In a busy weekend for racing across the country, Balmoral Castle played host to internationals, club runners and fun runners alike at this year's Run Balmoral.
Scotland international Cameron Strachan narrowly missed the course record when outpacing a field of close to 1000 runners at Saturday's ConocoPhillips 5K. The Metro Aberdeen runner was in dazzling form as he sprinted clear of his rivals to complete the route in 14.44, just two seconds short of the record set by Moray's Kenny Wilson last year.
Wilson, winner for the previous three years, was left behind, eventually finishing third in 15.05. Ali Hay (Central AC), the 2012 and 2014 race winner, took second position in 14.51.
Strachan said: "I don't really care about the record. I just wanted to win the race and when you look at the guys around me, that was enough for me to be thinking about. I knew if I was going to win I'd get a fast time in any case.”
Wilson was disappointed that his winning streak at Balmoral has come to an end, but admits there was little more he could have done. He said: "I tried to make a few moves, first on the uphill early on then again after about 2.5km, but I couldn't get away. I just have to accept that they were better than me on the day."
Morag Millar (Central CC) won the women's race and, for the second time in three years, relegating two-time previous winner Jenny Bannerman (Inverness Harriers) to the runner-up position. The Larbert-based athlete zipped round in 16.19, a time bettered by only nine men, and almost 40 seconds quicker then she posted on her previous visit to Deeside in 2016.
She said: "I felt much better than when I was here two years ago. There's a good atmosphere here with a nice mix of fast runners and fun runners. It's not often you get the chance to run in a place like this, so I really enjoyed it.
Close to 1800 runners took part in the weekend’s main event, Saturday’s Stena Drilling 10K, but GB mountain running international Andy Douglas (North Highland Harriers) barely noticed any of them. He sped to an impressive victory in 31.37, just seven secs outside Robbie Simpson's 2014 course record. The Edinburgh-based Caithness athlete, took the lead from the gun and was never seriously challenged as he soared up the notorious 1.5km hill which takes competitors to the halfway point on the circuit.
He said: "I'm happy with the run as I'm in the middle of some high mileage training. To get the record, I needed to be through halfway in about 16 minutes but I was there in 16.30 so I knew it wasn't going to happen. But I still wanted a decent time so I pushed on down the hill and all the way to the finish.”
This was Douglas's third Balmoral 10km win since 2012 and he has also twice won the 15-mile trail race, including a course record-breaking performance in 2015. He added: "I love running here. It's one of my favourite events and I'll keep coming back trying to get closer to the 10km record."
Metro Aberdeen's Claire Bruce retained the women's title when finishing 24th overall in 39.59. She said: "I'm more than a minute slower than last year and I found it much tougher. I'm not sure why as the overhead conditions were perfect, but it was a bit slippy underfoot.”
Great Britain orienteering international Alexander Chepelin powered over the hills and tracks of the Deeside estate to win the last event of Run Balmoral 2019, Sunday’s Bristow 15 mile trail race. He completed the testing circuit in 1.24.39, finishing two minutes ahead of Scotland ultra distance international Kyle Greig.
Chepelin said: "I actually wasn't quite sure how to pace it as I'm not used to this sort of distance. But it's a really nice course. I'd forgotten how beautiful the forests are around here. It certainly helps take your mind off the pain."
Despite having had less than two weeks to recover since competing in the Boston Marathon, Marie Baxter (JS Kintore) scored an emphatic victory in the women's race. The Aberdeen-based runner showed few signs of tiredness as she zipped around the course in 1.44.17. Baxter said: "My legs felt remarkably fine other than when I hit some of the hills and the rougher more technical sections.
"I surprised myself as I really didn't know how it would go so soon after Boston. Sometimes I put too much pressure on myself, but today I went in completely relaxed and it went really well. It's the first time I've done this event and I really enjoyed the course but I'm still a bit shocked to have won."
Image: 10k runners (courtesy RunBalmoral)