A YOUNG man with a "heart of gold" collapsed and died as he ran a 10k charity race.
Mark Sharp was almost finished the Garioch annual run when he suddenly took ill in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire.
The 34-year-old father of two collapsed minutes before reaching the finish line on Sunday afternoon.
Paramedics rushed to his side to give him emergency treatment when he was discovered on the town's Burghmuir Drive.
He was taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary by ambulance, but died a short time later.
Mr Sharp collapsed outside the town's Co-operative store.
Shop worker Claire Bouch said she had just started her shift when paramedics arrived at the scene.
She said: "A customer came in and said they had been attempting resuscitation for around 15 minutes. It was sunny and I did wonder if some runners did not realise how hot it would be. For someone to collapse that young is a real shock."
A Scottish Ambulance Service spokeswoman said the runner was taken to hospital after becoming ill at around 1:15pm.
Mr Sharp was on the last stretch near the Garioch Sports Centre, the start and finish post of the race.
Yesterday, friends described him as a man with a "heart of gold" who recently took up the sport to raise cash for charity.
A friend, who did not want to be named, said: "He was always there to put a smile on your face if you were upset. He had a heart of gold.
"He had just taken up the sport recently, but he always kept in shape and liked to keep himself fit.
"He was such fun to be around and always had a smile."
Mr Sharp, a former pupil of the Gordons School in Huntly, had lived in nearby Port Elphinstone with his wife Katrina and two children for many years.
He was believed to have been a project manager at an oil firm in Aberdeen.
His friend added: "He was just a fun-loving guy who liked to do things for charity.
"He was planning to sign up for the Bennachie Hill Race next."
The tragedy happened on one of the warmest days of the year so far.
Hundreds of spectators lined the streets of Inverurie to watch more than 1,000 runners set off on a series of race circuits throughout the day.
A 5km race began at 11am, followed by the 10km at 12:10pm. Hundreds of other runners set off on a half marathon later in the day.
Organisers said they were in shock over the tragedy. Race committee chairman Frank Mathers said their thoughts and sympathies were with the runner's family.
He added: "This was the sixth annual Garioch 10k and nothing like this has ever happened before.
"Local ambulance men were in attendance as part of the race set-up, and treated the runner before he was rushed to hospital in Aberdeen.The news of his death is tragic."
The Garioch race was set up six years ago to raise funds for the not-for-profit sports centre in Inverurie to help improve the health and fitness of locals.
Race organisers decided to extend the race this year to offer circuits for beginners and more experienced runners.
Mr Mathers added: "It was a really super day and a great success which was naturally overshadowed by this event.
"You do your best to prepare for these things. There were six members of the ambulance crews working on rotation.
"They were on the scene very quickly but despite their valiant efforts, the gentleman later died."