Laura Whittle is looking forward to pulling on a Scotland vest again this week – and returning to the scene of a previous victory.
The Midlands-based Scot won the Armagh International Road Race two years in the countdown to a Hampden appearance in the Commonwealth Games at 5000m.
Now Whittle heads back to Northern Ireland as part of two strong Scotland teams contesting 5K (for men) and 3K road races in another international opportunity.
Laura is joined by Hampden team-mate, Beth Potter, as well as Sarah Inglis and Steph Pennycook in Armagh with the men’s quartet now featuring Jake Wightman, Cameron Boyek, Ben Stevenson and Jonny Glen. Eilish McColgan is also planning a return to competitive action in Thursday night’s race.
‘I am looking forward to the race and you are always very well treated by the people at the Armagh International Road Race,’ said Whittle.
‘I won it a couple of years ago a few months before the Commonwealths but I think I am right in saying we didn’t have a Scotland team that year. It is always good to represent Scotland and we’ve a strong team heading out there – although I think the field is good because England have a team and Ireland as well as some good clubs.
‘At this time of year, I find a 3K on the road is ideal as a sharpener before I do a 10K soon and then, before we know it, we will be into the track season. I enjoy track the most to be honest and the 5000m there is my main goal for 2016.
‘But, as I say, I do like running Armagh and I’ve been known to focus on it rather than do cross country in the winter – I am not too keen on the mud!’
Whittle raced the 5-mile distance recently for the first time and finished second in the Alsager event to Elle Vernon.
‘I guess it was a PB because it was my first one over five miles,’ she laughed. ‘It was a Brooks event and I’m involved with them so I wanted to do it. In Armagh, it is just over two loops around the streets and of course it is at night so there’s a special kind of feel and atmosphere to the race.
‘I am sure some of those racing it for the first time for Scotland will really enjoy it.’
McColgan for her part is returning from a long injury absence and has been training in Kenya.
‘With it only being a 3km on the roads it will give me an indicator of where I am and how much fitness I need to gain in order to be fit when it counts in the summer,’ she told Athletics Weekly.
‘It will be nice to do a race again after so long out. It’s important for me to split my training up a little and remember what racing feels like.’
Cameron Boyek (right) – represents Scotland again in Armagh
The Men race at 5K and the event now has the reputation as one of the foremost road races at that distance in the UK.
Wightman and Boyek will look to follow-up their fine showing at the Great Edinburgh XC when they formed half of the Scotland team who claimed the inaugural Stewart Cup in the 4 x 1K International Relay. Falkirk’s Stevenson was unlucky to miss out on a Scotland appearance that day in the Celtic Nations XC after being injured in training the week before.
For Inglis and Pennycook it is a quick return trip to Northern Ireland following appearances in Scotland vests at the Antrim International XC last month.
Here are the Scotland selections for Armagh:
Senior Men: Jake Wightman (Edinburgh AC), Cameron Boyek (Central AC), Ben Stevenson (Falkirk Victoria Harriers), Jonny Glen (Inverclyde AC)
Senior Women: Laura Whittle (Royal Sutton Coldfield), Beth Potter (VP-Glasgow), Sarah Inglis (Lothian Running Club), Steph Pennycook (Fife AC/Edinburgh Uni Hares and Hounds).
*There is another road race Scotland appearance coming up later this year when athletes can be selected for the Lillebaelt Half Marathon in Denmark. That event is in May.