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Athletics: Caithness mountain runner Andy Douglas wants to take on the world, and West Highland Way cancelled again

Andy Douglas.
Andy Douglas.

Caithness athlete Andy Douglas is targeting a trip to Thailand later in the year.

The 34-year-old North Highland Harriers club member hopes to be part of the Great Britain squad competing in the world mountain and trail running championships to be held at Chia Mia, 700km north of Bangkok on November 11-14.

Although he would never say so, Douglas has every reason to be confident of being selected.

He has been a regular member of the successful GB squad at world and European championships over the past seven years, achieving a series of top 10 individual finishing positions in both competitions.

He was also part of the gold medal-winning squad at the 2019 European championships and his consistent high level performances earned him victories in the World Cup series in 2015 and 2019.

Douglas said: “There’s still a lot of uncertainty about which races will be going ahead over the next few months, so the world championships is the one I’m most optimistic about as it’s later in the year and is, hopefully, more likely to happen.

“It’s the one I’m more focused on at the moment, although it’s still a long way off. The trials aren’t likely to be held until late August or maybe September.

“There’s a few different races at the world championships this year because the mountain running event is combined with the trail championships for the first time.

“I had thought about one of the longer trail races, but I want to keep going with the shorter mountain race as long as I feel I can be competitive at that distance. So, I’m going to stick with the classic up and down 10-12k mountain race.

“I’ve never run in Asia before, so it would be exciting to experience a new venue. I don’t think it will be too hot in November although it may still be humid.”

Despite taking a long term view, Douglas is keeping his fingers crossed that other international competitions may yet be allowed to go ahead over the summer months.

He said: “At the moment I believe that the European championships are still scheduled for Portugal at the beginning of July, but it’s not possible to be sure.

“Some World Cup races have already been postponed, although there is one pencilled in for Poland in late June.

“The first event in the Golden Trail series, the Zegama race in Spain, has already been cancelled.”

The lack of any definite races hasn’t impacted on Douglas’s motivation and he feels he’ll be ready to compete whenever the opportunity comes around for him.

He said: “I’ve had a good winter and I’ve avoided any injuries and illness. I’m enjoying my training and the motivation is there to keep doing the hard sessions. I’m trying to be sensible as well, by taking occasional breaks to allow proper recovery.”

West Highland Way cancelled for second year

One of Scotland’s oldest ultra distance trail running races has been cancelled for the second year in a row.

Coronavirus restrictions may be easing to some extent but not enough to allow the 95-mile West Highland Way race between Milngavie and Fort William to proceed as planned in June.

Race director Ian Beattie said: “There are too many significant concerns around the organisation of this year’s race to allow it to go ahead.

“We appreciate that we may have been able to make adjustments to our normal format but feel this would not give competitors a proper West Highland Way Race experience of the normal high quality.

“It would also leave us exposed to some significant risks, particularly in terms of competitor, support crew and race crew health and safety issues.

“We may not be able to access all of the premises that we require, nor can we guarantee at this stage that a race licence will be granted, which also provides race insurance, and we have no assurance that competitors and crew will be able to travel to the start, or through the various local authority areas.

The West Highland Way.

“We are likely to have to enforce social distancing, which will make it very difficult for crews to operate and will present difficulties at the start.

“We could set competitors off in waves, but that would be another factor that diminished from the normal race experience.

“We would not be able to hold a prizegiving, or after-race party.”

Until 2020, the West Highland Way race has been held every year since 1986.

The current men’s and women’s course records are held by Aberdeen runners Rob Sinclair (13hr 41min 8secs, set in 2017) and Lucy Colquhoun (17:16:20, in 2007).

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