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There was a warm sunny Lochaber welcome for more than 250 runners from across the UK who took part in Saturday’s Road to the Isles Running Festival.
It was a welcome return for the popular event following the three-year hiatus due to Covid pandemic restrictions.
Starting and finishing in the beautiful coastal village of Arisaig, the normally annual event now gets national recognition for its challenging route, elevations and
Amidst a national field of runners, it was fantastic to see local runners from Fort Lochaber Athletics Club (LAC) as well as Mallaig and Arisaig putting in some swift winning running times.
The full marathon, half marathon and walking half-marathon strikes out along the coastal road from Arisaig to Morar, and the 10k and 5k route hugs the foreshore from Arisaig along the Rhu Peninsular.
Runners were supported by family, friends, the community and an army of volunteers and marshals without whom days like this would simply not be possible.
LAC’s Liam Hutson flew round the distance, smashing his 2019 record with a time of 2:48:54 to take first place in the marathon – 35:30 minutes faster than the next runner.
Fastest female over the route which had an elevation of 700m, was Jennifer Urquart from Forres Harriers, with a time of 4:10:36.
With 21 runners entered for this gruelling 26.1-mile marathon race, seven were women all running in the 50-60 plus age category, except for Jennie Freer who ran the entire route with a buggy.
Particular mention should go to Michael Grant who travelled from Edinburgh to complete his 70th marathon.
LAC put in another strong showing in the half marathon with Alfie Bentley once again taking first place with a field of 131 runners and beating his 2019 time with 1:24:42.
Formidable runner and GB Triathlete Sarah Attwood from Skye and Lochalsh Skye Running and AC came in for the ladies hot on Alfie’s heels with a time of
Bill MacGregor from Blairgowrie took first place in the walking half marathon in a time of 2:40:55, followed by Mallaig’s Kenny Merrilees and brothers Duncan and Alex Kennedy.
Winners of the 10k were separated by just 2:13mins with Alasdair MacDonald from Carnethy Hill Racing Club pipping Morar’s Harry Tulloch by just 18 seconds into first place with a time of 48:13mins.
Newcomer to road running and the 10k distance Jenny Benfield from Arisaig came in a very respectable third place with 50:26mins. Having taken up running during Covid lock-down she’s clearly one to watch.
Katherine Hylands of Bellahoustan Harriers took first place in the 5k distance with a magnanimous time of 24:14mins, followed by Lewis Ridley from Pontefract in second with 25:13mins and Mallaig’s own Seth Hamilton with 26:27mins in third.
Event Director Fiona Baker commented: ‘We’re delighted to have been able to stage the Road the Isles Running Festival after so long away. The day was great, the weather was on our side, and the community pulled together to create a slick and entertaining event.
‘We’re grateful to all our runners for supporting the race, our volunteers, and the community spirit that brings it all together.’
Proceeds from the day go to Mallaig Pool and Leisure, a community run social enterprise.
This year the Running Festival was supported by the Mowi Salmon Wagon which created delicious salmon noodles and burgers throughout the day raising £630 for the pool.
The Friends of Mallaig Pool and Leisure turned out some fantastic home-baking for the tea tent and raised £423.
The next local running event is Skye Events Half Marathon on June 11. The Road to the Isles Running Festival returns on Saturday May 6 2023 with early bird tickets available now via Entry Central.