01 July 2016, 7am
Baxters Loch Ness Marathon & Festival of Running
Sun 25 September 2016
The rolling heather-clad hills, roads lined by Caledonian pine trees and the famous Loch are why the organisers say: if you are going to put yourself through the hell of running 26.2 miles, then you might as well do it in heaven.
The route is quintessentially Scottish. Runners are bussed from the event hub in Inverness – the capital of the Highlands – to the start line close to the village of Whitebridge. If the scenery is not enough to give runners goose bumps, then the rousing sounds of a traditional pipe band that plays as they set off will.
The route heads towards the loch, taking in the villages of Foyers and Dores where local residents come out to give their support and ensure that each and every runner experiences the warmth of Highland hospitality.
Even with these groups of supporters it is a far cry from the big city marathons where thousands of people line the route: here you will find peace, tranquillity and nothing but the sound of the excited chatter of runners and the loch lapping against the shore.
It is not just the course that has made the event a must-do for the thousands of runners who come from all corners of the world to collect a finisher medal. It is renowned for its welcoming atmosphere to runners of all abilities and unforgettable camaraderie. Participants may start as strangers, but at the end they are bound together in friendship.
Just under half of all runners who take part in the marathon come from outside Scotland. Many will travel from other parts of the UK, but hundreds come from all corners of the globe to say that they have taken part in the Loch Ness Marathon.
In 2015, the event welcomed participants from Europe, North America, South America, Asia, and Australia. Inverness is served by an airport which connects directly to hubs at London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Schipol Airport in the Netherlands, meaning that the city is accessible from anywhere in the world.
There is also a well-connected train and bus station and the city is easily accessed by road. It has many large hotels, guests houses and charming bed and breakfast accommodation and there are lots of attractions to visit, from Inverness Castle to the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition, which focuses on the legendary monster.
The inclusive nature of the event is also a huge draw. With an accompanying 10km and 5km fun run – and the Wee Nessie for pre-schoolers – there is something for runners of all stages and abilities. Entry is open now at www.lochnessmarathon.com.