SCOTLAND doesn’t have many world record holders. We have got a few, perhaps even more than you would expect for a country with a population of less than five-and-a-half million, but over the years, Scots have rarely broken athletics’ world records.

Last weekend, though, it looked like we had a new world record holder to celebrate. At a relatively low-key 5km event in Lancashire, Beth Potter ran 14 minutes 41 seconds, going 10 seconds quicker than Paula Radcliffe when she set the British record and even more impressively, two seconds faster than Kenya’s Beatrice Chepkoech’s official world record.

For those who have missed the coverage of Potter’s remarkable run,  she is a former GB track internationalist and Olympian in the 10,000m before switching to triathlon in 2017, becoming European champion in her new sport just two years later and reaching the top five in the 2020 world rankings.

Since her switch to triathlon, Potter has remained a semi-regular in athletics’ races, using them primarily as part of her triathlon programme and a gauge of where she is in what is her best discipline of the three.

So while there is no doubt she is a quality athlete, no one saw such a blistering run coming, including Potter, who admitted she was sure the clock was wrong.

It turns out that due to the strict standards needed for a world record, Potter’s time is unlikely to be ratified. But it remains a great feat nonetheless and this has been overshadowed by the controversy over the shoes she was wearing.

Potter raced in the new Asics Metaspeed Sky shoes, which use new technology that includes a carbon fibre plate, specialist cushioning and a high toe spring, inspired by the technology Nike pioneered a few years ago and which led to a raft of fast times by athletes.

In the days following Potter’s run, what has been sad is the volume of opinions claiming that her time was as a direct result of what was on her feet.

Did the shoes help? Almost certainly. It is undeniable that the new shoe design is conducive to fast times.

But some of the commentary regarding Potter’s choice of footwear has been outrageous.

I know Potter a little, but not well. Our sporting careers didn’t overlap but I’ve interviewed her a number of times and she has always struck me as one of those rare people who is willing to push their body further than most to be successful. 

That she switched to triathlon despite being an Olympic-level runner, something few elite athletes would even consider, never mind actually do, makes her stand out from the crowd for a start. 

And that she is actually succeeding as a triathlete is remarkable, and a testament to both her talent and her work ethic.

That quite so much of the commentary in the days since Potter’s record-breaking run has been about her footwear is interesting, and says much more about where athletics is at the moment than it does about Potter as an individual. 

Comments on the shoes, the way athletics’ governing body has allowed the sport to get into this position of all fast times being doubted, and on the way technology is impinging on the sport are understandable.

What is not understandable, or fair or justified though, are the personal attacks on the 29-year-old.

Many, including some respected journalists, have implied that Potter’s remarkable run is down solely and exclusively to the shoes. 

Her personal bests have come under scrutiny despite the fact they are years old following her switch to triathlon. 

Her previous performances have been dissected, with many who know little or nothing of her training load, concluding she is not a good enough athlete to run such a lightning quick time unaided. 

When asked if the shoes played a part, Potter said herself they probably did a little. But as she also said, this new technology is now widely available and so it is a level playing field. She is hardly going to refuse said shoes in an attempt to take a moral stance when the majority of runners are taking advantage of some form of this new technology. 

What the future holds for Potter is intriguing. With the British triathlon team for the Tokyo Olympics selected in 2019, the Scot has missed out on a place, which leaves her contemplating an attempt to make the athletics team for Tokyo.

But what is equally, if not more intriguing, is the future of athletics.

The current scenario is far from ideal as every fast time, never mind world record, is overshadowed by talk of shoe technology, unfair advantages and artificial times.

Athletes will choose to wear the best shoes legally available to them, and no one could fault them for this.

But until athletics’ governing body do something, anything, to convince the public this is purely the natural progression of the sport and not just a distortion of times, what Potter has had to face after her run will be repeated again and again. 

And whatever your view on the new shoe technology, that is not fair.