15th September 2008
Scottish ultra distance running took a giant leap forward at the weekend with the Scottish 100km Championships and a 24-hour race, three new Scottish records from Carnegie Harrier Pauline Walker, and a string of other exceptional performances.
The events, organised by scottishathletics and sponsored by Run and Become, Scotland’s specialist running shop, were in a pilot format to determine whether the venue could host an IAU 24-hour World Championships in the next few years. Delegates from the International Association of Ultra Runners visited the city to monitor the race.
In addition to the ultra distance events of 24-hours and 100km, two events for juniors and clubs were included within the format: on Saturday afternoon teams of three under-15 boys and three under-15 girls contested a 12-lap relay and as the daylight faded, a Le Mans-style night time relay was staged for mixed clubs and jogscotland group teams.
All four events used a 2.38km lap around the perimeter of the Inches, starting and finishing at the rear of Bell’s Leisure Centre.
In the men’s 24-hour event Stephen Mason (Dundee Hawkhill), running his second round the clock race, recorded a distance of 148.755 miles to win comfortably and improved his PB by 12 miles.
Orkney’s experienced ultra competitor William Sichel had a difficult race but held things together to surpass 200km (124.5 miles) in the closing stages and record 125.326 mlies (201.693km) for second. Haddington’s William Watson, an experienced ultra trail racer, took third place with 119.916 miles.
In the women’s race, the Carnegie Harriers trio of Pauline Walker (pictured), Lynne Kuz and Walker’s twin sister Fiona Rennie stole the show. Kuz, in her first 24-hour event, was the early leader and at one stage was overall race leader. Up to the 15-hour point both she and Walker looked in control and it was not clear which of the clubmates would reach the 100 mile mark first and claim the first Scottish record of the weekend.
At the 100 mile point Walker had edged ahead with 17hours 12 minutes 22 seconds to Kuz’s 17.17.40, however, Walker, who started more cautiously, showed her 24-hour experience and was the stronger over the last four hours. She reached 200km in 22.48.28 (versus Kuz in 23.35.25) to claim her second Scottish record. Making the most of the perfect conditions, she pushed on relentlessly to break through the 130 mile barrier and finish with a very impressive new Scottish record of 130.345 miles (209.770km).
Kuz, although tiring in the last couple of hours, stuck to her task to finish with 125.313 miles (201.671km). Not to outdone by her sister, Rennie finished third lady with 116.476 miles (187.449km).
The accompanying Scottish Championship 100km race also threw up some quality performances.
Former Scottish 100k champion Alan Reid went off from the start in his inimitable trailblazing fashion, while defending champion Paul Hart (Dumfries) and Dave Gardiner (Kirtintilloch) had obviously decided on a more measured approach.
Reid reached the 50km point in 3hours 34min 23 sec while Hart and Gardiner were together at 3.42.22. The duo’s tactic of working together paid off as they gradually overhauled Reid at the 70km mark (43 miles).
It was ultimately the Kirkintilloch athlete who proved the stronger, edging ahead around the 75km point. Over the last quarter he continued to run at a steady pace, eventually clocking 7 hours 36 min 11secs – the best time by a Scottish athlete at this distance for four years. Hart was rewarded with a lifetime of 7.44.55 in second, while Reid hung on for third with 8.26.04.
The women’s 100km championship saw a very exiting last few laps. 100km debutant Gail Murdoch (Carnegie) took an early lead, while defending champion Sandra Bowers (Winchester), Elaine Calder (Strathaven) and Issy Knox (HBT), in a similar approach to the men, took the more cautious option and ran together in the early stages.
At 50km Murdoch (4.04.47) led by 12 minutes from Calder (4.16.54) with Knox at 4.24.00 and Bowers 4.27.16. At 50 miles (80km) Murdoch held a seven minute lead over Calder. The Strathaven runner gradually closed on a visibly tiring Murdoch and with three laps (4.5 miles) to go, the lead was reduced to a 30 seconds. Murdoch found a second wind however, and over the last few miles increased her lead to finish with 9 hours 03 mins 56 secs to Calder’s 9.07.35. Knox hung on for third (9.33.07)
Performances at the “sharp end” resulted in Gardiner and Hart both achieving the 100km Scottish guideline qualification of eight hours for the inaugural Commonwealth Ultra Championships in Keswick in September 2009. Unfortunately Murdoch and Calder were just outside the women’s guideline time of nine hours.
In the 24-hour event Mason and Sichel achieved the men’s guideline distance of 200km, while Carnegie trio Walker, Kuz and Rennie all achieved the women’s mark of 185km (115.6 miles).
Further down the fields there were a number of lifetime bests and promising performances put in by ultra newcomers
Mason and Walker, it should be noted, both achieved the best distances recorded by UK athletes this year and comfortably surpassed their respective UK selection targets of 225 km (men) and 200km (women), as did Kuz.
Hilary Walker, the general secretary for the International Association of Ultra runners and former international ultra athlete, who was in Perth for the weekend to assess the events possibilities to hold a future world ultra championships expressed her appreciation of the event. At the post race presentations she said: “Speaking on a personal basis, the facilities at the Bells sports centre are extremely good and the flat course alongside the river at the North Inch park is excellent. Logistically the event has worked very well too and I am sure if Scotland did decide to take things forward and bid for a future world event, they would be very capable of putting on an excellent event.”
Full results of both events will appear on the scottishathletics website in due course.
Thanks to everyone who played a part in a fantastic event, and thanks to Adrian Stott for the comprehensive report.