Inside the secretive cocoon of athletic invention where his father has worked for as long as he can remember, Jamie Williamson was often accorded licence to roam free: left-field ideas made real, then presented with due fanfare to those who might make them appear out of this world; three stripes woven on each in tribute to the marque established long ago by Adolf Dassler.
Now a senior figure in Adidas’ in-house imaginarium at the behemoth’s Bavarian headquarters, Graham Williamson is a runner-turned-executive whose son has enjoyed access to the great and the good on the sponsorship payroll.
Andy Murray was a regular visitor for a time. Unsurprisingly, the business-at-large stirred the blood with the paternal connection opening doors for summer jobs and internships. “A lot of it was just seeing how the company was run on a day-to-day basis: marketing, competitions, the products, etc. It’s something I’d love to go into in the future,” the younger Williamson affirms.
“I was able to meet some of the endorsed athletes when they came in. Dwight Howard, the NBA player. David Rudisha. A lot of the Kenyan runners. I got to go on a run with a few of them which was great. I learnt so much from that. When Rudisha came in, I had a chat with him and he was telling me to keep running. It’s nice to hear from people like that.”
With such an abundance of historical advisors (and all the shoes he might need), no wonder that Williamson was inspired to push through the growing pains. A fully-fledged British international courtesy of his debut at last month’s European cross-country championships in Tillburg, he will land his second vest at Saturday’s Simplyhealth Great Stirling XC in a sporadic return to his familial Scottish roots.
Home, long in Germany, is now in Loughborough where the 21-year-old is nearing the end of his university degree. The ties that bound him to the country of his parents proved a little stronger than those of his adopted nation. Just, despite strong overtures to defect.
“I always wanted to run for Britain and I’m so glad I went down that route,” Williamson confirms. “But I did move over to Germany when I was three and I grew up there. Where I lived is a bit different because there are a lot of international people here. Adidas is based here. Puma. Siemens. They bring in a lot of foreign employees and so I never fully immersed in the German culture. I joined the local running club and that gave me a bit more integration. But the Germans can tell I’m foreign, even when I speak German. I’ve got a weird accent. And I’m still not completely fluent.”
Yet it is a fluidity of foot which enthuses him most and, there, indoctrination has been maintained since birth. His mother Carole represented England as an accomplished cross-country performer. Graham, of even greater renown, battled Messrs Coe, Ovett and Cram in his pomp, with his Scottish mile record still unbeaten some 37 years later.
So often, his path was blocked by the garlanded trio. Never an Olympian, he won the World University Games title and was third at the European Cup in his prime season in 1979, later coming fourth behind Cram, John Walker and Mike Boit – all Olympic medallists – at Brisbane’s Commonwealth Games.
The younger Williamson had no easy access to footage or reportage. “I always knew they were good runners but I didn’t know how good until I started running.” Neither parent, he adds, was compulsive in advocating their sport.
“When I was 14, I joined the school team and then a year later, I joined the athletics club and stopped playing football. I’d done local road races when I was younger and did quite well so the potential was there. I just preferred football. My Dad was sort of pushing me to run and eventually I caved.”
Graham’s insight into sliding into the cracks amid a wall of competitors will stand his offspring in good stead. Laura Muir – one of Williamson’s team-mates in the 4x1.5km relay next weekend in the showpiece’s inaugural edition since relocating from Edinburgh to Stirling – stands unchallenged in the British women’s 1,500 metres firmament.
The male coterie is stacked, with the likes of Jake Wightman, Chris O’Hare and Josh Kerr emerging from Scotland alone. Tokyo 2020 is in the sights of all. “It’s a great time to be in the sport. It’s the best it’s been for a while which generates more interest and more competition. It will be harder to make teams. But that’s going to push me,” said Williamson.