Jenny Selman keen to gatecrash Scotland’s middle distance running party at Birmingham Commonwealth Games

In what is rapidly becoming a golden era for Scottish middle distance running, Jenny Selman is arriving fashionably late at the party.

At 31, the Fife athlete is in the form of her life and will make her debut at a major outdoor championship when she takes to the track in the 800 metres at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Just like Jake Wightman and Laura Muir, whose medal-winning exploits at the World Championships in Oregon set the sport alight, Selman is no overnight sensation. Years of hard graft have gone into reaching the point where she was able to run a personal best of 2min 0.86sec in Switzerland in June.

But unlike Wightman and Muir, Selman has done it while holding down a job. She combines a training regime at Saughton Enclosure with her role as a funding manager with Edinburgh Leisure, helping support those affected by poverty and long-term conditions to improve their health and wellbeing through sport.

She has moved to part-time this year, allowing her more time to focus on athletics and has been rewarded with a surge in form. She puts her late flowering down to a combination of factors.

“It’s a bit strange that I’ve taken until my thirties to make a bit of a breakthrough,” she said. “My training’s been a lot more consistent over the last couple of years, without injury interruptions and I think that’s been one of the biggest things.

“And once you start having a few good races you get a positive mindset. You start believing in yourself a little bit more and you go into races feeling like you can do better. It sounds a little bit cheesy but positivity breeds positivity.”

Selman served notice of what was to come this season when she beat fellow Scot Jemma Reekie to win the 800m at the British Indoor Championships in Birmingham in March, quite an achievement given Reekie’s fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics six months earlier.

It was Selman’s first British title and qualified her for the World Indoor Championship in Belgrade the following month where she missed out on a place in the final by a hundredth of a second.

It gave her a taste of the big time and she’ll head to Birmingham as part of a Scottish athletics team high on confidence, particularly in the 800m and 1500m disciplines.

“Scottish middle distance running is mad at the moment,” said Selman. “Watching Laura and Jake was so inspiring. It’s really cool to see people who grew up in Scotland and who went to all the races that Scottish youngsters are going to now, at school and in local leagues, come through that system and now be amongst the best in the world.

“They’re both in their late 20s and it’s taken a lot of years of hard work and dedicating themselves to their sport and it’s paid off. Very inspirational.”

Jenny Selman celebrates victory for Scotland in the 800m during the Dynamic New Athletics event in Glasgow in February. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images for European Athletics)

Selman, who grew up in Falkland, first got into athletics at Fife AC in St Andrews. She then began training in Dundee under the auspices of Liz McColgan, the only other Scot apart from Wightman to win gold at a World Championships. Selman was part of a successful group which included Lynsey Sharp, Morag McClarty and Liz’s daughter Eilish, one of her close friends.

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It was a highly enjoyable period in her life and she credits McColgan senior with keeping her in the sport during her teenage years.

“When I first started training with her I was too young to have seen her races so I don’t think I quite grasped how good she was and it was only a couple of years later when I saw clips that I realised how incredible it was that a woman from Dundee achieved so many amazing things.

Jenny Selman (right) on the way to beating Jemma Reekie to win the women's 800 metres final at the UK Athletics Indoor Championships in Birmingham. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

“She was a great coach and I’m almost 100 per cent sure that if I hadn’t joined her group at that age then I wouldn't still be running. At that age, 16, 17, 18, there is a massive drop off in the sport, especially among girls, and I think that would have happened to me if I hadn’t joined her group.

“It was such a fun environment to train in. She was a tough coach, she took no prisoners, but it was a big group of us and we were good friends and I’m still close with them now.”

Selman, who is now coached remotely by Lewis Walker, has not set specific goals for Birmingham in what is likely to be a highly competitive 800m field. Reekie and Muir are in the mix and England’s Olympic and world silver medallist Keely Hodgkinson is likely to start as favourite. It could be very fast and Selman will hope to pick up a new personal best along the way.

“The 800m in the Commonwealths is so strong,” she said. “I was watching the heats from the World Championships and so many of the women who progressed are in the Commonwealths.

“I don’t know what’s realistic, I’ve not seen the start lists yet. I would just love to try and really get in the mix. If it’s a fast race, then brilliant, I can try and get pulled round to a PB. I want to come away feeling like I’ve given it my best shot, that I’ve not been scared by the competition and that I’ve been competitive.

“I would love to break two minutes. I feel I’m in the shape to do it so it’s just a case of getting into the right race. I’ve struggled previously to get into some faster races but I’m in the shape to run under two minutes and that would be an amazing barrier to break.

Jenny Selman celebrates with the gold medal after her victory at the British Indoors in Birmingham. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

“I think only four Scottish women have broken two minutes - Laura and Jemma, Lynsey Sharp and Susan Scott, who held the Scottish record before Lynsey. So it would be really cool to break that two-minute barrier.”

Jenny Selman in cross-country action at Scone Palace during the Lindsays Scottish Athletics XC Relays. Picture: Bobby Gavin/Scottish Athletics
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