North east ultra-distance athlete Meryl Cooper hopes her exploits on the fells above Ambleside this weekend will earn her a trip to the Far East later in the year.
The Oldmeldrum woman is competing in the Lakeland 100k race which doubles up as the official Great Britain team trial for the world ultra-distance trail running championships to be held at Chiang Mai, Thailand in November.
The top two finishers are guaranteed selection and Cooper is confident she can book one of those available slots. She last represented GB at the 2019 world championships in Portugal and is keen to repeat the experience.
She said: “I’m going there to try to win this race. My training has gone well and I feel better than I have done for a long time. I have no issues at all, no niggles, everything is just fine, so I am really excited about it.”
The race starts at midnight tonight and Cooper has prepared meticulously by having explored the entire course over a three-day period last month, as well as testing herself with a night-time run closer to home.
She said: “I went down to the Lakes and ran 41k one day, 32k the next and 27k on the third day to cover the entire route. I’m glad I did it as I now know exactly what to expect.
“It’s particularly important to know the first stretch as I’ll be running that bit in the dark, so it was good to see it in daylight.
“I’ve some experience of running at night as one of the first trail races I did in Dubai a few years ago was in the dark.
“I recently went out at 11pm and ran for three hours around Scolty hill near Banchory with my head torch to get more practise.
“Overall, I’m really happy with the Lakeland course. It’s mostly good trails with some rocky, technical sections which I love – and some of them will be at night.
“It all suits me perfectly and fits in with what I’ve been training on here in terms of the gradients and the terrain.”
Cooper has been focusing on the race all year. She has trained and prepared consistently well, regularly putting in 110k of running in a week, reaching a peak of 155k.
She said: “All of my running has been on trails, none at all on the roads. There has also been a lot of elevation in these runs, so I feel I’m ready.
“This will be my third 100k trail race, but in the previous two I’ve felt I had more to give at the finish. I probably ran them too safely.
“I’m more experienced now, so I feel ready to push a bit harder, although I still won’t be taking any crazy risks. I expect to complete the course in around 11 hours.”
Adkin heads entry list for Skye – but may not run
European mountain running champion Jacob Adkin is the top name on the entry list for Saturday’s David Shepherd memorial hill race on Skye, but the Keswick athlete isn’t sure if he’ll take part.
Adkin has been in outstanding form over the past couple of months, having set a series of course records in some of the Lake District’s best-known fell races.
If he does decide to run, then the course record of 44min 27sec set by Lochaber’s Finlay Wild in 2018 could be put to the test.
Wild won the race eight years in a row up until 2019, but the 2020 event was cancelled because of the pandemic.
The Fort William runner won’t get the chance to add to his tally of victories as he is nursing a broken wrist.
And if Adkin decides not to travel to Skye, that could open the way for Wild’s Lochaber clubmate Andrew Barrington to bid for top spot.
Much depends, however, on how well Barrington has recovered from his fifth-place finish in the Lairig Ghru mountain marathon a fortnight ago. Sam Alexander (Westerlands) could also challenge for the title.
Suzy Devey (Lochaber AC) won the women’s race in 2019, but Kingussie athlete Georgia Tindley (Hunters Bog Trotters) is favourite to take top spot this weekend.
Tindley could seriously challenge the course record of 56:09 set by her clubmate Jill Stephen in 2018.
Amanda Blackhall (Lochaber AC) winner in 2011 and 2016, and runner-up in 2019, is also in the line-up as is her clubmate Lyndsey Shaw, who won in 2007.
A capacity field of 150 runners will take part in the grueling 4.5 mile race, which includes 2,500ft of climbing.
Law scheduled for Grangemouth next month
Kirsty Law (Inverness Harriers) is expected to be one of the top athletes taking part in the Scottish track and field championships, which are to go ahead at Grangemouth stadium on August 14-15.
Scottishatletics has confirmed that the event, sponsored by 4J Studios, will go ahead after being cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic.
It’s a major boost for so many athletes who have been denied top-level domestic competition for so long.
Law has competed in the championships every year since 2005 and has featured on the podium every year since then, winning 12 golds, two silvers and one bronze medal.
It’s a remarkable record of consistency and she is keen to bid for another title next month.
The championships are open to seniors and under-17 age groups, although there’s also an under-20 age group 5,000m championship race. Numbers will be capped for each event.
The national under-15 and under-13 championships are scheduled to be held at Aberdeen Sports Village on August 28-29.
Meanwhile, Highland athlete Katie Slimon has been selected to represent Scotland in the Home Countries youth international hill race at Ambleside on July 24.
She will compete in the under-18 event, having earned her Scotland call-up after finishing fourth in the team trials at Luss, Loch Lomond last month.