Organiser Kyle Greig is impressed by the quality of the line-up for next weekend’s Speyside Way ultra-distance trail race despite the absence of Commonwealth Games marathon bronze-medallist Robbie Simpson.
The 60k run from Ballindalloch to Buckie will go ahead after meeting all COVID-19 guidelines required to ensure the safety of competitors, officials and volunteers.
Simpson considered taking part after notching victories in the Lairig Ghru mountain marathon and the Bennachie 50km ultra in recent months.
But the Great Britain mountain running international has decided to focus instead on beginning preparations for an Olympic trial road marathon in the first quarter of 2021.
The men’s field still includes a number of top performers including Scotland international road runner Kenny Wilson (Moray Road Runners), Dee 33-mile champion Jason Kelly (Metro Aberdeen) and Speyside way title-holder Grant Jeans.
Greig said: “If Robbie had been doing it I reckon this would have been one of the strongest ultra fields we’ve seen up here. Even without him it still looks very good so it will be an interesting race.”
The current Scottish Government restrictions allow the race to go ahead but some runners may be precluded from travelling depending on which tier their home area is in at the time.
Greig said: “I will be contacting everyone to explain the situation and so far most people have been very understanding.
“I have done everything possible. I’ve updated my risk assessment, provided competitors and marshalls with detailed guidance and got permission from all the appropriate authorities.
“Of course the situation could still change between now and next Saturday and we’d need to deal with that.”
Kelly is the most experienced ultra runner in the field. On top of his fine Dee 33 mile race victory in March he also finished second behind Simpson at Lairig Ghru and Bennachie.
But the real intrigue will come from Wilson who is competing beyond the marathon distance for the first time.
In fact, the Moray athlete has only run one marathon, but there’s no doubting his quality.
Jeans is another interesting character. When he led the field home in last August’s Speyside Way 60km race it was his 15th ultra race win on Scottish soil and his 18th ultra win overall.
Oldmeldrum’s Meryl Cooper is clear favourite to win the women’s race. The Great Britain ultra trail international showed good form when setting a record-breaking time in last month’s Bennachie 50k.