On the same day as the London Marathon, the city of Stirling has proven that it is also capable of hosting a top-class sporting event.
In a day of dramatic finishes and heart-warming tales from participants, more than 5000 runners took part over the marathon and half-marathon distances.
In the elite races, defending champion and Central Athletic runner Michael Wright strode home in an impressive time of 2:29:32 to win the men’s race.
Although the spectators were informed that Fife AC runner Kevin Wood was going to claim the crown, he struggled in the closing stages and was overtaken by Wright with less than a mile to go.
Wood came agonisingly close to going under two and a half hours, finishing in 2:30:53. Donnie Macdonald took the bronze, clocking a respectable 2:34:21.
Central AC runner Jennifer Wetton stormed home to ensure further success for the local club, finishing with a time of 2:56:05 to win the women’s race.
She was the only female athlete to finish under three hours, with her nearest competition almost nine minutes behind her.
Lesley Hansen was second in 3.04.50 and Rhona Van Rensburgh took third with 3.09.55.
The elite athletes make up a tiny proportion of the runners. As always, the main story of the day was the thousands of people running for different charitable causes.
Stirling University students came out in their droves to support their friends who were running in the event.
Two Stirling students ran the gruelling full marathon distance of 26.2 miles, for charities close to their heart.
Second-year Stewart Mccaw ran to raise vital funds for Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke.
He said: “My grandfather passed away just over a year ago from a stroke. He had a massive impact on my life, so losing him was extremely hard to take.”
Mccaw has also had heart problems himself, having suffered from arrhytmia problems and being born with a hole in his heart.
He added: “It made sense to run for Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke with all the great work that they do. So far I have raised just short of £1,100.”
Fourth-year Jack Warren-Ballard, of the swimming club, smashed his goal of finishing in under four hours, with a time of 3 hours 53 minutes.
He has so far raised almost £1000 for Centre for Fun and Families. Run by his mother, the charity supports parents, carers and young people who experience behavioural and communication difficulties with their families.
Despite looking comfortable as he crossed the finish line, Warren-Ballard described it as the hardest thing he has ever done. He joked: “It’s a lot harder than swimming.”
Stirling University Athletic Club were on solid form, with eight of their members competing across the two races.
One of the standout performances came from Oliver Greenstein, who placed seventh in the half-marathon with a time of 1:16:56. The club’s fastest runner over the full distance was Josh Wood, who posted an impressive 3:13:35.
The triathlon club were also represented, with Alex Zemek-Parkinson and Shannon Moses both smashing their personal bests. Zemek-Parkinson came home in 1 hour 43 minutes.
His friend and teammate Shannon Moses said: “It was tough. There were a lot more hills than last year, but I knocked 36 minutes off last years time.”
Brig was also represented, with head of distribution Archie Veitch completing the half marathon in 2 hours 10 minutes.
He said: “It wasn’t my best time but I had a lot of fun. The route didn’t overlap itself too much, which was nice.”
Stirling Council Chief Executive, Carol Beattie, has expressed her delight with the event, both for the individuals running and for the city.
She said: “A huge congratulations to the medal winners and all the runners for achieving personal targets, raising money for a range of good causes and inspiring others with their dedication.”
“For Stirling, this festival of running cemented our reputation as a top-class events destination and delivered an economic boost to the area.”
Event Director Jamie Still added: “The Simplyhealth Great Stirling Run has once again given runners the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful part of the world from a unique perspective.”
Third time was the charm for Stirling Marathon this year, with a new route that was scenic, but not without its challenges.
As the event continues to grow year on year, it looks likely that Stirling will continue to host this great sporting spectacle.
Featured Image Credit: Whyler photos