Megan Keith on the European Cross Country Championships
MEGAN KEITH’s love for cross country racing was nurtured by countless races in the Highlands during his youth.
At the time, it was just a hobby; these days, however, Keith has established himself as one of the UK’s most promising young talents.
And today, she wants to prove that she can compete with – and potentially beat – the best that Europe has to offer.
Today the European Cross Country Championships are held in Dublin and Keith is one of six Scots selected for the GB team; she is part of the Under-20 team and is joined by Olympian Andy Butchart and Jamie Crowe in the senior men’s race, Eloise Walker is in the Under-23 race while Hamish Armitt and Lewis Hannigan will compete in the the male category under 20 years old.
In what is an important area, few of them are getting into the kind of momentum that Keith has generated over the past two months.
Four cross-country outings resulted in four victories in the Under-20 category, including a Scottish title and a victory two weeks ago in the European Championship trials.
Today will be Keith’s second appearance in this event and having finished 27th in her previous outing two years ago, she is confident she will be much closer to the front this time around and, all going as planned, might just be looking for silverware.
“Things went as well as I could have hoped for this season, but that’s what I thought I was capable of,” said the 19-year-old.
âAt the last Europeans I was young but I also ran very stupidly – I got completely carried away and started much faster than I should have.
“This is how we learn and so this time I’m so much more experienced and I will come in with a much more composed mindset.
âI would like to think that on a perfect day I would be able to win a medal, but in cross country you never know what’s going to happen.
âReally you just have to try to run as hard as you can and then see what happens. ”
His success in this season’s cross country events is no surprise given his form to come this winter. Over the course of a few months in the summer, she set personal bests on the track in the 1500m, 3000m and 5000m, all with huge margins.
This improvement signaled a significant physical leap forward, but more than that, Keith believes it’s a change of mindset that has allowed him to make such progress.
âBefore, I hated track racing. I really hate it, âshe said.
âI grew up running in the countryside and in Inverness and just didn’t see the appeal of running in circles on a track.
âBut in the last year or so my coach has convinced me to take the track more seriously and so we went to the races in Glasgow with more riders and that helped me have a good time.
“It was definitely my head holding me back on the track rather than something physical and now I’m looking forward to the track sessions and that has helped me a lot in my race.”
Keith’s most notable result over the summer was a fourth place finish in the 3000m at the European Junior Championships, missing bronze by just three hundredths of a second.
She came out of this championship with mixed feelings and that disappointment may have been the key to her success this winter.
âI had very mixed feelings about the European Junior Championships. If you had told me ahead of time that I would be fourth I would have jumped on it, but when it was so close it was pretty heartbreaking, âshe says.
âIt’s a little cheesy to say, but it definitely added fuel to the fire for me. I know what it takes now and also, I would like to think that I have what it takes.
Keith, who recently moved to the capital to study sports science at the University of Edinburgh, is far from a one-ride pony; she also represents Scotland and Great Britain in orienteering, with only the fact that the pandemic has caused far more damage to the orienteering calendar than the athletics calendar is the reason she’s is focused so heavily on athletics over the past year or so.
Despite her recent success in athletics, she still has plenty of eggs in both baskets. But, with her run going so well, she is likely to prioritize athletics over the next few months and although the Commonwealth Games standard for the 5,000m is still much faster than her current best, its recent rate of improvement suggests that nothing is impossible.
“I don’t have huge expectations to compete in the Commonwealth Games, but it will be good to see how close I can get to the norm because I would like to think I can lower my MUAC a bit more,” she says. .
“It will also give me a good experience because when the Commonwealth Games return in four years, I will have a much better idea of ââwhat to expect.”