Meryl Cooper’s preparations for a possible trip to Thailand later in the year will begin on the shores of Loch Ness next month.
The Oldmeldrum athlete hopes to represent Great Britain in the world ultra trail championships at Chia Mia, 700k north of Bangkok in November.
The national team trial is expected to be held in the Lake District in June, but Cooper aims to tune up for that by competing in the Ultra X 50k Scotland race on May 9.
It starts at Fort Augustus and follows a trail which includes 1,343 metres of ascent and descent before finishing at Loch Ness beach, Dores.
Cooper said: “It’s a new race and they seem very confident it will go ahead. I’m just grateful they have given me an entry as it has been so long since I’ve competed.
“I don’t know much about the course yet, although it’s all off-road and will have a combination of technical and easier trails.”
Cooper made her Great Britain debut in the 2019 world ultra trail championships at Miranda do Corvo, Portugal two years ago and is keen to pull on national colours again.
She said: “My main focus at the moment is the Lakeland 100k in June as it’s possibly going to be the trial for the world championships in Thailand. I don’t think that’s been confirmed yet, but I want to be ready if it is.
“So, the Ultra X 50k will be an important training run for the Lakeland race. I need to practise all the things you need to practise in a racing environment as my last competition was the Bennachie 50k last October.”
Cooper showed her class at Bennachie by winning the women’s division of the race in a record time of 4:29:12. Only five men were quicker and she scythed more than 24mins off the previous best time set by Metro Aberdeen’s Siobhan Killingbeck in 2019.
Now she’s keen to blow away the racing cobwebs, but if the Loch Ness race doesn’t happen because of covid restrictions, she’s prepared to be adaptable.
She said: “If it doesn’t go ahead then I’ll need to find something else to give myself a real test. It might be a case of trying for a Fastest Known Time over some route. But I really don’t want my first race to be the world trial.”
The world championship race is to be held over an 80k course, but that’s no hardship for Cooper, who has experience of running much further.
In 2019, she finished 13th in the women’s division of the 101k Courmayeur-Champex-Chamonix, which is considered one of the world’s most prestigious trail running races.
She said: “The CCC is one of the toughest there is, and certainly has more elevation gain than the Lakeland one. I would like to run CCC again this August, but I have my doubts as to whether it will go ahead given the current situation.
“The Thailand race will be held in more humid conditions and it will certainly be hotter than here in Scotland.”
Cooper adopted a few innovative ways of maintaining her motivation throughout the latest lockdown and feels she’s getting into good shape for the challenges which lie ahead.
She said: “I’ve been really lucky in having some good people to train with when we were allowed to run with one other person.
“But I also set up a running community on Zoom. Fifteen of us meet up every Thursday for an hour and during that time we hold each other accountable for the training we are doing. That has been very good.
“I’m setting up a similar group for runners who are working towards this year’s Bennachie 50k. It will be a great way to share advice.
“The Great Britain selectors have also been keeping in touch offering support and encouragement.”
Dunnydeer race cancelled for second year
Insch Trail Running Club has been forced to cancel the Dunnydeer hill race for the second year in a row because of ongoing Covid restrictions.
It will, however, be replaced by a virtual race held on a slightly different course.
The virtual 7k Dunnydeer Dash will be free to enter, but anyone taking part is urged to make a donation to Friends of Insch hospital and community care service.
Full details can be found at The Virtual ITRC Dunnydeer Dash Virgin Money Giving Page.