RunBlogRun editor Larry Eder wrote the following intro:
One of the big revelations this season was Jemma Reekie. The training partner of Laura Muir, Jemma took British records in the 800m, 1,500m and mile indoors in 2020. Under the watchful eye of Andy Young, the fine Scottish coach who advises Laura Muir and Gabriella Stafford De Bues, Jemme Reekie has developed a wicked kick, but also, and perhaps, most important, the focus, confidence and long term approach that comes from seeing consistent development and the positive affirmations that progress provides.
Stuart Weir is one of our most important writers. Stuart posted 150 pieces in 2019, and his gentle observations allows you, the reader, to see behind the obvious. In this world of immediate gratification, and unsatiated social media frenzies, Stuart Weir has a theme in his writing: few good things in our sport or live arrive immediately. Great athletes are developed. An overrnight success if a bit of legerdemain.
Athletics is a primal need. Since our cousins wrote on cave walls with burnt wood, man and woman have jumped, thrown and ran. In those times, it was life and death. One might jump off one cliff to make another, or become a meal. Today, it is still a primal need. Perhaps, we will begin our sport once again in silent stadiums, with the fans at home, isolated.
One knows this, Stuart Weir will be writing about it, with a mask on, and physically social distanced. Athletics, in this time of our modern plague, where the uneducated question the suggestions of the men and women of science, and politicians endanger lives and the economy for votes, provides some solace.
We hope that the time of simple joys comes soon, that we can watch fine athletes jumping, throwing and running soon. We just know it will be different.
The truth is, this modern plague will take some time to dissapate, and this will try our souls. Being lonely is one thing, being broke is another, being dead is something else (still, at my advanced age, I may have come close, but still chose the alternative, life).
So, enjoy the Monday writings of Stuart Weir. Respect physical social distancing, Stay safe and isolate. This is a matter of life and death, no matter what your neighbor who flunked basic biology tells you. The novel coronavirus is not made up, it is not fake news, it is the modern plague.
Deep breaths, friends, and enjoy the long coming success of Jemma Reekie….
The last 12 months have seen Jemma Reekie make immense progress as an athlete. It is been a delight for me to watch her progress, having seen her run at least 20 times in her short career. Early in 2019 she had won the British Indoor 1500m title and been selected for the European indoor championships in her native Scotland. She ran an indoor PR but could only finish sixth in the prelim, commenting maturely afterwards: “I just wasn’t there at the end but I’m 20, I need to get stronger and fitter and that’s not where I’m at in training and I know that someday it’s going to pay off – my training and everything I’ve been doing. I loved it, going out there with the Scottish crowd you can’t not enjoy it, so good to see a great crowd out there”.
She finished second in the UK outdoor championships (1500m), confirming her selection for the World Championships in Doha. But at the same time she continued to gain valuable international experience, winning the European under 23 championships (800m and 1500m) and running in the Stockholm, London and in Zurich Diamond Leagues. Of the Diamond League final in Zurich, she told me: “I think it was all right. I did what I thought was right and picked off as many people as I could. It was a great experience for me. [being in the Diamond League final] was a surprise and not something I really thought of for this year. So I am sure being here at 21, the experience will help me in the future”. She had run 4:05.34 for 11th place.
In the Doha World Championships she failed to progress from the prelim commenting: “It was tough but at a championships it is always going to be tough. It is a new experience as well and I am just taking it all in. I will need to speak to Andy [Young, her coach] and see where it went wrong. I should be running a lot better than I did, based on my training. It wasn’t meant to be today but it has still been a great year”.
Then in February this year Reekie suddenly stepped up a level. In her first race of the season at a low key meet in Glasgow she ran 1:57.91, leaving Laura Muir in her wake. A week later she came third in the New York Millrose games mile clocking 4:17.88 (1500m in 4:00.56). Before the month was over she had won a 1500m in the Glasgow MÃ¼ller Grand Prix and an 800m in Lievin, both part of the World Athletics Indoor Tour. Suddenly she had set himself up as a potential medallist at the World Indoor Championships in Nanjing – before the curtain came down on the indoor season if not on the whole year.
In the MÃ¼ller Indoor Grand Prix in Glasgow, she won the 1500m, against a field which included Dawit Seyaum and Axumawit Embaye of Ethiopia as well as the Moroccan, Rababe Arafi in 4:04.07. In Lievin 800m she was facing Halimah Nakaayi, the 2019 World Champion and six other sub 2 minute runners. Reekie won the race. The time was slow by her standards but this was a race and she won it. She controlled the race and won comfortably. She tucked in behind the two pacemakers and then held off Nakaayi to win by 1.6 seconds.
Reekie told me afterwards: “I would have liked to have run a bit faster knowing what shape I’m in but it was a tough field out there and I was going for the win” adding “I’m getting used to 800 meter running. My legs were struggling but I’m glad I made it to the line first”.
She dismissed the pressure that people like me like to put on her: “I just came out to do my best and focus on myself and run the race. I tend to forget about races I have done before when it’s time to move on to the next one”. She did admit to a certain disappointment not to get the opportunity to test her outstanding form in the World Indoors: “It is disappointing but there’s a good reason why it has been postponed. So I will just get my head down and focus on qualifying for Tokyo”.
Even coach, Andy Young was pleased: “I was really impressed. In control, almost too comfortable. That’s how to do it, if you can do it that way. So, impressed”. I also wondered if Young was as surprised as the rest of us at what Jemma had achieved: “To be the best in the world, time in time out, that is quite surprising. Times at 800, going sub two, didn’t surprise me. But to take on the best in the world and to show them how it’s done, that is something quite special”. He added: “We had been working on technique for a long time and that’s beginning to come together – still room for improvement though. It’s been a healthier winter and we’ve not had to deal with real issues. Those are two of the key points [in her improvement]. And being patient because it’s a long-term project and were just beginning to see it starting to come through now”.
Having just passed her 22nd birthday last month, Reekie has the world at her feet. She speaks good sense with maturity and with Andy Young, she is in good hands.
Jemma Reekie, Muller GP Indoor Glasgow, photo by Getty Images / British Athletics