The Baxters Loch Ness Marathon celebrates its 15th anniversary this year – and three runners who have gone the distance in every single edition of the race will be helping the event mark its magnificent milestone.
Seasoned runners Fiona Rennie, Lucy Mackay and Kenneth Stewart are all limbering up to take part in the marathon again this year, making them the only trio have participated in all 15 races.
By the time they cross the finish line in Inverness on Sunday, September 25, they will have clocked up 1,179 miles on the stunning course, which runs alongside the world famous loch.
Race director Malcolm Sutherland is full of praise for the dedication shown by the three stalwarts. He adds, “They are fantastic ambassadors for the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon, and I cannot imagine holding the event without them.
“Fiona, Lucy and Kenneth are unique because they have taken part in every marathon since it started, but there are many more runners who have run the course on multiple occasions.
“It has become known as a bucket list marathon – it is one that many runners want to tick off their list. But what they often find is that once is never enough: the sheer beauty of the course and the incredible atmosphere keeps them coming back time and time again.”
The marathon is more than just a race for 53-year-old Fiona, from Dunfermline. Her love of the event and the desire to take part spurred her on while she recovered from a brain haemorrhage in 2005 and mouth cancer three years ago,
“It’s the most beautiful run anywhere in the world,” she says. “I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to run, and that made me determined to recover and get back into running.
“It is my favourite event. You still get the carnival atmosphere of a big race, but it also manages to be small and friendly. If anyone is thinking about entering, then I’d tell them not to think twice – they won’t regret it.”
Kenneth Stewart (65) from Perth really stands out from the thousands of runners on the course: he’s known for taking part in his kilt.
He says, “Loch Ness is something completely different, and I think if you are looking for a marathon that typifies Scotland, then this is it. At the start of the race, when the pipe band is playing, it’s almost like a scene out of Braveheart seeing people coming out of the heather to muster.”
For Glasgow-based Lucy (51), taking part in the Loch Ness Marathon is like coming home. She used to live in Fort Augustus, which is just a few miles away from the start line of the marathon.
“It’s my favourite marathon,” she says. “Sometimes in big races, the noise can be overwhelming, but at Loch Ness all you hear is breathing and footsteps. It’s something really special.
“What really helps make it for me is the friendly atmosphere. The organisers and marshals are fantastic, and the supporters in Inverness are among the most enthusiastic I’ve ever encountered.”
The Baxters Loch Ness Marathon and Festival of Running also comprises the River Ness 10K, 10K Corporate Challenge and River Ness 5K as well the Wee Nessie fun run for pre-school children.
Guaranteed places are available for the marathon until 1 July, with charity, club and overseas places available thereafter. Entry for the 10K, 10K Corporate Challenge, 5K and Wee Nessie will remain open until September.
The finish line is based around the Event Village at the Bught Park in Inverness, where runners and spectators can enjoy the Baxters Food and Drink Fayre, a Sports Expo, live music and activities for children.
The event is supported by a number of partners, including EventScotland. Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, says, “The Loch Ness Marathon has been immensely popular since its first staging back in 2002, allowing thousands of runners to enjoy pitting themselves against the ultimate test of endurance within one of Scotland’s most scenic landscapes.
“We are delighted to support the event once again in 2016 as it continues to draw competitors from all over the world, helping to build Scotland’s sterling reputation as the perfect stage for running events across the globe.”
The lead charity partner of the event is Macmillan Cancer Support, and there are five lead affiliate charities – Alzheimer Scotland, Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland, Highland Hospice, MND Scotland and MS Society Scotland. There are also 20 other affiliate charities partnering with the event.