Robbie Simpson hopes a recent foot injury won’t prevent him from putting in another top-class performance in the 35th edition of the Inverness Half Marathon on Sunday.
The 27-year-old Deeside athlete set a course record and personal best time of 1.04.27 when winning last year, just six weeks before going on to pick up a bronze medal for Scotland in the marathon at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Simpson is looking for a confidence-boosting performance as he begins to step up his preparations for April’s London Marathon in which he’ll go in search of the 2.13 qualifying standard required to be considered for a place on the Great Britain team for the world championships in Doha later in the year.
His preparations over the winter haven’t gone too smoothly, however, as he has been hampered by a back problem, illness, and most recently a painful foot, but despite all of that Simpson remains quietly optimistic.
He said: “Despite [the foot] and the other problems I’ve had, I feel I’m in fairly decent shape. If I don’t get a personal best time I won’t be too disappointed as it’s not the end of the world. I still have plenty of time before London. I just want to run well on Sunday to see how things are.
“I like the Inverness course and I think it’s a fast one but it depends on the weather and how competitive the race is. Last year I was given a strong challenge by Dundee Hawkhill’s Kris Jones and that helped push me on. It's a pity Kris isn't running this year because of injury. I'm sure some of the other guys will be keen to push that pace though.”
Those ‘other guys’ should include Mike Christoforou (Edinburgh AC), who won last year’s Alloa Half Marathon and showed good form when finishing third in the Scottish cross country championships last month. The 2018 Stirling Half Marathon winner Mike Crawley (Corstorphine AC), Scotland hill running international James Espie (Deeside Runners) and five-time Skye half marathon champion Hugh Campbell are among others hoping to do well.
Katie White (Garscube Harriers) produced a quick time when taking top spot in the women's race last year in a personal best of 1.15.58 and she’s seeking a repeat performance on Sunday.
She said: “I’m not sure if I’m in better shape than last year so I’ll be looking for a similar time, although it would be good to get a personal best. The course always seems to produce some fast times because there’s usually a very competitive field, and hopefully it will be the same this year. It’s not the flattest course, but it seems to suit me.”
White, who was silver medallist in the world masters age 35–39 half marathon championships in Malaga last September, goes into the race as clear favourite but there’s a large number of good athletes who will be keen to give her a run for her money.
Claire Bruce, the Scottish half marathon championship bronze medallist, has a best time of 1.18.27, but will be aiming to go faster this weekend. She heads a large Metro Aberdeen squad which also includes Great Aberdeen 10K champion Ginie Barrand who has a best time of 1.20.05 set when finishing third at Inverness two years ago.
Fife AC's Sheena Logan, who set a personal best half marathon time of 1.21.56 when winning the Great Aberdeen Half Marathon last August, will lead a strong Fife AC side which includes Halina Rees and Morgan Windram-Geddes.
The 2017 Inverness champion, Dunblane-based Hungarian runner Fanni Gyurko (Central AC), is also in the field but this will be her first race since December. Gyurko’s clubmate Jenn Wetton, who finished runner-up three years in a row between 2015 and 2017, returns for another crack at a podium position.
Race director Malcolm Sutherland said: “It’s fantastic to have a record number of close to 3000 runners taking part in the half marathon and it’s amazing to have sold out our places ahead of the planned closing date. Some clubs will be represented in a big way, with Perth Road Runners bringing 82 competitors, Metro Aberdeen 60 and North Highland Harriers 47.
“There should be some fantastic performances from the top Scottish athletes at the front of the field but it’s always great to see people doing so well all the way through the field.”