Clare is British cross-country master

Date: Monday 27th March 2017
Clare McKeown
Clare McKeown

A PENRITH runner has been crowned the over-45 women’s champion at the British Masters Athletics Federation (BMAF) Open Cross-Country Championships in Liverpool.

Clare McKeown, aged 45, of Brougham, took part in the event, held at the city’s Wavertree sports ground, and battled her way through almost horizontal rain — which never let up for the whole race — to record a time of 25.02 for the 6.2km course, which made her first over-45 and sixth overall.

The course provided a fairly fast, flat and open surface, but it was extremely waterlogged.

Racing alongside women aged 35 and above, Clare, who was running for Border Harriers, led the over-45 category from start to finish. By lap two, she led her nearest over-45 rival by around 70 metres.

“I focused on the four younger girls ahead of me,” said Clare. “I just tried to stick on their heels and hoped the gap between me and the other girls in my category would widen — luckily it did.”

It was her first victory in the BMAF cross-country event, having finished third in the over-40 category two years ago in Wales.

She has competed at the BMAF track and field championships in Birmingham, previously winning the over-35 1,500m title.

Clare said: “If all goes to plan and I can stay injury free, I hope to take part in the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge at the end of April and, who knows, if I keep getting the right results I might get selection for the British and Irish masters cross-country international at Derry, in Northern Ireland, in November.”

Clare started running at the age of 11, racing for school, Eden district and Cumbria. After two years at Penrith’s Ullswater High School, she moved to the town’s Queen Elizabeth Grammar School.

In the mid-1980s Clare’s father, David Young, set up an athletics training group with Pam Simpson, which was linked to Carlisle Athletics Club.

Clare said: “A group of us then began competing regularly for the club, training mainly at Ullswater School, with regular trips to the Sheepmount, Carlisle, in the winter, as Penrith lacked a track with floodlights, which it still does today.

“At a similar time I was also keen to tag along with my dad on his Saturday fell walk/run outings. I try to keep this tradition going and now do most of my training off road on the Lake District fells.”

Clare’s mother, Christine, transported her the length and breadth of Britain to race, including a day trip to Aberdeen to take part in the Scottish national road relays.

“I managed to find some Scottish ancestry and was selected to race for Scotland in a junior home nations cross-country event,” said Clare. “I didn’t do that well to be honest, but it was a great experience.”

In 1994, she joined Border Harriers and enjoyed competing in the British Athletics League for many years, mainly at 800m and 1500m, running at many of the country’s major stadiums.

Clare is married to Paul and they have two daughters, Mia, aged 12, and 10-year-old Eve.

“The girls take part in lots of sports, but haven’t quite got the running bug yet,” added Clare.