IF there is one lesson in particular that Steph Davis would like to impart from her rise to the top of British marathon running, it is stick to your guns.  

In a world in which mileage of 100 miles-plus each week is not uncommon, Davis bucked the trend by refusing to follow the herd, instead trusting her own instincts and in turn, she has been rewarded with a place in Team GB for the Tokyo Olympics this summer. 

Davis’ victory in the British Marathon Trials in London last Friday ensured she would be on the plane to Japan but she admitted receiving official confirmation of her selection at the team announcement yesterday was both exciting and unbelievable. 

“To have [my place] officially confirmed is the final piece in the jigsaw,” the 30-year-old Glaswegian said.  

“Since last Friday, things have been a bit mad and very exciting so to have it officially announced is amazing – I can’t quite believe it’s my name on the official list and I’m still waiting for it to sink in.” 

Davis is joined by fellow Scots Callum Hawkins and Steph Twell in the six-strong marathon team for Tokyo and while her inclusion comes as no surprise to avid athletics watchers, her rise has happened somewhat under-the-radar for more casual sports fans. 

HeraldScotland: PHOTO: PAPHOTO: PA

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A keen middle-distance runner in her younger days, she did, by her own admission, achieve nothing special, meaning the prospect of becoming an Olympian barely entered her thoughts. 

Davis gave up the sport for a number of years before beginning running once again when she moved to London to work as a corporate access specialist in an asset management company. 

She made her marathon debut less than three years ago and in that time, has emerged as one of this country’s most exciting long-distance talents. 

After running 2:41:33 in her first competitive outing over 26.2 miles at the end of 2018, she has improved her best in quite astonishing fashion, with a run of 2:27:40 in Valencia at the end of 2019 ensuring she had bagged the Olympic qualifying standard before going almost thirty seconds faster again at the British Trials last week. 

Davis’ rise is particularly fascinating as she is as far from the typical elite marathon runner as one can be.  

Unlike most of her global competitors who are full-time athletes, Davis continues to hold down a day-job, although dropped down to a three-day week after the prospect of making the Olympic team became a realistic prospect. 

And while most of her peers clock up dozens upon dozens of miles each week, Davis has remained stubbornly steadfast in her belief that “crazy mileage” is not a pre-requisite for marathon success, instead attributing her improvement to a training schedule which combines running with regular swimming, cycling and cross-training sessions. 

“It’s about finding the right training for you and also standing up for what you believe is right for you,” she said.  

“I could easily have fallen into the trap of doing big mileage weeks like everyone else was doing but my coach and I quickly realised that wasn’t best for me so we’ve stuck with that.” 


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A quick look on social media would have you believe that running the equivalent of half a dozen marathons per week is the best method for success but Davis is keen to convey to the running public how far that is from the truth. 

“What I’d like to teach people is about the cross-training/running balance and inspire people to do that rather than focus on crazy mileage all the time,” she said.  

“There’s no one size fits all, you have to find a balance that suits you and if that is lower mileage and lots of cross-training then go for it, don’t be sucked in by what you see on social media. 

“I’d just say focus on yourself and so I’d love to inspire people on that front.” 

With just over four months until she is on the start-line in Sapporo, the city 600 miles north of Tokyo and the venue for the marathon, Davis admits she cannot wait to make her Olympic debut.  

Her early memories of the Olympics are of Kelly Holmes winning double-gold in Athens in 2004 and although this summer’s Games will be a far cry from the typical Olympic experience, Davis is eager to absorb every minute of it. 

No specific targets in terms of placings are likely to be set for the race itself because if Davis has learnt anything in the past few years, it is that focusing solely on herself is the best recipe for success. 

“Obviously I would have loved to be going to Tokyo and have experienced the buzz there but really, just to be going at all is amazing,” she said. 

“The aim is also to just get there in one piece, and be in the best shape I can be in. The focus is getting on the plane and being as strong and as fit as I can possibly be.”