Sport bursar - Andrew McGill. credit:Bobby Gavin

In conversation with UofG Sports Bursar Andrew McGill

By Rose Julien

Hoping to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, runner Andrew McGill discusses his recent successes, weekly training schedule and hopes for the future.

A University of Glasgow (UofG) sports bursar since 2022, Andrew McGill is in his second year studying Computing Science. A recurring name on Scottish Athletics’ website and repeatedly mentioned as a podium winner, McGill has represented Scotland at multiple events as an under-17 and an under-20 athlete. He applied for the bursary in his first year, and was successful thanks to his running achievements throughout the year, during which he pushed to get a GB vest for the under-20s group. Although he didn’t quite qualify for the GB Team, it was not because of the times that he had run. Indeed, the standard was 3 mins 45 secs for the 1500m, and McGill ran 3 mins 44 secs. Unfortunately, he could not qualify based on the event in which he produced this time, because it wasn’t regarded as big enough. Nonetheless, this achievement did get him a place at the British Champs and on the bursary programme.

McGill explains that his interest in running is “kind of natural”, coming from a family of runners. His grandfather, Francis Clement, was a stellar runner, and like Andrew, he was a middle-distance runner. Clement was part of Team GB at the 1976 Summer Olympics held in Montreal. He also held the British record for the 1500m twice throughout his career, and in 1978 he participated in the Commonwealth Games. Andrew’s parents are also runners, and they met through a running club. Andrew talks of growing up in a household where both parents were “always going out for runs”. At the dawn of eight years old, he joined his first running club. His interest in the sport grew from there.

McGill began competing quite early. From the start, he recalls being motivated to do well. He says, “I was always decent and being good helps. Success is a nice feeling and I’d won school cross-countries and such. Also, I wanted to copy my grandad.” On top of training hard and raking in success at an early age, he admits that his grandfather has always been his idol, even going to the extent of making a presentation about him when he was in primary school. His proximity to someone so successful, someone who achieved great things despite having few resources available to him, made McGill feel like he could follow in his steps. 

McGill found out about the UofG sports bursary through the tight-knit athletics community in Scotland. Initially, he didn’t initially know that Glasgow offered this opportunity, but he knew that Edinburgh University (UofE) had a brilliant sports bursary programme.  By the time he had been rejected from UofE’s sports bursary, McGill had found out about Glasgow’s, and applied there as well. Overall, he says it “worked out better for my running in terms of my coach, and the people I train with. It’s better for my distance as well, Glasgow is a bigger city”. When asked about the benefits of being a Sports Bursar, McGill doesn’t think twice: it’s the financial support. He tells me, “For me to run in races that are competitive enough, I need to travel to England now. Last season, that was getting very expensive. So, the bursary is helpful.” In addition, he also received a free UofG gym membership and lived amongst other athletes in the Sports Bursars flat in his first year. In exchange, McGill offers visibility to UofG and Scottish running, as he competes wearing the University vest. He stresses that it is so important to represent the team because there is a talent leak in Scotland – exceptional Scottish runners are too often moving to join teams in the US. However, McGill is not tempted by that option. He tells me that he doesn’t “feel like I’ve hit my ceiling in Scotland yet. I can get a good education here, be near my family, and I’ve got a good group here”. McGill adds that to him, there is a need to prove that you can make it in Scotland. His grandfather achieved success in Glasgow, and so can he! He hopes that when he runs wearing the UofG vest, some of the younger crowd look at him and be inspired to achieve similar results while staying in the country. 

To maintain his fitness, McGill undergoes an extensive training programme. He currently runs 55 miles weekly and aims to push that number to 65 miles by the end of the winter season. That’s over a marathon a week. His week is primarily divided into distance, strength, and endurance training. 

To McGill, training seems to come under two forms. The first is what he considers the easier pieces of training. That includes his Mondays, where he goes for a 10km run in the morning training before his 9 a.m. class. In his words, “That’s pretty easy”. In the evening, he does strength training through a programme designed by his physiotherapist Scott MacAulay. On Wednesday, the schedule is reversed, and he starts with strength training at the gym, then runs approximately nine miles in the evening. Again, “that’s just easy running”. For Thursday, he runs four miles in the morning followed by an elliptical class in the evening – another form of threshold training. Friday is also a gentler workout, with McGill covering eight or nine miles. I point out that this may not sound “easy” to the average runner, but McGill is very humble and reminds me that he’s been running for over a decade. Finally, on Saturday he has cross-country sessions with the Cambuslang Harriers. This training is internal usually, but every three or four weeks, there is a GAA (Glasgow Athletics Association) session where all the clubs from around Glasgow join up to do a joint cross-country session.

Another form of training McGill does is endurance training. As a member of the Cambuslang Harries, McGill receives training from Mike Johnson, Scottish National Endurance Coach. Over winter these sessions focus on threshold training, a form of training inspired by Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who McGill calls “the superstar of middle-distance running right now”. Threshold running is a form of training where athletes train their bodies to run as fast as they can, keeping their heart rate at a level where they don’t produce lactic acid, which slows down the athlete as their legs get heavy. Although McGill makes me understand that this is tough training, he talks about it excitedly and with a glint in his eyes. Finally, his last day of the week is a long run. And for Andrew McGill, that’s a half marathon.

With such a heavy schedule, it’s easy to wonder how McGill manages to balance his studies with his athletic lifestyle. However, he calmly assures that “they really complement each other. With my degree, a lot of it is problem solving and I’ll get stuck on an exercise and go for a run. When I get back from running, it’ll have sunk into place and make sense. If I’ve had a long, tiring day and my head is just full, running helps me clear my head. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s running hard to relax!” 

As for balancing his social life, an essential part of any student experience, McGill feels just as balanced. He says, “Someone told me recently that there is no such thing as missing out. So, if I’m not there, I’m not missing out.  You can’t do everything, and I’ve chosen to put my running first” McGill goes on to explain that the drinking culture is part of the reason there is a talent leak in Scotland, as going to study in an environment less centred around the social consumption of alcohol can help athletes stay more focused. He asserts: “I always say anyone can do my training, but the not-fun part is being disciplined. It’s going to bed at the right time, saying no to a night out, or leaving early and not drinking. But it’s not missing out, it’s a choice”.

With such a strong mindset, it seems like McGill is not likely to be distracted from fulfilling his aims. Since he is more of a track runner, and the Winter season involves more training and preparation than competing, McGill already has big goals for 2024. “I’m going for the sub-4 minute mile next season, so that’s the next target! Running is about gradually building up and the winter races matter but they’re not a priority. I train through them to get the mileage in for track”. A nearer goal is the Armagh Road race in Northern Ireland. This major 5km race takes place in early February and is considered one of the biggest races for sub-elite club runners. In the university sphere, McGill hopes to stay on the sports bursary, and is excited to compete in BUCS with the UofG Hares and Hounds team.

We wish Andrew all the best with his future endeavours and look forward to seeing him improve. Happy running!

Students or applicants interested in becoming University of Glasgow sports bursar like Andrew can apply for 2024-2025 between May 2024 to September 2024. For further information, you can contact UofG Athlete Support Lead, Callum Hill at [email protected], or consult the webpage dedicated to the sports bursaries on the University of Glasgow website.


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