A FEW years ago, a television show called "The Secret Millionaire" aired; the premise was that a wealthy individual would help those less fortunate in the hope they could improve their lives. Robbie Simpson may not have been on the television programme, but he has his very own secret millionaire who changed his life.

Simpson initially made his mark in the athletics world as a mountain runner, with a particular high point being when he won bronze at the World Mountain Running Championships in 2015. The 26-year-old from Banchory in Aberdeenshire has now set his sights on success on the marathon, with the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast in just four months His next major target, but without the support of his secret millionaire, it is unlikely that Simpson would have scaled the heights he has.

“It was a local business owner who had followed my career for a number of years,” Simpson said. “I was planning on moving away to train - I was going to self-fund it because I can live pretty cheaply, although I was pretty poor and it was going to be a bit of a struggle to make things work. But he called me up one day and said he would be prepared to sponsor me.”

For much of the time Simpson was being supported, his benefactor wanted to remain anonymous, although he has recently outed himself as Aberdeen businessman Bert McIntosh and Simpson could not be more grateful for his support.

“He's just a really nice, modest guy and for a good while, he didn't want anyone knowing he was helping me because he wasn't doing it for any credit, it was more a case of he wanted to see me do well and he knew how hard it is to get funding - he was prepared to help me but he didn't want anything in return,” said Simpson. “It was great, and without his help I would have been really struggling to get the results I got. Before he stepped in, I would be in races thinking if I don't do well here I'll be living off a very, very small amount of money for the next little while. Whereas once he helped out, I could relax a little bit, I could afford to buy good food and I knew that I wouldn't have to go home and look for a job – I could focus purely on the racing.”

Simpson spent a number of years based in Austria and then Germany honing his running skills – although despite McIntosh’s financial support he was hardly living the of riley, with no television and, for the last year, no fridge.

Having spent the past two years focusing solely on the marathon, Simpson has progressed impressively, finishing 18th in last year’s London Marathon, improving this year to finish 16th. He was also named in Great Britain’s team for the 2017 World Championships, but injury forced him to withdraw.

Simpson returned permanently from Germany back to Banchory a few months ago but there is no risk of him getting lazy now he has some home comforts. This month, he was named in the 25-strong athletics team for April’s Commonwealth Games and while the unpredictable nature of marathon running makes any specific target impossible to set, the Scot is optimistic he can make his presence felt in Gold Coast.

“The conditions will be tough – it will be hot and the marathon is always very difficult but I really feel like if everything goes well, I can run faster than I've ever done before and if you can run a fast time then anything can happen,” he said. “I'm not going for a certain time or aiming for a certain position - I just want to get in amongst the race. I’ve raced a lot in the heat so I know how to prepare for it. And I'm going out to Australia for four weeks beforehand so that is a major advantage.”

In contrast to many of his fellow athletics team-mates who will undertake an indoor season in an attempt to be race sharp come April, Simpson’s next few months will be occupied almost exclusively by training. He is, however, looking forward to a welcome respite from the Scottish winter. “I'm going to go to Spain for six weeks before I go to Australia - that will help me acclimatise and I will get as fit as possible so that by the time I go to Australia, it's just a case of sharpening up,” he says. “I’ll do a half-marathon sometime around March and that will let me see how things are going – but I don't expect to be racing amazingly well between now and the Commonwealth Games because I'm putting absolutely everything into Gold Coast.”