Travel trauma fails to stop Sarah securing Euro gold

PEEBLES runner Sarah McCormack overcame a flight cancellation, a sleep-deprived night and sub-zero temperatures to scoop a European Cross Country gold medal in Hungary, writes Kenny Paterson.

The 26-year-old was part of the successful Ireland women’s squad which came home first around a freezing Budapest course on Sunday.

McCormack battled to 36th place in the 54-women field, but did well just to make the start line after a series of travel setbacks.

The Moorfoot Runner told TheSouthern: “I had my first flight cancelled two days before I was set to leave. The next day my flight from London was delayed so I missed my connection to Budapest, meaning I did not arrive until 11.30pm the night before the race.

“It was a bit of a nightmare, but a lot of the teams suffered travel delays because of a fire at Budapest Airport, including my Irish colleagues who had to get a flight to Vienna.

“I managed to get six hours’ sleep, but I am an early riser anyway so it didn’t affect me too much.”

The Irish team of six included Fionnuala Britton, who claimed the individual gold medal for the second successive year. The sextet’s points total edged out France on count-back, with Great Britain claiming bronze.

Although not happy with her own showing, McCormack, who earlier this year finished eighth in the European Mountain Running Championships in Turkey and 15th in the World event in Italy, was delighted to bring a gold back to the Borders.

The ecology student told us: “The temperature was minus six and the snow made it tricky underfoot. I was disappointed with my run, but the conditions did not really suit me.

“I have gone from the heat of Turkey to the cold of Hungary – I always seem to run in extreme conditions.

“Everyone is really excited back in Ireland, particularly as no-one has ever won back-to-back European Cross Country titles, as Fionnuala has.

“We were fortunate that all the girls in the Irish team were fit and had avoided injuries. It also helped that three of the squad were Olympians.”

As for her hopes for 2013, McCormack added: “I am just looking to perform as well as I have this year and hope to make the Euro and World Mountain Running championships again.”