Oldmeldrum athlete Meryl Cooper once again exceeded expectations by securing a sixth place finish in the women’s division of the Ultra Trail Cape Town 100km on Saturday.
Not for the first time, the Dubai-based north-east athlete outperformed her ranking against some top-class opposition in a challenging contest which required competitors to climb more than 4,600 metres over Table Mountain, the remote trails of Karbonkelberg and Constantia Nek.
Cooper, who only took up long distance running a couple of years ago, competed at the same South African festival of running in 2018 when she finished third in one of the three other races on the programme, held over a 65km course.
That result whetted her appetite for tackling the longer and more competitive 100km race this time around, but it meant she would go on to the starting line ranked 14th in the multinational field of competitors.
Great Britain international Beth Pascall, from the Peak District, won in a course record 10hr 55min 25secs with Zimbabwe’s Emily Hawgood, the 2018 winner, runner-up in 12:03:51.
Poland’s Dominika Stelmach was third in 12:15:36 while Cooper moved up through the field to complete the course in 12:40:38.
She said: “I had a great race. I was cautious in the beginning and, having run the 65km last year, I know it’s quite tough at the end. However, I still ran a bit faster than I did in 2018 so I am very pleased with my progress. I was ninth for a while then moved to seventh after the second tough climb.
“It was amazing to see Beth do so well and set a new course record. She is an incredible trail runner and such an inspiration. I switched five weeks ago to work with her coach. Seeing the success she has achieved gives me great hope for my future in this sport.
“I loved the technical trail here and it reminded me that I love that kind of course and possibly have a strength in this area, so I will be seeking more of this in my next few races.
“It was fantastic to be at this race again. The trail running community are so welcoming and I love South Africa.
“I am going to work on the roads now for a few months to build up some more speed before going back to the mountain training in March.”
Cooper also revealed that she’ll be returning home to test herself in one of the north’s top road races in early 2020.
She said: “I am excited to race in the Inverness half marathon in March as a bit of a speed test at the end of this next block of training.
“It will be amazing to run on home turf in Scotland. I’ll also be doing the Ras Al Khaimah half marathon, on the Arabian Gulf, a couple of weeks before Inverness.”