THE road in front of Adam Craig is getting longer. The Lauder athlete’s short-term focus is on trying to improve his times over 5000m and 10,000m to book a place on Team Scotland at next year’s Commonwealth Games.
But, in signing up recently with Scottish Athletics’ Marathon Project, the 25-year-old acknowledges that his future post-Birmingham may be over the longer distances.
Craig took the first steps down that road last year when he ran his first-ever 13-miler and then followed it up by competing in the Half Marathon World Championships in Poland, a maiden performance in a GB vest.
The plan is to fit in at least one more half-marathon at some point in 2021 and then gradually work towards the full 26 miles in the years ahead.
“The Marathon Project is a great initiative from Scottish Athletics,” he said. “I agree with [head coach]Robert Hawkins’ statement that some guys hang around too long at the shorter distances and I’m probably an example of that.
“I’ll never be a great 800m or 1500m runner. I can hold my own at 3000m but it’s when I get up to 10km and now half-marathon that I start to feel a lot more confident as an athlete.
“It’s a good idea to help people make that transition to leave the track and build a base over longer distances from 10km upwards. That’s not something that’s easy to do on your own or with a non-specialist coach. It’s nice to be recognised to be a part of it.
“There’s no marathon in my immediate future but post-Commonwealth Games it’s something that will be in my thoughts. Robert knows that it’s on my radar and is always around to help.
“I’ll be shooting for the 5000m and 10,000m at Birmingham if I can make the 10km standard which is a tough one. And I’ll then leave it up to the selectors at that point.”
Craig has been based down south for the past 18 months as part of Team New Balance Manchester, learning from experienced coach Steve Vernon.
“It’s a professional team so the aim is to take the stresses out when making that jump to become a full-time athlete,” he added.
“I can see myself staying down here for a while. Steve is already talking about where I could get to in two or three years’ time. It’s not about trying to rush things and say, “let’s go for Tokyo” but being more measured and looking at Paris in 2024.
“I was always somebody who wanted everything to happen right now! Especially when I first joined the team. But I now appreciate that success doesn’t happen overnight. As horrible as 2020 was, it probably reinforced the idea that it’s better to invest in the future and not bank everything on the possibility of short-term success. It’s about building the blocks.”
Achieving international honours in Poland was another stage in that development process. “That was quite a significant milestone for me to get my first Great Britain vest and line up against some of the best in the world,” said the 2019 Scottish cross-country champion.
“That was a massive confidence booster not long after running my first half marathon. That’s where the bar is for me now. I’ve got the suitcases under my bed as a constant reminder of what we’re working towards.”
He is no stranger to travel, having spent three years at the University of Mount Olive in North Carolina, a period he still looks back on fondly.
“It was a big three years for me. It took me from being an average athlete to feeling towards the end that I was capable of doing something with the sport. And it was a great experience off the track as well. North Carolina is very big on country music and everything that goes with that. Americans are always over friendly and very welcoming so I got to go to my friends’ houses and meet their families and all the rest of it.
“I learned a lot about culture and just the sheer size of the place. You could be on the beach in the morning and drive four hours and be on top of a mountain.”
Cross-country remains in his thoughts too, with the delayed European championships in Dublin another target.
“There’s nothing that beats cross country. There’s no bulls***. It’s raw sport – who’s the fittest and the best on the day. It’s quite refreshing and great fun. You can’t beat standing in a cold, wet, muddy field in December.”