This 12th Baxters Loch Ness Marathon and Festival of Running (29th September) has proved a record-breaking success. The women's course record was broken, both the men's and women's winners finished in first place in their debut marathons and the event racked up the highest number of runners to date. Among the 9000 participants entering the day's five races, John Newsome produced a stand-out performance in the Baxters River Ness 10K.
The Nairn-based runner, who competes for Central AC, raced home in 30min 35secs to enhance his Commonwealth Games marathon qualification hopes and defeat Dermot Cummins (Corstorphine AAC) by 15 secs while the 2011 race winner, Kyle Greig (Forres Harriers), was a further 51secs seconds behind in third position.
"I'm pleased with the performance as I've now got only four weeks until I do the Frankfurt marathon. I ran there last year, but this time I'm treating it more seriously and I'd like to think I can have a real go at getting the Commonwealth qualifying time of 2hr 19mins."
Cummins, who led in the early stages had to settle for second position while Greig was disappointed to finish third for the second year in a row despite being just three seconds outside his personal best for the distance. Keith Hood (Corstorphine AC) won the over-40's prize when finishing fourth overall in 31:57 while Stan Mackenzie (Forres Harriers) led the way in the over-50's when placing ninth in 33:31. Alex Sutherland (Inverness Harriers) won the over-60's prize when clocking an impressive time of 40min 11 secs for 69th position of 2,506 finishers.
Great Britain international Rhona Auckland (Banchory Stonehaven AC) retained the women's title when recording 34min 34secs, ahead of Aberdeen AAC's Nicola Gauld (35:15) and Inverness Harrier Sarah Liebnitz (37:51).
Fiona MacRitchie (Inverness Harriers) won the over-40 age division prize in 41:14 with Sue Spong leading home the over-50's in 44:43 and Anne Docherty (Forres Harriers) topping the over-60's age group in 53:23.
The Scots Alpha quartet of Scott Shaw, Ross McBride, Andy Richards and James Copeland won the Corporate Challenge competition.
Norwegian runner Gjermund Groven finished ahead of a field of close to 1,700 runners to win in the Baxters River Ness 5K. The Bergen athlete was meant to have been competing in the marathon but was unable to do so after he went down with a bad cold.
Race director Malcolm Sutherland said: "The weather was exceptional from the start of the day and all runners crossed the finish line in September sunshine. More people than ever before have entered for this year's races, and we were particularly pleased at the number of different nationalities taking part - over 30 countries were represented, from Australia, Brazil, Guatemala and USA to Spain, Romania and Italy, making this year one of the most international marathons yet.
"The Baxters Loch Ness Marathon has always been a favourite for first time marathon runners, and this year was no exception. We hope everyone who took part enjoyed their experience and will come back and visit us again - with friends and family - and help us maintain the upbeat and festival atmosphere of the weekend."