By Mac Fleet
January 20, 2022
World championship finalist Neil Gourley of Great Britain is signing a professional contract with Under Armour and joining the Dark Sky Distance group in Flagstaff, Arizona.
The 26-year-old has personal bests of: 1:46.12 for 800m, 3:35.79 for 1,500m and 13:34.35 for 5,000m. He previously trained under Ben Thomas while at Virginia Tech, where he won an NCAA title in the distance medley relay in 2018. He spent the past three years working with Mark Rowland and the Nike Oregon Track Club.
In this brief interview, he discusses the decision for the coaching switch and early plans for 2022.
CITIUS MAG: I just want to say congratulations on signing with Under Armour! What led you to sign with them and join Dark Sky over the last few weeks or months?
Neil Gourley: Thanks, I appreciate that! Stephen Haas has been my agent and was obviously a big factor in this whole thing and was incredibly supportive throughout. He was keen on getting me here to Flagstaff with Under Armour. I was here in November for a four or five week training camp and just kind of organically kind of mixed in with the group while here. I really enjoyed the culture and spending time with a fresh team. That’s still the case. I’m really liking the people that are around and I’m finding myself really enjoying the group and Stephen’s workouts.
I guess this whole thing started last year. It was a little bit similar to Pat Tiernan — I was just reading about him yesterday. I was originally looking to stay around in Eugene, Oregon. That’s kind of dependent on Nike, but after waiting so long, I felt like I needed to find a more supportive environment. That’s just part of the sport — we move on.
It happened so naturally – I came over here and really enjoyed the Dark Sky group itself. So after the trip in December, we spoke to Under Armour about making this permanent. There was good support from their end and I liked everything they had to say. I was encouraged by what they were doing in terms of investing in athletes and the products that they’re going to be putting out.
CITIUS MAG: You mentioned that this was similar to Pat’s situation. I could be completely wrong, but it’s my understanding that the national or area Nike branches are now responsible for the signing of athletes and the US branch has less of a say over foreign runners signing, even if they’re living in the US. I think that’s what a few people have mentioned.
Gourley: That’s exactly it. I believe it was Nike UK that we were talking to. Again, I don’t want to bash anyone, this is just how it works. They said they were going to do something and we had been waiting a while and it got to the middle of the year and eventually we said when?
We were looking at forming a new group in Eugene. Pete Julian just started the Union group. It wouldn’t be official like that, but it would be three or four guys all with the same sponsors and living in the same place. But in the end, nothing materialized. We just tried to make it work and it didn’t work.
I am glad nothing materialized though because I’ve found a group and sponsor that are quite supportive.
CITIUS MAG: Why is it that none of you 1500m guys from the U.K. train together? The event is so loaded now, but everyone is off doing their own thing. You’d think there’d be some large U.K.-based training group that produced you guys, but there isn’t.
Gourley: Yeah, it’s a good question. There’s so much success and there are such high standards at the moment with UK middle distance running. But you’re right, everybody kind of does the same thing – Kerr, Heyward, Wightman, Grice, O’Hare was one and me. But there are all sorts of different approaches to training.
I guess the number one thing is there hasn’t been any investment in putting together a group like that ever, quite frankly. You’ve certainly got the people to do it. Between the 800m,1500m, and 5,000m. But there are a lot of nice opportunities elsewhere.
Quite a few of the US-based UK athletes are finding better situations over here. So that would be the number one reason. Everybody gets on pretty well, but I’ve never even heard that talked about — even just an idea to become a real thing.
Revisit Neil closing hard to outkick Josh Kerr, Charlie Grice, Jake Wightman and Chris O’Hare to win the British 1,500m title in 2019
CITIUS MAG: When is the first time we get to see you racing in the new kit? This indoor season?
Gourley: Indoors! It’s going to be as soon as the 29th in Boston for a 3,000m. There might be something the week after at New Balance Indoor Grand Prix but it’s hard to say. I’ll definitely race at Boston University the weekend following that as well. Then, I’ll head home for the Birmingham Grand Prix and British Indoor Championships. So you’ll see me in my Under Armour gear pretty soon.