Commonwealth Games athlete Robbie Simpson will run in Sunday’s (11 March) Inverness Half Marathon after returning from Barcelona where he had taken a few days refuge from the wintry Scottish weather.
The Banchory-based runner, who is to represent Scotland in the marathon at Gold Coast next month, took flight for Spain after his training was disrupted by the drifting snow which engulfed his favourite Deeside running routes.
He said: “I was managing to do most of my training sessions but I didn’t fancy spending a week running on snow or dodging cars on the main road. So, I found a last minute deal, flying from Aberdeen for a five-day break in Barcelona, and decided to go for it. It makes such a difference to be able to train in warm conditions, even if only for a few days.”
Simpson, whose best half marathon time is 1:04:39, which he set in Paris two years ago, is hoping for a confidence-boosting performance in Inverness before setting off for Australia next week.
He added: “I just want to run it hard from the start and try to win. I’ve eased back on my training a little, but not by too much as there are still five weeks to go before the Commonwealth marathon in Australia and I don’t want to peak too early.
Simpson, who won the Inverness race in 2014, knows he’ll have to work hard to earn a second victory on Sunday as the field includes some good class opposition, led by Great Britain mountain running international Andy Douglas and track international Kris Jones.
Jones, winner of the Scottish cross country title recently, will also pose a serious threat when he makes a return journey to Inverness, having won the Baxters River Ness 10K last September.
The Tayside-based Welshman, who has a best half marathon time of 1:06:11, is currently preparing for his marathon debut in London next month.
Central AC’s Scotland international Cameron Milne, who set his fastest time of 1:06:39 when finishing third at Lillebælt halvmarathon in Denmark last year, is another likely challenger while Corstorphine AC’s Great Britain trail running international Michael Crawley, who was runner-up in 2015, will be in the mix if he gets close to his best of 1:06:13
John Newsom will be joined by Gordon Lennox,Graham Bee,Donnie Macdonald and Mike O’Donnell in a strong squad from Inverness Harriers, all of whom will be looking for good performances in their countdown towards next month’s Manchester Marathon. As usual, the first member of Inverness Harriers to complete the course will receive the Graeme Moffat Memorial Quaich.
Katie White appears to be favourite to win the women’s race. The Garscube Harriers club member has a best time of 1:16:52 which she set when winning Alloa Half Marathon last year.
She could however face a strong challenge from two-time previous champion Shona McIntosh who recorded 1:16:45 when winning the Inverness title three years ago. The Hunters Bog Trotters athlete is returning to top form after taking time out last year to have a baby.
Megan Crawford (Fife AC), a two-time winner of the Baxters Loch Ness marathon over the past five years, is also expected to be among the front runners as should Metro Aberdeen’s Jennifer Elvin who clocked a personal best 1:20:53 when winning last month’s San Francisco Half Marathon.
The race will, for the second time in three years, host the Scottish North District championships. This means that for North-based members of Scottish Athletics there is now the added bonus of being able to compete for championship medals. The top three senior men and women will receive awards as well as the top three in the over-40 and over-50 age groups. The half marathon, now in its 34th year, has attracted a record entry of 2,800 runners with 1,000 expected in the accompanying 5k fun run.
One runner hoping for a fast time is Bellahouston Road Runner's Craig Reid who is targetting the world half marathon for the fastest time wearing a kilt. Craig is fund-raising for Highland Hospice.
Check out our Race Listing on Sunday for the Inverness times and all of the weekend's other race results.