Almost 1000 runners and walkers lit up the night sky as they blazed their way round the notoriously demanding Illuminator night trail race last Saturday night.
The route took the participants on a rollercoaster 15-mile trail through beautiful ancient forest and barren moorland at Glen Tanar Estate, Royal Deeside.
Despite the cold and on high ground even snowy conditions, the event attracted participants to Aboyne from all over Scotland and the rest of the UK, some keen to race in Scotland’s toughest night trail event and others to challenge themselves to walking the demanding route at their own pace.
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 they took on the second half of the course.
One of the participants reported after finishing: “This was my first time doing the Illuminator and really I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish. I can’t pick a singular best part.
“A huge stag ran across my path during the run, so if anything that would be my favourite part of the event!”
Other participants commented positively on the inclusivity of the event, which welcomes runners and walkers equally. The contrast of dark and quiet stretches with the illuminations at the light zone was also appreciated, as was the overall friendly and supportive atmosphere.
Novices were impressed by the regular checkpoints with enthusiastic and supportive marshals. As another finisher put it: “I love how it’s such an inclusive and social event. The fact that it’s for runners and walkers takes the pressure off and it doesn’t feel like a race.
“I also loved how it’s a supported event with support every few miles, that made me feel so reassured.”
Stephanie Provan, who lives in Aboyne and admittedly has the advantage of having trained in the glen and knowing the trails like the back of her hand, was Fastest Female with a stunning time of 1hr 58min 30sec. Like the other winners, her prize voucher was sponsored by running equipment outfitter Run4It.
Matthew Milne came in in an incredible 1:49.41 to pick up the prize for Fastest Male.
The Braemar Mountain Rescue Team supported the event, which is expected to raise more than £10,000 to help maintain their vital emergency equipment.