David Kirkland will be hoping to avoid an unwanted hat-trick when he competes in Baxters Loch Ness Marathon on Sunday (29 September). The English athlete, who runs for Alnwick Harriers, will be making his third appearance in the Highland race, having finished second in his last two attempts. Kirkland is now determined to take the top spot on the podium.
The 41-year-old said: "I'd really like to win this time and I'll be giving it my best shot. I reckon I'm in shape to run around 2hr 25mins so we'll just have to wait and see if that's good enough. I've been training really hard, regularly doing 100 miles per week. I've even been up to 115 miles on one occasion so hopefully I'm ready."
Kirkland faces some strong opposition in the race which, for the third year in a row, doubles up as the Scottish championship. Edinburgh University student Patryk Gierjatowicz poses a real threat. The Polish athlete competed in the marathon three years ago, finishing 10th in 2:34:09. He has improved dramatically since then and set a new personal best time of 2:26:02 when finishing 25th in this year's London marathon.
Another serious contender for the Scottish title is Kerry-Liam Wilson (Ron Hill Cambuslang Harriers). Wilson has a consistent record at Loch Ness, having finished third last year and fourth in 2011. Kenyan runner Taurus Elly could also come into the reckoning. The Salford-based runner hopes to make his marathon debut on Sunday if he overcomes a knee injury sustained in the Cardiff 10K earlier this month. Elly has stated that he will run in the Baxters River Ness 10K if he doesn't feel ready for the marathon.
Romanian Alina Nituleasa will be one of the favourites for the women's race, providing she turns up. The 30-year-old has a best time of 2:45:03 set when winning the Piacenza marathon in Italy last year and a repeat of that performance would see her crack the Loch Ness women's record of 2:46: 39 set by Ethiopia's Dinknesh Mekash Tefara in 2010.
Lisa Finlay will be hoping for a repeat of her 2011 success at the race. The Dumfries athlete won in 2:59:14, then in 2012 finished second behind Shettleston's Avril Mason, with a time of 2:57:55. Finlay has since improved her best time to 2:54:39, set when finishing 10th in Florence last November and she's looking forward to this weekend's race.
She said: "I'm optimistic about my form at the moment and hopefully I'll run quicker than in the past two years. I'd like to get a personal best time, but Loch Ness isn't the easiest of courses. It's a beautiful route, but quite hilly. The fact that there's a Scottish title at stake is a real attraction for me and it looks as though there will be some top quality competition because of that, which is a good thing."
For full information on this weekend's event, including road closures visit the event website.