MHAIRI MACLENNAN is one of those strange creatures who relishes running in the wind. And the rain. And the mud.

In fact, the worse the conditions, the more MacLennan enjoys herself.

And so while it is likely that on the morning of the Home Countries International next weekend in Stirling, most of the runners will be hoping to wake up to a crisp, dry winter’s day, MacLennan will hope to open her curtains to storm-like weather.

“I definitely think the harder the conditions, the better,” the 24-year-old said.

“And the worse the weather, the better for me. I remember being in the car on the way to the Scottish Nationals and I was saying if it could just rain a bit heavier, that would be great. And a bit more wind – turn it up. I love the challenge of that.”

MacLennan will lead the Scottish women’s team at the Home Countries International on Saturday, while Olympian Andy Butchart will lead the men’s.

The event is part of the Run Stirling festival with junior races as well as a mass participation race taking place. MacLennan and her compatriots will compete against England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with the Scot in no doubt as to the result she is looking for in front of a home crowd.

“We’re definitely going there for the win and we’re feeling good about it,” she said.

“It’s so special racing for Scotland. I love it on any occasion but when it’s a big international, it just makes it even more special.

“It gives us the chance to show the strength-in-depth we have here, across all the age-groups.”

MacLennan is a GB internationalist, with her most recent GB vest being at the World Cross-Country Championships in Denmark last March.

She finished in 32nd place which was, she believes, her best-ever performance and it was as a result of her taking ownership of everything in her life. And it certainly paid off.

“I didn’t expect to finish 32nd in the world, and especially to be so high up within the European girls,” she said.

“Before it, I felt like I was kind of sleepwalking through life and going through the motions but then I decided to take things into my own hands and take control of things in my life and my running benefitted so much from that. And my performances really showed that.”

In the past, MacLennan’s best runs have always come after Christmas, with the early year cross-country races seeing the best of the Inverness-born athlete.

Her best results have come on the mud of cross-country rather than the track and that is something, she says, she is working on. But finding out she spent her early years of running slogging through mud and never going near a track makes it easy to understand where her love of the discipline comes from, and why she is so good at coping with the challenging conditions.

“I started running when I was really young, I was about 10, but I didn’t start track running until I was 18.

“When I was young, in the winter, I’d do cross-country and then in the summer, I’d do hill climbing with my family,” she said.

“So I’ve got eight years more experience of cross-country than I do on the track which explains why I’m so much more comfortable doing it than track running. It’s something my coach and I are trying to get better at and knock that on the head.

“I just really love cross-country – I totally embrace it and I love the challenge of it. I used to think that I was just good at running in mud but now, I think it’s not that, it’s that the mud doesn’t slow me down or put me off as much as it does other people. It obviously slows me down as well but because I love it and I’m enjoying it so much, it doesn’t get to me.”

MacLennan, who is originally from Inverness but is now based in Edinburgh, has had less than perfect preparations for 2020, with a bout of bronchitis dragging on for four months. However, that she did not stop training throughout the illness has ensured that her fitness levels are still remarkably high.

And she cannot wait to get her first test of the year in Stirling next weekend.

“I can’t wait to get out there,” she said.

“Cross-country is really strong in Scotland at the moment.

“There seems to be a huge push and we’re pretty dominant. And getting the chance to race at home just makes it even more exciting.”