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Virtual North Coast 500 (NC500) run aids Scottish Association for Mental Health with 60 runners taking part in the challenge over the course of seven days


By Ian Duncan

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Kenny MacGruer at the start of his 16.4 mile stage from Melvich to Thurso.
Kenny MacGruer at the start of his 16.4 mile stage from Melvich to Thurso.

When a group of Highland runners had to cancel their plans to complete the Cateran Trail – which runs between Perthshire and Angus – they decided to run the North Coast 500 for charity instead.

Organiser Sophie Dunnett, who has run endurance coaching business PET for the past three years, said around 60 runners took part in the virtual challenge over the course of seven days.

The coronavirus crisis meant she said she had to cancel a number of planned training camps throughout 2020 and when it was decided to cancel the trail run – which covers a distance of 56 miles and would have taken three days to complete – she told runners that she would come up with an alternative challenge.

Mrs Dunnett, from Thurso, said teams from Inverness, Caithness and Ross-shire all took part, along with others from Aberdeen-shire and even London.

“I planned out the NC500 Challenge for the original group of runners but then, having decided to raise some money for Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), opened it up to other runners in teams of up to 10 to take part,” she said.

“The 515 miles of the NC500 was divided into 42 stages ranging in distances from 2.7 miles to 23 miles.

“The 60 runners who entered had to complete all of the stages virtually in a week within their teams and each team organised their runners and divided up the stages.

“Stages could be run, or walked, and teams were free to swap stages around as they needed to during the week.”

Her original target was to raise £1000 but the total currently stands at £4420.

“We are all starkly aware of the impact Covid has had on people’s mental health and, as an endurance coach, I am also aware of how many people use running and exercise more widely to combat mental health issues,” she said.

“It was an obvious choice for me and has provided to be a very popular choice with all of the runners and their family and friends who have been very generous in their donations.”

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