by Craig Wright
Over 6,500 runners and innumerable spectators took to the streets of Stirling on Sunday for the first-ever Stirling Scottish Marathon.
Despite the traditional Scottish weather, the Stirlingshire area proved a picturesque backdrop to the historic event, with participants taking in such local surroundings as the Wallace Monument, the University of Stirling’s campus and Stirling Castle.
It was a University of Stirling alumnus that became the first athlete to cross the finish line, with 2008 Olympian Andrew Lemoncello taking home the elite men’s title in a time of 2.25:01. Speaking to the race organisers following the event, Lemoncello said:
“It was so much fun out there and to finish with the crowds cheering was a great thing. I’d recommend this to anyone, it was a great course and I’ll be back next year.
“You would be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful marathon route.”
Lesley Pirie was the inaugural women’s champion, finishing in a time of 2.47:36, whilst Scottish athletics legend Liz McColgan crossed the line in 3.18:33.
“It was really enjoyable in a funny sort of way” said McColgan in an interview to the race organisers.
“I was really pleased to run round and not have any problems, I was really comfortable. My legs stood up to the distance, so I’m just pleased to have finished. I’ve had a lot of problems since I retired so I never thought I’d be able to run a marathon again, so I’m chuffed.”
However, as with marathons worldwide, the day was all about the mass participants, and a number of Stirling students were among those setting off from Blair Drummond Safari Park at 9am. Among them was Boab Thompson, a fourth-year journalism student, whose studies influenced his decision to run for Save the Children.
“After researching the refugee crisis for one of my journalism modules, and after doing some research I was horrified by the terrible conditions in which the refugees were leaving”, said Thompson.
“This was my first marathon. I completed the Edinburgh half-marathon three years ago and I’ve done a couple of 10Ks in between, but yeah, this was my first full marathon!”
Thompson completed the course in 4.24:26, and says the entire occasion was one to remember.
“The highs for me were the cheers from the thousands of supporters who turned up to spur us on. I honestly wouldn’t have been able to do it without people shouting ‘Come on Boab!’ and just generally egging us on.
“All the kids had their hands out for you to clap as you ran by, so that was special. Oh, and there were copious amounts of jelly babies and sweets that they were handing out!”
There was also a personal motive behind Callum Williamson’s marathon.
“I was running for Alzheimer Scotland as my granny has suffered with it for many years” said Williamson.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect as it was my first marathon but quite enjoyed it. I’m used to playing rugby and hockey which both last less than an hour and a half!”
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Williamson had set himself a pre-race target of breaking the five-hour barrier, and – despite a late setback in his preparations – exceeded his own expectations, finishing in a time of 4.03:08.
“I was a bit nervous beforehand, as the furthest I’d run was 15 miles and 2hrs 25mins. My training partner also had to pull out last week due to injury.
“I was aiming sub-five hours, ideally around the four and a half hour-mark, but smashed it on the day. The support going through all the towns was incredible and really spurred me on.”
Danny Whittam, part of the university’s athletics club, crossed the finish line in 3.05:27 on a memorable marathon debut. Running for the Teenage Cancer Trust, Whittam had this to say of the event:
“I really enjoyed my first marathon. It was one of the toughest challenges, both physically and mentally, that I’ve ever undertaken.
“However, the support of the crowd that turned out in numbers helped massively. The day in general was a great success, and it as brilliant to see so many people take part in such an historic event.”
Andre Paul Van, studying a PhD in Aquaculture, clocked an impressive time of 3.08:30, and had no problem with the damp weather, saying:
“The rain was on and off constantly, which was really welcomed, and the temperature was good overall. I started suffering hard at 20ish miles in – as everyone does. It was really pleasant overall but I didn’t enjoy the laps so much!”
A member of the university’s triathlon club, Alex Zemek-Parkinson finished in 4.18:25, running for Tusk Trust.
“Everything was going fantastically. I felt perfect, the sun was out and my legs felt great. The I reached the start line and the problems began!”, quipped Zemek-Parkinson.
“The Stirling marathon is the best I’ve run out of Berlin and Brighton. Organisation was lacking slightly – the buses at the start left a little to be desired in that, until I tweeted the organisers, there weren’t any! – but that’s to be expected from the first marathon hosted by Stirling.
“Like Bond, I’ll be back!”
Judging by the turnout on Sunday, he’ll be returning to an event that’s on the way to becoming a firm fixture on the calendar.
Did you take part in the Stirling Scottish Marathon, or know someone that did? Check for individual results by clicking the link to the official results page at greatrun.org/myresults