Highland athlete Andy Douglas should have been representing Great Britain in the world mountain running championships on Lanzarote this month.
Instead the Edinburgh-based runner, who comes from Halkirk in Caithness and represents North Highland Harriers, will be running with a few dozen others in a 10k road race starting and finishing in the village of Staxigoe, a couple of miles north of Wick.
The Lanzarote event is the latest major international athletics competition to be cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic but the Caithness 10k is going ahead next weekend, albeit with a variety of protocols in place to protect everyone involved.
Douglas, the 2019 World Cup Mountain Running champion, is getting back into full training after easing back a little following a couple of mountain races in Italy last month.
He said: “I had a couple of weeks off after competing in the Trofeo Nasego and Trofeo Vanoni races in Italy, but now I’m building up gradually again.
“I was asked if I was interested in an invitation-only 5k road race being organised for a small number of runners in Fife next weekend, but I’ll stick with the 10k at Staxigoe.
“I’m probably two or three weeks away from being in the shape I’d want to be in to race a 5k.
“The 10k gives me the opportunity to find out where I’m at in terms of fitness. I’ve run the course before and it’s slightly undulating, which is fine for me.”
Douglas intends to remain in Caithness from now until the new year, which will give him the opportunity to meet up more regularly with his long-time coach Sophie Dunnett, who is based in Reay near Thurso.
He said: “I’ll be working remotely from up there. So I’ll be able to team up with Sophie more regularly than when I’m in Edinburgh. I’ll also be able to train with the guys up there, which will be a nice change. I’m looking forward to the change of scene .”
Douglas is also turning his thoughts to the 2021 season when he hopes restrictions will be relaxed and more races will be on offer.
He said: “The 2021 Mountain Running World Cup fixtures are expected to come out within the next week or two, so it’ll be interesting to see what’s likely to be available.
“Places like Italy and France seem to have been more successful than us at putting events on.
“It’s done a bit differently with runners wearing face masks for the first few hundred metres and the starting line set up like a Formula One grid. Spectators are also allowed.
“In the meantime I’d like to do some cross country races later in the winter if anything comes off. It could be that there are a few smaller races so I’d be keen on that.”