Saturday, January 8 promises to be a big day in Edinburgh with both the Bupa Great Winter Run and the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country taking place. The Great Winter Run is hugely popular with recreational runners giving them the opportunity to blow away the festive cobwebs in real style while the cross country event is a contest involving some top class international athletes. Hundreds of youngsters will also take part in the 2.5K Bupa Junior Great Winter Run before the 5K Great Winter Run.
The feature race this year in the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country event is the mens' International Team Challenge, which will see Great Britain take on the USA and Europe over an 8km course. The programme will also include a shorter men's race featuring a host of top international names.
There will be plenty of interest in the womens' race which will be shown live on the BBC where Chester Le Street's Freya Murray and London-based Stephanie Twell will need to make the best of their current excellent form when spearheading the British challenge for honours. The pair of determined Scots are under no illusions they will need to be in top condition for the country's premier cross country event on January 8 if they are to make any impact in the race.
The seventh staging of the meeting in Holyrood Park is expected to see African athletes continue their dominance of the womens' race which has never seen a European competitor make the medallists' podium. Great Britain's three-time European junior cross country gold medallist Twell and Hayley Yelling-Higham, the reigning Euro senior champion, have achieved the highest continental placings with fourth place finishes.
Now there are high hopes that Murray, who has had the best season of her career, highlighted by her second place at the Bupa Great South Run in October and Twell, also in her sharpest ever form with a Commonwealth bronze medal under her belt, will be able to perform at the highest level at the BBC televised event.
"They'll certainly have the crowd behind them and that can be a very important factor in any cross country race, particularly at this level," said Peter Riley, the meeting's elite athletes' coordinator. Both have had outstanding seasons, in my opinion the best of their careers, and that should boost their confidence against some of the world's best opponents. Beating any African opponent in the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country is never going to be easy, as past results show. Only Australia's former world champion, Benita Willis, has managed that, as runner up in the inaugural race."
Entry into Holyrood Park is free for spectators and organisers are encouraging the public to take advantage of the opportunity to see the world's best athletes compete, as well as the cream of young Scottish athletes on show within the main events and the Scottish Inter District Championships.