Metro Aberdeen’s Jason Kelly hopes to defend his title in the Dee 33-mile ultra distance race which is scheduled to take place on March 13.
Entries for the run opened at midnight on Hogmanay and all 150 places were scooped up within the first nine hours of the new year, despite uncertainty as to whether the event will be able to go ahead.
Kelly is keeping his fingers crossed that lockdown restrictions may be eased sufficiently by then to allow it to happen.
The Metro Aberdeen runner won the 2020 race, completing the course along the Deeside Way from Duthie Park to Banchory and back in 3hr 22min 53secs.
The route had been extended from previous years to add on a circuit of the park.
Allowing for this adjustment, Kelly can claim the second best time in the 11-year history of the event. It is bettered only by the 3:10:40 recorded by Commonwealth Games athlete Ross Houston in 2015.
His major aim for 2021 is to stake a claim for a place on the Scotland team for the Anglo Celtic Plate 100k and hopes a good performance in March will boost his chances.
He said: “I hope the Dee 33 goes ahead, but it might be on the cusp of being too early. The race, with a small field and runners well spread out, is the type of event which is more likely to go ahead, but who knows.
“If it does I’d hope to put in another good performance, at least similar to last year. And if I did that I feel it might back up my case, to some extent, for selection.
“Getting a Scotland vest is still my main priority whether it be this year, the following year or even beyond that.
“The 100k is my main target race for 2021. I’ve heard it’s to be held in September but no official details have been announced yet.”
Kelly has already mapped out his race plan between now and the 100k, subject to events being able to go ahead, if not by March, then hopefully by early summer.
He said: “I’m aiming to do the Moray Way 50-miler between Forres and Cullen in June. It’s only a couple of weeks before the Lairig Ghru race, which is probably my favourite.
“It might be possible to do both, but on this occasion I might opt for the Moray race as it’s a better fit with my preparations for the 100k.
“I’m also keen to do the Fetteresso Forest marathon as that’s my local race. It’s usually held in February, but has been postponed.
“The organiser, Chris Cowley, is now hoping to put it on in late summer, maybe in August, so that would be ideal for me.
“I’d normally be looking for a good half marathon in March, but it’s unlikely any big races will be going ahead, so I’ll probably set up a couple of solo time trials instead.
“My training has been going well. I had a week off after competing in the Speyside Way race in November. Since then I’ve had a few 80-mile weeks and, over the new year period, I got my first 100-mile week done.”
Organiser: ‘I think runners are just desperate for races’
Dee-33 race organiser Andrew Gordon admits to having been surprised by the speed with which all 150 places were snapped up for this year’s event.
Entries opened at midnight on Hogmanay and closed nine hours later.
Gordon said: “I wasn’t expecting that to be honest. I thought people might be holding back a little to see how things developed.
“But I think runners are just desperate for races. We have a big waiting list as well which shows how keen everyone is to take part.
“We have reduced our numbers because of the situation as we normally have around 250 runners.
“Whether restrictions are eased by the time the race comes around, on March 13 remains to be seen. It depends on getting all the required approvals. We will follow whatever guidelines are in place.”
Gordon takes some comfort from having been able to successfully organise the Bennachie 50k trail race in October and hopes that can be repeated with the Dee 33.
He said: “Bennachie worked really well. The competitors were great in that they all followed the guidelines which were put in place, so hopefully we can do that again.”
Aside from organising the Dee-33, Gordon hopes to fulfil some of his own racing goals for 2021.
He said: “I am really excited about doing the Skye ultra at the end of May. It was cancelled in 2020, so I am keeping my fingers crossed it’s going ahead this year.
“It’s a 73-mile course, which includes a lot of climbing. But it’s a beautiful route.
“I’m also planning to run the inaugural Moray Way 100-mile race in October.”