Mhairi Maclennan is a cross country and 10,000m runner, as well as co-founder of Kyniska Advocacy, a non-profit organisation advocating for progressive policies in women’s sport. Take a look at her story…


Tell us about yourself and how you got into your sport?

I was about 10 years old and the school janitor, Mr Sloggie, was running lunch-time cross country running training. I was coaxed into taking part by a classmate and loved the level playing field between boys and girls, and the purity of just pushing yourself to exhaustion around a field – there was something very pure about it. 


What is your training schedule?

I train every day of the week except Fridays (normally), I have 2 core running  workouts with one lighter workout, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Every other day is an easy run, with Sunday being long (up to 23km/16 miles). I also do 2 weights sessions a week, on Mondays and Thursdays.


Have you got a career highlight and lowlight?

My highlight was competing at the World Cross Country Championships for GB in March 2019, Aarhus, Denmark and finishing 2nd Brit, 8th European and 32nd overall. 


My lowlight was between August 2019 – December 2020 really. I was struggling with having sported my previous coach for sexual misconduct and abuse which had a direct impact on my enjoyment of the sport. I couldn’t detangle the web of emotions I now had and feeling like my previous achievements were somehow tarnished by it all. The pandemic actually gave me the opportunity to step away from the sport and go back to why I started in the first place, I was living back in the Highlands of Scotland in March 2020 which helped me to distance myself from destructive behaviour patterns I had gotten into and refresh and reset my passion for athletics. 


Who was your role model growing up?

I’m not sure I had much of a role model growing up – I suppose I looked up to any sporting woman doing well in what she was doing. I remember finding Paula Radcliffe inspirational, as well as Jessica Ennis. Now, my coach, Helen Clitheroe, is my daily inspiration. She is an Olympian and a commonwealth medallist and it’s amazing to be guided by someone with such a wealth of experience. 


What skills have you learnt in your sport that you take into everyday life?

Sport teaches you resilience. It teaches you that life is full of ups and downs and that these are part and parcel of the experience. Sport teaches you dedication, determination, goal-setting, time management, people skills and so much more. Sport is essentially an intense and charged microcosm of the real world where there are high stakes on everything.


Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time? 

In 5 years time I’ll be 31 and I would like to have competed at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, and it would be amazing to be at the 2024 Olympic Games (although that’s a bit of a pipe dream at the moment). My career outside of athletics is also really important to me, so I aim to have Kynsika Advocacy, my non-profit organisation co-founded with Kate Seary, fully up and running and to have implemented policy changes across UK sport to better protect, respect and celebrate women’s sport. 


Tips for young athletes wanting to make it to the top?

Enjoyment is key. If you don’t love and enjoy what you do, there is no point in doing it. Always have clear who you are doing sport for, and if the answer isn’t for yourself, you should take stock and reassess. Getting to the top is an admirable and commendable goal, but focus on the process, and trust in it. 

Favourite motivational quote?

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

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