THE 35th Alloa Half Marathon is set to go ahead this weekend with a record-breaking 3,500 entries.
And watching from the sidelines will be 60-year-old Sauchie man and experienced athlete Frank Harper, who had only been running for a year when he came third in the very first Wee County race and is unfortunately missing out this year due to an injury.
Frank, who was a keen footballer at the time, got the bug for running when he worked for a local brewery. His packaging manager mentioned he was going to run in the Glasgow event and Frank also jumped onboard.
He finished the race just under three hours and with stiff legs for days after, he thought that is it, he can now say he has done it.
However, a few weeks later he felt like he wanted to do more and got a book from his local library, 'Running with Lydiard'.”
Little did he know that New Zealand runner Arthur Lydiard had one of the toughest regimes – a training schedule that is often emulated by successful athletes today.
With the support of the book, and his wife Joan who kept him right over the years, everything took off and by 1986, he was running for Scotland and finished fourth at the Glasgow Marathon with a time of 2.18.
He also ran in Australia, London and not having done a marathon for 10 years, he ran the Edinburgh event in 2005, finishing in 2.34.
Frank had to miss out on a few in the Wee County race's history, but has been a keen supporter of the event over the years.
Paying tribute to all the runners who are taking the challenge on this year, he said: “I admire everybody just for doing it because I know what is involved.
“It's a big achievement. Put it this way – it's going to give them a lot of help later on in life if they stick with it because you are looking after your body basically.”
Frank's current knee injury is only his second big one and he hopes to go back on track once it is healed.
Organised by Alloa Round Table, the race will take place on Sunday, March 19 around Clackmannanshire.
Local club the Wee County Harriers is bringing a record number of 101 entrants and has been supporting the event with increasing number over the years.
There will be a great mix of elite distance runners, club harriers and many fun runners and joggers will be raising funds for charity – including local man Brian Morton, who had taken part in every single race and will be proudly wearing the number 35 in honour of his 35th race.
Bill Noullan, 81 from Kinross, is understood to be the oldest entrant and got the race number 81.
At the sharp end of the race, spectators can cheer on three times winner Twolde Mengisteab of Shettleston Harriers who will be challenged by talented Eritrean Wanay Ghebreselassie who competed in the 2012 London Olympics.
For the ladies, Jennifer Wetton will be out to take her third win, but she will have to look out for her Central AC team mate Morag MacLarty.
Info for spectators - some rough times to catch the race leaders: Start Leisure Bowl Alloa 10am, Ring Road (after loop of Ashley Terrace) 10.08am, Sauchie 10.13am Fishcross 10.17am, Tillicoultry 10.28am, Alva 10.43am, Menstrie 10.50am Tullibody 10.55am, finish Alloa Leisure Bowl 11.05am.