Aberdeen runner Alexander Chepelin made his mark in Russia with an impressive run in Moscow’s iconic Gorky Park just before the coronavirus lockdown.
The Great Britain orienteering international, who is also one of Scotland’s top hill runners, was in the Russian capital to visit his grandparents.
Despite sub-zero temperatures and a course which was little better than an ice rink in places, Chepelin ran strongly to take top spot in the local parkrun.
His time of 15min 40secs for the 5K route was the fifth quickest recorded in the history of the event, which has been held on a weekly basis since October 2014.
Chepelin said: “I took the opportunity to make a rare visit to my grandparents at the end of February. My parents are Russian but they moved to Aberdeen a long time ago and I was born here.
“It was a weird time of year to go as it was very dull and cold, but it was good to see them.
“The parkrun was an eye-opener. I was surprised that they have parkruns as I didn’t think events of that type would be in their culture. But I was proved wrong as there are about 20 different parkruns in Moscow alone.
“The Gorky Park one had the same format as ours, although there were fewer volunteers from what I could see.
“I met an interesting mix of people including one guy who spoke good English. He claimed to have competed in more than 900 marathons and wanted to tell everyone his life story.
“I was happy enough with my run. I was hoping to get close to 15min but it was cold and the course was really icy. I was almost running on the spot in places.
“They seem to have a different attitude to health and safety there, as a parkrun here would probably be cancelled if it was like that underfoot.
“Moscow is a great place to run as there are massive forests, lots of parks and a good network of paths.
“I did most of my running in daylight, but I could see that a lot of the paths had lamps sprung across them for night time.”
Chepelin was in good form at the beginning of the British hill running season, retaining his title in the Carnethy race at Penicuik before finishing sixth in the Yr Aran British championship series event at Bala in Wales.
The coronavirus pandemic has since brought an end to all races with no definite date for anything starting up again.
Chepelin added: “I was pleased with the Carnethy run, but the conditions were terrible. I seem to do better when the weather is bad.
“I wasn’t so happy with the Welsh run. I was up with the leaders for a long way, but my legs weren’t strong enough on the descent and I fell back.
“I think my training just hadn’t been consistent enough.”
Like so many others Chepelin is missing being able to compete, but he remains hopeful some races might return later in the year.
He said: “I have an entry for the Ben Nevis race at the beginning of September. I hope that goes ahead as I really want to race against Finlay Wild, who has won for the past 10 years.
“The Three Peaks race in Yorkshire was postponed and has now been rescheduled for late September, so that’s another one I’m keen to do.”
But if formal races aren’t back on the agenda by then, Chepelin is keeping his fingers crossed that lockdown restrictions will be relaxed sufficiently to allow him to tackle a new challenge.
The Edinburgh University engineering graduate wants to join the list of experienced runners to have completed the Bob Graham Round.
The Round is named after the Keswick guest-house owner, who in June 1932 traversed 42 Lakeland Fells within a 24-hour period. He covered 66 miles and climbed 29,900ft.
Chepelin said: “It will be great once we are allowed to move around a bit more, hopefully at some point during the summer.
“Even if there are no races it’s an opportunity to do these individual long-distance challenges. I’m sure a lot of people will have the same idea.
“Every summer I’ve wanted to do a long run like the Bob Graham Round.
“But obviously only if restrictions are lifted.”