Women’s champion Shona McIntosh hopes to join a bumper-sized field taking part in the 2016 Inverness half marathon.
Entries for the 32nd edition of the race through the Highland capital on 13 March have already broken well through the 1,000 barrier and expectations are high that more than 2,000 will run on the day, breaking the record 1,815 who tackled this year’s event. Registration is open until 23 February, but organisers are encouraging people to sign up as soon as possible
McIntosh, pictured, a member of the Hunters Bog Trotters club, first took part in 2006 when just under 900 runners completed the course. She finished seventh in the women’s division of the race, clocking 1hr 29min 28secs. The following year she improved to finish second woman in 1:23:06 and in 2008 she claimed her first victory, recording 1:19:33. Her best performance, however, came in the 2015 event when she again won, but this time she stopped the clock at 1:16:48, almost 13mins quicker than on her debut.
Now the Edinburgh-based athlete intends trying for a third win, a decade after her first Inverness appearance. She said: “I’ve always enjoyed competing at Inverness. I first did it when I was a student at Glasgow University and I competed there three years in a row between 2006 and 2008. Then I was living down south for a few years and missed it, so it was great to be back again last March.
“I’m looking forward to returning in 2016. It’s always a good race. The course is undulating, but I quite like that. There’s usually a good quality field as well which is great because the more competitive it is, the more likely you are to run a good time. I think that’s why the times are usually very good. The Inverness race also comes along at a good time or me as I’m aiming to do well in April’s London marathon and it’s ideal to get a decent half marathon six weeks or so beforehand.
“I haven’t been competing as much as I’d hoped so far this winter but I aim to really get going in the second half of the cross country season. I’ll take part in the national cross country championships in February, then Inverness in March.”
Inverness Race Director Malcolm Sutherland is delighted Shona is coming back and hopes others will follow her example.
He said: “It’s always encouraging when people keep returning, especially over such a long period of years. As Shona said, our race comes at a perfect time in the calendar for all those runners planning to do a spring marathon, whether it’s one of the majors such as London, Boston, Rotterdam or Paris, or one of the smaller ones dotted around the country.
“The race always attracts a good elite field but runners of all levels of experience and ability regularly turn out in big numbers. It’s that combination which gives the event such a special feel. There’s always a tremendous atmosphere and a warm welcome awaits everyone at the finish line in the Queen’s park stadium.
“For those who don’t feel up to tackling a half marathon we also have a 5km fun run. This has proved very popular in recent years and is open to runners of all ages including youngsters if they are accompanied by an adult. Wheelchairs are also welcome. Schools, clubs and disability groups are welcome to enter teams to run the 5km Fun Run and receive reduced entry fees.
“Now is a particularly good time to enter either the half marathon or the 5km as it gives people a target to aim for over the winter months. It’s sometimes difficult to get motivated to keep training hard during the long dark days and in poorer climatic conditions if you don’t have something specific to aim for, but having the carrot of a big race on the horizon can make all the difference. It fires you up and makes you want to get out there and enjoy running, whatever the weather.”
Full details at www.invernesshalfmarathon.co.uk