Irish European championship contender Nicola Duncan heads the classiest women’s field ever assembled for the Global Energy Inverness half marathon which celebrates its 30th anniversary on Sunday.
Portobello Running Club’s Duncan, who is from Galway but has lived in Scotland for the past 10 years, will compete against former Great Britain world championship marathon runner and 2010 Scotland Commonwealth Games representative Hayley Haining in what promises to be an exciting battle for the £1,000 top prize.
A host of other quality runners have signed up for the race, which has attracted a record entry of 2,310 participants, including Haining’s Kilbarchan AAC clubmate and Scotland international Gemma Rankin, and Scottish half marathon championship silver medallist Jennifer Emsley (Central AC).
Louise Cartmell (Moray Road Runners) and Tammy Wilson (Garioch Road Runners), who were second and third respectively in last year’s race, are also in the starting line-up while other strong performers such as Sarah Liebnitz (Inverness Harriers), Jodie Lynch (Inverness Harriers), Julie Malko (Corstorphine AAC) and Charlotte Black (Shetland) will also be there.
With such quality in depth there’s every possibility that the course record of 1:13:21 set by Kenya’s Cathy Mutwa in 2007 will come under threat.
Duncan, who has been pre-selected to compete for Ireland in the marathon at this summer’s European championships in Zurich, has been in outstanding form lately.
A couple of weeks ago she recorded an impressive personal best time of 1hr 12min 15secs when finishing second in the Barcelona half marathon in which Kenya’s Florence Kiplagat set a sensational world record of 1hr 5min 12sec.
Nicola said:”It was exciting to be involved in a race in which the world record was broken. It was a very fast course and I knew I was running quite quickly but I was really surprised when I saw the time at the finish.”
Despite that excellent result Nicola would not be drawn into making any rash promises as to how she will perform in Inverness or about breaking records.
She said: “I never like to put any pressure on myself by saying I’m aiming for a particular time. I just like to go out and run as well as I can and if it happens, it happens, and it would be a bonus.”
Race Director Malcolm Sutherland is relishing the prospect of seeing so many fine athletes battling for the women’s prize.
He said: “It is fantastic that runners of this calibre have chosen to come to the Global Energy Inverness half marathon. We have an excellent course and if we are lucky with the weather it will be very interesting to see if they can break the record. It should certainly be a thrilling race to watch.”
Scotland international Andrew Douglas (Inverclyde AC) is among the leading contenders for the men’s prize. The Edinburgh-based Caithness man won the race in 2011 when he recorded 1hr 7min 53sec and finished 6min 33secs ahead of the next runner, which is the biggest winning margin in the event’s history. A repeat of that performance is highly unlikely as the men’s race is likely to be as competitive as the women’s.
Douglas, who hopes to challenge for a Commonwealth Games qualifying time of 2hrs 19min in next month’s London marathon, is looking forward to the contest.
He said: “I don’t know whether 2hr 19min is a realistic target for me at the moment, but I should have a better idea after the half marathon. As usual, there’s likely to be a good field at Inverness and hopefully we can all work together and make it a fast race.”
His opponents include Great Britain mountain running international Robbie Simpson (Deeside Runners) who is keen to improve on his best time of 1hr 7min 57secs set when finishing sixth in the 2012 Inverness race. Nairn-based John Newsom (Central AC) is another man with Commonwealth Games aspirations and he’ll be aiming for a confidence-boosting performance before next month’s Manchester marathon. Dougie Selman (Corstorphine AC) should also feature in the lead pack as he is aiming for a good run prior to making his marathon debut, also in Manchester.
Others expected to be well to the fore include Lewis Millar (Central AC) and Graham Bee (Inverness Harriers).
Forres Harriers, led by North champion Gordon Lennox, winner of last month’s Kinloss to Lossiemouth half marathon, will defend the men’s team title while Louis Cartmell leads the Moray side hoping to win the women’s team prize for the second year in a row.
The Graeme Moffat Memorial Quaich, won last year by Andrew MacRae, will be awarded to the first Inverness Harrier to finish.
Although the half marathon is the main event, the race day programme also includes the Global Energy Team Attack 5K and the 5K fun run, which will be eagerly supported by large numbers of enthusiastic participants.
Race Director Malcolm Sutherland said:” While the battle for the top prizes in the half marathon will be exciting, it will also be tremendous to see so many runners of all levels of experience enjoying themselves in all the races. In addition to the 2,310 half marathon competitors, we have over 1130 people taking part in the 5K, while 21 teams of four will tackle the 5K Team Attack, giving us a record total of 3,530 participants across all the events.
“The 5K Team Attack is a fun but competitive race in which clubs, businesses, or groups of friends, compete as teams of four for some attractive prizes and it is sure to draw a lot of interest.
“The 5K attracts a mixture of serious athletes as well as hundreds of youngsters, some of whom have been here before while others will experience the event for the first time.
“All in all, it promises to be a wonderful day and there’s still a chance for people to run as we are accepting a limited number of 5K entries on the day. No entries will, however, be taken for the half marathon or the Team Attack.”
1230: Start of the Global Energy Inverness Half Marathon
1240: Start of the Global Energy Inverness 5K Team Attack.
1245: Start of the Global Energy Inverness 5K Fun Run
Full details about the event can be found at www.invernesshalfmarathon.co.uk