FREYA ROSS has been there every step of the way to see cross-country in Scotland transform into the flourishing scene that we see these days.

Ross first dipped her toe into cross-country before she had even reached her teens and over two decades later, the 36-year-old is still pulling on her vest and slogging her way through the mud and rain.

Today, Ross will race the Lindsays National Cross-Country Relays in Cumbernauld, where over 2500 athletes will battle it out for their respective clubs, including GB internationalist, Callum Hawkins.

In 2001, only 192 teams entered the event in comparison to last year, which saw 399 teams finish, with Scottish Athletics indicating that this year, there will be over 400 teams contesting the event.

For Ross, who is a six-time Scottish Cross-Country champion, the growth in the sport has been thrilling to see.

“It’s so good for athletics that the entries are so high these days. I think a lot of cross-country people see it as the sport in its purest form and it’s good to see it become so popular again,” she said.

“I think it’s a combination of things that are behind this resurgence. I think it might be that so many people are doing Parkrun and realised that you don’t need to be elite to be a member of club.

“We have so many great role models in Scotland at the moment, especially at the longer distances, and a lot of them do cross-country so that encourages people into it too I think.”

Ross will be representing Falkirk Victoria Harriers this weekend and even though the internationalist, who represented GB at the London Olympics in 2012, may have retired from elite level athletics, she admits she still loves being part of events such as the XC Relays.

“For me, the relays is really nice because running is generally such an individual sport so it’s nice to have that team side of it,” she said.

“I take it a lot less seriously now though – in the past, I’d start thinking about a race days in advance and everything was so thought-through but now, I’m so much more relaxed about it.

“I get on the start-line and I always begin the race like I’m as fit as I was in 2012, but I quickly realise that I’m not and so I gradually slow down from there.”

Ross takes running somewhat less seriously for a number of reasons these days, with one of the main ones being Una, her eighteen month-old daughter. Ross’ return to running after giving birth has not always been straightforward and so she has complete respect for the ambition of her former teammate, Eilidh Doyle, who is due to give birth in January before attempting to make the GB relay squad for the Tokyo Olympics just six months later.

“ It would be amazing if she could do it. If anybody can manage it, it’ll be somebody like Eilidh – she works so hard and just gets it done,” she said.

“For me, it’s definitely been a lot more challenging that I thought it would be. Before I was pregnant, I was planning on running right through my pregnancy but from week 3 to about week 17, if I ran at all, I’d have to stop to be sick. So I didn’t do any proper exercise during that time. And then I had a C-section so it takes a while to return after that.”

Everyone who has had a baby knows there is no shortage of people keen to give advice but Ross is quick to point out that with what Doyle is attempting, there is no advice other than wait and see.

“It’s so hard to give anyone advice because it’s such an individual thing,” she said.

“When you’re pregnant, you can read as many books as you like but pretty much everything says just do what feels right for you and I totally agree with that.

“For me, I was in no rush to come back – and I only was training to get back to be fit and healthy so it’s very hard to give any advice because you just have to do what’s right for you.

“Everybody expects you to come bouncing back and it’s not always that simple. I had about 6 weeks of doing not much else other than walking. Then I started jogging but just five minutes or so at a time.

“If Eilidh was to make the Olympics, it would be fantastic - it would be a very quick turnaround but why not try it?”