Aberdeenshire middle distance runner Stewart Millar is buzzing after returning from a successful trip to South Africa with Laura Muir and her training group.
Just over 48 hours after getting home, the 22-year-old from Sauchen, set an 800m personal best time of 1min 53.84secs at a British Milers Club indoor meeting in London.
That marked a significant improvement of just under two secs on his previous best set almost six years ago.
Now, the Glasgow University economics student hopes he can finally get his athletics career back on track after a long spell in the doldrums.
He said: “When I moved to Glasgow in September 2018, I joined Laura Muir’s training group and her coach, Andy Young, but I struggled to find a balance between training and studying.
“I’d actually become a bit bored with my running and was looking for something new. There was an opportunity to try other sports, so I played tennis for a while and enjoyed it.
“However, I got back into running again, but suffered a series of injuries and I probably wasn’t very proactive in dealing with them.
“I was always showing potential, but just couldn’t string together enough weeks of consistent training. And, when I did get myself into decent shape, I often picked up a niggle just before an important race.
“So I wasn’t able to compete much through 2019 and then the pandemic came along and almost another two years flew past.”
However, last October, Millar finally saw some light at the end of the tunnel when he rejoined Andy Young’s training group.
Aside from Muir, the Olympic 1500m silver medallist, the group also includes Gemma Reekie, who was fourth in the 800m at the Games in Tokyo.
European under-23 1500m bronze medallist Erin Wallace and GB cross country and track international Eloise Walker are the other members of what is an impressive squad.
Millar said: “It was good to get back with them.
“I got involved when I first went to Glasgow, but it’s only now I’ve really become part of it. It has taken time to adjust to the way they train, but it is a great group.
“And slowly but surely I’ve been able to put together some consistent training and improve my fitness.
“Andy suggested that I go with them to South Africa at the beginning of the year for five weeks and that was a great opportunity.
“After an easy first week, everything started clicking into place. I was training well, but not excessively hard, and that seemed to work best for me.
“It was the consistency that paid off. Being able to train six days a week for five weeks was great.”
Millar had time to fit in a couple of races when he was in South Africa, winning a 600m in 1min 21.29secs and an 800m in 1:56.26 at the ACNW meet at Potchefstroom.
He said: “I was pleased with these results as it was during a spell of good training so I was running on tired legs.
“Also, Potchefstroom is at an altitude of about 1300m, which isn’t too bad, but still affects performance.”
Millar also had the opportunity to hang out with a number of other world-class competitors, including Botswana’s 2012 Olympic 800m silver medallist and 2014 Commonwealth Games champion Nijel Amos.
He said: “I spent six hours with him one day, which was great.
“But there were so many top athletes there, and they all wanted to come along and get a selfie with Laura.”
Personal best for Millar on his UK return
Millar returned in high spirits and was satisfied with his personal best performance in London.
He followed that up by being narrowly beaten into second position at last weekend’s Scottish student indoor championships in Glasgow.
Millar clocked 1:54.86, but had to settle for 800m silver behind fellow Glasgow student Magnus Tait, who won in 1:54.60.
He said: “I was pretty tired. I went for the time, but blew up at the finish.
“However, I’m certain there’s much more to come.”
He gets another opportunity tomorrow evening at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena when he’ll compete in the Scottish indoor championships.
Millar said: “I’m confident I can run faster than I’ve done so far, but by how much I don’t know.
“The aim at the moment is to get some races under my belt, but also to focus on training and get a good year behind me then look to do something more exciting in 2023.”