Preview by Fraser Clyne
North of Scotland cross country champion John Newsom will carry the main hopes for a local win in Sunday’s Inverness Half Marathon – but he faces some tough opposition in the 31st edition of the race which has attracted a record 2,472 entrants.
The Nairn-based runner has been edging closer to top spot on the podium over the past few years. He was fifth in 2012, fourth in 2013 when he ran his best time of 66.35, and 12 months ago the Inverness Harriers athlete finished second behind Deeside’s Great Britain mountain running international, Robbie Simpson.
Simpson is currently based in Austria and is not returning to defend his title, but Newsom knows it’s still going to be hard to get that elusive first victory.
He said: ‘I’ve had some decent cross country performances this year and I feel I’m in shape to run a personal best time. It should be an interesting race because there’s a few guys who could win and it seems well balanced at the front of the field.’
John Newsom (on left): bronze in 2014
One of Newsom’s main threats comes from Shettleston’s Tewolde Mengisteab who has a best time of 65.25, set in 2011. He was runner-up behind Ethiopian Yared Hagos in the 2012 Inverness half marathon when he recorded 66.59.
Corstorphine AAC’s Michael Crawley, who has a best time of 66.13 is also likely to be in the frame and he showed good form recently when finishing seventh in the Scottish cross country championships at Falkirk.
Crawley’s clubmate, Irishman Dermot Cummins, who won the Scottish half marathon title at Elgin in 2013 in a personal best 68.16, should also be to the fore.
Andy Douglas (Inverclyde AC), the 2011 winner who finished third last year, has pulled out. The Great Britain mountain running international has been nursing a heel injury and doesn’t want to aggravate it.
Irish international Nicola Duncan is working her way back to fitness after a long term injury and, although entered, she has not confirmed whether she’ll defend the women’s title.
But last year’s third-placer, Jenn Wetton (Central AC), will be there hoping to improve on the personal best time of 76.59.
The Stirling runner hopes to repeat the win she enjoyed on her most recent visit to Inverness when she picked up the Scottish title by winning the Baxters Loch Ness marathon last September. On that occasion Wetton held off a late challenge from Fife AC’s Megan Crawford, who is also in the starting line-up this weekend.
Wetton said: ‘Megan almost caught me at the end of the marathon and if it had been another 100m she may well have overtaken me.
‘It’ll be good to race against her again, and Shona McIntosh of Hunters Bog Trotters, who was third in the marathon, will also be there so it promises to be an interesting race.
‘I had a bout of flu a couple of weeks ago but I seem to be fully recovered now and think I’ll be fine by the time of the race.’
Wetton, Crawford and McIntosh are expected to be in the leading group but others will be keen to challenge them for the top prizes.
Dunblane-based Hungarian orienteering international Fanni Gyurku could threaten the leaders while Sarah Liebnitz (Inverness Harriers), winner of last month’s Kinloss to Lossiemouth half marathon will be keen to make an impact on her home patch.
Jessica Oliver-Bell (Shettleston Harriers) is another who cannot be ruled out of the reckoning nor can 2012 Baxters Loch Ness marathon winner Avril Mason (Shettleston Harriers).
Race organiser Malcolm Sutherland is delighted that some of Scotland’s top runners are once again taking part in the race through the Highland capital.
He said: ‘We have some very good athletes in both the men’s and women’s races and it’s great to see that we’ve been able to attract our biggest ever entry.
‘In addition to the 2,472 in the half marathon, the accompanying 5K fun run has 770 entrants and that tally will rise because we are taking entries on the day; although the half marathon is now closed.’
The half marathon offers an extensive prize list with cash awards to the first three men and women as well as voucher awards to the first men and women in the over-40, over-50 and over-60 age categories.
There are team prizes for the first three men’s clubs and the first two women’s clubs, three runners to score in each. The first member of Inverness Harriers to complete the course will receive the Graeme Moffat Memorial Quaich.
More information about the Inverness Half Marathon and 5K Fun Run is available on the event website.