MORE than 400 people turned up for an ultra-marathon in Helensburgh and Lomond on Saturday – even though the plug had been officially pulled on the event less than 24 hours before it was due to take place.

Pure Challenge, the organisers of the Three Lochs Way Ultra, announced on Friday that the company had gone into administration and all its events had been cancelled.

But many of those who had signed up to walk or run the 34-mile route from Balloch to Inveruglas, via Helensburgh and Garelochhead, paying up to £70 to take part, decided to go ahead with the event anyway.

Runner Polly Fruin set up an alternative event page on Facebook and put out an appeal for the community’s help in making sure the hike went ahead without official backing.

Polly said: “I decided to try and make sure that people were not doing the route alone so clubbed together with five others. Then five grew to 50, and 50 grew to 100, and after about six hours I had been contacted by more than 250 people.

“I had been in touch with a few locals prior to the event as I was travelling up and running the event solo, so thought it would be good to get some insider knowledge.”

Polly’s efforts were assisted by Richard Lawley, a Royal Marine based at Faslane, who helped organise water stations and several kilograms of bananas to keep the hikers fed and watered over the route.

Polly also contacted various local B&Bs, taxi firms and the Helensburgh and District Access Trust, who maintain the Three Lochs Way, over which most of the event took place.

She added: “The event was worth all the sweat tears and blood. I am hugely proud of everyone who took part – like a proud mum!”

And those sentiments were backed up by others who took part in the event.

Bobby Gray, from Helensburgh, said: “People say community spirit is dead but the way everyone rallied round showed it really isn’t.”

In a joint statement, three walkers, Conor Brown, Mark Vaughan and John Scott, said: “Without the local communities’ help the whole event would have failed.“The communities drove out to checkpoints in their dozens, giving away much needed water and food that they supplied via their own money in staggering quantities.

“At the end of the event they even provided shuttle runs back to the start point free of charge all through the day and the night.

“We have never experienced in our entire lives such incredible selflessness, help and support.”

Pure Challenge said in a statement on Friday: “The Pure Challenge staff and higher management have been in meetings all throughout yesterday and through the night.

“It is with deep regret that this morning the situation everyone has been trying to avoid has unfortunately happened.

“Pure Challenge with immediate effect has ceased trading and gone into administration.

“The events that are planned for this weekend and the end of the month are now cancelled.

“We do not recommend anyone undertakes the routes we had planned on their own as a matter of safety.”

The Advertiser’s calls to Pure Challenge went unanswered before this issue went to press.