Inverness athlete Megan Keith opens her cross country campaign at Cardiff’s Llandaff Fields on Saturday when she competes in the opening round of this winter’s British Athletics Cross Challenge series.
The Great Britain junior international’s main target for the first part of the season is to earn selection for the European championships to be held at the Sport Ireland Campus on the outskirts of Dublin on December 12.
The trials for that are at Liverpool’s Sefton Park on November 26 and Keith will be aiming to assess her form this weekend.
She is currently adjusting to life as a sports science student at Edinburgh University, where she has joined a large and successful group of student athletes.
Keith performed extremely well earlier in the month when winning the women’s division of the Baxters River Ness 10k road race, when, despite less than ideal conditions, she set a personal best time of 34min 22secs.
She said: “I’m settling well in Edinburgh, everything is fine so far and I’m enjoying it. I’m looking forward to racing in Cardiff and after that I’ll be going to Liverpool as I’d really like to be selected for the European championships at under-20 level again.”
The 19-year-old already has experience of the European event, having placed 27th in Lisbon two years ago when she was part of the gold medal-winning Great Britain team.
Lucas Cairns (Inverness Harriers) will compete in the under-20 men’s race at Cardiff, while his sister Anna tackles the under-17 women’s event.
Meanwhile, the North District cross country league gets under way at Grant Park, Forres, on Saturday with a full programme of races for all ages. The competition was suspended last winter because of the pandemic.
Scotland hill running international Ross Gollan (East Sutherland AC), who won the men’s league individual title when the competition was last held, is to miss this weekend’s race as he is taking part in the British fell running relays in Cumbria.
Moray Road Runners, the men’s team champions, will be understrength as Scotland international Kenny Wilson is taking a break after his fine performance in the London marathon and Ewan Davidson is on holiday. Kenny’s brother James will lead the Moray team along with new recruit Matt Blunden.
Gemma Cormack (Inverness Harriers), the reigning women’s league champion, is another absentee so Kirstie Rogan (Highland Hill Runners) is likely to be one of the favourites to win.
Rogan showed good form last weekend to pick up silver behind Fife’s Heather Anderson in the Scottish hill running championships at Dingwall.
Catriona Fraser (Inverness Harriers) will also compete after setting an Inverness Harriers women’s club record of 2:58:02 in the London marathon a fortnight ago. Her clubmate Katja Blunden should also be well up.
Mel’s Mile at Aberdeen Sports Village
There won’t be any Kenyan athletes running in the inaugural Mel’s Mile track meeting at Aberdeen Sports Village on Sunday – but the event will still have a strong connection with the East African country.
Mel Edwards organised a series of international mile meetings in Aberdeen – in 1997, 2000 and 2009 – with the aim of seeing the four-minute barrier being broken in the north east.
The popular north-east athlete and coach passed away just under two years ago and now his son Myles is putting on this weekend’s event in honour of his dad.
Each of the races Mel organised was won by a leading Kenyan runner. Noah Ngeny, later to become the Olympic 1500m champion, won in 1997, but missed dipping under four minutes by a fraction of a second.
The iconic target was reached in 2000 when Harrison Makau and Edwin Maranga shared the same time of 3:57.50. And, in 2009, Gideon Gathimba came close to that time when winning in 3:57.96, with his compatriot Bethwell Birgin finishing second in 3:58.01.
During his stay in Aberdeen, Gathimba struck up a friendship with Myles and the pair subsequently set up the Gathimba Edwards Foundation, a charity which supports under-privileged children and families in Kenya.
Myles said: “I wanted to do something in my dad’s memory and this seemed appropriate. In future years I’d like to see it develop into something bigger.”
Proceeds from this Sunday’s meeting, plus two other events in what’s billed as the Safari Series, will go to help with GEF projects. The other races, both in Aberdeen, are the Hazlehead 5k on Sunday November 14 and the Prime Four 3k at Kingswells on Sunday December 5.
Three in a row for Dufftown ace
Dufftown’s Jill Stephen has won the Scottish hill runners championship race series for the third season in a row.
The Hunters Bog Trotters club member clinched the women’s title with victory in the Two Breweries race at Broughton in the Borders.
That came on the back of earlier successes at Dollar and Glenshee to give her a two-points winning margin over Fife AC’s Heather Anderson, who lifted the over-40 age group award.
Aberdeen’s Veronique Oldham won the over-50 age group title for the fifth season in a row and Jane Oliver (Deeside Runners) over-60’s took top spot in the over-60’s points table.
James Espie’s two-year reign as men’s champion came to an end as the Deeside runner was pushed back into fourth position, with former Inverness athlete Joe Symonds (Shettleston Harriers) winning for the first time since 2016.
Espie chose to miss the final race in the series in favour of competing in the 66th edition of Yorkshire’s iconic Three Peaks fell race, which is commonly known as the ‘marathon with mountains.’
The Scotland international finished seventh, completing the 37.4k course with 1,609m of ascent and descent over the peaks of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough in 3hr:13min:32sec. Ambleside’s Garry Greenhow won in 3:05:22.
Espie returns to action this weekend when he leads a strong Deeside Runners squad in the mixed division of the British fell running relay championships at Tebay in Cumbria.
He’ll be joined on the team by Joe Wright, Luke Graham, Ella Foreman and sisters Eilidh and Kirsty Campbell.