MOORFOOTS international Sarah McCormack took third place in the Irish European Cross-country trials just outside Dublin on Sunday, and has been duly selected for what will be her biggest athletics test yet – the European Cross-country Championships in Hungary on Sunday, December 9.
McCormack, 25, told TheSouthern: “I didn’t have the best of runs, to be honest, as I was struggling with a tummy upset going into the race and it definitely affected my performance, but I’m delighted to be selected and know I can improve on that showing.”
With defending European champion Fionulla Britton racing in France, but guaranteed her place in the team, McCormack thought there were four more places up for grabs for the team of five in what promised to be a very competitive trial.
However, a further two of the top contenders for the team were absent from the start line, and with only the first two in the trial guaranteed selection, it was touch and go whether her third-place finish would be enough to get the nod.
In the end, though, perhaps taking account of how competitive the team could be for a medal, the selectors announced a maximum team of six (five to count) with Sarah’s name inked in for the trip to Budapest.
McCormack, who takes her Irish roots from her dad, whose family were born and raised in Dublin, has lived in Peebles for the past two years. She is currently doing a PhD in ecology at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at the Bush Estate, Penicuik.
“I wanted to live somewhere where I could run in the hills every day,” she added.
“My favourite aspects of training in the Borders are the lovely hills and trails, and training with my club, the Moorfoot Runners, and their coach Gregor Nicholson.”
Looking ahead to the European Championships, McCormack told us: “My tummy’s a lot better now so I am hoping to have a better race in Hungary. The prospect is really exciting, but at the moment I am just focusing on doing everything I can to make sure I am on top form on the day.
“Preparation involves slightly lower mileage than I’m used to (usually 80 miles per week plus strength and flexibility work) so that I’ll be fresh on the day, but more stretching, icing and foam rolling.
“In the actual race I’d like to try to pack up and work together with some of the other Irish girls because I think we have a very strong team this year and together could place well.”
McCormack made her international debut for Ireland at the European Mountain Running Championships on Mount Uludag near Bursa in Turkey last year, where she finished 42nd and was top Irish finisher in 56.33.
Two months later, her mental strength and fortitude were tested even further when she competed in her first World Championships in Tirana, Albania. McCormack proved her elite status when she finished in 37th, first Irish finisher, despite turning an ankle on what others had described as a very dangerous course.
Last May, she showed her versatility when she produced arguably the best finish of the British Universities Championships to claim the women’s 10,000m in London’s new Olympic Stadium and in July she returned to the mountains of Turkey, where she notched an eighth-place finish for Ireland in the European Championships.
And the fiesty Irish lass doesn’t intend to rest on her laurels through the winter.
“I’d like to get one more road 10km race in before Christmas, to try to improve my 10km PB this year, and then I’ll have a week off near the end of December before getting back into some more mountain-based training.” she added.