Olympic athlete Laura Weightman is setting her sights on a big 2014, as she targets top-six finishes at this summer’s Commonwealth Games and European Championships.
And the Lesbury athlete was delighted to open her competitive race account for the calendar year with a fine performance at the North East Counties Road Relay Championships at the weekend.
In what was her first race of 2014, the 22-year-old smashed the course record and helped Morpeth Harriers to a second-placed finish.
So far, so good. And she believes her blistering return to action has been helped by her recent five-week altitude-training block in Kenya.
High up in the hills at the renowned Iten camp, the London 2012 1500m finalist has been putting in the hard miles.
Around 70 a week in fact. And at about 2,400 metres above sea level.
In her own words, it was very much ‘eat, sleep, run’.
It’s a tough routine. But, it’s one which she hopes will set her up nicely for an assault on two of the sport’s showpiece events this summer.
And having returned to the UK earlier this month, after rubbing shoulders with Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe in Africa, she was pleased to see the benefits of her Kenyan graft at the weekend.
“It was good to put it into a race scenario and I was pleased with the result,” she said.
“It was quite a tough course, but it was good to run so quickly and take the course record.
“I beat my time for last year by 20-odd seconds so it is good to see that progress.
“The training block in Kenya is massively important and I have come back in really good shape.
“I had a fantastic time out there and it was one of the best I have had at altitude and being out there with Mo and Paula is really inspiring.
“It is great to be around good professionals and successful athletes.
“Paula, who is an inspiration to me, was out there in a coaching/mentoring role and she gave me great guidance and support.”
Weightman’s weekend time of 11min 22sec at the Relays at Hetton Lyons Country Park was nine seconds inside the old course record set by Sunderland Strollers’ Alyson Dixon in 2011.
She hopes it is a sign of things to come.
Stressing the importance of training at altitude, and believing her body is adapting well to this sort of preparation, Weightman is planning to do another block of about three or four weeks in early May, this time in Utah, USA.
This will come before a Diamond League fixture in Eugene, which is scheduled to be her first 1500m race of a huge summer season, with both the Commonwealth Games, in Glasgow, and the European Championships, in Zurich, on the horizon.
“Hopefully the altitude training will set me up for the summer,” she said.
“It is going to be a tough season. You have the Commonwealth Games and the European Championships very close together.
“It is a very important season for me to do well in, because after this you have a World Championship year in Beijing and then an Olympic one in Rio in 2016.
“It is vital for me to get championship experience and push towards top-six finishes in the finals of both the Commonwealth Games and European Championships.”