A total of 165 runners from across Scotland took on the challenge of the 24th annual Bennachie Hill Race on Sunday, matching the record number of entrants for the popular event set in 2011. Conditions for the race were almost perfect, with earlier wind abating.
Despite some rain in the days leading up to the race, recent good weather meant that conditions underfoot were excellent, making for a fast course. Strong running at the front saw two runners dip under the 60-minute mark, but the course records refused to budge.
Team GB cross-country skier, Callum Smith of Inverurie and Edinburgh University, finished as first male in an impressive 57:57. Ben Abraham (Cosmic Hillbashers), who was also part of the winning Cosmic men's team, finished second in 59:25, followed closely by George French of the Garioch Roadrunners in 1:00:13.
The women's race was also keenly contested, with last year's second lady, Veronique Oldham (Cosmic Hillbashers), claiming the top spot this year. The battle for second place was hard fought between two local Metro Aberdeen runners, with only seconds between them. Laura Sarkis won the duel in 1:11:51 with Elaine Omand hot on her heels to claim third place with 1:11:53.
An excellent Junior Hill Race saw some very strong running from young athletes in the shorter and less hilly 5 km course. In the 13-14 age group, Frances Sealy (Banchory/Stonehaven AAC) claimed her place as first girl in 28:01 and Matthew Keenan (AAAC) first boy in 20:27. In the 15-17 group the first runners home were Lise Theron (AAAC) in 23.12 and Duncan Gibb (Huntly Nordic Ski Club) in 19:43.
Cosmic Hillbashers won both the male and female team competitions for the second year in a row.
The Bennachie Hill Race is also the third and final event in the Aberdeenshire Hill Race Series, alongside the Morven and Cairn William hill races. Ben Abraham of Cosmic Hillbashers took the men's title. Tamsin Morris (Garioch Roadrunners) was crowned women's champion.
For at least two of the runners, the Bennachie Hill Race was about more than just the hill. Domenico D'Ambruoso of Methlick ran to raise funds for the charity Adam's Aim. Christine Drysdale of the Garioch Roadrunners (pictured) completed the course dressed as Wonder Woman to celebrate her 40th birthday.
Rod MacInnes said: "This is my first Bennachie Hill Race as club chair, and I'm delighted that it has been a resounding success. I heard so many compliments from runners of all experience and ability saying this really is a 'must do' event in the North East."
For full results, visit our race listings page.
The Garioch Roadrunners meet Tuesday and Thursday nights at 6.30pm at the Garioch Sports Centre, Inverurie. New members are always welcome.