WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
Despite having missed seven months of competition through injury, Scottish distance-runner Freya Murray has recently bounced back into the international fold as she looks ahead to making her Olympic debut next summer, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 28-year-old from Edinburgh endured painful Achilles, back and hip troubles in the spring and summer, forcing her to swap her running shoes for gym and pool gear for the majority of 2011 - yet the hard work has evidently bore fruit, as the Chester-le-Street runner last weekend returned to top form in time for Team GB selection.
Placing third in the European cross-country Championship trials in Liverpool, Murray sped back into the national squad with relative ease in only her third races since her injury nightmare.
“I'm really pleased with how things went in Liverpool – it was my first cross country race since winning the Scottish title in February last year so I was trying to keep an open mind on how it might go,” she explained.
Coached by British marathon record-holder Steve Jones - who lives in Colorado, USA – Murray had high hopes for qualification for the continental event later this month after finishing a respectable tenth and ninth in the Bupa Great North and Great South Run in September and October, respectively.
Based in Newcastle and working part-time as a structural engineer, Murray continued:
“My training has been progressing well over the last few weeks as I've been gradually building up my mileage and training intensity but I've had to be patient because I didn't want to end up with any more injury problems!
“I'm really looking forward to the Euro’s - the last time I did it in 2009 I finished 9th so I'd like to finish top ten again,” she revealed on the competition taking place in Slovenia in a fortnights’ time.
A strong performance in southern-European nation would provide a timely confidence boost for Murray, after enduring such disappointments and frustrations off the back of a highly-successful 2010 campaign.
After claiming the British cross-country title and placing thirty-seventh in the World Championships in Poland, she enjoyed a breakthrough in only her third season focusing on the longer-distances on the track.
Igniting her campaign with an impressive 32:23.44 10,000m lifetime best when finishing sixth in the European Cup in France in June, Murray progressed to win both the Scottish and UK 5,000m titles in July before recording her second personal best of the summer with 15:26.5 for 5,000m in Cardiff in August.
But, arguably her performances of the season came in her major championship debut at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi last October, where Murray finished a fine fifth in the 10,000m before placing seventh in the shorter event four days later.
Following her exploits in India, the diminutive runner capitalised on her form to break her ten-mile road best with 52:27 when finishing runner-up in the Bupa Great South Run in Portsmouth before her catalogue of injury woes struck.
“I was pretty pleased with how things went in 2010 generally - I felt really strong towards the end of the track season and I think I was in really good shape in Delhi,” she revealed.
“I was a bit disappointed with how I raced but overall the experience was amazing and it was my first multi-sport games - hopefully the first of many.”
“Now hopefully my run of bad luck is over!”
Looking ahead with a positive attitude, Murray intends to continue her racing schedule after her forthcoming Team GB duties in her hometown at the Bupa Great Edinburgh international cross-country event in the New Year before enjoying a spell of high-altitude training in Kenya:
“The Edinburgh international cross-country is my favourite cross country race as I used to train in Holyrood Park all the time when I was at university and it's always nice to race back in Scotland,” she explained.
“I'm really looking forward to going to Iten, Kenya in January on the UK Athletics training camp - it's the first time I've been on one and I'm sure it'll be a good experience”
The opportunity to train full-time with Britain’s best and in ideal conditions will represent Murray’s best shot, of course, in preparation for the biggest event of all in 2012 – the Olympic Games in London.
Determined to make her Olympic debut on home soil next August, she is well aware of the need to quickly make up for lost time and further improve her efforts on the track:
“Obviously making the Olympics is the big aim for 2012 but I'm trying not to advertise my ambitions too much for it at the moment,” Murray cautiously reveals.
“It is what I am focusing on but I don't want to put added pressure on myself by broadcasting what I hope to achieve – the competition within Britain for places is going to be strong and in some ways that is a good thing - hopefully the competition will make us all stronger.
“I think the qualifying times are achievable if everything goes well over the next few months so hopefully I'll have a better winters’ training than last year.”