Inverness athlete Megan Keith’s remarkable season continued in style as she cruised to victory in the European Cross Country Championships.
Keith was a strong favourite for the event after a dominant run in the women’s trial race in Liverpool but the 21-year-old led from gun to tape as she won the women’s under-23 7,000m race by a stunning 1min 23sec in Brussels.
Illona Mononen was second ahead of Finnish team-mate Nathalie Blomqvist.
The biggest previous winning margin in championship history in any race was 39 seconds.
Keith, who won the under-20 gold medal in 2021 and claimed silver in Turin in the under-23 event last year, cruised home in a time of 25:32 to clinch gold and cap an outstanding 2023.
She told Athletics Weekly: “I was thinking on my feet as I went. I knew I could pay the price if I went too early on the course and I was intending to have a more relaxed first few laps then work from there.
“But I was alone so I rejigged my plan and thought if I worked hard on the middle laps I could enjoy the last ones and that’s how it went today.
“It is all about trying to separate the speed your legs work at from the speed your brain works at so I’m happy I could have my legs moving quickly yet still have my brain working on my best game plan.
“It was quite a good course to stay focused on as it was up and down, twisty-turny, but I was having a harder time at the top of the hill as that was where my family and coach were screaming their heads off.
“Apart from the barrier I very nearly went into at the end it was great.
“I spotted the Tartan Army on the home straight and they are so good at screaming and shouting at every race and they needed a high five so it was lovely to be able to enjoy it out there.”
Keith making plans for 2024
"I knew you could pay the price if you went too hard, too early on a course like this. But I rejigged my plan a bit during the race!"
– Megan Keith after winning the U23 women's gold at the Euro Cross by 83sec.
— AW (@AthleticsWeekly) December 10, 2023
The Inverness runner won gold in the women’s 5,000m at the European under-23 Championships in Finland and made her World Athletics Championships debut in August in Budapest.
U23 WOMEN ARE EUROPEAN TEAM CHAMPS!!!
— British Athletics (@BritAthletics) December 10, 2023
It was a day of double celebration for Keith as Great Britain claimed the team championship gold too with Keith’s win followed by Alexandra Millard’s 11th place finish ahead of Eloise Walker (15), Tia Wilson (34), Lynn McKenna (35) and Olivia Mason (44).
Keith had anticipated the event bringing the curtain down on her cross country career but she has refused to close the door just yet as she turns her attention to 2024.
She said: “Plan A is that this would be the end of cross country but we’ll need to sit down and work out what happens because it does have a special place in my heart.
“But we are eyeing up track as well.”