A Stonehaven endurance athlete played a key role in helping a nine-strong team of elite ultra-distance runners set a remarkable record for running the length of Scotland.
Chris Cowley was part on the Pyllon Racing team, which ran non-stop along the Scottish National Trail from Cape Wrath in the north to Kirk Yetholm on the English border.
The unofficial trail is one of the toughest and most varied routes in Britain, covering 537 miles and passing through a variety of terrain.
Much of the trail follows a combination of shorter, well-established hiking routes, such as St Cuthbert’s Way, the Southern Upland Way, the Forth and Clyde and Union Canal towpaths, the West Highland Way and the Rob Roy Way.
Other parts, including sections through central Perthshire, the Cairngorms and the north-west Highlands, are much more challenging, with no way-marking or obvious continuous paths.
A run of this type had never been attempted in the depths of winter and the squad set themselves a 100-hour target to complete the journey.
Cowley said: “We did it in 100 hours 20mins.
“I was amazed we were so close to our target because the 100 hours was plucked out of thin air. We really didn’t know.
“Each of us did around 80 miles of running. Sometimes we ran in pairs, for safety reasons, and at other times we were solo.
“The Cape Wrath section was the toughest because there’s no obvious trail.
“It was extremely boggy and running in the dark, with head torches, was quite tough. In some parts it wasn’t possible to run.
“We were chest deep through some of the river crossings so it was obviously important to have company for these stages.
“It was constantly wet, cold and windy, but good fun as well.
“I navigated using an old-fashioned paper map but other guys had GPX files on their watches, so we used a variety of means to find our way through.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t available for the whole event, so I was the only one who wasn’t at the finish.
“Because of the time I had available, I had to do all of my running in the first two-thirds of the run.
“At one point I only had five hours’ recovery between two five-hour runs, so that was hard.
“It wasn’t easy to get a decent sleep between runs either, as you could never be sure when the next runner would finish and you’d have to get going again.
“We have raised a decent amount of money, at least £5,000 so far for SAMH.”