CHARITIES across the north stand to be thousands of pounds better off thanks to a fundraising army which will pound the streets of the Highland capital next month.
Hundreds of runners in the Inverness Half Marathon - and the accompanying 5K fun run - will be raising money for good causes, with everything from cancer charities to youth clubs in line to benefit.
Highland Hospice, the official charity of the event, which takes place on Sunday, March 13, has over 80 runners limbering up to help its Project Build Appeal hit its target.
The £4.5m campaign was launched two years ago in a bid to rebuild the Inverness hospice, doubling the size of the in-patient department, upgrading the day therapies centre and improving other facilities.
But Highland Hospice will by no means be the only group to benefit from the efforts of over 1500 runners who are expected to complete the 13.1 mile course.
Clachnacuddin FC Youth Development will have in the region of 35 runners running the 5K course to raise money for their group, while Inverness Shinty will have around 20 runners clocking up the miles for cash.
It is hoped that many more runners will decide to help charities find the quick route to fund-raising success before entries for the half marathon and 5K close on Tuesday, February 23.
John Beaton, youth co-ordinator for Clach, completed three half marathons back-to-back for the club in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
It has signalled a long-lasting association with the event – and a relationship that has generated thousands of pounds towards developing youth football in the local area.
He said: “The money we raise will help to fund trips to Denmark, Blackpool and Edinburgh for our youth teams this year. Taking part in the event is one of our main fund-raisers and the kids absolutely love it, not least because it results in some healthy competition.
“Not only does it build team spirit, help their fitness and get the Clach colours on display, the race allows parents to get involved too by collecting sponsorship and coming along to support on the day.
“It is a fantastic event and one that we all really enjoy being part of. There is a real buzz around the event whether you are taking part or a supporter, and it is a great way to raise money for local charities.”
Race director Malcolm Sutherland says many local groups use the Inverness Half Marathon as one of their main fund-raising events of the year.
He added: “For many runners taking part in the Inverness Half Marathon is all about competing with themselves and others and beating personal goals.
“However, many will be doing all of that with the added challenging of raising money for charity.
“Over the years the event has resulted in hundreds of thousands of pounds being raised for charities and good causes operating nationally and in the Highlands, and the amount of money being generated is something that we are immensely proud of as event organisers.
“However, it is also incredibly satisfying to see so many people form local groups and workplaces all coming together with a common aim of raising money by doing something that benefits their health and wellbeing.
“You can see the cameraderie out on the course, and the team spirit makes the Inverness Half Marathon a very friendly and supportive event to be part of.”
Highland Hospice fundraiser Carola Highet said: “We cannot wait to see our team of runners out on the course on March 13 – every single penny makes a huge difference to our Project Build Appeal and we hope that knowing they are doing something incredible for patients and their families should help spur them on towards the finish line.”
Inverness Half Marathon starts in the centre of Inverness, passing the imposing sight of Inverness Castle and following a picturesque and varied route along the River Ness.
There is a stadium finish on the track at Queen’s Park Stadium, where hundreds of spectators offer a hero’s welcome.
The 5K fun run is open to people of all ages and abilities. It follows a route along the edge of the river, and also finishes at Queen’s Park Stadium.
Entries are open at www.invernesshalfmarathon.co.uk until midnight on Tuesday, 23 February.