The clans gathered on the shores of Loch Ness yesterday (Sunday, 28 September) but this time they did battle with running shoes and gels rather than claymores. And it was the MacDonalds - 90 strong on the day - who turned out in the largest number to win the Clan Challenge, a contest arranged to celebrate the Year of Homecoming, at the 2014 Baxters Loch Ness Marathon and Festival of Running.
But maybe the fiercest battle was in the women's marathon where Jen Emsley (Central AC) held off a late challenge from last year's winner Megan Crawford (Fife AC) to break the tape in a course record time of 2:46:10, 27 seconds faster than the previous mark. Crawford was also inside the old record just 15 seconds behind the winner and reckoned it would have been an even closer affair if she hadn't had stomach problems throughout the race.
Emsley was delighted with her day’s work which in addition to the record yielded a Scottish title, a personal best time and a winner’s cheque for £1,500. She said: “I am very happy but surprised to have run a quicker time than I did at the London marathon, as I think Loch Ness is a harder course. But my training had been going well and I feel I’ve finally justified the hard work I’ve been doing.”
“There were four of us for the first 10 miles then the Romanian runner, Alina Nituleasa, dropped back. Megan then seemed to drop back and I eventually pulled away from Shona. Then, near the end, I could see that Megan was beginning to close up on me again so it was just a case of keeping going and not getting caught.”
Manchester-based Tomas Abyu returned from a lengthy spell of training in Ethiopia to claim his fourth Loch Ness Marathon men's title in excellent style. The African sprinted strongly through the finishing tape in 2:22:41 to add to his previous victories in 2003, 2010 and 2011.
He said: “I’ve been training in Ethiopia and only returned last week when I decided to do the race. I felt quite easy for the first 16 miles, then it got tougher, but I had been able to pull away from the others before halfway so I just kept it going. I like running here. The countryside is very nice and it’s a good course. In the meantime I hope to recover quickly so I can do the Yorkshire marathon in a couple of weeks from now.”
Edinburgh-based Polish athlete Patryk Gierjatowicz (Hunters Bog Trotters) collected the Scottish title for the second year in a row when finishing in the runner-up position in a personal best 2:24:17, while last year’s Loch Ness champion Tarus Elly (Salford) was third in 2:25:37.
With neither Abyu nor Elly being eligible for Scottish medals, the national silver went to Kerry Liam-Wilson (Ron Hill Cambuslang Harriers), who was fourth overall in 2:28:58 and the bronze was collected by John Sharp (Inverclyde AC) who was fifth in 2:32:00. Wilson also won the over-40 age group title.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds were raised for charity over the weekend by the 8,500 entrants to the the race programme, which also included the River Ness 10K, 10K Corporate Challenge, River Ness 5K and junior events. The majority of runners came from outwith the Highlands, close to 4,000 travelling from beyond Scotland. Lead charity partner Macmillan Cancer Support raised an estimated £110,000 thanks to the efforts of 350 runners – the biggest ever Team Macmillan contingent.
The midpoint runner in the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon was John Skinner in a time of 4:18:01, and the field closed on 7:20:59.