by Craig Wright
Featured image credit: Stirling Scottish Marathon
With the inaugural event having been such a success twelve months ago, there was always going to be a degree of interest in whether the organisers of the Stirling Scottish Marathon would be able to replicate their debut triumph.
The answer, unquestionably, is a resounding yes.
Over 6000 participants took to the streets of central Scotland over the past weekend for a festival of running, with the event having expanded to include both the Stirling Scottish Half Marathon and the Great Stirling Family Run in addition to the flagship marathon distance.
The new and improved course saw runners take in local landmarks such as Stirling Castle, Blair Drummond Safari Park and the University of Stirling campus, before finishing in King’s Park in central Stirling.
For the second year in a row, there was a local connection to the men’s marathon champion, as Michael Wright of Central AC crossed the line in a time of 2.29:19 to take the top prize. Alison McGill took the women’s title in a time of 3.02:35 in a composed run, coming home three minutes clear of her nearest rival.
The inaugural men’s half marathon title was claimed by Michael Crawley, who produced a sensational time of 1.09:33 to storm clear of his fellow competitors, whilst Sarah Brown came home in 1.26:58 to take the women’s crown.
Yet once again, it was the mass participants to whom the spotlight belonged, including a trio of Brig representatives.
Sports editor Shannon Scovel – running the half marathon for family friend Lori Cove – crossed the line in a shade under two hours, whilst former deputy editor Amy Beveridge recorded an impressive time of 2.13:31 in her first half marathon.
Meanwhile, incoming news editor Sam Ormiston exceeded his own expectations for the full marathon distance, clocking a time of 4.51:19.
“The crowds were a great motivator, especially going through Doune and Bridge of Allan” said Ormiston.
“There was a great atmosphere, and the sun came out just as I was approaching the finish line. Absolutely magic!”
The university’s athletics club were also out in force amongst the runners making their way around the course, including the club’s social secretary Lewis McComb.
“Overall, the day was a definite success” said the first-year student, who recorded a time of 3.19:58 on his marathon debut.
“My first marathon experience really couldn’t have gone any better, from my time to the constant support of the crowd.”
Club secretary Kirsty Irwin was also delighted with her performance, running her first half marathon in 1.54:11.
“The first of many!” she laughed.
“It was perfect conditions today, with unsurprisingly a great atmosphere. I ran pretty consistently throughout – I didn’t have a specific time in mind, I just wanted to complete the race without stopping, run a consistent pace and enjoy it!”
Alison Grant was also paying little attention to the clock, which eventually stopped at 2.13:20 for her half marathon performance.
“For the past two years, I haven’t really participated for a specific time” she said.
“I just enjoy running with my sister, and I’m so grateful that we can do events like this together”
“Running the marathon meant so much to me this year”
There were also a number of personal stories from those lacing up their trainers at the start line, including from university triathlete Shannon Moses.
“Originally, I had pulled out of the race due to lack of training” said Moses.
“I was struggling with my grandad’s death and felt doing the half marathon for him would honour him and help lift my spirits as well as my family’s, and it well and truly has.
“Crossing the finish line was very emotional, not only because I was in so much pain, but I also remembered the reason I was running and that reason was the thing that kept me going.
“The hardest part of the race was definitely going in with a lack of training. My hips also started to give me trouble around the eight-mile mark, but I was super motivated to keep pushing on.
“This race was the best last-minute decision I’ve ever made!”
Athletics club member Danny Whittam also had a personal motive for taking to the start line, eventually coming home in a time of 3.23:44 for the full marathon.
“Running the marathon meant so much to me this year” he said.
“This year has been incredibly difficult, and I’ve struggled with both depression and anxiety, which made me a shell of the person I am.
“Thanks to CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), my family and friends, I’m a lot more like my normal self. I managed to raise a total of £1567 for a charity that has done so much for me and many others, and I cannot thank people enough for their generosity and support.”
The veterans return
Included in the marathon starters were two veterans of last year’s race, with former Stirling student Callum Williamson once again taking part for Alzheimers Scotland.
“I felt the overall day was slightly better than last year” he said.
“It was definitely better starting in town, and I’m glad the loops of town weren’t in the course this year as they were quite demoralising!
“The back roads towards Alloa and Alva were tough as there wasn’t that much support there, and I also felt the town section could’ve been longer – good support at the end is always appreciated. The support at the finish line was unreal though!”
Meanwhile, Alex Zemek-Parkinson – clad in unmissable pink – came home in just under four hours, running for Macmillan.
“My relationship with Macmillan is simple” he explained.
“My friend Rob Brown died from cancer, but before he died he was able to goad me into doing my first marathon three years ago. On the last time I met him, he said only real men take it to the next level and do Ironman, so my pursuit is of Ironman, not the marathon!
“This year was far more organised. The lack of buses really streamlined the event. the course was more thought out, and I thought it felt more accessible to first time runners.
“The race itself was the highlight for me. I use marathons to track large portions of time, so the race becomes the end of a section of my life for me. The last 200 metres become a time-lapse of the last year in my head, a highlight reel!”
Stars turn out for Stirling
The participants were sent on their way by 2014 Commonwealth champion Ross Murdoch, with the University of Swimming star effusive in his praise of the local area.
“I’ve been based here since 2012, and I couldn’t imagine training anywhere else” he said.
“I love the city, I love the people, it’s just a great place.”
Scottish actor Sam Heughan proved to be a major attraction for runners and spectators alike, with the Outlander star taking 15 minutes off his personal best for the marathon.
Glasgow Warriors fly-half Finn Russell was also amongst those lining the streets in support of the runners on course, with the former Brig interviewee impressed by the event’s organisation.
“I’m here to watch my big brother’s girlfriend, who did the half marathon, and its such a good event – there’s a lot of people here, which is good to see” said the Bridge of Allan native.
“I came back from Glasgow today, and its great to have these things on in Bridge of Allan and the local area.
“My girlfriend is trying to get my little sister to run it next year, so I’ll hopefully get back here [from Paris] for it, games permitting.”
The future looks bright
The event is set to return in 2019, becoming incorporated into the Great Run series for the first time after two roaring successes in its formative years.
Paul Foster, Great Run Company CEO, said: “The Stirling Scottish Marathon has showcased central Scotland in all its glory this weekend.
“We’re delighted with how our second event here has turned out with runners being cheered on by thousands of supporters.
“We’re grateful as ever for the support from Stirling Council, as we look forward to continuing to grow this event.
“I’d encourage anyone who has been inspired this weekend to sign up for next year’s marathon and half marathon.”
With the event rapidly growing in popularity, you can be sure that the Stirling Scottish Marathon will return with a bang this time next year.
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