With minimal recognition, Kirsten McAslan has just written out one of Scotland's longest-standing records.


At Manchester's Sportscity earlier this month, she clocked 1min 26.22sec for 600 metres, eclipsing by more than a second Linsey Macdonald's mark, set more than 33 years ago at Cosford. It's the fastest-ever 600m, indoors or out, by any Scottish woman.

Macdonald is an iconic figure: UK senior 400m record-holder and an Olympic relay bronze medallist at just 16, she still holds several Scottish sprint bests across several age groups. Beating the Pitreavie athlete's senior record at 21 flags up McAslan's enormous potential - a third generation internationalist of a family steeped in the sport.

Kirsten's parents were friends and contemporaries of Macdonald at Edinburgh University, and both were fine athletes. Kirsten's mum (the former Fiona Hargreaves) raced Macdonald frequently and they were in the same semi-final at the 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games. Hargreaves beat her Scottish rival, but both were nursing injury and neither made the final.

Fiona topped the Scottish one-lap rankings that year, gained her only GB vest the week after the Games, and succeeded Linsey as British Student 400m champion. Kirsten's father, Ewan, was twice British student triple jump champion; uncles Stewart and Kenneth competed for Scotland, and Kirsten's grandfather, Jim McAslan, represented Scotland at 120 yards hurdles.

Despite almost two seasons battling a stress fracture (her 400m best, 52.85, dates back to 2013) and then a hamstring injury, Kirsten made Scotland's Commonwealth 4x400m quartet last year at Hampden. "Missing an individual place was a big disappointment," she says, "but after I suffered a foot injury, I was just glad to be on the relay team."

The 600m is rarely run competitively but is a significant marker for coaches. With injury problems behind her, McAslan's coach, Trevor Painter, suggests it points to a future at 800m. "I can still see her breaking the Scottish 800m record, if she sticks at it," he says. He was "not surprised" at Kirsten breaking the 600m record. The starlet herself says it was simply "a nice surprise - but great given Linsey was friends with my mum".

McAslan is already faster at both 400m and 600m than European and Commonwealth 800m silver medallist Lynsey Sharp. Painter is husband and coach of double world bronze medallist and European indoor champion Jenny Meadows, and points out that McAslan now ranks second at 600m in Britain only to his GB record-holder wife.

Kirsten will race for Scotland against Germany, France, and Great Britain on Saturday at the Emirates in the Sainsbury International - the first appearance of the Scottish athletics team since the Games.

It will be a demanding assignment. McAslan has been focusing on biochemistry finals at Bath University and was unable to join Painter and Meadows who are currently warm-weather training in South Africa. Consequently she has done little speed training. "My last exam is on Friday, so I will fly north later in the day, and race the next," she says. "I'll be up against some good athletes and just hope to be in the mix."

It is the kind of schedule to which her mother can relate - her 1986 Commonwealth appearance meant she had to delay her inaugural appointment as a junior houseman. A week after the Games, Fiona was awarded her only GB vest, in the relay at Gateshead. It was sandwiched between shifts at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Having worked the previous evening, she drove south on race day, and was back on the wards the next.

The demands of her career, and injury, heralded a premature end to athletics. Gone at 24, she knows she did not fulfil her potential.

McAslan has already taken the BUSA one-lap title which her mother won, and was in the relay squad for the European Team event, the fore-runner of which her mother raced in. When Britain won relay gold at the 2011 European Under-20 Championships it was McAslan who anchored the team to victory with a 52.4 leg which was the fastest of any woman in the race. Dreams of similar Hampden glory evaporated, however, when the team failed to reach the final. "We were very disappointed, but I enjoyed the experience in front of a home crowd," she said.

No Scots ran the individual event in Glasgow. "I think I'd have benefited from a race before running the relay, getting used to the crowd, the track, and the atmosphere," says McAslan. "It would have made the relay a lot easier. It's a shame, seeing we were there anyway. It would not have been much hassle having one or two of us run the individual heats."

This year's target is the European Under-23 Championships in Estonia. "I hope to make the team and be in the hunt for a medal."

She is not obsessed about the Rio Olympics, but neither will she repeat mother's early exit. "I don't know what I am going to do, but want to give athletics a shot for a couple of years, and get a part-time job."

She has no UK lottery support, but "some help from scottishathletics. To get a scan on the NHS would have taken me a while, and set me back a lot".

Comparisons with Sharp's 400m and 600m times won't go to her head. "The 600m time excites me, but as an 800m runner you don't run that many 400s."

Her talent excites Painter, who believes a move home to Manchester after graduation will help. "She had nobody to run with in that 600," he says, "so I think she can go quicker still. But I believe she should focus on 400, try for an individual Olympic place in Rio, before any switch. A four-year cycle would be easier to make the move to 800, although she has hinted she fancies trying the 400m hurdles."

McAslan is uncertain. "I always thought my best potential was at 800m, but injuries stopped me training properly at 400. I feel I've unfinished business there. I'd like to see what my full 400m potential is. Maximising speed will help at 800. The hurdles? That's just for a bit of end-of-season fun, really.

"Developing 400m speed would be to my advantage when I move up. Different athletes have different strengths. Lynsey Sharp has an amazing sprint finish, as she has shown."

There are remarkable comparisons, but no certain formula. Sharp's first success was at cross-country, aged 11. Macdonald's first national title was under-13, at cross-country, before any sprint success. And McAslan won the Northern Counties Under-13 cross-country crown, before moving to sprints.

Macdonald and Hargreaves both went on to become general practitioners, in Hong Kong and Manchester respectively.

Cosford was a primitive concrete oval on an RAF station. Sprinters sprinkled soap powder to aid adhesion on the bends. It seems light years removed from today's customised tracks and medical resources for elite athletes. Macdonald's 600m came in the week of Muhammad Ali's final fight (he lost to Trevor Berbick), when Arthur Scargill became president of the Miners' union and as Soviet troops massed on Poland's borders as General Jaruzelski said a state of war existed with the union, Solidarity.

But athletics is not really so different: still about optimising potential, about coaching nous helping make dreams reality. For McAslan it's a family tradition.