Talented Murray takes senior transition in her stride

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Talented Murray takes senior transition in her stride

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Following a fantastic 2016 season and a recent stint at altitude, newly-crowned BUCS Cross Country champion, Rebecca Murray, is starting to show the fruits of her ambition

Out of the thick Scouse fog emerged the leading group charging full pelt down the slippery home straight towards the blue, blow-up finish arch.

Seven senior women finished within just five seconds of each other in one of the tightest finishes in the history of the Liverpool Cross Challenge last November.

Just two seconds behind eventual winner, Gemma Steel, was shining U23 talent Rebecca Murray.

A third-place finish in the senior women’s race at the European trials might have come completely out of the mist for some – but testing herself against some of the top girls in the country, and securing her place at a second European Champs as an U23 was always the aim for Rebecca Murray.

Coaching longevity key to success

Rebecca has been on the distance running radar for a long time now.

The 22-year-old concluded her final year as a junior (2015) with a win at the National Cross Country Champs, several England vests, her first European XC champs (as an U23) and finishing top of the UK junior rankings for 10k.

Key to her successful transition into senior competition has been her coach, Alex Stanton. Without him, she wouldn’t have made the gains she has over the last twelve months.

‘Alex has always been very aware of the need to develop slowly as a junior and keep training suitable for our age,’ says Rebecca.

‘This has given me the ability to build on my training each season and see some progression as I’ve moved up the age groups.’

Stanton, the former coach to Paula Radcliffe and Liz Yelling among others, certainly knows how to nurture young talent, while also helping them push the boundaries of their capabilities.

Though Rebecca is now based and trains at St Mary’s while she studies for a master’s in financial mathematics at Brunel University, Stanton still sets and guides her training and races.

Her coach of ten years is still playing a pivotal role and lending his wealth of experience as Rebecca steps up in distance.

‘Alex is still my coach, and he has continued to be a massive support and guide.

‘As I have got older, I think the specificity of training that Alex has built into my programme has helped to push me forward.’

Mixing it with the country’s distance running best

She has also benefitted enormously from being part of the set up at St Mary’s. Halfway into the year, it has proven to be a good fit, with Rebecca in some of the best shape of her running career.

The first British U23 past the post at the recent Great Edinburgh XCountry can point to her first half marathon in Manchester last October, where she topped the women’s field with a sub 73-minute clocking, for providing the necessary base endurance that is currently carrying her through the winter.

‘I was keen to get a half marathon under my belt to see how I fared at the distance and to give myself a focus for the early winter season,’ she says.

‘I’ve joined in with the sessions run by Mick Woods at St Mary’s since, which have definitely helped me to get more out of my training.

‘So far, training and lectures have fitted in relatively well around one another so hopefully that will continue!’

With the likes of Steph Twell, Georgia Bruinvels and Charlotte Purdue among those to have trained in the St Mary’s group, Rebecca’s ambitions in the longer distances are beginning to come to fruition.

‘Since my move, my pattern of training has remained pretty consistent apart from some minor increases in volume.

‘I hope to have a go at some more 5,000m and 10,000m races early in the season, and maybe progress to some road races late summer.’

And while there’s time yet to make the move up in distances a permanent one, wearing the famous blue and white vest of Bedford and County might well make the temptation to graduate to longer distances sooner a little more pressing.

‘Growing up in a club like Bedford, with such a prestigious history in women’s endurance running, has to be one of my biggest inspirations to give longer distances a go,’ adds Rebecca.

‘I will end up progressing to longer distances – but I think that’s a few years away yet!’

Words by Hannah Viner
Image from BUCS Sport