From North League XC to Euro Cross – Megan Keith’s joyful journey

Monday 12th December 2022

Photo by Rebecca Nankivell

Silver lining for Megan at Euro Cross to lead GB to team golds

By Peter Jardine and Charles Bannerman

There was a certain symmetry in the North Cross Country League taking place on Saturday on the shores of Loch Ness at Dores.

Inverness Harriers were the host club for the latest meeting for a league which is this year celebrating its 50th year and does so much to meet the cross country craving of athletes – young and old alike – across  Highlands and the north of Scotland.

Less then 24 hours later, arguably the North League’s best-known ‘graduate’ was in Euro Cross action on the outskirts of Turin in northern Italy, as Megan Keith once again represented GB and NI across the hills and mud.

The 2021 European champion at U20 made the step-up to the Women’s U23 category and did so with consummate ease, surging around the Turin course alongside home favourite Nadia Battocletti before taking a superb individual silver medal.

Imperious Italian Battocletti, who finished sixth in the Olympics in 2021 and who now has four successive Euro Cross titles to her name (after two at U20), duly landed the gold by 13 seconds.

But Megan’s strong run guided GB and NI to the team gold ahead of the host nation with her British team-mate, Alex Millard, taking a fine bronze medal.

‘I really like Megan’s running style,’ enthused Steve Cram during the BBC commentary.

‘She is so strong and competitive and she isn’t frightened by reputations. Megan knows exactly how she wants to run and you love to see that.’

‘Megan’s development has been exciting but above all she runs for fun’ – coach Ross Cairns (after Euro Cross gold in December 2021

Megan keeps pace with Italy’s Nadia Battocletti and Ireland’s Sarah Healy in Turin (photo by Francesca Grana)

Paula Radcliffe was just as complimentary while Hannah England, working for European Athletics, spoke to the Scot for a pre-race podcast which highlighted ‘enjoyment’ as a key driver for the 20-year-old’s cross country exploits.

To Scottish observers, Italy was simply confirmation of an aggressive style and happy approach in the colours first of Inverness Harriers and then Edinburgh Uni Hare and Hounds at venues such as Falkirk, Perth, Cumbernauld and Kirkcaldy.

The initial staging posts, years earlier, were in North League XC matches at locations such as Forres, Caithness, Elgin and Evanton.

Inverness Harriers coach and local journalist, Charles Bannerman, has watched Megan’s career develop over the past decade or so.

‘When it comes to international selections, North District endurance running rather prides itself in punching well above its sparse population weight,’ writes Charles.

‘This is also something that seems to improve very much with age, since North athletes have been especially successful in making Scotland and Great Britain senior teams.

‘Megan appears very much to fit into that mould after a modest early career.

Photo by Rebecca Nankivell

Smiles better . . . ‘I love cross country and racing for me is all about enjoyment’ Megan told Hannah England last week in a podcast.

It’s been that way for almost 11 years with this photo (kindly supplied by Rebecca Nanikell) is from her first ever listed race at Evanton in the North League in January 2012 (aged nine).

Among the race winners that day: future GB and Scotland international athletes Kyle Greig, Mhairi Maclennan, Sean Chalmers and Constance Nankivell.


‘Megan came into the sport around the age of 10, but inspection of the quite thin early years of her Power of 10 profile reveals little of note – possibly commendably so, given her subsequent spectacular rise just when it really starts to matter.

‘That profile shows a few solid if not spectacular mid-teen performances in the North Cross Country League, but an unrequited four year quest to reach the top ten in the Scottish Inter-District cross country match.

‘Even as an U17, her career remained relatively unremarkable, but in that respect she is in good company . . . such as Laura Muir, Jake Wightman and one or two other luminaries.

‘Initially an almost a complete stranger to the track, she only ran her first race on one as an U20 but, by then under the wing of coach Ross Cairns, track training began to play an increasing role in her preparation.

‘That appears to have been a significant cornerstone in her development, and two years after that 2019 North District 5000 track debut at Queens Park, she only missed a European Junior 3000 medal by a whisker.

‘This in turn provided a gateway to European Junior cross country gold five months later, representing major progress for an athlete who, at 15, was still largely dabbling in local cross country races and parkruns.

‘Megan’s emergence has been very much along the sustainable pathway and her Turin triumph is just the latest step on what could be quite a long road.

‘She is also becoming used to the media spotlight . . .  including her name, globally in lights, in BBC Online’s pre-championship headline.

‘And Megan achieved further prominence (almost unprecedented in Scottish sports reporting!!) by even ousting the football as the lead story on BBC radio’s local sports bulletin for the Highlands and Islands the morning after her Italian job.’

Megan with her medals in Turin and joined by Scottish team-mates, Alice Goodall (on left) and Eloise Walker (photo by Mark Pollard).


Tags: Euro Cross, Inverness Harriers, Italy, Megan Keith, North League XC

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