Top Scottish international Robert Russell has joined the growing list of elite runners chasing the £1,000 top prize in the Global Energy Inverness half marathon which takes place on 11th March.
Almost 2,000 people have signed up for the Highland capital’s big race, entries for which close next Wednesday (22nd February), and Russell is one of the latest to join what is expected to be the largest field in the 28 year history of the event.
The 29 year-old Stirling-based runner, who is coached by Scottish distance running legend Liz McColgan, was national half marathon champion in 2007 and 2008.
His best time for the distance is an impressive 1hr 5min 22sec set at the Great Scottish Run in 2008 and that makes him the fastest man in the field so far.
Russell, 29, has also won two Scottish cross country titles and has been national 10,000m track champion during his career.
Now he’s looking forward to achieving more success and sees the Inverness event as an important event in which to launch his road racing season.
Russell said: “I had some injury problems last year, but I’m getting back to full fitness again. Inverness should be a good race as the big prize money will attract a lot of decent runners which will make it very competitive which is just what I’m looking for.
“I hope to run a marathon later in the year and I’ll be doing a few road races in the build up to that, starting with Inverness.”
Russell faces some top class opposition in his quest to land the four figure top cash prize.
Caithness athlete Andrew Douglas, who won last year, is returning to defend his title while Scottish 10Km and half marathon champion Ross Houston is also in the starting line-up along with fellow Scottish internationals Ben Hukins (Aberdeen AAC) and Robbie Simpson (Deeside Runners).
Inverness athletes Melissa Whyte and Sarah Liebnitz, first and second in the women’s race last year, are also returning.
They will be joined by Glasgow’s Erica Christie who has a long association with road racing in the Highlands.
The veteran Bellahouston Harriers’ member will travel north with a group of her clubmates.
She said:”This will be the first time I have run in the Inverness half marathon for a number of years but I reckon I’ve done it at least ten times since my first visit in 1992.”
Other big names will make a decision after this weekend’s Scottish cross country championships.
Organiser Malcolm Sutherland is delighted that so many top class runners are being attracted to this year’s race.
He said:”It looks as though we are going to have an extremely competitive race for the top prizes in the men’s and women’s events.
“The sponsors’ generous decision to boost the prize fund certainly seems to have grabbed the attention of many of Scotland’s best runners.
“We are also really pleased with the overall number of people entering and I would urge anyone who plans to run, but hasn’t entered yet, to do so as soon as possible and certainly before the 22nd February closing date.”
Including the £1,000 cash awards being offered for the first man and woman, the total value of the kitty is a record £4,250 in cash and vouchers with prizes for leading age group finishers and teams.
The accompanying 5Km fun run and the innovative Team Attack competition is also proving popular.
The Team Attack is a new event which is open to business teams, each made up of four people.
The teams can be all male, all female or mixed, and the squad with the lowest cumulative time will win. The victors will have the choice of one of a number of impressive prizes, namely: golf for four at Castle Stuart Golf Links; meal for four at Rocpool Restaurant; hospitality for four at Ross County Football Club; hospitality for four at Inverness Caledonian Thistle; or a paintball experience for eight.
Entries for the half marathon, 5Km and Team Attack can all be made by visiting www.invernesshalfmarathon.co.uk