Kenyan to make overseas debut in Loch Ness Marathon

Loch Ness

Kenyan athlete Benjamin Bartonjo has chosen this Sunday’s (27th September)  Baxters Loch Ness marathon for his first overseas appearance with the aim of raising his profile on the international stage.

The 31 year-old is to make the long journey from his home town of Chopkorioin the Rift Valley to compete in the ScottishHighlandsand his London-based agent, Tom Payn, believes the Baxters race offers his athlete the perfect stage on which to showcase his talent.


Payn said :"Benjamin has never been out of Kenya before so it will be interesting to see how he gets on. He ran 62min 50secs for a half marathon a few years ago and he has done a few marathons at home. Although we don't have any times for them, he has always finished in the top three which is impressive given the strength of marathon running over there.


"We chose the Baxters Loch Ness marathon for his overseas debut because we've heard good things about the race and it seems like the right one for his first international outing.


"If he does well that may raise his profile and lead to other opportunities opening up. He has been training with another of our athletes, Dominic Kangor, who won the Brighton marathon in 2013 and has a best time of 2hrs 9min.  Dominic says Benjamin is in good shape. He's aiming to run around 2:15 although I reckon he's fitter than that. It will depend on how strong his opposition will be as well.


“He'll travel to London [today] before heading up to Inverness [tomorrow]. These guys prefer to arrive late so they get the full benefit of coming down from altitude. The place he lives in is about 3,000 metres above sea level, so you can imagine how hard it is to train there."


Tomas Abyu, (handicap 0.0), the 2014 winner and four-time previous champion, has indicated he's keen to defend his title, but the Ethiopian-born British citizen will make a late decision over whether or not to compete.


Tarus Elly (handicap -2.3), the 2013 winner who finished third in 2014, should be another contender for the top prize of £1500. However, the Salford Harriers club member, from Hyde, hasn't run a marathon since last year's Loch Ness race, so it's difficult to predict how he might fare.


Scottish championship medals are up for grabs in the race but Bartonjo, Abyu and Elly aren't eligible.


Edinburgh-based Pole Patryk Gierjatowicz (handicap -3.5) , a member of the Hunters Bog Trotters club, has won the national men’s marathon title at Loch Ness for the past two years after finishing second overall behind Elly, in 2013, and Abyu last year. He'll start as favourite to become only the third man in the history of the competition to win the title three years in a row.


Gierjatowicz, who has a best time of 2:24:21 set at this year's London marathon, has been in good form lately, winning the Scottish 15Km trail running title in Fife at the beginning of the month before going on to finish sixth in the national 10km road running championships at Stirling.


His opponents include local hero John Newsom (handicap -2.3) who is hoping to improve on his best of 2:24:28 set at Frankfurtin 2012. Newsom goes into the race on the back of winning the Scottish north district half marathon title at the Glen Moray race in Elgin earlier this month.


Newsom said: "I've been happy with the way my preparations have gone. This will be my fourth marathon and I hope the experience I've gained from the previous three will stand me in good stead. My main motivation for this one is to try to win the Scottish title and so I hope to be challenging at the front."


Others who hope to be in the hunt for a place among the leading finishers include Corstorphine's Dougie Selman (handicap -3.6) and Newsom's Inverness clubmate Donnie Macdonald (handicap 0.7)


Terry Forrest (handicap -2.1) will be repeating his unusual strategy of starting at the very back of the field. Last year he passed thousands of runners before going on to finish in 10th position, with the sixth fastest time of the day after discounting the six minutes it took him to cross the starting line.


He said: "It’s just something I have always done. This will be my seventh year doing the Baxters Loch Ness marathon and I’ve run a personal best time every year I’ve been there. I’ve done around 30 marathons and this is my favourite one. I love the whole atmosphere, it’s a real festival of running and there’s such a good feel about the whole occasion."


Forrest's performances have earned him the Gerald Cooper Memorial Cup for the past three years. This trophy is awarded to the first Highlandrunner to finish the marathon and its sponsors, HSPC, make a  £1000 donation to a charity of the winner’s choice.


Megan Crawford (handicap 1.4), will start as favourite to win the Scottish women's marathon title for the second time in three years.The Fife AC runner picked up her first national victory on her marathon debut at Loch Ness in 2013 when she recorded 2:46:37. She improved to 2:46:25 when being narrowly beaten by Jenn Wetton (handicap 2.3)  who set a course record 2:46:10 last year then posted her current best time of 2:40:17 at London in April.



Tomas Abyu's training partner  Getenesh Tamirat (handicap 13.1) could be one of Crawford's main challengers for the women's prize if she decides to run.The 35 year-old has a best time of 2:47:47set when winning last year's Jersey marathon.


Other contenders for the top prizes include Gillian Sangster (handicap 4.3), Shona McManus and Yorkshire's Carol Morgan (handicap 7.8).  Erica Christie (handicap 7.8), who has competed in all 13 previous Baxters Loch Ness marathons, and was first in the over-50 age group last year, will also be in the field again.


Baxters LochNessMarathonCourse Records

Men: Simon Tonui (Kenya) 2hr 20min 13sec (2009)

Women: Jenn Emsley, now Jenn Wetton, (Central AC)          2hr 46min 10sec (2014)