10-MILE TEST FOR TWO SCOTTISH COMMONWEALTH HOPEFULS
The countdown to the opening athletics event of Glasgow 2014 will begin in earnest for two of Scotland's leading Commonwealth Games hopefuls in the Bupa Great Edinburgh Run.
Susan Partridge and Freya Ross have both chosen the new-look event in the Scottish capital, extended from 10km to 10 miles this year, as the competitive launch pad in their build up to the women's marathon in Glasgow on the morning of.
"We're now less than 14 weeks away from the marathon in Glasgow and I'm at the start of my build up," said Partridge, who secured her selection for the Commonwealth Games with an outstanding run achieving tenth place in the World Championship marathon in Moscow last summer.
"The women's marathon is the first athletics event at the Games and I am getting quite excited. That's why it's nice to be able to do a race like the Bupa Great Edinburgh Run. It'll be like a stepping stone to Glasgow - to be racing in Scotland in the countdown to the Commonwealth Games.
"It'll be nice to just get up there and experience the buzz towards the Games, to get a little taster of what it's going to be like."
Partridge, 34, hails from Oban but lives and trains in Leeds, where she works as a researcher in joint replacement. She stands fifth on the Scottish all-time women's marathon rankings with 2 hours 30 minutes 46 seconds, a time she recorded when finishing ninth in the 2013 London Marathon.
Ross, 30, a member of Edinburgh Athletics Club, became Scotland's second fastest female marathon runner - behind Liz McColgan-Nuttall - when she clocked 2:28:10 on her debut at the 26.2 mile distance in the 2012 London Marathon.
She was called up for the London Olympic marathon at short notice later that year, when Paula Radcliffe withdrew because of injury, and did well to finish 44th as the first Briton across the line. Since then, however, injury has put a spanner in the works of the former engineer's marathon ambitions.
Ross finished seventh in Yokohama in November in 2:35:19 but was still suffering from the foot problem that had troubled her all year, and which subsequently led to a stress fracture. Her time was inside the Commonwealth qualifying standard though, and her place in the team is expected to be rubber stamped in the second wave of Scottish athletics squad selections in early May.
Fourteen weeks out from the big race, Ross is back training and ready to return to action for the first time since the Scottish cross country championships in February.
"I'm just back from training out in Boulder, Colorado, for four or five weeks and that went really well," she said. "I'm looking forward to racing again but I'm not going to read too much into it because it'll be my first one for a while.
"I'm over my foot problem now, which is a big relief. Obviously you don't want to count your chickens before they're hatched in terms of selection for Glasgow but, with the marathon, you do have to prepare as if you're going to be there. Hopefully, I'll be named in the second wave."
Both Partridge and Ross are coached by Steve Jones, whose 29-year-old British men's marathon record of 2:07:13 survived a debut assault by Mo Farah in London the week before last. "Everyone wanted to see Mo do well but it was quite nice that people got a reminder of how good Steve was," Partridge said.
Ross concurred: "I don't think Steve really gets the recognition he deserves," she said of the Welshman who won Commonwealth 10,000m bronze in Edinburgh in 1986.
Jones' Caledonian marathon charges will face a strong challenge on the streets of Edinburghfrom an English runner who has been helped in her marathon career by Scottish record holder Liz McColgan-Nuttall.
Sunderland's Alyson Dixon is also working towards the women's marathon at the Commonwealth Games and has been in top form in recent weeks, clocking personal bests of 32 minutes 35 seconds in the Brighton 10km race and an outstanding 70 minutes 27 seconds for 18th place in the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhagen.
The men's race features Chris Thompson, the 2010 European 10,000m silver medallist who made a solid start to his marathon career in London the weekend before last. The 32-year-old Cumbrian finished eleventh in 2:11:19.
Sunday's race starts and finishes in Holyrood Park and takes runners past the major sights of the Scottish capital including the Royal Mile, Scott Monument and Edinburgh Castle.
Online entry to the Bupa Great Edinburgh Run is available at www.greatrun.org/edinburgh