Meryl Cooper on Trail and Ultra Running

The story of Coast to Coast Dubai

December is typically a quiet month in the running calendar but Meryl Cooper and her exploits in the UAE certainly go against the grain.

A PE teacher by day but running obsessive by morning, night and whenever she is free to run, Meryl’s rapid rise in trail and ultra running is in some respects only just beginning.

Last year, the Dubai-based runner – who by her own admission has only really taken running ‘seriously’ over the past two years – secured her breakthrough moment on the global stage.

The 32-year-old, who hails from Scotland, was the first female over the finish line in last July’s coveted Grossglockner 75km trail event.

Her triumph, which saw her saunter through the most scenic parts of the Glockner region in the Austrian mountains, was simply stunning.

Winning habit: Meryl Cooper is mixing it with the best in the business.

Having witnessed, first-hand, the supreme work ethic and dedication the ASICS-sponsored FrontRunner applies to her running, this achievement was of no real surprise. Even so.

Indeed, she followed that medal with a third-place finish, among females, at the Ultra Trail Cape Town (65km), held at the beginning of December 2018.

For most people, that would have been the perfect crescendo to the year but not for Meryl.

It would be unjust against those superb accomplishments to say she went one further in her next challenge, but remarkably she ended last year on perhaps an even bigger high.

And here, she tells all to Marathon Running Training.

Coast to Coast Dubai was one of the toughest challenges I have experienced so far in my running career.

I don’t say that lightly, especially given the fact I’ve ran some pretty crazy ultra-trail marathon events over the past 18 months.

This latest challenge, which was organised by ASICS, was unique in the sense it was an all female team of FrontRunners chosen from around the globe to take on the run of all runs.

I was lucky to be selected as one of seven females and on December 18th we set off from Dubai on our journey to reach the Oman coast, running for four days, back to back, back to back.

In total, we covered 177 kilometres each – which is the equivalent of running just over one marathon a day for four straight days.

We ran over 3,500 metres of elevation and along sand dunes and mountains in the UAE winter heat – which is still warm, around 25 to 30 degrees, compared to most places in the world.

The biggest challenge for me was running at a pace which was much slower than what I am usually comfortable running at.

However, it was a team challenge and we weren’t going to leave anyone behind!

Having fortunately been injury-free for a while now (touch wood), during the coast to coast run, I started to hurt in all sorts of places.

In my other races, I’ve been lucky to run pretty pain free so this was a real test of my mental strength.

A remarkable journey: Coast to Coast Dubai.

On top of that, technically we ran further, as a group, than the planned distance given we were the first people to run the full route.

The biggest highlight for me as a runner, who generally trains with men, was to be surrounded by a big group of like-minded females each day – all of whom shared the same passion and were as determined and optimistic as I aim to be every day.

It was incredibly refreshing, inspiring and has motivated me to work even harder.

Some of the team had never ran a marathon before and there they were, transformed almost overnight into ultra-marathon runners.

Each day started with 4.30am alarms and no one complained!

These girls were super strong – both mentally and physically. Considering none of us had met properly before the challenge, we got on incredibly well and I can only guess that running has shaped such admirable characters.

There were ups and downs for all of us but I think generally many more ups. To have successfully completed this challenge as a team will be a memory I won’t forget.

Each day was so different and, as a Dubai resident, it was incredible to share my amazing training grounds with the girls.

We are already in discussions and planning the next possible challenge we can do as a team!


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