Out of Africa - Crawley returns to run Inverness

Tewolde Mengisteab,left, and Michael Crawley

Edinburgh athlete, Michael Crawley (handicap -0.9),  will take a break from writing up his doctorate thesis on the cultural aspects of Ethiopian distance running to join what promises to be a record number of competitors in the Inverness half marathon on 12th March.

The Corstorphine club member last competed in the Inverness race two years ago when he finished runner-up, seven seconds behind Shettleston’s Tewolde Mengisteab (handicap -4.8) who won in 1hr 6min 48secs.


Crawley said: “It was a good race the last time I was there. I was with Tewolde until very near the end when he sprinted away from me. I’d like to aim for a similar sort of time, or even faster, this year. My plan is to work my way back to fitness so I can be ready to run a decent marathon later in the year. I haven’t entered anything yet, but if all goes well I’m thinking about the Edinburghmarathon in May.


The Universityof Edinburgh postgraduate student has spent most of the past 15 months living in Addis Ababa, exploring the role sport plays in the lives of young African runners and how it offers the prospect of a brighter future for some.


He said: “I have been looking at the motivation behind their running, examining how it offers something hopeful in their lives as this is an area of very high youth unemployment. I’ve carried out lots of interviews and I’m currently transcribing these recordings. I have a year to write it all up and I’d eventually like to produce a book but I haven’t got a publisher yet.”


Crawley, who represented Great Britain in the world 50km championships in Doha two years ago, is now adjusting to life back in Scotland and is getting used to a totally different training regime. He said: “In Ethiopia I seemed to be over-training all the time. I was living and running at altitude, which is tough, but in addition to that it was difficult to find any runners who would run slowly enough. The slowest guys were all capable of about a 2hr 11min marathon so every run was pushing me to the limit.”


Earlier this month he competed in his first race since returning to this country, finishing third at the Nigel Barge 10km in Glasgow where he bumped into a familiar figure.


Crawley said: “The race was won by the Eritrean runner Weynay Ghebresilasie. I was surprised to see him there as the last time I met him was in Addis last year. I didn’t realise that he has moved to Glasgow. He might actually be interested in competing in Inverness as well, which would be great.”


Inverness Race Director Malcolm Sutherland is delighted Michael is returning to the Highland capital. He said:  “We are very pleased that Michael’s first half marathon since returning from Ethiopiawill be at Inverness. He contributed to a very exciting race two years ago and hopefully we will be treated to another classic contest at the front of the field. The battle for the leading prizes is always intriguing as many of Scotland’s leading distance runners regularly compete here.”


While Sutherland is looking forward to seeing some top quality performances at the head of the pack, he is keen to emphasise that all participants, from first to last, are given the same degree of attention and support.


He said: “The half marathon always attracts a good elite field but runners of all levels of experience and ability regularly turn out in big numbers. It’s a good course and  lots of people seem to be rewarded with fast times. But no matter how anyone  performs, they can be sure of receiving  a warm welcome from the big crowd congregating  at the finish line in the Queen’s park stadium. The spectators cheer everyone home and there’s a fantastic atmosphere around the track.


Sutherland also emphasises that the race occupies an ideal position on the racing calendar. He said: “It offers a timely opportunity for runners to test themselves ahead of the big Spring-time marathons. Michael Crawley is using it in this way and I’m sure many others will be following in his example.


“For those who don’t feel up to tackling a half marathon we also have a 5km fun run. This has proved very popular in recent years and is open to runners of all ages including youngsters if they are accompanied by an adult. Wheelchairs are also welcome. Schools, clubs and disability groups are welcome to enter teams to run the 5km Fun Run and receive reduced entry fees. “


Half marathon entries have broken through the 2,000 mark, which means a likely record turnout of competitors will feature in the race which is now in its 33rd year.

Registration is open until 21 February.


Full details at www.invernesshalfmarathon.co.uk.

Photo: Tewolde Mengisteab,left, and Michael Crawley