I have to admit. I have enjoyed watching Laura Weightman develop as an athlete. She is the Rodney Dangerfield of British distance running. I am not sure that she gets the respect that she deserves. The two time European bronze medalist at 1,500m (and CG 5000m bronze medalist) is truly fit and wonderfully confident. Here’s Stuart Weir’s column on the exciting British athlete.
British athlete, Laura Weightman, is in the form of her life. In the Eugene Diamond League last month she came fifth in the 3000m in 8:26.07. This weekend she was second in the “Brave like Gabe” mile in 4:17.6.
She said of the Stanford 3000m: “I was surprised I ran so fast. I knew I was in shape and we knew that a low 8.30 was a realistic target going into the race. But to come away with 8:26, in the manner I ran the race, being competitive and finishing fifth and beating some high quality athletes in doing so – that was quite a shock. But I was delighted to run so fast”.
3000m, not being a championship distance, is rarely run. However, that will change with the Diamond League dropping 5000m from its schedule from next year. The last time that Laura had run a 3000 was six years ago.
The mile race in Monaco was a remarkable race, living up to the track’s billing as fastest in the world. Sifan Hassan of Netherlands won the race in a world record time of 4:12.33. Remarkably, nine of the 12 athletes in the race, ran a PR. Weighman said of the Monaco performance: “I am absolutely delighted with that. Coming into the race I would like to have broken 4:20. I felt strong. When I hit the bell, I was overtaking two athletes. I just thought: ‘get your head down and run as hard as you can.’ In a mile I am not quite sure at what point the splits are, so I just kept on working hard and when I came into the home straight, and getting closer to the line I saw that Hassan had run 4:12 so I knew I was going to be close. To come away with 4:17, I am delighted. Part of me is a little disappointed that I’ve just missed the British record [4:17.57 set by Zola Budd in 1985]. But if someone had said to me beforehand that I would get that close to the British record I wouldn’t have believed them. I’m thrilled with that. It’s definitely a different kind of race but it’s a distance that is well suited to me with my strength and speed mix. So, it was an event that I really enjoy doing.”
She admitted to being surprised by both performances adding by way of explanation of her outstanding form: “I just know that I have worked really hard and I have had a good winter’s training. I have done so many more miles than I’ve ever done before. I have really worked hard and I just think that my performances on the track this past two weeks are testament to that. I’m delighted with where I am and I’m excited for the next races now”.
When I asked her what she thought her best distance was, she replied that it might be the 3000m, saying that the 3000m was: “a different kind of race but it’s a distance that is well suited to me with my strength and speed mix. It is an event that I really enjoy doing. 3000m could potentially be my best distance because I’ve shown that I’ve got strength and speed but I decided to try to explore some more 5000 meters to see where that could go and try to translate 8.26 [for 3000m] up to 5000m. But I definitely see myself as a 1500m runner as well.”
That brings us neatly to the question of which event she will run at the Doha world championships: “We haven’t decided yet. We will definitely experiment with the different events and distances to see where my ability lies over 5000m but I still believe I’m a strong 1500m runner. This is just a year where we can try out both events and see where we think my best strength will lie for a championship performance.”
Thought she feels, with the right scheduling, that she could run 1500m and 5000m in the same championship, provided that the scheduling would facilitate that, which Doha does not.
Laura is coached by Steve Cram and has been for the last 10 years, “quite a long time, especially in elite sport, to work with one coach but it’s definitely a relationship from which I have benefited hugely working with Steve and I probably wouldn’t be where I am today without the work we’ve done together and am extremely grateful to be learning from him all the time. He so experienced and he’s got the knowledge. He has had that experience of major championships and a world record. He’s got so much experience he can pass on to me and I am definitely learning from him all the time”
Laura is running into form at just the right time and it will be fascinating to see both of which event she opted for and what she can achieve in Doha.