Thousands of runners turned out for the return of the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon today.
Scores of spectators from across the country braved the biting October wind to cheer loved ones over the finishing line at Bught Park in Inverness.
Nearly 5,000 people turned out to tackle the events 26.2 mile feat with many more people also completing the River Ness 10K and 5K races.
Crossing the finish line
Amongst this year’s competitors was Martin Bell, from Kiltarlity and his 10-year-old son Archie, who were part of a group running the 5K to raise cash for Lovat Shinty Club.
He said: “It was great; it’s such a good event. The weather made it as well, although when you turn at the bridge you are running into the wind and that’s not so much fun.
“I have ran the 5K before although I am getting slower every time.”
The 40-year-old added: “Its good to be around all these people but there is nothing better than that last straight with everyone cheering as you cross the finish line. That’s a really good feeling, no matter what your time is.”
Mr Bell later turned to his son to ask if he enjoyed it, to which he replied “I beat you.”
A real family affair
For many, the events return marked an opportunity to reconnect with family following an arduous spell of Covid restrictions.
And for the Cowie family in particular, it was a real family affair.
Dad Jeff, 45, took part in the marathon, while mum Eliana, 46, conquered the 10K.
Children Elizabeth, 11, Rebecca, nine, and Lucas, seven, meanwhile completed the 5K with their grandparents Ron and Patricia Black, who travelled from Buckie for the fun.
Mrs Black said: “We were asked to accompany the three grandchildren. Their parents are both taking part. Their daddy is running the marathon and mummy is doing the 10K so the children had no-one so we are doing the 5K with them. It’s a real family affair. Three generations.”
Nine-year-old Rebecca said that during lockdown, they had been doing lots of running which had helped in preparation for the event.
For the Rennie family, the event gave their children the opportunity to catch up with their cousins who had travelled from Edinburgh to take part.
Mike Rennie, 41, took on the 5K race with his sons Ritchie, eight, and Struan, six, as his wife Julie, 42, and two-year-old daughter cheered them on from the sidelines.
Meanwhile, the children’s uncle Ben Morton, 44, took a break from running the traditional 26 mile marathon to run the 5K sprint with them and his seven-year-old son Sam.
His wife Francesca, 39, and four-year-old daughter Rosie were also on hand to offer their support.
Mrs Rennie said: “It’s great to be out having fun again.
“It’s all about just enjoying taking part in sport together with other people and anyone can do it; from young and old. Its doesn’t matter what speed you do it at. It’s all about being involved.”
Parents bursting with pride
For surveyor Andy Gray, from Westhill, it was a proud day as he cheered 10-year-old Hamish over the 5K finish line, alongside his friend Ben.
He said: “It’s brilliant to get everyone back doing this again. We really missed out on it last year. It can be seen in the numbers.
“He absolutely loves it. This is the third time he has done it.
“I am very proud. He gets really good times so he was absolutely desperate to get back out again and do it this year. He is sports mad.
“Following months and months of being stuck inside over the last 18 months, any excuse for them to get out is great and they are all active kids.”