In celebration of Global Running Day on June 5th, we caught up with our pal Guy Learmonth, Scottish and Great British 800m athlete, two time British Champ and World Rank No.18, to discuss all things running (and some bits in between!).
Why did you take up running? Take us back to where it all began.
“I’ve been running since a young age, but my whole life I wanted to be a rugby player. My parents encouraged me to do everything, but it was rugby that was my first love and I played to a very high level for the Border Reivers as well as being part of the Scotland Development teams from U14-U17s. Where the running came in though, was in the summer; when the rugby season was over, I had to keep fit, so, I ran. I took part in competitions all across Scotland and the UK but I remember picking up my first Scottish National Junior title over the 400m when I was 16, and I’d played a whole game of rugby in the snow the day before! It was then I realised I could be quite good at this! I carried on doing both sports for another year but I was under pressure from the SRU to get in the gym to bulk up for the Scotland U17 & U18s rugby teams but I just didn’t want to do it, so I quickly decided that I was hanging up the rugby boots and picking up the running spikes. It was literally all or nothing and a huge risk at the time (which many people questioned!) but I knew that was my heart truly lay. Within less than a year of running full time, I went on to break the Scottish Junior 800m record 5 times in one season and picked up my first British Junior 800m title, as well as breaking the championship record.”
Many people often find running difficult to get in to, instead, they’d prefer to head to the gym or play a team sport. What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into running?
“I genuinely think the best thing for that is to find a running or training buddy, or join a club or group. It makes things so much easier and way more enjoyable, especially in the early stages of starting up running. You’re all working hard together, sharing common interests and it’s also a great way to socialise and make new friends.”
What is your pre-race regime? You must have some secrets you can share!
“My pre-race regime is pretty chilled to be honest. All the hard work has been done leading up to the competition so you just don’t want to do anything stupid in the final few days before; no over-training, no injuries.. all of that! On the day of a race, if it’s in the evening (which most of them are these days!), the day literally consists of a wee run or shake out after breakfast, probably followed by a nap, Netflix & chill… (quite literally Netflix and chill!), lunch, a walk, and then about 2-3 hours before I compete I’ll get ready and head to the track with my warm-up starting about an hour before I compete. I drink ample amounts of coffee (I swear I have a caffeine addiction!) and listen to my favourite music to both calm me down and hype me up; from Bob Marley; to Tupac; to Mac Miller. It’s not too exciting but you can enjoy yourself after the race, and more so at the end of the season!”
Training takes up a huge amount of your time, with little time for hobbies or friends, but when you do get the chance, what do you like to do when you’re not on the track?
“The athletics world is amazing, I’ve met so many people from every corner of world so it’s not too bad, a lot of my friends and training partners are in the same boat as me and doing the same thing so it definitely helps that we’re all kind of in this together, but I still have a lot of my childhood friends and my family who I see when I can and when I’m back home. Everyone knows my life is very different now and everyone is unbelievably supportive, they know my career is relatively short-lived in the grand scheme of things so my closest realise this. My training always comes first, after that, I try to live a normal life, go out for dinner, coffee, cinema with my pals, everything and anything, when I can.”
What is the best experience you’ve ever had? Running related, or not!
“Honestly, travelling the world, I’ve literally been everywhere! My mum and dad now even plan their holidays around where my major champs are, it’s taken them as far as Australia for the Commonwealth Games and as close as Glasgow and London for both the Commonwealths and World Champs. It’s amazing. The people I’ve met, the different cultures in different cities and countries is something I’ll be forever grateful for.”
It must be tough to constantly keep yourself in peak form, always training hard and pushing yourself to be the best you can be – what is your motivation?
“My motivation is that I simply want to be the best. When I was younger, I didn’t know what it was going to be – rugby, running, art, music – who knows, but whatever I was doing, I wanted to be the best at it. It just so happens I live this crazy life now running all over the world, trying to get faster and faster, trying to be the best and working so hard day in day out until I’ve achieved that.”
And finally, what’s the goal and how are you going to get there?
“My goal is to one day have an Olympic and World championship gold medal hung around my neck… and you’ll all know when I get there!”
Huge thanks to Guy for talking with us and good luck as he takes to the track in Hengelo for the World Challenge on June 9th, the British Champs at the end of August and the World Champs in September! Be the first to see him achieve his goals by following him on twitter (@GuyLearmonth) and Instagram (@glearmonth800).
Photo credit Keith McClure Photography, @collectivenorthuk and Chris Green (@mrgreenphoto).