Claire Bruce has salvaged more than a little satisfaction from what has been a difficult year for most runners.
The Metro Aberdeen athlete, who won the Great Aberdeen 10k and the Run Balmoral 10k in 2019, hoped to make her mark on the marathon scene in 2020.
She has previously enjoyed success in the half marathon, picking up bronze at the Scottish championships in Glasgow two years ago when she recorded her best time of 1hr 18min 27secs.
Bruce stepped up to the full distance last October, making her debut in the Loch Ness marathon, where she was eighth in the women’s contest in 3:11:10.
The performance didn’t reflect Bruce’s potential, which was nevertheless recognised by her inclusion in the Scottish Marathon Project – a scheme which supports 15 of our best distance runners.
Bruce’s aim for this season was to justify her selection for the Project and to improve significantly on that first marathon attempt, but the pandemic put paid to that as race after race was cancelled.
So instead she opted to run her own one. After speaking with coach Robbie Simpson, the 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, she decided to run on an out-and-back loop between Aboyne and Ballater.
With a little help from a few running friends who encouraged her along the way, Bruce completed the course in 2:58:39.
She said: “I just wanted to prove a point to myself. I had prepared for two marathons without getting a race at the end of it, so I didn’t want to go into a third cycle of training without finding out where I’m at.
“I knew I was in good shape back in April when I was meant to do the Manchester marathon, which was postponed to September before being cancelled altogether. That was frustrating, so I wanted to get something from the work I’d done.
“My first marathon at Loch Ness didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. I felt I was in sub three hour shape at that time, but I went out too fast and paid the penalty.
“So for my solo marathon the aim was simply to run under three hours. The conditions were ideal as it was dry, calm and clear skies overhead.
“The route was a mixture of roads and trails as I ran from Aboyne along the South Deeside Way to Dunecht then took the old railway to Ballater. I followed the road to Loch Muick then turned and came back.
“It wasn’t all perfect as I didn’t get my refuelling strategy quite right and I was suffering from stitches from quite early on.
“I achieved my target and that’s given me a lot of confidence for the future. I feel I can run much faster in a proper marathon”
Just when that is she can’t tell. But she added: “I need to sit down and have a chat with Robbie about my plans. I’d like to do some cross country over the winter, but it depends on whether there are any races.
“I’d also like to do a Spring marathon, but again there’s nothing certain at the moment. The Edinburgh marathon at the end of May is one possibility.
“If there’s no marathons I might work on my shorter distance speed. It’s more likely there will be some smaller, local 10k races going ahead that big events.”
Bruce has managed only three competitions this year.
But she reflected: “Ironically, I am happier with what I’ve done this year compared with 2019. I was pleased with my form at the beginning of the year when I had a good cross country run at Stirling then got under 80mins again for a half marathon in London.
“And while my sub-three hours personal marathon won’t be recognised as an official time, I’m very satisfied to have done it.”