An ambitious young French runner with future Olympic ambitions has set his sights on breaking the course record in the 2021 Baxters Loch Ness marathon.
Guillaume Ruel, from Caen in Normandy, is the first elite athlete to sign up for the Highland race, which is scheduled to take place on October 3.
The 22-year-old pharmaceutical science student has completed just one marathon so far, setting a French under-21 record of 2hr 25min 22sec at Albi in 2018.
He has, however, some impressive times to his name at shorter distances, having clocked 1:05:20 when winning the French under-23 half marathon title in 2019. He has also run sub 30min for 10km.
The current Loch Ness course record is 2:20:13 set by Kenyan athlete Simon Tonui in 2009.
Ruel said: “The main goal is to run a sub 2:18 time and go for the win, so, if the record is 2:20, my target is definitely to break it. I know that the race is flat and downhill, so it’s great to perform. The course seems beautiful to run and it’s long and straight and I like this.
“I have never been to Scotland before, so it’s an opportunity to spend time in the beautiful city of Inverness with my girlfriend Charline. She runs for fun, but won’t be doing the marathon.”
Ruel has been running since he was a youngster, but it was a trip to the London 2012 Olympic Games which inspired him to become a marathon runner.
He said: “I started running at school at the age of 10. I did it for fun.
“Then I realised that running was important to feel free. It’s a massive sport which everybody can do without anything and it’s a universal sport.
“In 2012, I travelled on holidays to London to see the Olympic marathon and since this day I knew that I would like to perform at running, to run international races like the Olympics for my country.”
His most memorable achievement so far was when representing France in an under-23 10km race. After being with the leaders, he picked up an injury and dropped out.
But Ruel is clear about the path he sees himself taking in future years with the possibility of eventually progressing to the Olympics and then ultra-distance races.
He said: “I’d like to run a sub 2:15 marathon and, if all is fine, I’m looking for a sub 2:11 for the Olympics, but that is very far off for now. After that I want to run the 100km and make international podiums.”
Ruel is unsure as to which other races he might be able to tackle between now and his visit to the Highlands later in the year as there remains huge uncertainties over the athletics fixture list.
He said: “I hope that Covid will decrease. I am looking for a marathon in the spring.”