Athletics: Cooper building in Aberdeenshire towards the Grand Trail de Templiers 80km race in France


Meryl Cooper of Aberdeenshire is hoping to return to serious racing by heading to France later this year.The British ultra-distance racing international plans to compete in the 80km Grand Trail de Templiers at Millau in the Causse Noir region in mid-October.

Cooper, who works part-time as a teacher in Gran Canaria, has spent the last four months of confinement at his home in Scotland.

The Oldmeldrum athlete has not raced since the start of March when she won the Transgrancanaria 30km race and now wants to get back into the competitive rhythm.

She said: “All the races I was hoping to do this year have been canceled, but the Templar event seems to be going on, so my fingers crossed.

“There is a series of races of different lengths there, but the 80km is the main one with the best runners. It’s full at the moment so I had to get into one of the others, the 106 km.

“However, I have been in contact with the organizers to ask them if they could give me a place in the 80 km. I would love to do so, but have yet to receive a response.

“If I don’t get in the 80 km, I will stick to the 106 km because I will do all the races I can get.

“It’s not an easy place to get to, especially since by then I’ll be back in Gran Canaria, but it will be worth it. I am making it my main target for the moment. ”

Cooper keeps all of his options open. Although race organizers work hard to organize events, there remains a great deal of uncertainty about what might and might not be allowed.

She said: “There are a few other races that interest me, but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

“I was invited to participate in the Eurafrica stage race at the end of October / beginning of November. It claims to be the only race in the world between two continents with stages in Spain, Gibraltar and Morocco.

“But, because of the restrictions, if it happens this year, everything will take place in Spain.

“There is also a 94 km ultra trail race in Lanzarote in November, but the organizers are a little vague at the moment on what is going on about it.

“The mountain running world championships are to be held there at the same time and I was interested in putting my hat in the ring for the British selection for the 42km long distance race.

“But my trainer suggested not to do this because he thinks I should focus on longer trail runs for now, so I’m going with that advice.

Cooper will return to his Spanish island later this month as his school term begins again in September.

She hopes to be able to win one or two smaller competitions in the weeks leading up to the Templar race.

She said: “There might be a 20km track race in Las Palmas at the beginning of September so this is the one I’m watching.

“I have a lot of potential races in the latter part of the year, but if none of them finish I will spend more time doing a reconnaissance of the 120 km course that will be used in the Transgrancanaria event. 2021.

“It’s scheduled for next February.”

Mo Farah Physio helps keep Meryl in the race

The physiotherapist who kept Mo Farah on track helped ultra northeast runner Meryl Cooper with an annoying leg issue.

David Mason, who is based in Manchester, has worked with Farah and other members of the UK athletics team at a number of major events over the past decade.

Cooper, who made his GB debut at the 2019 Ultra Trail Running World Championships, sought Mason’s advice for a pain in his lower leg that was causing him anxiety.

The Oldmeldrum athlete said: “My training went well, but I had a lot of pain in the soleus muscle at the start of a lot of my runs.

“It would calm down eventually, but it was very uncomfortable.

“So I took the opportunity 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 gluteal weakness, so I worked on that.

“I increased my strength and increased my conditioning and I am doing weights, which I had never used before.

“I also need to warm up properly before training.”

Meryl added, “The soleus problem was worse when I was training in Bennachie because I started by going straight into a climb.

“Now I have to run a kilometer or two on the flat before doing a severe uphill run.”


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