The big day is nearly here - 26 April 2012
It's almost time. The 2012 Balmoral road races are nearly here and they look like being the biggest and best yet.
The leading athletes will be battling to win trips to Ethiopia as well as big cash prizes over the course of a busy weekend which will see almost 5,000 runners of all ages enjoying the occasion.
Many people will be running to raise funds for their favourite charities, others will be trying to clock up a good time or beat their mates.
Whatever the reason for taking part it's certain there can be few more stunning settings for a running event.
The races are all held on traffic-free courses within the spectacular grounds of the royal estate in the heart of Deeside.
The action-packed programme gets underway on Saturday with the MPH Primary schools 1.5K runs for boys and girls, the Kongsberg Maritime secondary schools 2.5k, the ConocoPhillips 5K and the Stena Drilling Tartan 10k.
These races are all full, but entries will still be accepted for the Petrofac Challenge 15 mile multi-terrain race and the Taqa Diamond Jubilee Mile which both take place on Sunday.
The 10K has attracted a top quality field which boasts four of the five previous winners of the men's title.They will all be chasing the top prize of £250 which is doubled if the record is broken.
The 2010 winner, Andrew Douglas (Inverclyde AC), will be going all out for another victory after returning to Scotland from two weeks of warm weather training in Portugal.
He'll be challenging the course record of 31min 23sec set by Robert Russell (Central AC).
Russell, who was second behind Commonwealth Games marathon runner Martin Williams (Tipton Harriers) last year, also plans to take part and will be looking to build on his win in last month's Alloa half marathon.
Title-holder Williams, who was fourth Briton, 23rd overall, in last Sunday's London marathon isn't defending his Balmoral crown.
Scottish 10K road running champion Ross Houston (Central AC) is, however,another strong contender.He won at Balmoral in 2008 and will be keen to repeat that success.
City of Aberdeen 10K champion Ben Hukins will compete despite having run in the Rotterdam marathon earlier this month.
The man they may all have to beat, however, is Ethiopian Edao Hussen Weliy. Organisers are waiting to hear if his visa application has been approved in time for him to travel to Scotland.
Scottish masters champion Melissa Whyte (Inverness Harriers) is favourite in the women's competition despite having missed training recently because of injury.
Alford's Lisa Leonard, winner of the Garioch 10K at Inverurie last month, will also be in the frame for the top prizes.
The first man and woman wearing kilts will also receive special prizes.
Teenager Sam Burgess (Aberdeen AAC) is among the leading entrants for the ConocoPhillips 5K which also has a capacity field of 800 runners.
The tag of race favourite, however, goes to Scottish Commonwealth Games 1500m runner Alastair Hay (Central AC) who is heading back to form after a spell on the sidelines.
The real drama is expected to come in the women's division of the race in which former Scottish 1500m champion Nicola Gauld lines up against current top Scottish junior international Rhona Auckland (Banchory Stonehaven AC).
The first man and woman in Sunday's Petrofac Challenge will wins trips to the Hawassa half marathon in Ethiopia.
These fantastic prizes are offered by Balmoral Road Races as part of the organisation's efforts to promote Scottish athletics by offering incentives for some of the country's best runners to enhance their competitive experiences.
Robbie Simpson (Deeside Runners) and Murray Strain (Hunters Bog Trotters) are among the leading entrants in the men's contest while Tessa Hill (Hunters Bog Trotters), Fiona Matheson (Falkirk Victoria Harriers) amd Morgan Windram-Geddes (Fife AC) are among the big names listed in the women's field.
Others may join them as entries will be accepted on the day.