At the start of this season, so distant a prospect was competing in this summer’s World Athletics Championships for Megan Keith that she didn’t even know when the event was taking place. 

Fast-forward just a few months and Keith has catapulted herself into the upper echelons of British distance running. 

Prior to this summer, Keith was known almost exclusively as a cross-country runner. 

But a quite remarkable improvement in her 5000m times on the track in recent months has seen her win her first major championship track title before earning her first senior GB selection for a major track and field championship. 

Her improvement has shocked even herself and so, on the eve of the World Championships, which begin in Budapest today, Keith is still trying to get her head around how she got to this point. 

“It’s crazy that I’ve made it into this team, “ the 21-year-old says. 

“It’s so weird because these Worlds weren’t on my radar at all so it’s not even like there’s that satisfaction of hitting a big goal that I’d set for myself.  

“I didn’t know when the Worlds were and I definitely didn’t know anything about qualifying standards.  

“So it’s been a whirlwind but I’m so happy to have made it.  

“Subconsciously, I’d hoped that at some point in my career I’d make a senior track team but it hadn’t been something I’d thought about yet. So the fact it’s happened already is pretty mind-boggling.” 

Prior to this summer, Keith had already established herself as a truly world-class cross-country runner 

The European under-20 cross-country champion in 2021, Keith then added European under-23 silver last December but she was quick to concede that her achievements on the track were far below what she had achieved in the mud and muck of cross-country. 

She had, she admits, hoped that someday she could be a force to be reckoned with on the track but had never even contemplated it would come quite this soon. 

Having only done her first serious summer of track training in 2021 – and even then, it was severely disrupted by the restrictions caused by the pandemic – Keith had almost no track experience at elite level. 

Her only notable result was a fourth place in the 3000m at the European under-20 Championships two years ago but having only barely broken 16 minutes for her favoured track event, the 5000m, before this summer, Keith’s name was never close to being mentioned when it came to potential GB selection. 

Until, that is, she started slashing quite astonishing chunks off her personal best. 

In her first 5000m outing of this summer, in May, Keith ran over 20 seconds faster than she’d ever gone before, clocking 15 minutes 32.15 seconds. 

It was an impressive performance, but the best was yet to come from Keith. 

The following month, she announced herself as a real track talent, becoming European under-23 5000m champion before last month, yet again obliterating her personal best and breaking the all-important 15 minute barrier to dip under UK Athletics’ qualification standard for these World Championships. 

While, to outside observers, the drastic improvement in Keith’s times has been somewhat shocking, for the Inverness native, it’s more a case of delivering, for the first time, on what she feels she’s long been capable of. 

That’s not to say she expected to run quite as fast as 14 minutes 56.98 seconds, however. 

“I think it’s just another year of consistent training on the track behind my improvement,” she says. 

“Even last year, I managed to lower my times but I still didn’t feel like I properly managed to run as fast as I would have wanted to. 

“So it looks like massive jumps on paper but I felt like the times that were beside my name last season weren’t doing me justice. So it’s been much more incremental than it looks. 

“But even I didn’t realise quite how much more was in there and this is definitely faster than I expected. 

“It’s just been nice to show I can run well on the track. Everyone’s keen to put people in boxes but I knew that what I had done in cross-country would translate to fast times on the track. So now maybe I’ve got a bit more respect on the track.” 

In Budapest, Keith will be rubbing shoulders with GB teammates which include Keely Hodginkson, Dina Asher-Smith and Zharnel Hughes, to say nothing of her fellow Scots in the team such as Laura Muir, Josh Kerr and Eilish McColgan. 

But despite now being classed as a peer to some of the world’s best, Keith very much feels she still has considerable scope to perfect the craft of track running, something that remains an alien skill to her having spent so many years honing her skills as a cross-country runner. 

“The biggest difference to me between track and cross-country is that times mean so much more on the track whereas in cross-country, it’s all about placings,” she says. 

“On the track, it’s so much more complex with tactics whereas in cross-country, you just turn up and run as hard as you can.  

“So I’ve had to learn to hold myself back on the track because my instinct is to go as hard as I can from the gun. But I’d like to think the more races I do on the track, the better I’ll get with the tactics.” 

These World Championships, where Keith will be one of eight Scots in the GB team, are her primary focus for now but as she looks ahead to next year, her recent drastic improvement has meant that already, the prospect of Olympic selection is entirely realistic. 

Keith is far too understated to make any brash predictions about making it to Paris 2024 but she admits it’s a nice feeling to have a goal such as the Olympic Games on her radar. 

“At the Worlds, I don’t have any expectations because I’ve surpassed them all by being here at all,” she says. 

“It’s an exciting prospect what’s still to come, though.  

“The Olympics has to be in my head, now.  

“I’m only five seconds off the Olympic standard so I’m not miles away. Maybe when I’m another year on and have more experience under my belt, I’ll be able to have a good crack at it.”