With two international 800m runners for parents, it's no great surprise that 16-year-old Myles Marshall is proving slick over the two-lap distance. Fresh from winning gold at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympics, SPIKES finds out what it's like to grow up in a middle-distance super family.

Dad John ran a lifetime best of 1:43.92 aged 20 to make the 1984 US Olympic 800m team, and won bronze at the following year's World University Games in Japan. Mother Debbie (Grant) posted her 800m lifetime best running 2:00.81 to win in Lausanne in 1989.

“Genetics most definitely plays a part, but the way I see it is it only plays a role in a certain way,” says Myles Marshall, 16. “My older brother, who has the same parents, is actually a dancer. He is not a runner, but is still a very muscular guy and much more flexible than I am. I can’t even touch my toes, whereas he can touch the ground whenever he pleases. So I think genetics play a role, but there is a certain way the genetics have to fall to be in God’s plan.”

Trying several sports before choosing athletics aged 12, Marshall was never pressured from his parents to compete in track. He then tried everything from the sprints, triple and long jump and the mile before gravitating towards the 800m.

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Myles racing in Nanjing, 30 years after his dad's Olympic bow

“My parents have always been there to support me,” he says. “I've been to meets with some friends whose parents wouldn't go along to the meets. My parents care about track and field, but not only to see me run but also my friends run. They also let my coaches do their own thing and simply see my natural progression.”

Having been there, done it and got the vests, his parents are a great sounding board for the teenage athlete. “They always relate to me and know what I am thinking even before I know what I am thinking.

“Last year my dad told me I should try out for the junior national team. He said 'it only takes 1:48 to make it to the world junior team'. I thought at the time, that is still pretty fast – my best at the time was only 1:51. I thought I'll see how the season goes and I was running 1:51, when at the New Balance nationals I ran 1:49! Then I ran 1:48 for second at junior nationals. I thought, they [parents] know where I’m going before I do!”

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Young Myles chomps on his family gold on the podium

Although Myles is advised by his high school coach from September to May, his mother Debbie handles his coaching during the summer season. 

The pair cooked up – in conjunction with dad John – a Marshall masterplan for the Youth Olympic Games in which Myles would push out quickly for the first 150m, then relax and run his own race, before making his winning move 150m out.

The plan was executed to perfection in the final in Nanjing. Guided by the family maxim “just run your own race and don't shoot for times” – Myles won in 1:49.14.

He feels no pressure to emulate his parents' achievements, and views their accomplishments as an inspiration.

“They definitely worked hard at their sport,” he says. “They weren’t as blessed as I am to be quite honest. They came from very little. They did it the hard way, but got scholarships to universities, graduated and became great athletes. They are people who I really look up to, who know the sport well, and know how the game works. I’m glad they are on my side.”