Joe Symonds is one of the favourites to win Sunday’s Global Energy Inverness half marathon which has attracted a field of more than 2,000 participants, including many of Scotland’s top distance runners and a challenger from Ethiopia.
The Inverness-based doctor goes into the race hoping to clock a fast time to boost his confidence ahead of next month’s Rotterdam marathon in which he’s aiming to crack the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games qualifying standard of 2hr 19mins.
He said:”I’m really looking forward to competing this weekend. I do a lot of my training on my own, so it will be great to get into a competitive race and just enjoy running against others.
“It will be an important race for me, not just to assess how fit I am, but, hopefully, it will also be a confidence booster ahead of Rotterdam.”
Symonds’ quickest half marathon time is 67min 39secs which he set at the Great North Run between Newcastle and South Shields in 2007, while last year he clocked 68:24 to finish seventh at Inverness.
He said:”I’d like to think I can get a new personal best time this weekend. On the basis of what I’ve been doing in training I reckon I should be running under 67 minutes.
“If there’s a group of us at the front that will make it a bit easier to run well.”
Symonds showed good form last month when finishing third behind Glasgow-based Ethiopian Wegene Tafese and Robbie Simpson (Deeside Runners) in the Scottish cross country championships.
He said:”I was very pleased with that result as it showed my training was going well. I have never placed so highly in these championships before.”
The Great Britain mountain running international will face some strong opposition on Sunday,led by Ethiopian Hailu Million.
Million has never raced in Scotland before but he finished seventh in the Bath half marathon earlier this month when he recorded a time of 66:28.
The African will be keen to emulate the achievement of his compatriot,Yared Hagos, who won last year’s Inverness race in 65min.
A number of other Scots will fancy their chances of claiming the £1,000 prize which goes to the winner.
Ross Houston (Central AC) returns to Inverness hoping to match the victory he achieved in last September’s Loch Ness marathon.
Houston, who also has Commonwealth Games aspirations, has a best time of 65:50 set in Denmark last summer.
North cross country league winner Kyle Greig (Forres Harriers) is keen to make his mark while others who certainly cannot be ruled out include John Newsom (Central AC), Mark Pollard (Inverclyde AC), Stephen Trainer (Greenock Glenpark) and the Corstorphine pair Dougie Selman and Michael Crawley.
Ethiopia’s Kidist Yichenku has withdrawn from the women’s race after failing to recover from a recent muscle strain. The 24 year-old, who won the Edinburgh half marathon in 2011, dropped out of her last race earlier this month and feels unable to take part this weekend.
There is now no obvious favourite for top spot in the women’s competition in which Corstorphine’s Gillian Carr and Fiona Drake will face a north and north east challenge led by Louise Cartmell and Elspeth Jenkins, both members of Moray Road Runners, Tammy Wilson (Garioch Road Runners) and Julie Hendry (Metro Aberdeen).
Race Director Malcolm Sutherland is looking forward to what promises to be an exciting day of action.
He said:”It’s wonderful that we have so many quality athletes taking part and I’m sure we’ll see some terrific performances.
“But throughout the field we can look forward to seeing runners of all abilities trying to set new personal best times and enjoying the thrill of taking part.
“Aside from the 2,000-plus participants in the half marathon we also have more than 1,000 people taking part in the 5K fun run and 25 teams taking part in the 5K Team Attack.
“More than a third of the 5K entries are from Highland schools and youth clubs, which is absolutely brilliant as we are keen to involve as many young people as possible.”
“There’s still a chance for people to run as we are accepting a limited number of 5K entries on the day.”
Runners are reminded that the races are all starting earlier than in previous years. The timetable is as follows:-
12.30pm: 1/2 marathon start
12.40pm: 5K Team Attack start
12.45pm: 5K Fun Run start
For all race information please visit: www.invernesshalfmarathon.co.uk