IN the days and weeks following the conclusion of last month’s Olympic Games, Jake Wightman knew he had to get back on the horse. It was, he realised, the only way to get over the disappointment of his 10th- place finish in the 1500m final.

For many, their reaction to such a blow would have been to end their season there and then, to take a well-earned break and think about anything other than athletics for a while.

Not Wightman though.

“Five years had built up to Tokyo and then when it was done, you’re tired both physically and mentally so the idea of racing again is tough,” he says. “But I needed to get back racing because my motivation was just so low. So it’s good to still have goals and that’s really helped get me motivated again and get back in the gym.”

Wightman has already made two competitive appearances since Tokyo – both over 800m – and he will conclude his season today, in New York, at the prestigious New Balance 5th Ave Mile.

It may not quite be the Olympic Games, but winning this iconic race and regaining the title he claimed in 2018 was always one of his season’s primary targets and has given Wightman the push he needed to finish his season strongly.

The race will include Olympic medallists Matthew Centrowitz, Paul Chelimo and Clayton Murphy, with fellow Scot, Jemma Reekie in the women’s race, and the fact it will be run the day following the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack gives it even more poignancy.

“I’ve been to New York before on and around the anniversary of 9/11 and the city kind of shuts down. And this time, with it being the 20th anniversary, I think it’s all going to be way more intense,” he says. “I feel like if you’ve won the race once, you know what you need to do because it’s very different to a normal race – it’s a straight line so it’s so easy to go too soon. So the more you do it, the more you learn to get it right.

“I hope this time there’ll be lots of fans because it’ll be nice to be back racing in front of people. Street races are cool, so hopefully there’ll be a better atmosphere than what we’ve had for a lot of the season.”

On his Olympic debut, Wightman had negotiated his way to the final in impressive style, which perhaps only served to strengthen his frustration about his failure to challenge for a medal. 

In a race that was run at a blistering pace, the 27-year-old did not have what was required on the final lap to be in medal contention, while his compatriot, Josh Kerr, finished strongly to win bronze behind winner Jakob Ingebrigtsen. 

Wightman is still despondent about the result, but he has gleaned several valuable lessons.

“I’m still pretty gutted. The fact that you don’t know if you’re going to get another Olympic final is the hardest thing to deal with. I felt like it was such a good opportunity for me and things were in place for me to run well.

“But it’s made me realise there are certain things I need to get better at if I want to do well in races that are run like that,” he says.

“If there was an 800m race between everyone in that 1500m final, I’d have a decent chance of winning it but if there was a 5k race, I’d be one of the ones at the back. So to be able to get through the rounds and be able to run a PB, or very quick, in the final, I need to get stronger over the longer distances.

“So I think I’ll stop doing as many 800s and start doing more 3k and 5k races. I don’t like the thought of that but that shows I need to get better at it.”

Wightman will mark the end of his season today with a night out in New York, a fitting way to draw the curtain on a year unlike any other.

A few weeks’ break – during which Wightman plans to think about anything other than athletics – will be followed by a winter training block in preparation for a season which will be jam-packed with major championships, and opportunities to collect major medals.

The chaos caused to the athletics calendar by the pandemic has resulted in the World Championships, Commonwealth Games and European Championships all taking place within a few weeks of each other next summer and while that is a daunting prospect, it is one Wightman is relishing.

“Next year, everything will be focused on the World Championships in Eugene because it’s been a long time since a Scottish male won gold on the track. If I could do that, it’d be very cool,” he says. 

“The Commonwealth Games is a big focus too and then, if I’m still feeling good, the Europeans could become a target too.

“I know I can compete with these guys, which is the most disappointing thing about Tokyo, so I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do next season.”