A record 1250 runners and walkers lit up the night sky as they blazed their way round the notoriously demanding Illuminator Night Trail Race.
Last Saturday night’s route took the participants on a roller coaster 15-mile trail through beautiful ancient forest and barren moorland at Glen Tanar Estate, Royal Deeside.
The event, which started at 6.30pm, attracted participants to Aboyne from all over Scotland and from as far as Germany and Finland, keen to experience Scotland’s toughest night trail race.
The final finishers crossed the line around 12.30am.
Organiser Jono Buckland from Firetrail Events said: “With a hilly 15 miles and 2000 feet of ascent, all in complete darkness, you would think that would put people off, but the event just keeps on growing year on year. I think it shows people want something a bit different and real adventure.
“A dry night obviously helps and we very lucky with the weather.”
After running or walking for hours with just the glow of head torches to light the way, participants suddenly arrived at a spectacular light zone, where ancient Scots pine trees, a river and an old Victorian bridge were illuminated with a full spectrum of colours.
Participants reported that it offered a real buzz and a much-needed mental boost before taking on the second half of the course.
The Braemar Mountain Rescue Team supported the event with a strong presence of trained volunteers and impressive vehicles.
They are the Illuminator’s nominated charity partner and use the event both as training and as a fund-raising opportunity.
It is expected that the event will raise more than £10,000 to help maintain their vital emergency equipment.
Sara Henry won the prize for Fastest Female with a stunning time of 2hr 5min 33sec.
“I hadn’t done many head torch runs before but conditions were great,” she said.
“The light-zone is pretty amazing and it’s halfway round which is a great boost.
“All the marshals are all really encouraging and I will be back next year.”
Sam Milton came in with an incredible 1:36.02 to pick up the Fastest Male award for a second year running.
“The quality of the other competitors this year was very high so I knew I had to produce a better performance,” he said.
“I was delighted to take a further four minutes off my course record and defend my title. I hope to be back next year to make it a hat-trick!”
Hundreds of keen participants have already signed up for the 2018 event at: www. illuminatorrun.co.uk