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11 MARCH 2018

Champions Return but Face Strong Opposition
Places Still Available in 5km Fun Run

The Scottish road racing season shifts up a gear on Sunday when a top class field, headed by defending champion Tewolde Mengisteab (Shettleston Harriers) and previous winners Andrew Douglas (North Highland Harriers) and Neil Renault (Edinburgh AC), assembles for the Inverness half marathon.

Over 2,300 runners have signed up for the run through the Highland capital and all the signs are that this could be the most competitive race in the 32 year history of the event.

There’s a decent prize kitty on offer with the men’s and women’s champions each pocketing £300 while the race has the added prestige of hosting the Scottish North District championships for the first time.

Teweldeberhan Mengisteab winner of the Inverness 2015 Half Marathon in a time of 1:06:48.

Teweldeberhan Mengisteab winner of the Inverness 2015 Half Marathon in a time of 1:06:48.

Mengisteab was an impressive winner 12 months ago when he recorded 1hr 6min 48secs but the Eritrean-born athlete, who has been living in Glasgow for many years and is now a full Scotland international,faces a tough test if he is to retain the title.

Douglas, from Halkirk in Caithness, won in 2011 when he recorded 1:07:53 but he has improved dramatically since then and is currently in sizzling form. He set a half marathon personal best time of 1:05:38 in Barcelona last month before going on to finish second in the Scottish cross country championships men’s 12km in which Mengisteab was sixth.

Renault, the 2009 Inverness champion, is the fastest Scot in the line -up with a best time of 1:04:47, albeit dating back to 2011. He hasn’t raced much recently and it’s hard to read too much into his victory in last month’s Deal half marathon when he clocked a modest 1:12:11.

There’s no shortage of other classy contenders who are more than capable of taking the top prize, including a trio of Mengisteab’s clubmates from the cosmopolitan Shettleston Harriers club.

Poland international Kamil Sieracki has the potential to cause an upset if he can hit the sort of form which gave him a personal best 1:06:44 in last year’s Great Scottish Run. But it’s Mengisteab’s Eritrean friend Abraham Tewelde who is perhaps the most intriguing. Abraham doesn’t have any known current form but Shettleston coach John Mackay indicates he has outstanding credentials. He said:”Abraham came up to watch the race last year. He has impressive times over a range of distances and has run 1:01:37 for a half marathon.”

Then there’s Mark Mitchell, Scottish 800m and 1500m track champion a few years back, who is making his half marathon debut. The Forres Harriers runner showed good endurance strength when picking up bronze in the Scottish cross country championships a fortnight ago. Dermot Cummins (Corstorphine AAC), the 2013 Scottish half marathon champion, will be keen to make an impact while Kyle Greig (Forres Harriers), and Gordon Lennox (Inverness Harriers) should also feature.

Shona Mcintosh winner of the ladies Inverness 2015 Half Marathon in a time of 1:16:45.

Shona Mcintosh winner of the ladies Inverness 2015 Half Marathon in a time of 1:16:45.

Shona McIntosh (Hunters Bog Trotters) will be keen to retain the women’s title she won last year when recording 1:16:43 to defeat Jenn Wetton (Central AC) by 20 secs.
McIntosh isn’t likely to find it any easier this time around as there’s a group of rivals capable of dislodging the champion if she is anywhere below top form.

Hungarian triathlon international Fanni Gyurko looks ready to revise her best time of 1:19:46 set at last year’s Wilmslow half marathon. The Dunblane-based athlete, who represents Central AC, showed great form at the recent Scottish cross country championships to finish fifth while McIntosh was 18th.

Wetton will also be competing although she is still working her way back to full fitness following lengthy injury problems.

Local hopes rest with Sarah Liebnitz (Inverness Harriers) who is hitting peak form at the right time. Last month she won the Kinloss to Lossiemouth half marathon in a personal best 1:19:46 and she’ll be hoping for a similar of even better performance this weekend. Liebntiz has a fine consistent record in the Inverness race, having taken part five times over the past seven years and never finished lower than eighth. Her best was second position in 2011 and she’d be delighted to go one better on this occasion.

Helen Bonsor (Carnethy), fifth last year, and Marie Baxter (Garioch Road Runners) will also be among the leading runners while Thurso twins, Oonagh and Emma Dunnett (North Highland Harriers) and Shetland’s Scotland 100km international Charlotte Black, are others who will be going in search of North District championship honours.

Race Director Malcolm Sutherland is eagerly looking forward to what promises to be another great day of racing. He said: “This is probably the strongest depth of quality we’ve ever had in the race so it looks sure to be an exciting occasion. The men’s record for the Inverness race, albeit over a different course, is 1:04:32 and that has stood since 1993. It would be fantastic if that could be challenged this weekend.

“The half marathon entry list is now closed but there’s still an opportunity for folk to take part as we will be accepting a limited number of entries for the accompanying 5km fun run on the day. Registration is at Inverness Sports Centre, between 9.30 and 12.00 on Sunday but we’d encourage anyone wishing to run to turn up as early a s possible to avoid disappointment.

The half marathon offers an extensive prize list with cash awards to the first three men and women as well as voucher awards to the first men and women in the over-40, over-50 and over-60 age categories.

There are team prizes for the first three men’s clubs and the first two women’s clubs, three runners to score in each. The first member of Inverness Harriers to complete the course will receive the Graeme Moffat Memorial Quaich. On top of that there will be awards for the leading North District runners.

The half marathon starts at 12:30 and the 5km fun run at 12:40.

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