Anna MacFadyen scampered deftly among the peaks of the Pyrenees but barely paused to appreciate the spectacular vista. To one side stretched a picturesque panorama of south-west France, to the other, the winding northern coastline of Spain. The rugged rockscape of Andorra brings climbers in the summer and skiers in the snow. For the teenager from the Highlands however, this was strictly a business trip within a leisure playground.
Finishing 29th in September’s world mountain running championships in the lofty citadel of Canillo was no comedown following the silver the 19-year-old had claimed at the European version in Skopje just three months before. Such arduous application involves running to compete, she insists, but also to relish and invigorate.
“I love the hills,” she declares. “It’s so different from other types of running and so satisfying. It’s more chilled than cross-country, even though that’s my favourite.
“The views are amazing. You don’t appreciate them during a race – at least you shouldn’t – but there’s time before and after a race to take it in. During it, there’s too much pain. Mentally you have to push yourself to get to the top. And it’s a different kind of trauma.”
Many who have traipsed through mud and spluttered around hillsides and dales would declare cross-country to be nothing short of a prime ordeal. Easy-peasy, comparatively, MacFadyen hints. No bad thing, this weekend, in the Dutch city of Tilburg where she joins Jamie Williamson in a small Scots cluster in the British squad for tomorrow’s European cross-country championships.
Dominance, or at least reasonable superiority, in the medal standings is expected once again despite the absence of established Caledonian cross specialists like Callum Hawkins and Steph Twell. Yet this terrain is equally MacFadyen’s forte, having ranked as the fifth junior at the recent trials in Liverpool while sneaking just inside the top 50 at last year’s global edition in Kampala.
That Ugandan adventure, like many of her odysseys to altitude, brings back sweet memories. Of the fray, of the senses, of an event transported to the continent from whence the recent leviathans of the specialism have emerged.
“It was my first GB vest and that’s exciting,” she reflects. “The race was really tough because it was so hot and it was so fast but I loved it. We didn’t get much chance to see the country but it was so different. Even the bus from the airport was different. We got a chance of a visit to a market the next day and that was a little taste of the place. But everything sticks in the memory and it was so exciting.”
A student of Law and French at the University of Edinburgh, MacFadyen is far from a one or two trick pony. An accomplished horsewoman, she has been competing successfully in equestrian events since her childhood with stables on hand at her parental home in Forres.
“It’s through that I got into running,” she confesses. “Because I tried tetrathlon which is shooting, riding, running and swimming. I still love eventing but it’s becoming harder to fit everything in and it might be even trickier in the future. I have two horses, Tinker and Lily and I compete on both. I’ve been riding since I was four and it’s part of my life.”
Two options should she take aim at the summit of an Olympics. Aiming high, her mind is set. “If I had to choose one sport, it would be running. That’s the one I’d miss more.”
Dundee Hawkhill Harriers Kris Jones was yesterday handed a late call-up for Tilburg for GB&NI’s senior men’s team.
Source : HeraldScotland