With a maiden British title and a personal best which represented a significant leap forward, it has already been a month to savour for Guy Learmonth. “It’s gone well,” he says, almost nonchalantly. “But I definitely feel there is more in the tank.”
Tapping into his reserves will surely be necessary if he is to win a first medal at a major championship. The 22-year-old is among many in a 38-strong Great Britain & Northern Ireland squad facing an international baptism at this week’s European Indoors in Prague, taking advantage of the absence of many amid the established order to gain the kind of exposure that cannot be bought.
After reaching last summer’s Commonwealth Games 800 metres final, merely settling for a vast hamper of kit and a stamp in the passport won’t be enough for the Borderer. “I always want to be making finals,” he says. “I don’t want to be going for the experience. I’ve worked really hard to get here, having missed out on selection in the past few years.
“So I’d be gutted if I went out in the heats and I’m going all out to make sure that doesn’t happen. I know where I sit in the rankings (sixth). Based on that, I should be in the final. But what happens in a race is a totally different thing. Getting there is one huge challenge. And once you’re there, you have to go for it. I just have to run smart and be confident.”
He will be among six Scots in the Czech capital, all with medal hopes, with fellow debutants Allan Smith (high jump) and Kirsten McAslan (400m) also aiming to pair their domestic golds with a continental medal. Yet this has also been a month of upheaval for Learmonth, who will go into the championships fresh from splitting from his long-time mentor George Gandy, the UK Athletics veteran middle-distance guru, and placing his immediate future in the hands of Berwick-based Henry Gray.
“We had a few disagreements on various training camps, and about who I want to train with,” Learmonth says. “It was becoming unhealthy when we were at Loughborough and it was getting to us both. There’s no bad vibes between us. It’s just time to move on.
“George has helped me out so much since I moved to Loughborough but we’ll see what happens after Prague. Henry will now be my main man and I’ve been talking with UKA about where I go.”
Of the more experienced Scots in the GB&NI team, Laura Muir, who won a third successive British title in the trials in Sheffield, will will run the 3000m in Prague. Chris O’Hare will compete in the 1500m and Jamie Bowie is in the 4x400m relay squad.