An Andover teenager is hoping to go for gold after only taking up running five years ago.

Abigail Woolaston is hoping to set a marathon record and get into the all-time rankings after a strong showing at the London half-marathon in August. The 19-year-old is aiming to become a professional in the future, and compete on the world stage.

“I’d definitely love to be a professional athlete,” she told the Advertiser. “My forte is the longer events. Looking at the World Championships, then on to the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics, is where I’d love to see it go and make it full time, especially with something I really enjoy.”

Abigail only began running five years ago with the Couch to 5K app, which trains people to run for half an hour over a nine-week period as part of an NHS initiative.

“I didn’t have any runners in my family but one day I decided to give it a go and it just took off from there really!” she said. “We lived in Tangley at that point and running is a sport you can do anywhere, you don’t need to be anywhere specific or have any equipment, so the ease of it all appealed to me.

“The fact I can just go out and do it is one of the main reasons I stuck with it as well.”

Abigail says that she is “quite late to the sport”, with many budding athletes entering training at the ages of eight to nine. However, she found she had a natural talent for running, and was soon covering huge distances.

“A year after I started running I ran a 50km ultramarathon when I was 15,” she said, “just before I joined the club. It built from there, and I did my first cross-country season and qualified for the county events.”

Despite starting on the extreme distance runs, Abigail has decided to focus her efforts on the shorter, though by no means small, marathon distance.

“It’s a bit of an odd way of getting into it as normally people start with 5K and cross-country but I’ve done it the opposite way around!” she said.

To make her mark on the athletics scene, Abigail was hoping to set a sub-three hour time at the London Marathon in 2020, which would put her into the all-time rankings for Great Britain in her age group. After the event was postponed due to the pandemic, she continued training, and ran the London half-marathon a few weeks ago.

She said: “I ran 1:19:47, which put me into first for the year for my age group for the half marathon and 14th in the all-time rankings. That was a big step forward, and so I thought I might go for the age group marathon record in London this year.”

In preparation, she has moved from being self-taught to having a coach – Olympic silver medallist Liz McColgan.

“It has been a big step forward and it’s been going really well,” she said. “Having a coach has been the major change, and it’s looking good so hopefully all will go well in the future!”