Robbie Simpson’s stirring bronze medal marathon success at the Commonwealth Games in April was undoubtedly the most outstanding achievement by a north-east male athlete in 2018.
The Deeside runner ran the perfect race in Australia as he completed 26.2 sweat-soaked miles on the smouldering roads of the Gold Coast in 2hr 19min 36secs.
It was a life-changing performance, which resulted in Simpson’s stock soaring to new levels in the popularity stakes.
The 27-year-old found himself in big demand from school pupils, running groups and clubs up and down the country, who wanted to pick his brains, learn from his experience and even grab a selfie with the precious medal.
Simpson said: “I really don’t mind going along and speaking in schools or at events as you never know what it might lead to.
“Hopefully some of the youngsters will be encouraged to give running a go as a result.
“It’s good fun as well. A lot of the questions I’ve been asked by school kids have been really good. They don’t have any inhibitions, they just ask good honest questions.
“Getting the bronze medal was unbelievable because nobody expected me to do it, including myself. That makes it all the more satisfying.
“I thought about all the months of hard training, because there was a huge amount that went into it, and all the people who had helped get me there. It was an unforgettable moment.”
He also enjoyed success on the European mountain running scene with victories in the Zermatt and Jungfrau alpine marathons.
And locally he scored victories in the Aberdeen BHGE 10km and the Great Aberdeen 10km.
Simpson is now looking forward to 2019 when he hopes to improve on his best marathon time of 2:15:04.
North-east athletes Rob Sinclair and Kyle Greig enjoyed success in long distance trail racing, which was one of the boom sectors of the Scottish distance running scene in 2018.
Aberdeen’s Sinclair (Insch Trail Running Club) made his Great Britain debut in the world ultra trail running championships in Spain.
The north-east athlete finished 38th, completing the 85km race over the mountainous Penagolosa course at Castellón de la Plana in 9hr 54min 26secs to help Great Britain win silver medals behind Spain in the team competition.
Greig won the Scottish ultra trail running men’s title with a fine performance over the 53-mile Highland Fling course between Milngavie and Tyndrum.
He also travelled far and wide, tackling ultra trail races in New Zealand and Austria among others.
Great Britain mountain running international Andy Douglas, from Caithness, was the star of the show at the 21st anniversary Run Balmoral meeting when he won the 10km and 15 mile trail races.
Aberdeen AAC’s Callum Symmons became the first man to win two races in one day at the Run Garioch meeting when taking top spot in the 5km and 10km.
Clark and Espie prove to be true local heroes
James Espie (Deeside Runners) won the men’s title in the Scottish hill race series and also represented his country in a number of international races.
On the track Aberdeen AAC maintained their winning streak by lifting the Scottish men’s league First Division title for the fourth year in a row.
Zoey Clark won the 2018 Aberdeen Sports Achiever of the Year title after yet another outstanding season during which she cemented her status as a key player in Great Britain’s 4x400m relay squad.
After picking up a silver medal at the London outdoor championships in August 2017, she added world indoor bronze at Birmingham in March 2018.
Then, during the summer, she pocketed another bronze in the European outdoor championships in Berlin.
She also reached the final of the individual 400m at Birmingham, finishing sixth.Clark went on to help Scotland achieve a national 4x400m relay record of 3:29.18 when finishing sixth at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia.
These are impressive achievements but Clark wants more, saying: “It’s great to have these medals but I need one of each colour now.”
She’ll get a couple of opportunities to do just that in 2019, beginning with the European Indoor Championships to be held at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena in March followed by the world outdoors at Doha in October.
Alisha Rees (Banchory Stonehaven AC) also enjoyed a successful year despite having to overcome injury problems.
The 19-year-old former Banchory Academy pupil, who is now in her second year at Loughborough University, helped Great Britain lift 4x100m relay bronze medals at the world junior championships in Finland.
She also won the senior women’s 200m for the fourth year in a row at the Scottish track and field championships.
Aberdeen AAC’s Kelsey Stewart experienced a bittersweet experience during the year.
The Stonehaven-based Aberdeen University student was selected along with Clark for Scotland’s 4x400m relay squad for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
After preparing meticulously and making the long journey to Australia, she was naturally disappointed when not being required to run.
She said: “I was absolutely gutted not to get the chance to compete as I felt my training had gone very well and I was ready for it.
“But that’s how it goes. It was out of my control. Nevertheless, I am so grateful I had the opportunity to be there. I have learned so much from it that will stand me in good stead for the future.”
But Stewart ended her season on a high, retaining the Scottish 400m crown.
Fiona Brian was one of the north-east’s most successful road runners when producing a series of excellent performances.
She scored her first international victory by winning the Lillebaelt half marathon on a scorching day in Denmark, but her quickest time for this distance, 1hr 15min 34secs, was set at Valencia in March.
Brian also represented Scotland in the inaugural Commonwealth half marathon at Cardiff in October where she finished 28th in 1:20:43.
Locally she won the Aberdeen BHGE 10km for the fourth time in five years.Steph Provan (Deeside Runners) was the top north-east woman hill runner of the year.
The highlight of her season came in July when the Aboyne athlete helped Scotland defeat England to win the team prize in the Snowdon international mountain race.
She also set a course record time when winning the women’s title in the Illuminator head torch race at Glen Tanar.