Scottish island honours late Olympian with 'Karen's Track'

It is where former Olympic runner Karen MacLeod could be found walking her dogs close to home on the Isle of Skye.

Karen MacLeod competing in the 10,000 metres at the World Championships in Stuttgart in 1993.
Karen MacLeod competing in the 10,000 metres at the World Championships in Stuttgart in 1993.

Now the old road is being turned into a fitting tribute to Ms MacLeod, who died suddenly last year aged 63, by her friends and neighbours.

The route, which runs between Brookside, Clachamish and the Fanks Road, is being renamed Karen’s Track in memory of the long-distance runner, who competed in the marathon at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria and the Atlanta Olympics two years later, where she was a teammate of Liz McColgan.

It is hoped the track will encourage walkers, runners, cyclists and horse riders while inspiring people to get outside, get fit and leave their cars at home.

Alistair Danter, of Edinbane Community Company, which is developing the track, said: “Karen would have run, walked and taken her dogs down the road, which is very close to her home. You always saw her there.

"We have been looking at developing cycling routes in the area and we were discussing whether we should give this one a name. We just felt that Karen’s Track was a fitting memorial.

"There was very deep sorrow here when she passed, it was so unexpected. We spoke to Karen’s family about the name and they were happy with what we wanted to do.”

Ms MacLeod, who took the name Nicolson after she married her husband, Angus, is considered one of the best athletes ever to emerge from the north of Scotland with the high point of her career achieving a personal best of 2:33:16 at the 1994 games.

The athlete won international marathons in Bordeaux, Majorca and Seville and came 16th in the 1993 World Championships and 45th at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics marathon.

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The runner’s career, which started with a fundraising half-marathon aged 22, was brought to an end in 1998 when she fell ill at the Boston Marathon.

Later, she was diagnosed as having Berger’s disease, a rare kidney condition, and she later underwent a kidney transplant with her sister Deborah in 2005, when aged 50.

She joked with her sister that they broke a new record in recovery time and, just four weeks after surgery, they completed the Skye Half, with Deborah also an accomplished runner.

In later life, Ms MacLeod took up open water swimming but fell ill before entering the sea at Clachan Sands in North Uist last June. She had suffered a stroke and was airlifted to Glasgow, but could not be saved.

Karen’s Track hopes to preserve the legacy of the athlete, who was well regarded by fellow competitors and the wider community.

The track is being funded in part by money raised for the Edinbane Community Company by the local windfarm, with financial support also secured from Highland Council and Health Islands.

Linsay Chalmers, development manager at Community Land Scotland, which supports Edibane Community Company, said: “Being able to control their own future through the ownership of land and buildings unleashes energy and builds confidence in communities. This is something we see time and again.”


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