The Baxters Loch Ness Marathon and Festival of Running celebrated its 15th anniversary in formidable style today (Sunday, 25 September) with thousands of runners taking part in an event frequently described as one of the most scenic in the world.
In perfect weather conditions for distance running, participants from 41 different countries completed the 26.2 mile marathon and the accompanying 10K, 10K Corporate Challenge, 5K and Wee Nessie events.
Among those to cross the finish line was 75-year-old Masami Yabuta from Tokyo, who completed his 700th marathon, He was part of a contingent of 21 pensioners from Japan – aged between 61 and 80 – from the legendary Full Hyaku Running Club. All of its members have run at least 100 marathons.
Also across the finish at Bught Park in the heart of Inverness – the capital of the Highlands – were five runners who have taken part in every edition of the scenic marathon since its launch 15 years ago.
Erica Christie of Cambuslang Harriers; Fiona Rennie from Carnegie Harriers; Perth Road Runners members Kenneth Stewart and John Cassells, and Lucy Mackay of Bellahouston Road Runners were honoured at a special ceremony on Saturday where they were presented with commemorative goodies celebrating their achievements.
The Famous Five shared their tips for a successful marathon with other runners at the pre-race Pasta Party – and pledged they would continue to keep returning year on year until their legs no longer allowed them.
Race director Malcolm Sutherland says the 15th anniversary edition was one of the best yet. He adds, “The atmosphere throughout the whole weekend has been incredible and it has been a real delight to see so many people enjoying themselves as the results of their hard work and training over many weeks and months pays off.
“Once again we owe the local community and our volunteers a huge debt of gratitude for the way in which they have welcomed thousands of runners to the area, helping to ensure they leave with very fond memories of the event.
“I’d also like to thank each and every runner for taking part. For many, this will have been a return visit to the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon and Festival of Running but for others it will have been their first time. We hope that they will have experienced the friendliness and camaraderie for which the event has become renowned.”
The marathon was won by Mohammad Abu-Rezeq from Altrincham in a time of 2:20:52, with the first female Jennifer Wetton from Central AC crossing the line in 2:47:03.
The first Highland resident home in the marathon was Paul Smith from Inverness in 2:56:14 who was presented with the HSPC Gerald Cooper Memorial Trophy, along with a £1,000 donation a charity of his choice.
In the accompanying Baxters River Ness 10K, the winner for the second year running was Neil Renault who took the tape in 30:37, while first female in that event was Fanni Gyurko in a time of 35:03. There was also a Corporate Challenge event within the 10K race, and this was picked up by Inverness College UHI in a cumulative time of 2:55:33.
Audrey Baxter, Executive Chairman and Group CEO of title sponsors Baxters Food Group, says: “This was a great day for running, and a great day for the community. For an event like this to not only maintain the standard it set 15 years ago but to get better every year is a truly amazing achievement.
“Baxters is delighted to once again be a part of this fantastic and inclusive event, which encourages and celebrates the achievements of runners of all abilities.”
Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, adds, “Attracting thousands of people to the shores of Loch Ness for another terrific festival of running, we were delighted to support the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon for its 15th anniversary in 2016.
“Scotland is known the world-over as the perfect stage for events and, taking place in one of more scenic natural landscapes, there are few events which showcase this status better.”
Entry for the 2017 Baxters Loch Ness Marathon and Festival of Running, which takes place on September 24, open tomorrow (Monday, 26 September). Find out more at www.lochnessmarathon.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/lochnessmarathon and on Twitter @nessmarathon