With less than a week left to register for the Baxters Loch Ness marathon, race organisers have seen a rush of late entries from African runners hoping to set a new course record at the event on 30 September. Six Ethiopians, and one Kenyan have contacted race director Malcolm Sutherland asking if they can enter the big Highland endurance test.
African athletes have performed well at Loch Ness in the past and all seven of the late applicants have personal best times quicker than the current men's and women's course records. Kenyan Simon Tonui holds the men's record of 02:20:13, set in 2009, while Ethiopian Dinknesh Mekash Tefara holds the women's mark of 02:46:39 from 2010.
Of the seven looking to run the race next month, Ethiopian Abel Getachew Demsse has a best time of 02:10, Abebe Aschenaki Jemere has run 02:11, Kenyan Sammy Cheruiyot Mutai's fastest finish is 02:16, and Kabtamu Reta Zelele and Birara Melkamu Zegeye both have PBs of 02:13. Ethiopian women, Hirut Beyene Guangul and Dinkalem Telake, have best times of 02:39.
Race director Sutherland commented: "It's wonderful that runners from Ethiopia and Kenya are aware of the Baxters Loch Ness marathon. We have always had a cosmopolitan field, not just at the elite end of the race, but throughout, and it helps make the whole occasion more vibrant and interesting.We would be delighted to see some of these excellent runners coming to Inverness. It shows that the marathon has a good reputation which is spreading across the world. We have already had enquiries from elite runners in Germany and France as well as the Africans."
There will be plenty of home-grown talent competing too with Central AC's Ross Houston confirming he's returning to defend his crown, and Salford's Tomas Abyu, a three-times previous winner also indicating he would like to come back. Aberdeen's Ben Hukins, a Scottish 10,000m track bronze medallist, is another top name who has signed up for the race.
In the women's field, reigning champion Lisa Finlay of Dumfries has confirmed she'll defend her title, while Carnegie Harrier Gail Murdoch, winner of the recent Strathearn marathon, has already submitted her entry.
Entries for club runners, overseas competitors and official charity runners remain open until midnight 10 September, which is also the closing date for the Baxters River Ness 10K, 10K Corporate Challenge and Baxters River Ness 5K. To register, visit the event website.