Scottish 400m sprint champion Kelsey Stewart openly admits to having no great love for cross country running.
But the Stonehaven-based athlete believes it’s one of those necessary evils which just might propel her to more success on the track in the future.
Stewart has her heart set on representing Great Britain in either the 400m or 800m at next July’s European under-23 championships at Gävle in Sweden.
The journey to Scandinavia begins this weekend, however, in the grounds of Glamis Castle where the she will represent Aberdeen AAC in the Scottish East District 4x4km cross country relay championships.
The bumpy ground, occasional muddy patches and a twisty, undulating course make for a very different environment from the level, hi-tech, all-weather tracks Stewart is more used to.
She said: “I’m doing a few cross country races during the first part of the winter season to build up my endurance base.
“I guess it’s all about toughening me up mentally as well, but it will be hard.
“Apart from Glamis I’ll be running in the national relays at Cumbernauld later in the month, then the national 4km championships at Lanark in November.
“I don’t think there are too many 400m runners in this country who take part in cross country races but I feel I need to do this.
“I’ll probably be focusing more on the 800m next summer than I have in the past, so I need that extra endurance.
“It’s also good to be running in a competitive event as part of a team rather than going for a long run on my own.
“The team members all come from different backgrounds.Anisha Badial is a good hill runner, then we have Anne Howie, who competes in a lot of masters events, and a young athlete Holly Morrison. It’s an interesting mix.”
Stewart, pictured, makes no secret of the fact she’ll be delighted when this phase of her training programme is complete.
She said: “I’ve done some cross country before and it is horrible. But I just keep telling myself that I’ll get the benefits next summer.”
Stewart doesn’t plan to have a big indoor season this winter, although she will fit in a few races of varying distances.
She said: “Probably the only 800m I’ll do is at the British universities and colleges championships. That will give me something to focus on over the next few months.
“I don’t really enjoy running indoors so I’m not going to make it a big season.
“I’ll do some 60m races at a few of the Aberdeen Sports Village indoor meetings as these will keep me sharp.
“The main aim is to get through the winter injury free and healthy, then I’ll focus on what to prioritise next summer.
“My target is the European U23 championships but it’s far too early to say whether I’ll go for the 400m or 800m.
“I’ll see where I’m at come the end of the winter.
“There’s no point in getting too far ahead of yourself at this stage.”
The north-east’s cross country race programme opens with Banchory Stonehaven AC’s open meeting at Knockburn Loch on November 4, with a series of races for all age groups.
That’s followed by the Gathimba Edwards meeting at Haddo House on January 27, then the NESAP event at Aberdeen’s Balgownie playing fields on February 17.