Mitchell and Wetton face strong opposition in bid for Inverness glory
Record Entry for Half Marathon
Mark Mitchell, pictured, made an impressive half marathon debut at Inverness last year, finishing second in 1hr 6min 07secs, but the Forres Harriers club member wants to do even better this Sunday when he takes part in the 33rd edition of the race through the streets of the Highland capital.
A record 2,613 runners have signed up for the event, but only a handful seem capable of challenging Mitchell for the top prize especially as title-holder Andrew Douglas (North Highland Harriers) is an absentee because he is recovering from a hip injury.
Mitchell, the former Scottish 800m and 1500m track champion who lives in Inverness, believes he is in better shape than twelve months ago, and is relishing the prospect of testing himself over the 13.1 mile course which is rated one of the fastest in the country.
He said:”My training has gone well. I’ve been doing similar sessions to last year but I’m doing a bit more and I’m running a bit faster. I ran the half marathon distance in training recently in around 1hr 7mins, so that was encouraging. I also feel better prepared because I have the benefit of having raced over the course last year so I know exactly what to expect at different points.
Mitchell would not be drawn on predicting what sort of finishing time he might be looking for, but said: “My aim is to run as fast as possible. If that means I’m on my own then at the front, that’s not a problem. I’m used to training on my own and it doesn’t bother me. I certainly want to get a personal best time if the conditions are fine. Even if the weather isn’t perfect I still think I can run a decent time on this course.”
While Mitchell will start as one of the favourites for the title, he is fully aware that there’s some very decent opposition in the line-up. He said:”It was a good quality race last year and I expect it to be the same on this occasion. That’s good because it makes it easier to get a fast time.”
His rivals include the new Shettleston Harriers recruit Weynay Ghebresilasie who is a bit of an unknown quantity. The Eritrean recently moved to Scotland, having lived south of the border for a number of years after successfully applying for asylum in Britain after representing his country in the 3000 metres steeplechase at the London 2012 Olympic Games.This will be his first serious half marathon.
His clubmate Tewodleberhan Mengisteab, the 2015 Inverness race winner, was due to compete but has made a late decision to withdraw.
Great Britain 50km international Michael Crawley (Corstorphine AC), who was second behind Mengisteab in the 2015 Inverness race when he recorded 1:06:55, is another contender for a podium position.
North of Scotland cross country league winner Kenny Wilson (Moray Road Runners) will be looking for a fast time after his debut performance in last October’s Great Scottish Run in Glasgow was declared void after the course was found to be 150 metres short. Others expected to be among the leading group include Dougie Selman (Corstorphine AAC) and Michael Wright (Central AC).
Former Commonwealth Games marathon runner Graham Laing (Inverness Harriers), winner of the inaugural Inverness race in 1984, has made a return to action following major hip surgery last year and will bid for the over-60’s prize.
Jenn Wetton, pictured, has won the Baxters Loch Ness marathon twice in recent years but the Inverness half marathon title has so far eluded the Central AC runner. She finished third in 2014 and has been runner-up for each of the past two years. So, will 2017 finally see her take top spot on the rostrum?
She said:”I would certainly like to win this time. My training has been going well and I’ve been putting in a lot of miles and some good tempo runs because I’ve been helping a friend prepare for the Los Angeles marathon. I’m certainly a lot fitter than I was in 2016.
“My best half marathon time is 1:16:51 and I’d like to think I’m capable of getting close to that or even beating it, but it’s difficult to know.
“I’m certainly looking forward to running in Inverness again as my friend, Rachel Greig, who I stay with, is doing the 5km. This will be the first time she has attempted anything like this, so I am impressed.”
Wetton faces a formidable opponent, however, in the shape of Glasgow-based Irish athlete Fionnuala Ross. The Shettleston Harriers club member, silver medallist in the Scottish half marathon championships for the past two years, has a best time of 1:16:35 and is making her first appearance in the Inverness race. She also defeated Wetton to win the Scottish 10km road running title at Stirling last year.
Ross said: “I’m looking forward to Inverness as I’ve heard it’s a good course and the race comes at a good time of year. My training is going well and I feel I’m in shape to run 1:15 to 1:16. I’ve run against Jenn quite a few times over various distances so I know she’s a good opponent. “
Sarah Liebnitz (Inverness Harriers), who last month won the Kinloss to Lossiemouth half marathon for the third year in a row, will lead the local challenge with the aim of improving on her fourth place finish from two years ago.
Tammy Wilson (Garioch Road Runners) hopes to have fully recovered from a bad rib injury sustained at the Forfar multi-terrain half marathon in February and she’ll be attempting to match her previous Inverness results, having been fourth in 2013 and third in 2014.
Wilson’s clubmate Marie Baxter should also be among the prize contenders. She has been first in the over-40 age group for the past three years and in 2016 finished third overall.
Others aiming to be among the leading finishers include Scottish triathlon champion and Fraserburgh half marathon winner Debbie Moore (Metro Aberdeen),2015 Nairn half marathon champion Anne Hartmann (PH Racing), Carole Setchell (Shettleston Harriers), Ginie Barrand (Metro Aberdeen), Jennifer Carrasco (Dundee Hawkhill Harriers), Louise Cartmell (Moray Road Runners) and Caroline Marwick (Inverness Harriers).
Race Director Malcolm Sutherland is excited about what promises to be another great day of running. He said: “Yet again we have a number of top class athletes in the race so we can expect some thrilling competition and fast times. It’s also fantastic to have such a big number of entrants. Everyone, no matter what pace they run at, will be given a great reception by spectators on the course and by the big crowds at the finish.
“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 and 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.
The half marathon starts at 12:30 and the 5km fun run at 12:40.