Yvonne Murray, who beat Zola Budd two weeks ago in the 2000 metres at Crystal Palace. setting a new Commonwealth and UK record. has just come off the track at Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh. where she had to modify her training session from four hundreds to two hundreds ‘mixed up with lots of funny things’ to make allowance for the band practice.
Still in her blue and green tracksuit. she does not seem at all perturbed by the change to her schedule. It is typical of the ﬂexible l approach she and her coach. Bill I Gentleman. have adopted to her training. already carefully worked out to accommodate her job in Musselburgh where she works as a
secretary and where her
understanding boss has installed a shower so she can train at lunchtime. j , She is still very buoyant after her l defeat ofthe headline-stealing ; Budd. Budd as the former South L African-born member of the English team obviously represents much more than just 4.1 1 minutes over 1.500 metres. Yvonne admits that when Budd came into this country taking a British place and the national spotlight. she felt rather i hurt and unacknowledged. Now she i has beaten her she has proved she is as good and if she does win a medal in the Commonwealth Games. and Budd does not run. she can feel she has won it in her own right.
Yvonne. now the fastest woman in Britain over 2.000 metres. began ' running to help with her hockey. ‘But I was always rather slim and thinly built for hockey’ she says.
picking up a slender arm. ‘You can imagine all those great big hulky hockey players. . .’ Certainly her slight physique. under eight stone. looks eminently crushable . crunched between a couple of beefy forwards. When she had to choose between running and hockey. she chose running as the more individual sport. ‘I could excel better‘ she said without conceit. ‘I could be in control ofwhat l was doing and there was no one else to blame ifl lost.’
She has had the same coach since the hockey-inspired training began. and when she runs in the Games this week she will be putting some seven years of determined and rigorous training round the track. ‘People tend to forget that. They think you just walk onto the track. put on a pair of spikes and run a world record.‘
Athletes are as fiercely competitive over the effort put into training as they are over medals and records, comparing miles per week and hours per day. Yvonne is always being asked what she has for breakfast (she has toast) and even recalls being followed into breakfast by an anxious and imitative toast-eating competitor. She usually knows what she wants. but remembers being defeated by a big sticky bun before a race against Budd a few years ago when her dry mouth and general excitement protested against the sugary carbohydrate.
She trains every day. twice a day.
Edinburgh’s Yvonne Murray. who defeated Zola Budd this month in London, also set a-new Commonwealth record. Her chances now for a medal in the Commonwealth Games must be looking good. Sally Kinnes caught up with her after a training session.
but many runners turn in a slower time with a tougher schedule. Bill is quick to bear in mind the greater value of results. ‘We’ve got a Commonwealth record on 40 miles a week.‘ he said (all their races and timings are a joint affair).When she is running on such good form. they see no reason to increase her training schedule. They prefer to gradually build up her time each year. steadily increasing speeds through a series of plateaux. ‘You get a peak on a plateau. maybe one good race. but the average goes up‘ and they can be selective about the races they enter. choosing races by experience rather than by medals or the chance of coming first. Already looking ahead to the 1988 Olympics. they are very happy with her current form. ‘She ran her first ever ten miles in under 55 minutes. which is a Scottish best time by about four minutes.‘ says Bill. ‘She finished well up in the race. coming about 150th out of600.‘ he paused. ‘Men.’
come as a suprise to her. She describes the nervous build-up to last Friday‘s race. ‘I get a bit ratty a few days before and moan quite a lot: “I’m not training. I'm not training hard enough. I’m training too much“ or “my legs are hurting. I‘ll never get round“ and that was only Monday" she says in astonishment.
Before a race. the muscles. if they
‘it’s like a drug’
big sticky bun
As one on whom so many Scottish hopes will now be pinned for a medal. she looks remarkably relaxed. She is aware of the pressure. but gives the impression of one who has been concentrating so much on what she is doing and enjoying the competition so much (‘mmmm it’s like a drug.’ she says addictively) that the complex physical and psychological effect almost seems to
are relaxed. feel like ‘not putty - putty would be bad. but rubber. rubber with tone.‘This relaxed rubber-inducing state is achieved by sitting in a corner before a race listening to music. both thinking about the race and not thinking about it. so as to develop a sort of ‘nothing.’
This absence of thought in fact yields greater concentration for the race. When she was passing Budd in the race at Crystal Palace. she suddenly became aware. to her complete astonishment. that she was aware of absolutely no sound at all except the sound of her own breathing. She was about 200 metres from the finish. the point at which runners are at their most tired and the greatest physical effort is involved. She was convinced that the crowd had hushed to a deathly quiet (‘They were going spare‘ says her coach ‘so was I‘) But her concentration was so intense that all other sounds became completely excluded. ‘lt was the most eerie
feeling I’ve ever had‘. It had never happened to her before. but when it does it‘s ideal. Bill quotes Alan Wells as saying that when he ran his best hundreds he didn‘t hear anything between the starting gun and the finishing tape. unaware of any sensation except the need to cover the distance between the two in the fastest time possible.
The shorter the distance. the greater the concentration. ‘it‘s like running in a tunnel‘. You cannot.however. maintain this tunnel for 3.000 metres. or seven and a halflaps ofthe track. lfshe is behind someone. Yvonne concentrates on the person in front — on their neck. ‘lfyou break your concentration and think. as l have in the past. what am I going to have for dinner tonight. you can forget it.‘ It is essential to be very aware ofwhat is happening in the race and who is making the moves.
Yvonne usually works out her own tactics for a race. ‘lt all happens when the gun goes.‘ She knows the style ofsome competitors. like Budd for example. who always goes to the front and sets the pace. burning up the field behind her; ‘I know her like a book.‘ But Bill describes the first U K 5000 metres she ran in Edinburgh. ‘She said. “What‘lll do?“ I said “Follow somebody.“ So she followed the girl in the lead round for 4000 metres. passed her in the last 100 and won.’
‘the most eerie feeling’
Her relationship with her coach. a former hammer thrower is obviously very important and they are quick to understand one another. He knows her form to the hundredth ofa second. rapidly calculating records and timings and what is necessary to narrow the gap between the two. ‘She was only five metres offa world record'. he says. his mathematical brain leaping about. ‘She was from here to the end of the room off a world record. ‘ He gestures and the sweep of his arm takes in the breadth of the room and the scope of her potential. A few tables and chairs stand between them.
She has been touched by the amount ol’support that has come from local people. not otherwise interested in athletics. but cheering her on. The local regiment broke ranks in practise to congratulate her and she was interrupted during her breakfast at the airport by an enthusiastic well-wishing Irishman. It will mean a great deal to her to run in Edinburgh. her home city. and she trains at a local school near her work with the pupils. much to the chagrin of the boys who cannot keep up.
lnevitably there is much disappointment amongst the athletes over the boycotting ofthe Commonwealth Games by so many countries. They feel helpless and angry. Yvonne went to the press conference after the race against Budd. ‘It was all about politics. nothing about the race itself‘. she says. incredulous at the way they have got it all wrong. It is as though someone had put her down for the
swimming instead of the 3.000 metres-
2 The List 25 July - 7 August