It has been billed as an event like no other.
But now, a Highland road race has lost its status as a marathon because of the number of potholes on the route.
The gruelling challenge, which climbs to nearly 2500ft through some of the most spectacular wilderness in the country – and where runners’ times are stopped to allow a ferry journey across the Kyle of Durness – adds to its attraction.
However, the iconic Cape Wrath Challenge Marathon in Sutherland has been told by Scottish Athletics it it can longer call itself a ‘road marathon’, because of the numerous deep and messy potholes on the route.
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The governing body says there is no longer one continuous road surface and argues participants have to weave around the circuit so much they would end up running more than the official 26 mile, 385 yard distance.
Highland Council, which is responsible for the road’s upkeep, has been blamed by the cape’s only two permanent residents, John Ure and his daughter Angela who run the Ozone Cafe at the lighthouse – which is near the 921-feet highest vertical cliffs on mainland Britain – as well as the seasonal mini-bus operator.
Now the most north westerly marathon on mainland Britain – which has been over-subscribed for the 120 places for months – is no longer a road marathon, but will be run in May as an “off road event.”
Organisers Durness Active Health said: “When is a marathon not a marathon? We recently requested Scottish Athletics to re-assess our measured courses, something we have to do periodically.
“Runners who have competed on the course will be aware of how poor the road surface is and Scottish Athletics have advised us the Cape Wrath Challenge Marathon course no longer qualifies as a marathon course.
“International Association of Athletics Federations’ requirements are for races to be held on sealed road surfaces.
“They have however issued a ‘Statement of Course Measurement’ confirming that the course is of marathon distance, but should now be classified as an ‘off-road event’ and we do have a ‘race permit’ for the race.
We are still having runners trying to register for the marathon – unfortunately, the marathon and Team Events have been…
“Whilst we know that this may not be an issue for the majority of runners, we felt it important to highlight this as soon as possible.”
A spokesman for Scottish Athletics said the the race can still be “a multi-terrain marathon rather than a road marathon.”
He added: “In terms of a road marathon status, it doesn’t meet IAAF criteria in order to measure accurately and we’ve had checks done to establish that.”
But the cape’s only residents, the Ures, insist they currently face being “marooned” by potholes, because Highland Council does not have the cash to repair them.
Mr Ure said: “It is disgraceful the council cannot repair the potholes – which has now meant that one of the most famous marathons that attracts people from all over the world – cannot now even call itself a marathon.”
Highland Council, which is having to make £37.5million of savings, said it was about priorities.