THERE'S not many people who would look at running almost 50 miles as something of a holiday but Robbie Simpson is not like most people

The 27-year-old from Banchory is best known for winning marathon bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast last year so while he is right up there with the best in the world at road running, he is perhaps most comfortable in the mountains, where he learned his trade.

He has spent many a summer criss-crossing Europe picking up wins in some of the continent's most prestigious mountain races but there is one challenge that has always enticed the Scot yet has so far proved elusive; an ultra marathon.

Finding a suitable time to embark on an ultra marathon was always something Simpson has found difficult but finally, he decided, this is the year he is going to take the plunge.

This weekend, Simpson will tackle his first-ever ultra marathon – the renowned Grand Trail de Templiers in the south of France. It is just under 50 miles of racing which includes 3000m of ascent through towns, forests and up and down hills and while Simpson is no stranger to such testing terrain, he admits he does not know quite what to expect when he takes to the start line at 5:45am on Sunday.

“I’d been thinking for quite a while of doing something like this but I really don’t know what to expect,” he said of his first ultra race.

“I’m not too nervous – there’s nothing to lose for me. I’ve got no great expectations – it’d be nice to run well but it’s mainly just about having a new experience. I’m treating it like a holiday with a long run in the middle. It’s an adventure.”

Simpson is no stranger to overcoming the toughest of conditions and while an ultra marathon is one of the most extreme physical examinations an athlete can undertake, it is the mental side of things Simpson anticipates will be the rest test.

The Commonwealth Games medallist battled the most brutal of conditions in Gold Coast last year to grab his spot on the podium – temperatures approaching 30 degrees famously put paid to Callum Hawkins' medal prospects – and it is experiences such as this which Simpson hopes he can draw upon during the seven hours of racing in southern France this weekend.

“I really do think it’s a mental thing,” he said.

“It’ll obviously be tiring physically but I don’t think that’s necessarily what will stop you, I think it’s in your head. On my long training run, the worst point for me was at the halfway point but actually, the last part when I got close to home wasn’t too bad at all. So I think it is in your mind.

Even in a marathon, you always have good and bad parts so it’s just about coming out of those bad patches.

The pacing is going to be really important – it’s about knowing how hard you can run when you’ll be going for so long.

One of the main reasons I wanted to do this race was to see if I can do it – to see if I’m strong enough mentally. It might be great or it might not suit me but you don’t know until you’ve tried.”

Simpson has been in excellent form of late. His most recent competitive outing was at the Jungfrau Marathon last month, a mountain race in Switzerland, where he defended his title but he admits that despite his excellent form, he remains unsure how he will perform when running further than he has ever run before.

“The furthest I’ve ever run was years and years ago, when I was about 18 or 20, I ran about 28 or 29 miles,” he said.

“But recently, I’ve not gone that far. So since Jungfrau, I’ve tried to do slightly longer runs – I’ve done a few runs of between 25 and 27 miles and they were hilly so I was out for about four hours.

That’s longer than I normally do but it still might not be enough – we’ll just have to wait and see. You can’t do too much though because then you risk getting injured.

One of my training runs for this though was just over marathon distance because I wanted to break that marathon barrier.

I still can’t really get my head around it to be honest – it’s almost two marathons - but people say it’s not as bad on race day.”

Simpson admits that his remains somewhat unsure as to the path the remainder of his career will take, but the Templiers race is likely to have a significant bearing on the direction his racing goes. However he performs next weekend though, he is certainly not finished with road racing just yet.

“Longer term, my plan is to do more in the mountains but in the spring, I am going to do a marathon," he said.

"This race will give me a good idea if I’ll be good at ultra racing and if that’s something I might target in the long-term. It does appeal to me – to 50 mile kind of distance – but in the short term, I’ll be going back to marathons.

I’ll do a spring marathon and so as for the Olympics, it’s hard to say what’s a realistic goal – I’ll just have to see how my training goes.

I want to do some of the famous marathons while I’m still running well so that’s an exciting prospect for me.”