Jason Kelly is targeting more road running success after scoring his first major local victory in the 30th anniversary Ballater 10-mile race.
The Stonehaven Running Club member blitzed a field of 215 competitors to take top spot in a personal best time of 56min.
That performance allows the 22-year-old to claim to be one of the north-east’s most improved runners over the past 24 months when his results are assessed.
Kelly first competed in the Ballater race in 2016, finishing 56th in 1:13:16.
He returned last year to take third spot behind Polish runner Bartek Osior and Deeside’s Donald Kerridge, but recorded a much faster time of 1:02:25.
Now he has lopped a little over six mins from his 2017 performance and 17min in all over the past two years.
Kelly said: “I have made a huge improvement but I was surprised to run as fast as I did.
“I was maybe a couple of mins faster than I expected to be, so I am very happy with that.
“The conditions were ideal and it was a good competitive race from the start, all of which helps produce decent results.”
Kelly certainly had to put in a serious shift to earn his victory, with three older and more experienced runners snapping at his heels.
Metro Aberdeen’s Tom Brian was just 28secs behind in second position with his clubmate Ben Ward a further 31secs behind in third.
Fourth-placed Tom Roche (Insch Trail Running Club) was first Over-40 in 57:18.
Kelly added: “There were four of us together for the opening two miles, then Tom Brian and myself pulled clear of the others.
“We were shoulder to shoulder all the way to the top of the hill at five miles, but once we entered the off-road technical section of the course I was able to open up a bit of a lead.
“When we got back on to the road for the final couple of miles I just pushed it on and managed to get the win.
“I’d have to say this is probably my best performance given how hard I had to work and because I got the win over some good opponents.”
Kelly believes this result will give him the confidence to go in search of more fast times in the months ahead.
He said: “I have a couple of half marathons lined up and I’ll be aiming to improve on my best time of 1:15:55 set at Stirling in April.
“I’m doing Nairn next month and possibly the Great Scottish Run at Glasgow in October.
“I’ll be aiming to run under 1:15:00 which I think I am capable of doing based on my result at Ballater.
“The Glasgow race in particular will have a high quality field so that will hopefully help push me along.
“I am also thinking about doing the Leeds Abbey Dash 10km later in the year as it’s a fast course and a stacked field.
“I’d also like to do some 3km and 5km races to keep my speed up and hopefully I can gain a few more podium positions.”