“Never again!” exclaimed my friend as she crossed the finish line of the Manchester Marathon back in April. The very next morning, she sent me a text: “Do you fancy doing Loch Ness Marathon?”

My reply? “If the medal is the Loch Ness monster, count me in!”

And so, last weekend, we embarked on an epic road trip to the breathtaking Scottish Highlands for the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon.

Race Packet Pickup and Expo

Race Numbers for this event weren’t mailed out, which meant a quick visit to the expo the day before the race to collect them. Fortunately, your number had been emailed, making it straightforward enough to queue up and grab your race packet.

The expo, though small, was incredibly convenient for any last-minute essentials. I took the opportunity to stock up on some gels.

The route

Unlike any other race I’ve done, this marathon wasn’t a loop. Instead, we were bussed out to the starting point, and our journey would take us back to the finish line. The marathon route followed a point-to-point course, starting at Loch Ness, winding through the Highland scenery, and finishing in Inverness.

Pre-Race Preparation:

With an early 6:45 am arrival in Inverness for the bus to the starting line, we realised that nearly every coach in the Northern Highlands must have been booked for this event. Approximately 4,000 runners were transported in a convoy along the Loch to the starting point, nestled between Fort Augustus and Foyers. As our coach navigated those picturesque hills, the thought of running back began to sink in.

Everyone I’d spoken to before the race had raved about it, and when I stepped off the bus and gazed at the surroundings, it was clear to see why. The mist gently lifted, creating one of the most tranquil marathon starting lines I’d ever witnessed.

This race was as close to a trail run as a road marathon could get, making me wonder if I should have brought my trail shoes. The start even offered complimentary cups of tea – which went down very well with me! 

The race itself:

The sound of bagpipes serenaded us at the 10 am start. With a downhill start, the route descended several hundred meters over the first few miles. Spectators were sparse along the course and earphones were prohibited, although it was disheartening to see some runners disregarding this rule. The roads were closed, but photographers and motorbikes patrolled the route. 

Training prepares you for the race, nothing prepares you for the scenery

The initial five miles were pretty cosy, but as the race progressed, runners naturally spread out. I had hoped for 26 miles of Nessy spotting, but the tree-lined route limited our views of the loch. Fortunately, I wasn’t racing for time, so I took the chance to pause and capture some photos of the stunning surroundings when they did appear.

Around mile 11, the heavens opened up, drenching me as if I’d taken a plunge into the Loch. I briefly walked as visibility became a challenge. Two more downpours followed as I trudged along with soaked, soggy feet. Water and electrolyte stations appeared every few miles, generously supplying gels and shot blocks.


Let’s talk about the hills

The first half of the race presented manageable, short, and sharp inclines. However, around mile 17/18, a seemingly endless three-mile slog followed by a steeper hill tested our mental limits. I struck up conversations with fellow runners, providing mutual support by breaking down the daunting hills into manageable segments. It was during this stretch that I truly appreciated the encouragement of the running community.

With just one mile left, the distant cheers of the finish line teased us. Running back toward the finish felt like a cruel trick. At this point, the crowds had gathered, and as I thanked a lady handing out jelly babies, I felt a surge of emotion. While I had expected this marathon to be all about the views, it was the people who made it an incredible race.

I crossed the finish line in 4 hours, 44 minutes, and 26 seconds—not my personal best, but I felt grateful just to have completed it.

Even if you run slower than expected, you succeed in any marathon when you finish.

Post race relections

After finishing, I received my medal and a goody bag. The event village was bustling with activity, so I grabbed a coffee and waited for my friends to cross the finish line. Although there was a post-race meal of chilli and rice available, the queue was lengthy, and I rarely have an appetite immediately after a marathon! 


Would I do it again?
If it didn’t entail an eight-hour drive and an overnight stay in Edinburgh, I would do it again. It’s easy to see why this marathon is listed as one of the UK’s most scenic. It offers a stunning course, it’s well organised and the medal has the Loch Ness monster on it – what more could you want?


Entry Cost: £56.00 
Water stations:
 Around every 2-3 miles (non-sports top). Electrolyte stations (plastic cups)
Parking: Plenty
Photos: Yes – marathon photos
Baggage Facilities: Yes, although didn’t use.
Post-Race Goodies: T-shirt / medal / water / soup / pen / clif bar / post race meal
Highlights: Stunning scenery, friendly atmosphere
Low points: The rain (not the fault of the race, obviously)