A total of 163 runners basked in the sunshine of a perfect autumn day for the running of the 23rd annual Bennachie Hill Race, held at Back o'Bennachie near Oyne on Sunday. The event was organised by Inverurie-based club the Garioch Roadrunners.
Recent good weather meant that conditions underfoot were excellent, making for a fast course. The leading runners changed positions a number of times over the 8.3-mile route, with Alasdair McLeod of Aberdeen (unattached) eventually finishing as first male. With a time of 56:54, he was less than a minute up on Felix Spitzl (Grampian Orienteers) who finished the course in 57:28. Local runner Rob Brookes of the Cosmic Hillbashers claimed third spot in 58:26.
First woman home was Josephine Anselin (Oxford University Cross Country Club), finishing in an excellent time of 1:08:55. In second place and first veteran female was Veronique Oldham (Cosmic Hillbashers) with 1:11:17. Ruth McKenzie of Deeside Runners was third on the women's podium for her finish of 1:12:19.
In the Junior Hill Race, Alexander Chepelin (Cosmic Hillbashers) was the first boy over the 5 km course in a time of 19:58. Eve Sealy (Banchory Stonehaven AC) was first girl home with 26:26.
Cosmic Hillbashers claimed first prize in both the male and female team competitions, with some of their men finishing right behind each other to secure third, fourth, fifth and sixth place. Deeside Runners was the first-place mixed team. Post-race refreshments lived up to their reputation with what one runner called 'some of the best baking ever'.
With the Morven and Cairn William hill races, the Bennachie Hill Race is the final event in the three-race Aberdeenshire Hill Race Series. Chris Tomlin of Cosmic Hillbashers reclaimed his title from last year, with Ruth McKenzie (Deeside Runners) finishing as first lady in the series.
Club secretary, Tamsin Morris, said: "The Garioch Roadrunners would like to thank the race marshals and all those who helped out on the day to ensure another successful and enjoyable event. We're also very grateful to our race sponsors, Run4It, who kindly provided the category prizes, and the Forestry Commission for the use of Back o'Bennachie."
Club chair Craig Kelly said: "It was fantastic to see an excellent turnout of runners with a wide variety of experience - from seasoned hill runners to those taking part in their first hill race - from all over Scotland and beyond at our race today. Entries have increased in recent years, testament to the number of runners looking to get 'off the beaten track' and enjoy the unspoiled outdoor spaces we have on our doorstep here in Aberdeenshire. We look forward to welcoming all the runners back next year and thank them for their continued support of our event."