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Christmas comes early for McDonald as his first Great Britain vest arrives in the post

From his office window at the Institute of Sport at Stirling, Scott McDonald often gazes outside at the privileged few who can dedicate themselves to honing their craft.

An administrator there, he is among those smoothing the path to progress for Scotland's leading performers.

He might yet be among the supported acts. In Budapest tomorrow, the 22-year-old will sport a Great Britain vest for the first time in the Spar European Cross Country Championships. There was a genuine thrill when his boxfresh kit arrived in the post this week. "Like Christmas," he says. And there remains an aura of genuine surprise that such a wish has belatedly been granted.

McDonald went to last month's trials harbouring few thoughts of earning selection after almost three years mired in a vicious circle of ailments and injuries. "I've had pretty much every treatment, just to get myself fit again," he reveals. "It was a case of getting back running, then getting injured again two months down the line. It's been tough. That makes this feel all the more fantastic because of that."

Twelve months ago he had reached the point of no return. He was running for fun, rather than ambition. "I was getting pretty disillusioned. The motivation just wasn't there."

It returned, though, and credit for that goes to his coach Derek Easton, and his cohorts at Central AC, who badgered him with texts and phone calls, urging him not to walk away. "They were always on my case to get back. There were nights when I could have just stayed at home, particularly when I was going through a rough patch. I owe a lot to them," he added.

He is one of five Scots in the British team which, despite several notable absentees, will harbour hopes of returning from Hungary with yet another sizeable medal return. As part of a strong Under-23 group, McDonald could land a trinket to hang from his tree. It would, he says, be the stuff of daydreams. "A European medal? Running for Great Britain? Those are things I wouldn't even have been thinking about this time last year.

"The great thing is all the guys in the team are solid runners. So if we have a good run, a medal's on the cards. Plus there's a couple of the guys capable of getting individual medals. It's a great incentive to just go out there and push it on."

The other Scots in the Great Britain team are Rosie Smith, Beth Potter, Rhona Auckland and Luke Traynor, who earned places with top-five places at the trials in Liverpool last month.

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