Olympic athlete Weynay Ghebresilasie is to make his Highland debut in next month’s Inverness half marathon, entries for which close on Tuesday 21st February.
The 22 year old Eritrean is one of more than 2000 runners to have signed up for the 33rd edition of the popular race which takes place on Sunday 12th March.
Ghebresilasie, who successfully applied for asylum in Britain after representing his country in the 3000 metres steeplechase at the London 2012 Olympic Games, recently moved to Scotland and joined Shettleston Harriers.
He has linked up with a number of other Eritrean runners to have followed the same path to Glasgow in recent years, the most notable of which include Tsegai Tewelde, who represented Great Britain in last year’s Rio Olympic marathon, and Tewodle Mengisteab, winner of the Inverness half marathon in 2015 and fourth last year.
Shettleston coach John Mackay says Ghebresilasie is still settling into life in Glasgow but believes his club’s latest recruit can make a big impact when he compete in Inverness.
He said:”Glasgow as a city has always welcomed refugees and our club has gained a reputation for looking after the runners amongst them so I guess that’s why Weynay decided to come here. He was in Sunderland to begin with then spent some time in the Midlands but now he is up here.
“It’s not easy for him, moving to a new city, trying to get sorted out with a permanent place to stay and all the other things you have to cope with in his situation.
“He arrived here just before New Year and ran his first race, the Nigel Barge 10km in early January, finishing third. But he has been training hard since then and he is running well. He has tremendous speed as he has some fast track and road times to his credit. He has run around 8min 28secs for the steeplechase, 3:41 for 1500m and 29:00 for 10km, so he has the pace. He has been doing some long runs as well, so his endurance is getting better and I think he can do well in the half marathon. He hasn’t really done a serious one yet, but I think he sees a future in this and perhaps even the marathon. A lot of the guys have been influenced by the success Tsegai had in getting to the Olympics and want to try the marathon.
“It will certainly be interesting to see how he gets on at Inverness and, of course, Mengisteab is coming back to run there as well, so it should be another good race.”
Inverness Race Director Malcolm Sutherland said: “Shettleston runners have a long association with our race. In fact John Mackay was third in the 1993 half marathon, the same year as his wife Elaine was first woman. John has been a regular visitor since those days and always encourages his runners to take part, which is great.
“I am looking forward to seeing how their latest recruit, Weynay, gets on. He will certainly add another touch of class to the race which is shaping up to be another cracking contest with three of last year’s top four men all planning to take part again. The women’s field is strong as well with Central AC’s Loch Ness marathon champion Jenn Wetton having signed up along with one of the top local runners Sarah Liebnitz of Inverness Harriers.
“While it’s great to see athletes of this calibre competing in our race we also welcome runners of all levels of experience and ability. There’s a great atmosphere surrounding the event and the energy and enthusiasm shown by all those who take part never ceases to amaze me. It’s a truly fantastic occasion.
“Entries close soon, however, on Tuesday 21st February, so I’d advise anyone thinking about taking part to sign up as soon as possible as we won’t be extending that deadline.
“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. “
Full details at www.invernesshalfmarathon.co.uk