THOUSANDS of people descended on Stirling yesterday for an outstanding day of sporting action which combined world-class athletics and mass participation running events.

Spectators packed into Kings Park and Stirling Golf Club to cheer on some of the top runners from around the world as they crossed swords in the Simplyhealth Stirling Great XCountry.

Staged in the city for the first time, the prestigious international event was screened live on BBC One, showcasing the city and its spectacular scenery to a UK and global audience.

Huge crowds turned out to watch three thrilling races unfold – the individual men's and women's, and the innovative mixed relay, where teams compete for the coveted Stewart Cup.

Although Europe came out on top in the competition, there was home delight in the relay race as Scottish star Laura Muir crossed the finishing line first to huge cheers, bringing the curtain down on a brilliant day of sport.

Throughout the day, 1,600 participants also made the perfect start to the New Year by taking part in the inaugural Great Stirling Castle Run.

Sold out before the end of December, the pioneering 7km challenge, starting and ending in Kings Park, saw runners of all abilities tackle a scenic multi-terrain course.

After crossing the finishing line, many participants and their supporters stayed on to watch the other races or spend time in the city centre, adding to the tremendous atmosphere.

Families and young people also took up the opportunity to get involved in physical activity through a mini cross country challenge ran by Active Stirling in the events village.

In an action-packed day, some of the best Scottish running talent was also on show in the Senior and Junior Men's and Women's Scottish Inter District Races.

Stirling Council leader Scott Farmer; Councillor Chris Kane, representing the authority as bailie at the event; and Stirling Council's interim chief executive Carol Beattie, all started waves of runners in the Great Stirling Castle Run.

Cllr Farmer said: "This superb sporting spectacle was a wonderful way for Stirling to start 2019 and another success story for the city.

"There was a brilliant buzz around the course as people turned out in fantastic numbers to watch world-class athletes in action and to take on exciting running challenges.

"Not only did we successfully stage another high-profile event and showcase our city to a worldwide TV audience, we ensured that residents and visitors had the opportunity to get active as part of our drive to improve health and well-being.

"Congratulations to all the participants and they should be very proud of their achievements.

Cllr Kane added: "What a tremendous day this was for Stirling, with thousands visiting the city from across the country to enjoy this spectacular sporting occasion, including many young people and families.

"By watching running stars such as Laura Muir at close quarters, I am sure people will be inspired to get involved in sport and continue to lead healthy lives.

"One of our key objectives for the event was to encourage physical activity and the Great Stirling Castle Run was a huge success, and I have no doubt there will be a shot in the arm for tourism after our beautiful city was showcased to viewers across the UK and beyond."

Having successfully hosted the International Cross Country Championships for the first time, Stirling has enhanced its reputation as a key events venue and a must-visit destination.

On April 28, the city will host the third Great Stirling Run, which incorporates the Stirling Marathon, a half marathon event and family events.