Guy Learmonth injury means he'll make brother's wedding after all

Guy Learmonth will wish his big brother the very best when he ties the knot on Saturday. But if he is being honest, the Commonwealth Games athlete would rather he wasn't there to join the celebrations.

800m runner Guy Learmonth flies the flag ahead of the Commonwealth Games. Picture: Jeff Holmes
800m runner Guy Learmonth flies the flag ahead of the Commonwealth Games. Picture: Jeff Holmes

The 25-year-old finished sixth in the 800m at Glasgow 2014 and his focus is firmly on bettering that in Gold Coast, in April. That meant he was all set to miss Max’s nuptials at Knowsley Hall, near Liverpool, choosing to compete at this weekend’s Indoor Grand Prix, in Glasgow, instead.

“Last year, when he said he was going to get married in February, I told him I wouldn’t be there on the day, unfortunately.”

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But providence has intervened. A freak training injury left him nursing an ankle strain and while he is back in training and will head to Australia, as planned, it brought his indoor season to a premature end and presented him with the opportunity to watch his sibling get married.

“Being selfish I didn’t want to be going to his wedding. I’m going to it now and maybe it’s fate. I think he was always hoping I’d be there. Now I’ve told him if he needs a speech or anything I’ll be there.”

The unexpected turn in events means that the Berwick-upon-Tweed runner, who has been in the form of his life, doesn’t even have a bed for the night. “I’m sleeping on my pal’s hotel room floor. It’s not the best preparation but my mate said he’ll be that drunk he’ll probably be asleep in the bath so I’ll get the bed!”

But finding a bed for the night is nothing when he considers how much worse things could have been if the injury had been more serious .

He feared the worst the minute he turned his ankle on a training run earlier this month. And after hobbling around for a couple of days, he was relieved when the doctor told him that his 2018 dream was still alive.

“I was doing drills on my local track back home. But when I say that, it’s not actually a track, it’s the old A1. It’s on roads and pavements and stuff and I was doing drills on a Friday night.

“We had street lights but it was late night, it was cold. It’s probably my own fault. I’d flown in from Portugal after two months there so it was just frustrating.

“I was supposed to be flying to Germany on the Monday but I came off the kerb and landed really awkwardly. It turned out to be a glamorised sprained ankle with a bit of bruising but it’s set me back a few weeks.

“As soon as I did it I knew straight away. Athletes and runners roll their ankles quite a lot and it’s not normally too serious. But this time I just knew. My ankle came inwards as opposed to outwards so I knew it was something dodgy straight away. Thankfully there’s been no long-term damage. It’s just bruising at an unfortunate time.

“I got a scan two days later because I wanted to rule anything out. They told me I’d bruised it but to get on with it. That’s what the consultant said! So, it’s just business as usual now.”

The encouraging thing for Learmonth is the form he was in before the stumble. Building on a 2017 season that surged from strength to strength and which saw him run a new personal best of 1:45.10 in Rovereto, in August, he says the work put down over the winter and early 2018 form has given him the belief that he can return from Gold Coast with some precious metal around his neck.

“I had two good camps in Portugal. Then I came back and that happened when I was about to race and run really hard indoors. I was in great shape. But it has freed things up for April so I hope it’s a blessing in disguise.

“All my winter went great this year. The things I’ve worked on from endurance and aerobics has been amazing and having two weeks of no running isn’t going to alter that at all. It is all in the tank and I’ve been keeping myself fit in other ways, on the bike and in the pool. Now I’m back running less than two weeks later so I don’t believe I missed anything. If anything I’d overtrained and I’ve been forced to recover.”

But, the enforced downtime has also given him the chance to soak up the Winter Olympics action, and seeing people secure their place in history with a podium finish has only heightened his own desire to perform to his limit.

The coverage from Pyeongchang has also left him mulling over which of the sports would be the most enticing, if he was to switch careers. “I am a big fan of it all! Someone asked what I wanted to do when I retire from running and I said figure skating. I hope he knew I was joking! But the skeleton is cool. Even the biathlon is mad. I think it’s amazing.”

But for now, the 800m is all that matters. Well, that and a wedding, of course.