Teenage distance runner tells AW about climate activism and her racing plans for this winter after winning BBC Green Sport Award
When Innes FitzGerald turned down the chance to run for Britain at the World Cross Country Championships in Australia earlier this year, the story blew up in the media. The teenager from Devon was dubbed the “Greta Thunberg of athletics” in newspaper headlines and she was forced to turn down a number of interview requests. “It was quite overwhelming at the time,” she says.
Since then she has decided to deal with questions relating to her stance on the climate crisis during small periods during the year, but then focus on her training and studies for the rest of the time. Being a well-known young athlete, she’s come to realise, means she has a platform to potentially spread her eco-friendly messages to more people.
Monday (Oct 2) is a perfect example. The 17-year-old was named young athlete of the year at the BBC Green Sport Awards for 2023 and this involved an appearance on BBC Breakfast television followed by an interview with AW.
“I didn’t expect this award,” she says. “It’s been quite a strange experience but good fun.”
With her trademark front-running style, FitzGerald has dominated distance races in her age group in the UK over the last couple of years and placed fourth against much older athletes in the under-20 race at the European Cross Country Championships in Turin last December.
On that occasion she did not fly with the GB team and instead got several trains from her home near Exeter in the South West of England to the Italian city. But she arrived feeling weary and she felt she underperformed.
The World Cross Country Championships in Australia three months later was a chance to test herself against the best on the planet, but she said at the time: “I would never be comfortable flying in the knowledge that people could be losing their livelihoods, homes and loved ones as a result.”
In April she won the Mini London Marathon before heading straight to an Extinction Rebellion event at Parliament Square in London with the Champions for Earth group. She says this is nothing new for her either. “I was at Extinction Rebellion protests in London in 2019,” she says.
Climate activism runs through her family. They own an organic smallholding selling fruit and vegetables close to the Devon and Dorset border and her dad, Joe, has been arrested in the past for…