Robbie Simpson Targets Zermatt and Jungfrau On The Road To Tokyo
A genuine modesty and good sense mean that Robbie Simpson is reluctant to be too specific about his post-Commonwealth Games marathon ambitions. However it is clear that his morale-boosting performance at the Gold Coast has opened up broader horizons.
Simpson had a calculated plan for the Commonwealth Games race. And he executed it with precision. His experience of preparing in the Queensland heat and his pre-race analysis meant that he was unsurprised by the toll the temperature had taken on the women marathoners. Looking around on the start line he saw his competitors bathed in sweat and knew the race was going be a tough one.
The Banchory man had targeted a top 10 finish but as events unfolded, his well-judged race plan took him into medal contention towards the end of the race and, ultimately, to a podium place.
Simpson's Commonwealth Games bronze matches his medal from the 2015 World Mountain Running Championships, an indication that his route to the classic 26.2 mile distance is not the usual 10,000m / half marathon one. Instead the 26-year-old has always excelled at longer distances and he is set to return to the mountains for July's Zermatt Marathon before an attempt to win the testing Jungfrau Marathon for a second time following success in 2016.
If these races and his training go to plan Simpson could target a November/December marathon to round off 2018. It might be hard for the average 10k racer to get their head round the idea that very tough mountains marathons like Zermatt and Jungfrau, with their more measured effort, appear less daunting for Simpson than a highly competitive race on the flat.
The 26-year-old knows that his marathon PB of 2:15 is not fast enough to merit Olympic and World Championship team places. And Simpson has admitted that his favourite marathon prep session is a 22-24 mile run with a fast final 5 or 6-mile effort. This indicates he's unlikely to run out of petrol but can he produce the required revs?
Speaking recently Simpson commented that the Olympic Marathon in Tokyo in two years time will be run in hot weather and that his Gold Coast experience would hold him in good stead for that kind of test. There would be a lot of hard work and focus require if the talented Scot is to target that type of race.
One man who believes that Simpson has the talent and drive to compete at this level is fellow Aberdeenshire man, Fraser Clyne, a former Scottish champion and a 2:11 marathoner himself: "I've known Robbie since he was a promising teenager and I'm not surprised by his Commonwealth Games success. Although Robbie can be low-key he is a mature individual who combines great mental discipline with steely determination."
While it's always difficult to predict too far ahead about an event as fickle as the marathon it looks like the followers of Scottish running are set for an interesting few years. It is tremendous that a hard-working athlete like Robbie Simpson has received just rewards for his herculean efforts and is looking forward to a bright future.
Meanwhile Scotland's other Gold Coast marathon hero, Callum Hawkins, will be dusting himself down and making his own plans so that he's not remembered as 'the guy who keeled over in the heat'.
Image: Robbie Simpson with Fraser Clyne