North-east runner Emma Watt has kept a low profile in the lead up to her first serious marathon in Manchester next month.
The 38-year-old JS Kintore club member hasn’t raced at all in 2022 and competed just twice at the tail end of last year.
In November she won the women’s title in the Glen Clova half marathon, completing the undulating Angus course in 1hr 27min 15secs. It was her first race for 18 months.
A couple of weeks later she took fourth position in the North District cross country championships at Gordonstoun.
Since then Watt has embraced her own form of lockdown – shutting herself away from any temptations to race and single-mindedly focussing all her energy on preparing for Manchester.
She said: “I’ve really taken the training very seriously. Everything else has been put on hold as I want to do my very best.
“I had Covid at one point but it didn’t affect me badly and I only missed a week of training. Other than that I haven’t missed a single session.
“I have been averaging 60-70 miles a week but my highest was 80 miles. I usually do two main sessions each week plus a long run and lots of easy running.I’ve not had any injuries and I’m feeling quite strong.
“I’ve really enjoyed it and it has been amazing to see my fitness improving.I’ve surprised myself and that has motivated me to keep working on it.”
Watt is justifiably confident she’ll improve dramatically on her only previous marathon experience, in Australia 10 years ago.
She said: “We were living there and I entered the Melbourne marathon. I didn’t realise at the time, but I was pregnant, and I completed the race in over four hours. As long as I finish in Manchester, I should be much faster.
“I have a time in mind but I’m reluctant to say what it is. But if you push me, I’ll say I’d like to aim for sub three hours. If I don’t achieve that, I’ll not be too concerned.
“Obviously, I haven’t much experience of marathons so it will be part of the learning process. But I’ll aim to try my best.I really do feel positive so I just need to stay healthy between now and the race.
“I’m excited about it and it’ll be fun because there’s a group of us going from JS Kintore. My husband, John, is doing it. He was a good runner when he was at school and he’s quite fit at the moment so I think he’ll do about 2:50. He might not be too far ahead of me.”
Watt will complete her preparations for Manchester by taking part in Saturday’s Newburgh Beach Bash 10k.
She won the women’s division of this race in 2019 and was runner-up behind Metro Aberdeen’s Debbie Greig when the event was last held, in 2020.
She said: “I’m tapering down towards Manchester so Newburgh is a warm-up for me. But it’s close to my heart as I was brought up in Newburgh so it’s my local race.
“I’m not sure how hard I’ll run but I often get swept up by the occasion. I’m aiming to just run as I feel and go with whatever feels natural.
“I haven’t done much in the way of short speed work because of my marathon training, so I’ve no idea how it will go. I’m a bit nervous that I might have lost short distance speed
“But it’s not a typical 10k as it’s over the beach and sand dunes.”
It’s not known whether women’s course record holder Debbie Greig will defend her title at Newburgh but Jenni Rees-Jenkins (Insch Trail Running Club), who won the women’s title at the inaugural race in 2015 and was runner-up behind Watt in 2019, is to compete again.
Another contender for the top prize is teenager Aimee Tawse (Aberdeen AAC) who recently won the Metro Aberdeen Winter Proms 3k race series. Susan Strachan (Peterhead AAC), the 2018 winner, is also in the field.