Metro Aberdeen runner Alison Pilichos never believed she would see the day when her sister, Elaine Taylor, would join her on the start line of a race.
Pilichos fell in love with the sport seven or eight years ago and is now a regular competitor in events all over Scotland and further afield.
She was a member of the Metro squad along with Claire Bruce and Emma Sutherland which won team bronze medals in the Scottish half marathon championships in Glasgow two years ago.
While Alison progressed through the ranks, sister Elaine watched on with genuine interest but showed absolutely no desire to become involved, other than on a support basis – until a little over a year ago.
Alison said: “We have always been inseparable, but are so different.
“Elaine has absolutely no history of fitness and showed no hankering to take part in any form of exercise.
“She was forever making banners and t-shirts of support for my races and always crewed for me, whether it was a 5k or a marathon.
“Elaine has the sharpest sense of humour and when asked if she would ever run, she’d just laugh and say: ‘You never get injured reading a kindle’ or ‘take the car it’s much quicker’.
“She enjoys craft, reading and enjoying time with her close group of friends. All she would say to me about running was: “how on earth can you be bothered?”
But unknown to Alison, that was all about to change when Elaine got involved in planning her sister’s 40th birthday weekend with a few friends last year.
Alison insisted the celebrations had to include a race, so a trip to Edinburgh was planned to coincide with the Scottish 10k in the capital. Elaine and the others were going along to offer no more than moral support.
Alison said: “At the beginning of the year Elaine started going to Weight Watchers to shed a few pounds ahead of a family wedding.
“She was doing really well, but never for a second did I think she was also secretly running.
“She had started using the couch to 5k app and was initially planning to surprise me by running a parkrun at some point that year.
“She gradually built up to 10k and lost nearly four stones in weight.
“She ran either late at night or would drive miles from home where she couldn’t be seen by anyone – most importantly me.
“She looked like a ninja as she tried to disguise herself. If anyone spotted her she would panic and tell them it’s a big secret and not to let me know.
“She started travelling 18 miles from her house to do the Ellon parkrun, taking part under another name.
“Her first one, in January 2019, took her 34min 16secs but by June she was running 28:47 and her PB is now 25:14.
“As her weight fell she began to enjoy it more and thought she could maybe manage a 10k. I still knew nothing about this.”
But the biggest surprise was yet to come when the sisters and their friends headed for the birthday weekend in Edinburgh at the end of June.
Alison said: “The course was an out-and-back loop twice, in horrendous wind, and as I was crossing the finish line I saw her running towards me and waving.
“I genuinely thought she had just dressed up and was pretending to take part as she cheered me over the line.
“It wasn’t until I crossed the finish line, got my medal and found my friends that they handed me a Taylor support t-shirt, and a card which included Elaine’s training plan, as well as a letter explaining the challenge she’d undertaken for my 40th.
“I couldn’t believe she was out on the course, alone, taking on a 10k. I felt incredibly emotional and still, all this time later, it brings tears to my eyes.
“Cheering her across the line is a moment in life I just can’t explain – it was truly unbelievable.”
Alison and Elaine later ran together in the Great Aberdeen Run 10k.
Alison added: “Elaine has now run in New York and Florida. She has run or volunteered at 35 parkruns, three of them abroad.
“She is truly an incredible inspirational person and we’ve gone from being soul sisters to sole sisters. She has inspired so many of her friends to run and has even paced them.
“All of this was so far out of her comfort zone.
“She has worked incredibly hard and although having lost nearly four stone in weight, she hasn’t lost one ounce of her witty humour and incredibly huge heart.
“It has changed her life and her family’s life. Her husband, Fraser, and daughter Lauren are also now regular park runners.”