Building ‘momentum’ around Edinburgh Marathon

WHEN Neil Kilgour first pitched up in the offices of the Edinburgh Marathon in 2002, it was all hands on deck.

David Toniok and his fellow Kenyan Risper Kimaiyo are greeted by mascot Hairy Haggis. Picture: Contributed
David Toniok and his fellow Kenyan Risper Kimaiyo are greeted by mascot Hairy Haggis. Picture: Contributed

Fresh from working at Sport Scotland, he joined an event still carving out its own identity in a crowded calendar and a team still improvising their own organisational approach.

Over a decade on, the race’s director hopes it has matured into a well-oiled machine at the company’s upgraded base at Ratho. This weekend, over 30,000 participants are expected in the capital for what has become the second biggest running festival in the UK after the London Marathon, divided between this morning’s 10-kilometre race and junior runs in Holyrood Park and tomorrow’s 26-mile showpiece and its half-distance offshoot.

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It was, originally, the dream of Geoff Sims to provide a focus to maintain the jogging boom. When he died four years ago, Kilgour inherited that mission.

“I was thinking the other day about how our resources compare now to 12 years ago,” he said. “We never thought it would be anything like this. It’s gained a momentum.

“We have 1,700 race crew working this weekend, from school kids at water stations, from scout groups raising money for their causes, to other areas.

“When I started on a part-time basis, we had two full-time members of staff and a race crew of 100. Now we have 24 staff. It’s a serious event now.”

Having acquired an elite status from the IAAF two years ago, there is an obligation to provide substantial quality on the starting line. With the Commonwealth Games and European Championships on the horizon, it has proven a more complex task than in previous editions, Kilgour concedes, with the best of the domestic cast preserving their energies for the summer and Africa’s finest caught up in the perennial politicking before their international selections are confirmed.

There have been some apples dropping from the tree. David Toniok should make a serious assault on the current course record of 2:15:26, set by his fellow Kenyan compatriot Zachary Kihara five years ago. However, his compatriots Elicky Mase and Linus Maiyo also have personal bests inside the existing mark with another Kenyan, Risper Kimaiyo, back to defend the women’s title she won convincingly last May.

The quartet might not be Glasgow-bound but on a downhill course which ends in Musselburgh following a circuit from the city’s Regent Road and out along the East Lothian coast, the capacity to speed is an incentive. “It probably adds to the mix,” Kilgour adds, “because the athletes have something to prove and it’s going to make our elite field very competitive. The women’s race is seriously rapid, so I think we’ll see really good times.”

Kilbarchan’s Derek Hawkins will continue his build-up to the Commonwealth marathon when he runs today’s 10K while his veteran club-mate Hayley Haining, who is also Glasgow-bound, will test herself over the half-marathon.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh’s Chris O’Hare faces Andy Baddeley in today’s Bupa Westminster Mile, with six-time Paralympic champion David Weir attempting to become the world’s first sub-three-minute miler in a wheelchair.