Less than two days to go before race start at the Baxters Loch Ness Festival of Running and the weather prediction is good - 16°C, clear skies and average wind speeds. 8,600 entrants (up 17% on last year) for the 5k Fun Run, River Ness 10K and the marathon are likely to surpass last year's £660,000 raised for charity. Contestants have travelled from 41 countries to participate in the Festival of Running.
This year sees a few changes to the marathon not least the start and finish lines being moved to give runners a faster take off and finish and the introduction of timing D-Tags. Among those hopeful of breaking the current marathon record (2:20:59) are David Kirkland (Alnwick), Chris Wilson (Cambuslang Harriers) and favourite and record holder Tomas Abyu. Also in contention are Joseph Mbithi and Nigel Stirk in the men's marathon while in the women's event Dinknesh Makash Tefera (Ethiopia) will be one to watch, as is twice runner up Erica Christie (Bellahouston Harriers) along with Issy Menzies (Edinburgh) who finished the course in 2:52: 37 last year.
In the men's 10k, Lukas Wambua is a favourite to win this year, competing against Andrew Douglas (Halkirk, Caithness) and last year's third place Karl Simpson (Shetland), while in the women's 10k Melissa Whyte and Jenny Bannerman (both based in Inverness) will be running against 2006 10K winner Cathy Mutwa (Kenya). Whyte, a runner up in last year's 10k with a time of 35:18 is joined by fancied Scottish runners Ellie Buchan and Emma Dunnett and fell runner Phillipa Maddams (Workington).
In addition to the marathon, 10k and 5k races, pre-school children can take part in the 'The Wee Nessie' a 400m race. Entry for all the races is now closed, but there is still good reason to go along and watch: not only is Inverness a beautiful city to spend the day in, with its castle and wonderful riverside, but the Baxters Highland Food and Drink Fayre will also be in full swing, offering a taste of the Highlands of Scotland, with live music and dancing and of course, delicious food at the Festival Village at Bught Park.
Festival organisers advise using public transport/taxis to get to Bught Park, as parking is limited, and with well over 8,500 runners alone expected to turn up for the event, parking spaces will, like the timid monster, quickly disappear!