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Highland Cross is back for 2024 – but reigning champion Ross Gollan will not be returning to defend his title

By Andrew Henderson

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This Saturday sees the Highland Cross return to the Highlands for its 40th run.

The unique coast-to-coast charity duathlon consists of a 20-mile walk, jog or run from sea level at Morvich on the west coast, crossing the 1000ft pass behind the Five Sisters of Kintail to Glen Affric.

From there, each participant collects their bicycle, and rides the 30 miles to Beauly on the east coast.

Edderton's Ross Gollan has won the race for the last two years. Picture: Callum Mackay
Edderton's Ross Gollan has won the race for the last two years. Picture: Callum Mackay

Once again the event has attracted a field from all over Great Britain and beyond, with 795 competitors between 18 and 82 years old registered to take on the challenge and raise money for charity – with almost £6 million having been accumulated for good causes over the last few decades.

The four principal charities nominated for this year are Cantraybridge College, Highland BlindCraft, Highland Disability Sport and L’Arche Highland.

As far as the competitive action goes, winner for the last two years Ross Gollan is not taking part this year, but the 2017 and 2018 winner Gordon Lennox from Alness is taking part and likely to a contender.

Other well placed competitors from 2023 again competing are John Newsom from Nairn, and James Tree from Dunning in Perthshire.

Among the favourites for first women’s prize will be last year’s winner, Catriona Graves from Inverness, and Jill Stephen from Aboyne, winner in 2019 and 2022.

Those contenders may well have their eye on the record of 3 hours, 13 minutes and 31 seconds, set by expatriate Highlander New Zealand athlete Dr Keith Murray in 1993, or the female record of 3 hours, 48 minutes and 9 seconds set by Angela Mudge in 2007.

On the other hand, those registered as walkers leave Morvich two hours earlier and take up to the full nine hours available to complete the event.

About 30 per cent of the competitors are first timers, another 30 per cent have competed one or two times previously while the remaining 40 per cent are regular “crossers”.

About 60 per cent are registered as runners with the remaining 40 per cent registered as walkers.

Over 50 of the competitors on Saturday have taken part on 20 or more occasions, with 16 of these having taken part on 30 or more occasions.

Two participants who have completed every Highland Cross will be in the field: John Talbot from Kyle and David Rose from Edinburgh – a fantastic achievement from them both.

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