A shared passion is a good basis for a relationship. Three couples reveal how their shared love for Scotlandâ€™s great outdoors brought them together.
When Graham Kelly broke his ankle while sledging the last thing on his mind was the good that it might bring. He could think only of how he would miss out on a forthcoming ski holiday and that his plans to run several ultra running races would be ruined.
Yet his â€œsilly accident while mucking aboutâ€ led to a chance meeting with a woman, Katie Hall, that he is now head over heels in love with.
Graham, of Busby, Glasgow, says: â€œI was devastated when I broke my ankle in February last year because I had so much I wanted to do in 2015, including the 53-mile Hoka Highland Fling on the West Highland Way and other ultra running races.
â€œI got quite down about it all but, in the end, I decided to go along as a supporter of the event in the April and it was then that competitor Katie spotted me.
“She jumped off the trail mid-run, cheekily tugged my beard and then carried on running. I admit that a wee unexpected surge of emotion appeared from nowhere in that instance.â€
Although Graham, 47, and Katie, 35, had known of each other through social media, in Facebook’s Ultra Dafties Training Group, they had never met.
Katie, of Dundonald, also Glasgow, says: â€œWe’d chatted via social media and I was struck by how sweet, thoughtful and interesting Graham was, in addition to his obvious sense of adventure and wild spirit.
â€œWhen I saw him for the first time, trail-side in the 2015 Highland Fling, tugging his beard seemed like the natural response!â€
As Grahamâ€™s ankle improved, the pair started meeting up for training runs and then he supported her in the 95-mile West Highland Way Race and the 42-mile Devil oâ€™ the Highlands Ultra.
Graham says: â€œI had obviously noted, before I met Katie, that she is drop dead gorgeous, but I also loved her dry, bordering on dark, sense of humour.
â€œI admired that despite being new to ultra running, she was up for pushing herself and clearly had a strength of character and level of independence that if transferred into a relationship would serve us well in the long term.
â€œI believe that the experience of supporting Katie during her successful West Highland Way Race showed our naked characters and brought us closer together in just two days than might have otherwise taken us months, if not years.â€
Almost a year on from their first real-time meeting and Graham and Katie are firmly a loved-up couple. They share many similar interests, especially ultra running, and regularly take off for campervanning adventures.
Katie supported Graham when he took part in the Ben Nevis Race in September, an event he had been aiming for after his accident. Hogmanay was spent at a party at The Clachaig Inn in Glencoe before they ran the annual Aonach Mor for the uphill race on New Yearâ€™s Day together.
Graham says: â€œWe have so much in common and this has helped us to quickly form a solid base for our relationship. Weâ€™re known to our friends as Team Beardy & Blondie.
“How could I have ever known that breaking my ankle would lead to finding Katie? That was good luck!â€
Barking up the same tree
A shared passion for dogs and racing with them led to a new business, marriage and their first child for Lindsay and Keith Johnson.
The couple met five years ago at a series of Sled Dog Association of Scotland (SDAS) races. While Lindsay competed in cani-cross, Keith raced six-dog teams.
When Keith then decided to retire from racing bigger teams he asked Lindsay if she would like to race cani-cross with his old lead dog, Monty.
Lindsay, 33, picks up the story: â€œIt felt like a huge honour for Keith to ask me to race with Monty, who was a three-times world champion lead dog. Not many people would ever have been allowed to run with Monty.
â€œFrom this point, we became good friends and met regularly. I was racing and training his dogs and we got together for training runs.Â We had a strong connection in interests and a great chemistry together so it wasn’t long before our friendship grew into a relationship.â€
The couple also admit to being attracted to each other before they even talked. Lindsay says: â€œKeith was always a hero of mine in the dog sledding world and someone I admired from afar.â€
These days, the couple, from Kilmaurs, East Ayrshire, run a cani-cross and fitness business, Cani-fit, and continue to share their passion for racing with their dogs. They were married in June, 2014, and have a young baby, Evan.
Lindsay says: â€œWe share a passion in our hobby with the dogs and we can work together well as a team. However, we do just love each other’s company doing nothing.Â Having Evan at the end of last year has been the best thing that happened to both of us.â€
First steps to love
A hill walk in Glencoe with mutual friends from a Glasgow circuits class was the beginning of a lasting outdoors love affair.
For Fiona, nee Harrington, and Nick Vaughan the 2008 outing to the Ballachulish Horseshoe offered the first opportunity to get to know each other.
Several more weekends away with the hill walking pals saw the pair becoming good friends before a trip to Braemar to hike Lochnagar cemented their relationship.
â€œThat was like our first date, the trip to Lochnagar,” says Fiona, 32. â€œDue to various call offs, the weekend ended up being only the two of us. We got along really well and we had such a great time, walking in the snow.â€
â€œYes, I remember that,â€ adds Nick, 41. â€œThe youth hostel was almost empty and I kindly offered to move into the womenâ€™s dorm because Fiona was on her own and it was quite a creepy place.â€
â€œThat was very kind of him! I remember that, too,â€ says Fiona, laughing.
Six years later and Fi, a physiotherapist, and Nick, a software engineer, are married and have a one-year-old daughter, Ailsa.
They both believe that their joint passion for sports and outdoor activities helped their relationship to flourish.Â Fiona says: â€œSome of out first dates were running together. We also walked a lot of Munros, enjoyed skiing trips together and then started doing triathlons together.
â€œOur first was in Tranent in 2009. We were good at motivating each other and encouraging each other to try different activities and sports.Â I think we also wanted to impress each other as well!â€
In 2012, both Fiona and Nick did an Ironman race. Fionaâ€™s was in Germany and Nickâ€™s was in France.Â Fiona says: â€œWe supported each other in the training and then in the events.â€
The past year has been spent enjoying the outdoors as a family. Fiona says: â€œAilsa is very happy in a baby backpack and so we have been able to walk hills together.
â€œWe are slower and less adventurous than we were before she came along but we want to encourage her to enjoy the outdoors.
â€œNick and I are lucky that we have similar interests and we want Ailsa to enjoy these, too.â€
Did you meet your soulmate through a shared interest in the outdoors? Tell us more!