Entries are open for the scenic marathon through the heart of Scotland. For more information, visit greatrun.org/Stirling

Four first-time marathon runners have been given the exclusive opportunity to be coached through the Stirling Scottish Marathon by Scottish running legend Liz McColgan.

Liz, through her role as ambassador for the Great Run British Marathon Series, will be providing guidance to four runners who will be taking on their first-ever marathon as part of McColgan's Marathon Challenge.

Four runners have been selected from hundreds of applications from those who have signed up for the 26.2-mile event which takes place on Sunday, April 29, 2018.

They are Erica Gilchrist, from Stirling, Steven Smyth, from Glasgow, Kevin Devine, from Dunblane, and Barbara Watt, from Edinburgh.

The four have been supplied with an exclusive marathon training programme designed by Liz, and will be receiving motivational support throughout their journey.

They will also receive entry into the Simplyhealth Great Winter Run on January 13, which will be a training event for the marathon, where they will get the chance to meet Liz and take part in a Q&A session in Edinburgh.

MEET THE RUNNERS

Erica Gilchrist, 39, from Stirling

"I watched my father-in-law on his 70th birthday win his age bracket in the Keswick Half Marathon, followed shortly afterwards by being a spectator at the first ever Stirling Scottish Marathon.  I realised that many of the runners looked like me and I started to realise that, if I stuck at it, I could run impressive distances just like them. This gave me the motivation to keep going and I finally started to enjoy running and looked forward to putting on my trainers and to getting out and about.

"I watched Liz McColgan cross the finish line at last year's Stirling Scottish Marathon and felt inspired by all she has achieved. I have been increasing my distance lately and often struggle with my 'inner chimp' and with stepping out of my comfort zone - I feel I can trust Liz McColgan's advice as she is an expert and will definitely give me the kick up the backside which I need to become more confident in my running ability.

"I live in Stirling and was amazed by the runners I saw last year during the first marathon. When I am out running I often run past the location of last year's finish line and pretend that I am finishing the marathon! I am so excited to think that, next April, I really will be finishing the marathon - and I am looking forward to running through the beautiful countryside on the way."

Steven Smyth, 37, from Glasgow

"I started running initially to get active on my lunch break instead of sitting around all day and improve my overall health. I was never a runner, I used to hate it. I had asthma up to only April this year prior to running, and now I’ve not used inhalers since running at all – in fact I feel like a wealth of health.

"I applied to be coached by Liz as I’ve had no guidance, I have achieved so much from being self taught, imagine what I can achieve from the guidance of an Olympian - this is a unique opportunity and I am very privileged and honoured to be selected and I plan to use this opportunity to see what my future will bring.

"I chose the Stirling Scottish Marathon due to the feedback from other runners from last year’s remarkable race, and I’m glad I did."

Barbara Watt, 45, South Queensferry

"I took up running to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support after my younger brother’s cancer diagnosis. Prior to my first race, I hadn’t run in a long, long time. Now I run most days.

"Liz McColgan is one of my sporting heroes - she’s a strong lady and a top athlete. Eric Liddell is my other running sporting hero. I’m currently reading “For the Glory,” which is the story of his life, and I’ve been reading it with a tear in my eye. Liz and Eric are the kind of runners I want to be.

"I chose Stirling because it’s a beautiful city, and because I’ve heard that the atmosphere at the marathon is incredible. I went to the “Bloody Scotland” writers’ conference in Stirling last year and was reminded just what a stunning place Stirling is. I wanted to do my first half marathon in my home town of Glasgow, but want to do my first marathon somewhere new and exciting."

Kevin Devine, 26, Dunblane

"I was a smoker for almost nine years and stopped two years ago. Even then, fitness was never on my to do list. I would always take the car to very manageable walking distances, being honest walking or running was never my thing.

"I started running this year not long after the 2017 Stirling Scottish Marathon, after joking with some friends that we should run it in 2018. After messing about for a few weeks we decided to firstly run a half marathon. We decided to run for charity and used this as motivation to get out and do it! After completing the half marathon I decided to sign up for the Stirling Scottish Marathon 2018 as that was the goal in the beginning.

"I applied to be coached by Liz because although running the half marathon gave me a real buzz and I enjoyed the run I feel my training could have been better planned as it was very sporadic and I was always unsure if I was running enough or too much.

"I feel that although the training I did for the half marathon got me through it, I don’t think the same sporadic training would get me through Stirling, and who else is better to help than Liz McColgan!

"I selected Stirling Scottish Marathon because I’ve stayed in Stirling all my life and would never have taken up running if it wasn’t for the buzz around the 2017 marathon. The route covers Stirling’s most well known landmarks and there is no shortage of breathtaking views that will make this agonising run that bit more bearable."

Entries are open for the scenic marathon through the heart of Scotland. For more information, visit greatrun.org/Stirling