The Loch Ness marathon scheduled for later this year has been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, organisers have announced.
The marathon and accompanying festival of running – which includes the River Ness 10K, the 5K corporate challenge and the Wee Nessie kids’ race, were due to take place on October 4.
A total of 9,500 people, 60% of which were from outside of Scotland and 17% from overseas, took part in the events in 2019.
It also raised more than £1m for charity last year.
Event director Malcolm Sutherland said he hoped those planning to run in this year’s marathon would be willing to come back in 2021.
He said: “It has been a difficult decision and not one we have taken lightly however the health, safety and welfare of our participants, volunteers, staff, charities and stakeholders is at the heart of everything we do and will always remain our priority.
“We feel it is our responsibility to protect everyone involved including our emergency services and local community which has always been so supportive.
“We pride ourselves on offering a very special Highland experience and we are concerned this would be lost were we to stage the event with all the necessary physical distancing measures and other restrictions in place.
“Instead, we will put our efforts into ensuring the 2021 Baxters Loch Ness Marathon & Festival of Running is an outstanding experience for everyone.”
The cancellation means 2020 will be the first year since it began in 2002 that it will not be taking place.
All those with a place in the 2020 Baxters Loch Ness Marathon & Festival of Running will automatically be transferred to the 2021 event, scheduled to take place on October 3.
Paul Bush, VisitScotland’s director of events, added: “The decision to cancel this year’s Baxters Loch Ness Marathon is understandable in the current circumstances and we fully support their decision.
“We appreciate this has not been an easy decision for the organisers to make, however protecting the health and safety of athletes, staff, visitors and residents is of the upmost importance at this time.”