Robbie Simpson is clear favourite to win the Kinloss to Lossiemouth half marathon on Sunday despite going into the race with a huge number of miles in his legs.
The Banchory-based athlete, who represents Deeside Runners, is preparing for April’s London marathon, which doubles up as the main Great Britain trial for this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
He’ll be treating the Moray event, which has attracted a capacity field of 350 runners, as a hard training run in the countdown to his date with destiny in London.
It’s a strategy which paid off two years ago when he won this race under similar circumstances before going on to strike marathon bronze at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games two months later.
Simpson said: “I’ll probably do about an hour of running before the race starts and I’ll get a few miles done afterwards.
“I want to do up to 2hr 30min of running in total on Sunday, so the half marathon will form part of a good, long run.
“We’ll see what the conditions are like but I’m not aiming for a really fast time. It’s more about trying to run the race at marathon pace after having done a long warm-up.
“I’ve just returned from five weeks training in southern Spain where I was knocking out 115-120 miles a week and I’ll have done a similar amount this week.
“It was valuable to have that time away to train in better weather. I was able to rest up more than usual between sessions. I was in Calasparra, which is a good base.
“There’s lots of good trails and it’s fairly quiet, so you can run safely on some of the roads.
“The people are very friendly and were keen to run with me and Dan Studely, my training partner. Occasionally, they would invite us out for meals and they were always interested in what we were doing.
“I also did a low-key 20km trail race when I was there and won it.”
Scotland international Kenny Wilson, who is also preparing for the London marathon, could offer the biggest challenge to Simpson. The Moray Road Runners athlete has a best time of 1:06:58 from Cardiff in 2018.
Veteran Tom Roche (JS Kintore) will also aim to do well in his countdown to April’s Manchester marathon. The Oldmeldrum runner won last year’s race in 1:12:33 after finishing second behind Simpson in 2018.
Donnie Macdonald, who was third last year, will lead an Inverness Harriers squad aiming to retain the team title while Ben Ward leads a big contingent from Metro Aberdeen.