Freezing conditions couldn't stop the hardy runners of the north east from taking part in Inverurie's Run Garioch last Sunday (24 March). Nearly 1300 runners battled bitter winds and snow to cross the finish lines of the three sold-out adult races - the Dandara 5K, Specsavers 10K and Accord Energy half marathon - for a record turn-out in the event.
The return of winter also didn't stop the hundreds of spectators who came out in force to offer runners support, encouragement and even hot drinks. One 10k runner told us: "The crowds along the route were just fantastic. There were even folk leaning out of bedroom windows to cheer us on. Their support made all the difference on the day." Runners also had nothing but praise for the more than 100 course marshals and other volunteers who saw them safely through their races from start to finish.
Race director Eric Simpson offered his congratulations to each and every runner who took part in the eighth annual event. He said: "Conditions were simply awful, with a chilling wind. But despite that, records tumbled, PBs were achieved and many runners thoroughly enjoyed beating the elements to finish their first race."
The morning began with the junior runs around Strathburn Park, organised by Aberdeenshire Council and Active Schools. Over 300 children, aged four to 12, enjoyed a warm-up 'Gangnam Style', led by brightly dressed 4th and 5th year Level 1 Dance Leaders from Inverurie Academy.
The three adult races followed, with last year's Baker Hughes 10K winners Nicola Gauld (Aberdeen AAC) and Ben Hukins (Ron Hill Cambuslang Harriers) taking the top places in the Specsavers 10K. In the Dandara 5K, Kyle Greig (Forres Harriers) set a new record of 15.39 in the men's race, as did 15-year-old Lucy McLeod (Aberdeen Grammar and Aberdeen AAC) in the women's, with her time of 20.20. Third in the women's race was 13-year-old Sophie McPhee of Inverurie.
There was also a good result for another local runner in the Accord Energy half marathon. Tammy Wilson of Inverurie's Garioch Roadrunners made it to the top of the podium, along with Barry Ingram (Metro Aberdeen).
Runners taking part in the day's races also raised a significant amount of money for a wide range of charities, including STEPS, Grampian Children's Cancer Research, Kayleigh's Wee Stars and the Charlie House Appeal.
Organisers coped very well with a number of last-minute challenges. Wintry conditions forced a change to the final few miles of the Accord Energy half marathon, less than 24 hours before the start. As drifting snow made the traditional route through Dubston unsuitable for both running and emergency vehicles, a new route took participants past Balquhain Castle, under the A96 and back into town via the Old Elgin Road, North Street and Old Chapel Walk.
Stuart Gordon, manager of Garioch Sports Centre, said: "We'd like to thank all the event sponsors and patrons as well as the marshalling team and support organisations who helped make the day possible. We're also grateful for the support of Grampian Police, St John's Ambulance and the Aberdeenshire Council Roads Department for an exceptional effort in making all the race routes safe.
"We'd also like to thank the Round Table for their BBQ, which was appreciated even more than usual, as well as Duncan Riddoch of Run4it for his excellent commentary. Finally, we'd also like to thank the staff of the Garioch Sports Centre for their hard work before, during and after the race."
Results from the Garioch races are available at scottishrunningguide.com race listings page.