If you want to sign up for this year's Baxters Loch Ness marathon and Festival of Running you will have to be super fast with guaranteed entries closing on Monday (1 July). Runners from 30 different countries have already signed up for the race on 29 September, with competitors coming from Australia, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, USA as well as 17 European nations.
Baxters Loch Ness marathon is one of the biggest 26.2-mile races in Scotland and the accompanying Baxters River Ness 10K and 5K runs are also growing in status. This year's 10K includes a Corporate Challenge open to teams of four to six runners. There's also a Wee Nessie run, a 400m event for youngsters aged five and under.
Race organiser Malcolm Sutherland is urging runners to sign up as quickly as possible to avoid disappointment, saying: "It's fantastic to see so many people from all over the world joining thousands of UK runners in making the decision to come to Baxters Loch Ness marathon. This will be the 12th year of the marathon and the atmosphere just seems to get better every time. We would be delighted to welcome as many runners as possible, but it's vital that folk get their entry in by 1 July. After that date, entries will only be available for Scottish Athletics members, members of affiliated UK running clubs, and through official charity Macmillan Cancer Care and our other affiliate charities."
The fastest marathoners are expected to complete the scenic course in around 2hours 20minutes, but the event caters for runners of all ages and abilities. The youngest entrant so far is 18 and the oldest is 75.
The race will double up as the Scottish championship for the third year in a row and is already grabbing the attention of a number of top level competitors, with the £1500 prize for first man and woman also a big incentive.
Sutherland added: "It's a great honour for us to be hosting the Scottish championships for the third time. It demonstrates that the athletics authorities think very highly of the event. But while we are delighted to cater for elite performers we are equally committed to ensure that each and every person who takes part in our races has a wonderful and memorable experience."
Entries for Baxters Loch Ness marathon and festival of running can be made at the event website.