’ was it bursting. Made a right mess. That wasn’t the only one, however. My left foot was effectively the kitchen area at a blister party. The right wasn’t so bad but still painful.

It’s funny that I had been so focused I blocked out what was now a very obvious pain. At that point there was ‘only’ 7 miles to go. I decided to grin and bare it.

I ran (very slowly) for a few minutes then had to walk. Ran, well, shuffled for a few minutes then had to walk again.

After what seemed like an eternity I approached the 20 mile marker. 6 more miles to go I thought. You can do it, I said to myself as I hobbled along. Almost immediately after that thought I heard a man sitting in a first aid jeep ask if I was OK… I paused for a second… no. I’m not OK.

20 miles, 3hr 10min, DNF.

I got in the 4×4 and Jim, the nice volunteer, drove me back to the first aid tent. There, another nice fellow (can’t remember his name unfortunately) proceed to treat me as best he could – rinse my feet with sterile water – then tell me it was the worst case of blisters he’d ever seen. 

So what went wrong?

I don’t know is the straight answer. I’ve tried to determine what differences there were between on the day and previous training runs and the only thing appears to be the weather.  It was suggested that my feet may have been sweating too much?! I’m not sure.

I said at the start it could’ve been worse from two points. Firstly, I got to 20 miles before quiting. It could’ve been worse if it was 8 miles I guess. And secondly, I’m lucky it didn’t turn serious, i.e. my feet didn’t get infected, and have been healing well.

Either way though, I’m not dwelling on it.

Future marathons

There probably won’t be any. I won’t consider it for 3 or 4 years at least. I’ll never say never though. I can see myself doing long training runs, almost marathon distance but as for a marathon race itself, I just don’t seem to have much luck.

I’ll stick to half marathons, 10ks and… 5ks from now on I think. I don’t have a 5k PB yet so it might be fun getting fast for that.


I still like my huaraches but I’ll admit I’ve lost a bit of confidence in them. I couldn’t run in them just now anyway and not for a while yet either. When I do don them again though I’ll keep the runs short. 4 miles or so.

I still want to keep the minimal thing going but I just couldn’t go back to chunky Asics,  so I indulged in a pair of Tera Planna Neo. First impressions are good! I really like them but I’ll leave the write up to a post of its own.

There we have it. My first DNF. I think I’ve been quite mature about. I think anyway.

Have you ever DNFd? What happened after, did it spur you on, deflate you or did you accept it?

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Back on the Road…Again. « Snikt Running - January 10, 2012

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