An Aberdeen-based former figure skater from Romania is making a name for herself on the Scottish ultra-distance running scene.
Alice Mezincescu,who is working towards her PhD at the institute of medical sciences at Aberdeen University, recently produced two memorable performances within seven days.
She won the top women’s prize in the Speyside Way race, recording 5hrs 20min 27secs for the 37-mile course between Ballindalloch and Buckie.
A week later the 36-year-old was second woman, sixth overall, in the Glenmore 24-hour race in which she completed just over 122 miles. These are remarkable results given that Mezincescu was inspired to take up the sport just two years ago after picking up a book.
She said: “One day I was looking at a book about eating and running written by the American ultra distance athlete Scott Jurek.
“I was actually searching for a recipe but then read about this guy doing the Western States 100-mile endurance race.
“I had never heard of ultra running and it sounded crazy. However, it inspired me and I decided I would like to try some ultra marathons.
“I hadn’t done much running before. Figure skating was my main sport, not at a serious level, but I enjoyed it as a hobby.
“To keep fit for that I would run round the rink and I’d also do maybe three runs a week, totally about 15km, but no more than that.”
Mezincescu moved to the UK from Romania around 10 years ago after graduating with a medical degree.
She worked in the Oxford and Cardiff areas before taking up her post at Aberdeen University in 2016, and that coincided with her decision to become an ultra runner.
She said: “When I got here I was taken on a visit to the Braemar area and I just loved the breathtaking scenery. There are so many beautiful places to run, so I knew I would enjoy trying all the different trails.
“I tried to enter the 72-mile Great Glen Ultra. I was asked what previous experience I had, but had to admit I hadn’t done anything. So, I needed to run a few races to prove I was capable of doing it.
“The first one I tried was the Dee 33-mile race between Aberdeen and Banchory. It was very difficult.
“Then I did the Cateran Trail race at Glenshee and eventually I was able to do the Great Glen Ultra and managed it quite well.”
Mezincescu, who joined a friend at Banchory Running Club, has since made great progress but admits to not having any structured training plan.
She said: “Most people seem to have a plan but I have nothing structured at all. I run up to 10km most nights, if I can, depending on work commitments. I find it’s a great way to relieve any stress.
“At weekends I love to run in the hills and aim to do 20-30km on Saturdays and Sundays. When I was training for the Speyside Way race I was getting up to 100km in a week but generally I do 60-100km.”
Mezincescu admits to being amazed by the success she has enjoyed in her two recent races.
She said: “Winning the Speyside race was a big surprise. I was really treating it as a training run for the Glenmore 24-hour race the following week.
“Glenmore was the first time I had tried running for 24 hours. It was an amazing experience and my support crew were great.
“I tried to stop as little as possible during the event. I even minimised the time I stopped for food and drink as every minute counts.
“At the end I couldn’t believe I was in second position.”