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Athletics: Aberdeenshire runner Meryl Cooper sets sights on Great Britain selection

Meryl Cooper.
Meryl Cooper.

Aberdeenshire athlete Meryl Cooper is to travel to the Yorkshire Dales next month in a bid to secure selection for July’s European off-road running championships at La Palma in the Canary Islands.

The Banchory-based runner hopes to be picked for the Great Britain team which will compete in the 47.39k trail race to be held over a rugged course in the centre of the Spanish island.

The national team trial is to be held in conjunction with the Three Peaks race on April 30.

And Cooper will be faced with a challenging course which covers 37.4k with 1608 metres of ascent and descent as it crosses the well-known Yorkshire Dales mountains of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.

The first two across the line in the women’s division will be guaranteed a place on the GB team if selectors consider they are capable of finishing in the top 12 at the European championships.

They may also be picked if they are believed to have the potential to form a medal winning team. And if that’s the case, a further two individual places may be filled based on other known form.

Cooper, who was selected for last year’s world ultra distance trail running championships in Thailand, which have been postponed until this coming November, knows she faces a tough assignment.

She said: “I’m going to give it a go although I’m under no illusions about how hard it will be. There will be a lot of competition for places but hopefully I can do enough.

“I’ve got a GB training camp in the Lake District at the beginning of April so at the end of that I plan to head off down to Yorkshire to check out the course.

“It might be a bit too short and hilly for me, but it offers a different challenge which will be good.”

Cooper won last year’s British ultra long distance trail running championship race and followed that up with an impressive performance at the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc Running festival where she finished sixth in the 101k CCC race.

She has recently returned from Gran Canaria where she again performed well against international opposition, finishing fourth in a 62k trail run.

Cooper clocked 6hr 38min 37secs while Switzerland’s Ariane Wilhelm won in 6:06:16.

She said: “I was pleased with my run especially as the conditions were so brutal. I have never experienced anything like it during the first four hours on the higher parts of the course.

“It was cold, wet and windy, there was lots of mud and it was very slippery. Temperatures were no more than 4C.

“Then when we dropped below 1500m the sun came out, there were blue skies and the temperature soared to 24C.”

In anticipation of the warm weather Cooper had acclimatised at home by sitting in a sauna or a hot bath for 30 minutes every day during her build-up to the Spanish run.

She said: “Even although it was cold for a big part of the race I still feel it was worth spending time in the sauna and bath as I’m sure it helped me when we were running in the hotter conditions. I actually made up 10 minutes on the girl who finished fifth over the final 14k of the race.”

Although Cooper is keen to make a return trip to the Canary Islands for the European championships she is more focussed on the world championships later in the year.

She said: “I’m keen to do both the Europeans and the worlds. But if I don’t get to the Europeans I’ll look for another race in late June-early July. Then I’ll go back to UTMB in August before hopefully heading for the worlds in November.

“I was selected for Thailand last year after winning the British championships but there’s not going to be a trial this time around.

“The selectors have said that last year’s performances will be taken into account but we have to show form in similar events this year as well.

“So, my result in Gran Canaria will be taken into account along with anything else I do between now and August.”

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