Athletics World Championships: Neil Gourley flying solo for Scotland in 1500 metres
Neil Gourley will be the lone Scot in the men’s 1500 metres when the European Athletics Championships begins in Munich on Monday and the Glasgow runner is targeting a medal in the Olympic Stadium.
Usually he would have compatriots Jake Wightman and Josh Kerr for company but Wightman has opted for the 800m in Bavaria while Kerr is missing the Euros after a hectic summer.
Gourley goes into the championships on the back of a new personal best. He ran 3min 32.93sec in the Commonwealth Games, shaving two seconds off his previous fastest time. Such is the fierceness of the competition in the 1500m these days that it was only enough to secure eighth place in the final in Birmingham, behind Australian winners Oliver Hoare (3:30.12), Kenyan runner-up Timothy Cheruiyot (3:30.21) and bronze medallist Wightman (3:30.53).
In the absence of the medal trio, Gourley expects it to be a bit more open in Munich even though Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen is the overwhelming favourite.
“I have no idea how the final will play out,” said Gourley. “It might be another really quick race or it might be a bit slower and a bit tactical. Jakob won’t let it slow down too much.
“I’ll be looking to go in and win a medal. I’d be selling myself short if I didn’t have those ambitions. Those were my ambitions going into the Commonwealth Games and I was humbled a little bit by just how good everyone else was on the day.
“It was a race that was just brutal from the gun. That’s a style of racing that has traditionally been my weakness. I’m better in a slower race but I’ve been working really hard to try and change that.”
Gourley has been taking a leaf out of Wightman’s book in a bid to increase his aerobic strength. Wightman, the freshly crowned world champion, increased his altitude training after a disappointing Olympics in Tokyo and it paid off in Oregon last month with a stunning victory over Ingebrigtsen.
“For the last couple of years I’ve been working to get aerobically stronger and stronger to the point that I can hopefully live with those fast paces from early on,” said Gourley. “It’s something that Jake went away and did. He was 11th in the Olympic final last year and he realised that the 1500m at world level is being run hard from the gun and is not so much of a tactical race where you would wait and then kick from the last lap which is what used to traditionally happen.
“It was eye-opening in a way. There’s not much I can do between now and next week but in terms of the future I’m going to go away and spend more time at altitude and spend more time on the endurance side of things to make sure I can live with that style of race.”
All being well, Gourley will be lining up in Thursday’s final in Munich as he swaps the vest of Scotland for Team GB. After Covid affected his performance at the World Championships in Oregon, he loved his Birmingham experience and feels in good shape to kick on.
“Performance-wise, I was happy to run faster than I ever had before with a big two-second PB but the standard of the competition was something else but I would have liked to have finished higher.”