Fife AC's Megan Crawford made a dream marathon debut at the 12th Baxters Loch Ness Marathon yesterday (Sunday 29 September) finishing in first place and recording a new course record of hr 46min 37secs. The Edinburgh-based runner shaved two secs off the previous best time set by Ethiopia's Dinknnesh Mekash Tefara in 2010. Megan also won the Scottish championship gold medal.
The winner of the men's race was also a marathon first-timer with Kenyan Tarus Elly was in commanding form as he cruised to an impressive victory. The Manchester-based athlete, who comes originally from the western Kenyan village of Eldoret which has produced so many world class distance runners over the years, never looked to be in any danger of losing and although his winning time of 2hr 27min 21sec was more than seven minutes outside the course record set by his compatriot Simon Tonui in 2009, Elly looked as though he is capable of running faster in the future.
He said: "I was very cautious at the start because it was my first marathon. But after six miles I was feeling good and I thought that the other guys wouldn't be able to stay with me. I began to pull away and ran the rest of the race on my own. Before the start I was looking for a time of between 2:28 and 2:30, so I am very happy to get 2:27. The course is really good and I couldn't believe how perfect the conditions were. It was amazing. Now that I've done my first marathon I know what it's all about and I'd really like to come back next year and hopefully run much quicker."
Edinburgh University's Patryk Gierjatowicz picked up the Scottish marathon title when finishing runner-up in 2:30:49. The postgraduate maths student becomes the first Polish athlete to win the national title. Although delighted to win the award Gierjatowicz was disappointed with his time.
He said: "I'm pleased to be Scottish champion but my time wasn't so good as its about four minutes outside my best. I slowed down quite a lot over the final two miles. It's frustrating because I have been injured recently and wasn't able to do all the training I wanted to do."
Ross Clark (Hunters Bog Trotters) smashed his previous best time to finish in third position overall and second in the national championship. He said: "I can't believe it. I've taken seven minutes off my previous best time which I set at Rotterdam last year. I've trained really hard for this race and I was aiming for a place in the top ten but to finish third and win a national medal is just amazing. I had an added incentive as I was also running to raise funds for Yorkhill children's hospital as my nephew was looked after there and I wanted to support their work."
In the women's race Megan Crawford pulled away from Romanian favourite Alina Nituleasa after the halfway mark and went on to win by more than three minutes. She was ecstatic about winning the race and collecting her first national title. She said: "I had absolutely no expectations as it was my first marathon but it's a nice feeling to win.
"I knew I was running well in the lead up to the race as I finished third in the Moray half marathon recently. After that I felt I could run a decent marathon time but I had no idea how it might go. I ran with the Romanian runner until around the halfway point when I began to get away and from there on I just kept going."
Nituleasa was well below her best when finishing second in 2:50:21. The Romanian blamed her exhausting travel arrangements for contributing to the result. Lisa Finlay (Dumfries), who won in 2011 and was runner-up last year, finished in third position in 2:52:25, but she was delighted a PB of more than two minutes.
Full results for Baxter Loch Ness Marathon and Festival of Running is available at scottishrunningguide.com's race listing page.