Scotland will make a three-pronged assault on the women’s marathon on July 27 at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Two of Scotland’s most distinguished female distance runners of the last quarter of a century, Freya Ross (Edinburgh AC) and Hayley Haining (Kilbarchan), will accompany the previously selected Oban-born Susan Partridge (Leeds), while Ross Houston, the Roslin resident who represents Central AC, comes into the team to join already chosen men’s No.1 Derek Hawkins (Kilbarchan).
In addition, Gregor MacLean, the former Edinburgh Athletic Club British League all-rounder from Montrose, will join Scottish record-holder Jax Thoirs (Glasgow) in the pole vault.
Ross, who as Freya Murray finished 44th and first British runner in the London 2012 Olympic Marathon, has a long and distinguished collection of honours, with so many national titles that she has forgotten the exact number: for the record, six Scottish senior cross country titles, five Scottish 4k country titles, two UK 5k track titles, a Scottish 10k title, representative honours in the European Cup (sixth), World Cross Country Championships (37th), European Cross Country (ninth), and fifth (10k), and fifth in the 10,000m 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games.
It is a formidable list of achievements, but, with one exception, she would probably trade all of them for the honour of representing Scotland at a home Games.
“They’re hard to compare but competing in a home Olympics was pretty special,” says Ross, who apologises to Scottish fans in advance but is hoping the weather in Glasgow is similar to London two years ago when she trotted up the Mall in pouring rain to rapturous applause.
“I want to be competitive and at the front of the field. Ideally that would mean finishing top of the Britons, but that’s a big goal given how tough my Scottish opposition is and of course the Kenyans will be strong.”
But she adds: “It’s great to have a full marathon team – it’s exciting.”
First of all Ross, who is fulsome in her praise of the Scottish Institute of Sport for the medical back-up she has received, has to return to full fitness following the hip injury she sustained in the Great Edinburgh 10 mile Run last month.
The former Lasswade AC junior, who is now 30, was forced to pull up with a yelp of pain after four miles: “It’s not as bad as I feared, I’ve got inflammation of the joint but hopefully it’ll settle down quite quickly.”
Ross is also grateful to Scottish Athletics for their support which has enabled her to spend several spells of training at high altitude, most recently for five weeks in March-April at the Colorado base of her coach Steve Jones, the London Marathon legend.
“It’s worked really well with Steve – it’s been a major benefit,” she says.
Ross Houston, who is 34, unlike Freya Ross, who is a full-time athlete at present, has a demanding job as a scientist at the Roslin Institute: “Running is my hobby,” he stressed after finishing close up to winner Tewolde Mengisteab (Shettleston) in the Scottish 5k road race at Cramond last night.
“That’s the best I’ve felt since I suffered a back injury last February.”
Having clocked 2:19.22 in last year’s London Marathon, just outside the 2:19.00 Glasgow standard, Houston trained really hard for the Frankfurt Marathon last October when he clocked 2:18.28.
He then sat out this year’s London race knowing that some of his friends might come along and pip him for one of the two vacant places, but his gamble paid off. “I knew I wouldn’t have done my best because of the injury and it was difficult as I wanted my friends to do well.
“Basically I want to run a personal best in Glasgow and that could be good for the top ten, but that’s unpredictable.”