Abu-Rezeq Faces Tough Challenge in Quest for Baxters Loch Ness Marathon Record

Loch Ness

Twelve months ago Jordanian runner Mohammad  Abu-Rezeq (handicap -4.6), produced an impressively composed performance to win the Baxters Loch Ness marathon then vowed to return and break the course record in 2017.

The Altrincham-based athlete gets the chance to live up to that promise on Sunday when he lines up alongside thousands of other enthusiastic competitors in the 16th edition of the Highland race.

 Abu-Rezeq was only 39secs adrift of Kenyan athlete Simon Tonui’s 2009 record when winning in 2hr 20min 52secs last September on his debut at the distance. He claimed that had it not been for a slight injury picked up on a training run prior to the race he would have bettered Tonui’s time.

 He said:“I hoped to run faster, but I hurt my leg which was a problem for me. It was painful after about 10 miles and slowed me down. I went through halfway in about 68mins, so I know if it hadn’t been for the injury I would have easily broken the record. I know I can go much faster.”

 Abu-Rezeq hasn’t run another marathon since then but has been showing good form over shorter distances during the year with victories in the We Love Manchester 10km and in half marathons at Leeds Chester and Wilmslow.

 The Jordanian faces a potentially strong challenge, however, from veteran Kenyan athlete Isaiah Kosgei who has set his sights on making a winning comeback after a decade’s absence from top level competition.

Kosgei, 42, is excited about making his first trip to Scotland and although he knows he will not get close to his best time of 2hr 12min 48sec, he is confident of challenging the course record. 

Kyle Greig from Metro Aberdeen Running Club (handicap -2.4) should also be in the mix. The Aberdeen Sports Village Health and Fitness Manager was third last year but has been in fine form since making his Great Britain debut in the world ultra-trail running championships earlier this summer. He completed his preparations by winning the Crathes half marathon last weekend.

Central AC’s Jenn Wetton will not defend the women’s title for a very good reason. She said: “I am 18 weeks pregnant so decided a marathon might be a bit much. I had hoped to come up for the 10km but my parents are retiring at the weekend so we are having a family get-together.”

Stirling marathon champion Lesley Pirie (handicap 3.3), who has a best time of 2:41:04 set at the 2016 London marathon now appears to be favourite and she could test the women’s record of 2:44:50 set by Fife’s Megan Crawford in 2015

The Inverary athlete showed good form to win the Stirling marathon earlier in the year when clocking 2:47:36 over a relatively challenging course.

Hazel Wyness who recorded her best time of 2:56:28 at this year’s London marathon, when she was a member of the Metro Aberdeen side which won the British team title, should also be among the front runners. Wyness was 16th at Loch Ness two years ago, but has improved significantly since then.

Other contenders for a podium position include Joanna Murphy (3.8 handicap), who has a best time of 3:01:32 from London in April, and American runner Laura Bowman from Mammoth Lakes in California who has run some fast 10km times this year. 

Local competitors in the marathon will be competing for the HSPC Gerald Cooper Memorial Trophy which is presented to the first Highland runner across the finish line. It was won last year by Inverness man Paul Smith

The race boasts a generous prize kitty with £1,500 on offer for the first man and woman to complete the course while cash prizes are available for the top five finishers. There’s also generous voucher awards for leading masters runners in the over-40, 50 and 60 age divisions.