Jake Wightman has his sights set on Tom McKean’s 31-year-old 800 metres record

It is a Scottish record that has stood for 31 years but is now firmly in the sights of Jake Wightman.

Jake Wightman celebrates his 800m victory at the Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava last month.
Jake Wightman celebrates his 800m victory at the Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava last month.

There was no Olympics this year for the middle distance runner but he enjoyed a fruitful season nonetheless, culminating in a new personal best in the 800 metres.

Wightman stormed to victory in the Golden Spike meet in Ostrava in a time of one minute 44.18 seconds to go tenth on the UK all-time rankings, just one place behind 1980 Olympic champion Steve Ovett.

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It also drew him closer to that elusive Scottish record set by Tom McKean way back in 1989.

McKean’s time of 1min 43.88sec has become something of a holy grail for Wightman whose feats this season were recognised when he was named joint winner of Scottish Athletics’ 4J Studios Performer of the Year award in a three-way tie with Laura Muir and Jemma Reekie.

“Tom McKean’s time is one that I’ve known for years and been able to recite,” said Wightman.

“It is such a benchmark and trying to get close to it was a big target for me in 2020.

“Nobody in Scotland has really come close to it down the years. Many years. For me to knock about half a second off and get a new PB in Ostrava felt like a step forward and it has taken me about three tenths away from Tom’s Record. Three tenths in an 800m could just be positioning or a slightly quicker first lap.

Tom McKean after his 800 metres win at the IAAF World Cup in Barcelona in 1989. He still holds the Scottish record over that distance.

“Credit to Tom McKean – it is an impressive time. And I’m not sure how many times in his career he ran sub 1:45 or sub 1:44 but I know it was a lot and it is a lot more that we are doing at the moment.

“It shows you the calibre of Tom as an athlete so it is a Scottish record which deserves to have stood the test of time – but I hope it won’t last much longer.”

McKean, whose glittering career peaked with victory at the 1990 European championships in Split, ran under 1:45.00 on 18 occasions and below 1:46.00 a further 27 times.

His fastest ever 800m came at the Dairy Crest Games at Crystal Palace on July 28 1989 when he defeated 1988 Olympic champion Paul Ereng of Kenya with a gutsy performance.

McKean, known as the Bellshill Bullet, also won gold at the 1990 European indoor championships in Glasgow and the 1993 World indoor championships in Toronto to further burnish his reputation.

If that was a golden age for British middle distance running, the emergence of Muir, Reekie and Wightman suggests we are now in the midst of something special in the discipline in Scotland and the latter said he feels privileged to share his award with Muir and Reekie.

“It was a shock because those girls have had unbelievable years and I feel really honoured to have been put in the same bracket as them for 2020,” Wightman told Scottish Athletics. “They barely lost a race between them. So to be up there with them, well, I’m chuffed and it is a bit special.”

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