There is still time to register for the Baxters Loch Ness marathon and festival of running on 29 September with entries closing in just under two weeks. The event is earning a reputation as a springboard for up and coming athletes to launch themselves into the running elite with Ethiopian, Dinknesh Mekash Tefera, being a prime example.
Dinknesh ran at Loch Ness three years ago in her first race outside Ethiopia. She was initially taken aback by the cool and wet conditions in Scotland but this was quickly offset by the warm welcome she received from locals. Her performance at the event saw her win the women's marathon in a course record time of 2hr 46min 39sec. Her career has taken off since then with her best performance coming at this year's Paris marathon where she recorded a PB of 2hr 25min 09sec to come fourth. She is being tipped to go even faster at October's Toronto marathon.
The 28-year-old spoke about Loch Ness marathon: "It's a place we will always want to come back to, as it's perfect for giving new upcoming athletes a chance to compete."
Dinknesh was supported in her trip to Inverness by the non-profit organisation, Running Across Borders (RAB), which provides coaching and support for young East African runners.
RAB founder Malcolm Anderson said: "For Dinknesh it was a four-day whirlwind trip from Addis Ababa to Loch Ness and back again. She had layers of clothing on and just before the race started it began to rain. The steely character she demonstrated to come through all that, win and beat the course record in her first trip abroad, stood her in good stead for the future. It was the Baxters Loch Ness marathon that gave her confirmation of her talent and how running could literally change her life, which it then did. "
Race director, Malcolm Sutherland, spoke of his delight about Dinknesh's success: "It's fantastic to hear about the progress Dinknesh has made since running at Loch Ness. In many respects this is what our event is about giving people of all ages and abilities the chance, through running, to realise their dreams and goals, whatever these might be.
"We want everyone to enjoy the sense of achievement which comes with completing a race in the company of thousands of others who share the same love of taking part."
This year's event will see the marathon host the Scottish championships for the third year in a row and Ross Houston will also be hoping to make it three in a row as he bids for a hat-trick of victories at the race.
The festival of running also includes the Baxters River Ness 10K and 5K runs. The 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. The guaranteed entry closed on 1 July but organisers are still taking entries from Scottish Athletics members, affiliated UK runners and through official charity Macmillan Cancer and other affiliated Charities until 9 September. Entries can be made at the event website.