Aberdeenshire’s Meryl Cooper hopes to get back to some serious racing by travelling to France later in the year.
The Great Britain ultra-distance running international plans to compete in the Grand Trail de Templiers 80km race at Millau in the Black Causse region in mid-October.
Cooper, who works part-time as a teacher in Gran Canaria, has spent the past four months of the lockdown back home in Scotland.
The Oldmeldrum athlete hasn’t raced since the beginning of March when she won the Transgrancanaria 30km race and is now keen to get back into the competitive groove.
She said: “All the races I’d hoped to do this year have been cancelled, but the Templier event looks like it will go ahead, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
“There’s a series of races of different length over there, but the 80km is the main one with the best runners. It’s full at the moment so I’ve had to enter one of the others, the 106km.
“However, I’ve been in contact with the organisers to ask if they can give me a place in the 80km. I’d love to do it, but I haven’t heard back yet.
“If I don’t get into the 80km I’ll stick with the 106km as I’ll do any race I can get.
“It’s not an easy place to get to, especially as by then I’ll be back in Gran Canaria, but it will be worth the effort. I’m making it my main target for now.”
Cooper is keeping all her options open. Although race organisers are working hard in an effort to put events on, there remains great uncertainty over what might or might not be allowed to go ahead.
She said: “There’s a few other races I’m interested in doing, but we’ll just have to wait to see what happens.
“I was invited to compete in the Eurafrica stage race in late October/early November. It claims to be the only race in the world between two continents with stages in Spain, Gibraltar and Morocco.
“But, because of restrictions, if it goes ahead this year it will all take place in Spain.
“There’s also a 94km ultra trail race in Lanzarote in November, but the organisers are a bit vague at the moment as to what’s happening about it.
“The world mountain running championships are due to be held there at the same time and I was interested in putting my hat into the ring for GB selection for the long distance 42km race.
“But my coach suggested not to do that as he feels I should concentrate on the longer trail races for now, so I’m going with that advice.”
Cooper will return to her Spanish island base later this month as her school term begins again in September.
She hopes she might be able to pick up one or two smaller competitions in the weeks before the Templier race.
She said: “There’s possibly a 20K trail race in Las Palmas in early September, so that’s one I have my eye on.
“I have a lot of potential races in the latter part of the year, but if none of them come off I’ll spend more time doing a recce of the 120km course to be used in the 2021 Transgrancanaria event.
“That’s scheduled for next February.”
Mo Farah physio helps keep Meryl in the running
The physiotherapist who kept Mo Farah on track has helped north-east ultra runner Meryl Cooper crack a troublesome leg problem.
David Mason, who is based in Manchester, has worked with Farah and other members of the Great Britain athletics team at a number of major events over the past decade.
Cooper, who made her GB debut in the 2019 World Ultra Trail Running Championships, sought Mason’s advice for a lower-leg pain which was causing her some anguish.
The Oldmeldrum athlete said: “My training has been going well, but I’d been getting a lot of pain in my soleus muscle at the start of a lot of my runs.
“It would eventually ease off, but it was very uncomfortable.
“So I took the chance to get an assessment from Duncan, who I knew had treated Mo Farah, and he was really good.
“He pointed out that part of the problem was my weak glutes so I’ve been working on that.
“I’ve increased my strength and increased my conditioning and I’m doing weights, which is something I’ve never used before.
“I also need to warm-up properly before training.”
Meryl added: “The soleus problem was worst when I was training at Bennachie because I’d start off by going straight into an uphill run.
“Now I need to run for one or two kilometres on the flat before doing any severe uphill running.”