FREYA Ross’s phone bill must go a long way, on its own, to covering Jake Humphrey’s lavish new telly contract with BT.
For the past three years, the Edinburgh-born athlete has placed calls aplenty to her coach Steve Jones in Colorado: long-distance advice for her long-distance ambitions.
The unusual arrangement between the 29-year-old and the one-time marathon world record holder has worked well but there are inevitable drawbacks. “We speak regularly,” says Ross. “But it’s good for him to see me running and have input at the time so that he can then monitor me.”
In four weeks, Ross will leave behind her husband of barely four months and decamp lock, stock and barrel to the Rockies for an extended spell under her mentor’s wing. Previously, she had to beg leave from her day job as an engineer but no longer. For the first time in a running career that began in her teens, she has opted to focus full-time on her sport and the opportunities it might bring.
“I’m going to see how things go,” she says. “I’ve never been full-time before so a month or two down the line, I might be completely bored with it and go: ‘forget this.’ But I’m going to give it a try and see how it works out and see what difference it makes.”
The early signs have been encouraging, says the former Miss Murray. No longer does her daily commute double as training. Participating in the Olympics, where she was the first Briton home in the marathon, illustrated just what potential may remain untapped at a distance over which she has competed only twice.
Jones has proven an able foil in nursing her through the traumas, with the Welshman’s approach now differing little from his pomp. “It’s pretty straightforward,” his pupil says. “He’s all about the hard work. He doesn’t like to over-complicate things. It’s just about putting in the miles consistently.”
Having recovered from an ankle problem, Ross will begin 2013 in her home town on Saturday at the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country, an event she knows well. She is one of five Scots in the Great Britain team that will take on the best women from the USA, the rest of Europe and an international select over an always-testing course in Holyrood Park.
She has always relished the terrain but it will be one of only two trails through the mud this winter. March’s world cross country championships are not on her schedule, she confirms. “I decided to throw all my eggs in the marathon basket.” London remains the most likely destination.
In Edinburgh, Steph Twell will be among Ross’s team-mates over three kilometres in her first major appearance since the surgery that forced her to by-pass the Olympics. It did not stop her from personally cheering Ross on, and the favour has been repaid with a stream of support throughout the younger woman’s fraught rehabilitation process.
Twell’s performance will be keenly scrutinised and it is unlikely she would have entered without feeling able to impress. “On the other hand,” Ross says, “she’s been out for a while and it’s not fair to put a lot of pressure on her to be out there leading the field in her first big race back since a rather nasty operation. It’s good to see her back and I’m sure over the next few months she’ll come on in leaps and bounds so that by the track season, she’s back to her best.”
Spain’s Ayad Lamdassem will defend the men’s title he won last year but will expect a challenge from European Cross Country runner-up Hassan Chahdi of France and nine-time champion Sergiy Lebid in a strong European squad. Alloa’s Scott McDonald lines up for GB alongside Steve Vernon.