South Africa’s Meg Mackenzie looks to continue her recent Golden Trail Series success at the Pikes Peak Marathon. In our first interview with Meg, she talks about her history with sport, when she got into trail running, and what she credits her recent success to.
Meg Mackenzie Pre-2019 Pikes Peak Marathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Meg Mackenzie before the 2019 Pikes Peak Marathon. How are you?
Meg Mackenzie: I’m good. Thank you so much for having me.
iRunFar: Welcome to Colorado.
Mackenzie: Thank you, first time here.
iRunFar: How long have you been here?
Mackenzie: Just over two weeks now.
iRunFar: Nice. So you’ve had some time to enjoy the state.
Mackenzie: Yeah, and acclimatize hopefully.
iRunFar: Hopefully. Where have you been staying here in Colorado?
Mackenzie: Well I started off in Boulder and then I went up to Nederland, and then I came here. So I checked out the course and had some altitude.
iRunFar: You have had some altitude. Sort of baseline in Boulder but also up in Nederland, a little higher.
Mackenzie: Yeah, it’s 2,600 [meters] I think, which is quite a bit.
iRunFar: Which is significant because you’ve spent, we were just chatting off camera, most of your year over in Europe. Or most of your summer, excuse me.
Mackenzie: Yeah, so most of that’s been like 1,000 [meters], maybe up to 2,000 kind of things. Not really high at all.
iRunFar: So have you felt it when you’ve been running high on Pikes Peak?
Mackenzie: Yeah. Yeah. So as soon as I got here and I did a couple of really high peaks, and then I ran to the summit and did a little run around there, and I could feel it for sure. It’s crazy.
iRunFar: Coming down will be nice, right?
Mackenzie: Once I get down to like 3,000 it feels better.
iRunFar: Gotcha’. Well let’s back up a little bit because we’ve not interviewed you before. Let me know what your background with sport is, like how did you, were you a youngster, an athlete?
Mackenzie: Yeah, I’ve kind of been running my whole life. My whole family are runners, so I didn’t really have a choice. I did cross country at school and then I started trail running about 2010-ish.
iRunFar: Yeah? So quite a while.
iRunFar: How did you make that transition? Did you do athletics when you also did cross country?
Mackenzie: No, just cross country.
iRunFar: So you’ve been…
Mackenzie: And field hockey. Yeah.
iRunFar: But you were always enjoying that.
Mackenzie: Always outdoorsy and sporty and then I raced quite a bit in South Africa, and then my first race in Europe was Sierre-Zinal in 2016 I think. Or no, I did Zermatt [Marathon] in 2015, and I’ve kind of been coming and going since then. Last year was my full first international season.
iRunFar: Yeah, the last two years you’ve focused on the Golden Trail Series.
Mackenzie: Yeah, exactly.
iRunFar: And I guess that’s kind of been an opportunity to get to see those big European races, more of them.
Mackenzie: Yeah, and race against high level competition.
iRunFar: There are a lot of, we’ve interviewed a bunch of South Africans before, there are a lot of strong runners, but it’s one community.
iRunFar: It’s quite isolated geographically in terms of getting to other big races.
Mackenzie: Completely. And it’s hard for South Africans to get places. It’s a long travel and stuff like that, so.
iRunFar: So when you were first starting racing at trail racing in South Africa, I assume you’ve done Otter Trail a couple times.
Mackenzie: Yes, I think I’ve done it five or six times.
iRunFar: Totally off topic but what was the difference between last year’s course and the normal course, because there’s a difference.
Mackenzie: So they just switch it every year. Sometimes they run it east to west and then west to east.
iRunFar: But there was no other.
iRunFar: It was some modification of the name I think.
Mackenzie: Yes, it’s just spell it backward, like Otter the classic way, and then Retto is Otter spelled backward.
iRunFar: There you go. I learn something every day. I love it.
Mackenzie: That’s all that changes.
iRunFar: So you’ve been running for a long time, but you’re still improving. I’m just noticing, looking at your results, if you look at Sierre-Zinal, and Mont Blanc Marathon, you’re getting stronger. What’s the basis for that? What have you changed the last couple years?
Mackenzie: I’ve put it mostly down to having my coach, so David Roche has been my coach for three and a half years and I’ve just noticed a marked improvement from when I started running with him.
iRunFar: Now has it been an increased commitment to running, is it more volume, more speedwork? What is the change?
Mackenzie: Much less volume. Smarter training. I think before I was just doing too much and I kind of got into a couple of injury cycles which kept me out of the loop and then I think just more consistent running and racing at a higher level also improves you mentally. Like it takes a while for your mental game to catch up, so yeah.
iRunFar: So that’s probably been a big step up since last year, since you had four or five really high-level races last year.
Mackenzie: Exactly. And the more you get used to that the more you can perform and the easier it feels relative.
iRunFar: And you probably don’t feel, not being an imposter, but you feel more comfortable, like I can run with this woman or that woman.
Mackenzie: Exactly. Whereas before you’re like, Woah, I’m running up next to who?
iRunFar: So what do you think will be the biggest challenge here at Pikes Peak Marathon?
Mackenzie: Definitely altitude is the first thing that comes to mind but also the course is super different from anything I’ve ever done. That straight up, straight down for so long. It’s going to be hard to pace. And then I think it’s also going to be hot so just managing my effort and hydration in combination with the altitude. Really I think it’s going to be a management of effort.
iRunFar: Really you have to balance all those things. The nutrition, the heat management, the pace.
Mackenzie: Exactly. I’m hardly even thinking about competition, I’m just thinking about like how I can run the best race given the circumstances and the course. I have a huge amount of respect for this course.
iRunFar: And your own talents. I mean there’s one big climb and one big descent. How do you mete that effort out?
Mackenzie: I love running downhill but I love technical downhill, and this is not.
iRunFar: This is fast downhill.
Mackenzie: Again I’m not really sure, but I also love climbing so I’ll try and put that to use and see what happens.
iRunFar: Well, best of luck out there, Meg.
Mackenzie: Thank you so much.
iRunFar: Thank you.
Mackenzie: Thank you so much.