‘My house­mate will have no fear racing me on the big stage’

Euro­pean cham­pion Muir goes head-to-head with fel­low Scot Reekie as ath­let­ics fi­nally emerges from Covid lock­down

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Athletics - By Ben Bloom ath­let­ics correspond­ent in Monaco Laura Muir was speak­ing on be­half of YuMOVE’s Wa­glet­ics – a cam­paign pro­mot­ing good ex­er­cise prac­tice for dogs. yumove.co.uk

Out be­yond the boats moored in the Port de Cap-d’Ail, the Mediter­ranean glis­tens in a scene that is quintessen­tially high sum­mer in Monaco: big yachts, high heels, ex­pen­sive sun­glasses. It is only the preva­lence of face masks that sug­gests any­thing out of the or­di­nary.

Laura Muir can ob­serve it all, but only from the safety of her ho­tel win­dow. Like ev­ery ath­lete com­pet­ing in to­mor­row’s Di­a­mond League meet­ing, she was tested for Covid-19 be­fore and af­ter ar­rival here, be­fore be­ing safely en­sconced in­side the ho­tel, which has been se­lected due to its po­si­tion di­rectly across the street from the sta­dium.

The re­stric­tions do not stop there: one-way sys­tems in ho­tel cor­ri­dors, buf­fets no longer self­ser­vice and ac­cred­i­ta­tion lim­ited to re­duce the in­ner cir­cle to only those whose pres­ence is vi­tal.

All throw­ing events have been scrapped to pro­vide space on the in­field for ath­letes to gather pre-race.

Even so, the fact that the meet­ing is even tak­ing place is still some­thing of a sur­prise given the re­cent rise in coro­n­avirus cases in the host prin­ci­pal­ity and neigh­bour­ing France, and the in­ter­na­tional na­ture of the com­peti­tors, who have ar­rived from around the world.

For­tu­nately for the Bri­tish con­tin­gent, elite ath­letes are ex­empt from the 14-day quar­an­tine an­nounced with­out no­tice last night for those re­turn­ing to Bri­tain from this week­end.

The event marks the start of a long-de­layed and much-re­duced ath­let­ics season, and will take place in front of spec­ta­tors un­der gov­ern­ment rules al­low­ing mass gath­er­ings of up to 5,000 peo­ple in Monaco and France.

“We’re not to come into con­tact with any­one from out­side the bub­ble,” says Muir, 27, via tele­phone. She con­firms with a laugh that she has only been able to look at, but not touch, the nearby sea.

For elite in­ter­na­tional ath­letes such as Muir, the four-time Euro­pean mid­dle-dis­tance cham­pion, the season has been one of can­cel­la­tions, post­pone­ment and al­tered plans. Strangely, it also meant one of her main ri­vals mov­ing into her house.

Muir’s re­la­tion­ship with fel­low Scot Jemma Reekie is far from con­ven­tional for sports­peo­ple tar­get­ing iden­ti­cal goals. For many years, Reekie has been like a younger sis­ter to her more suc­cess­ful train­ing part­ner, shunted to the back seat in cars and de­fer­ring to Muir over bed choices at camps.

Then Reekie, 22, sud­denly set Bri­tish in­door records for the 800 me­tres, 1500m and mile in Fe­bru­ary, tak­ing two of Muir’s na­tional-best marks in the process. A month later and coro­n­avirus lock­down meant they were liv­ing to­gether as world-class peers in Muir’s Glas­gow home to avoid hav­ing to train alone.

“When ev­ery­thing kicked off, I said to her that she could move in and I think more or less she did it that evening,” Muir says. “We’ve lived to­gether on camps, of­ten in the same room, for four or five weeks at a time. Luck­ily I got the guest bed­room sorted at Christ­mas time. We had our own space if we needed it, but to be hon­est we didn’t re­ally. We were more or less with each other 24/7 for weeks on end. But it was very easy – we un­der­stand each other and get each other very well.”

Any vi­sion of the ruth­less com­pet­i­tive­ness they share on the track spilling out into home life is quickly re­but­ted. “We didn’t have any hic­cups what­so­ever,” Muir says. “It was all plain sail­ing. We are creep­ily sim­i­lar. Even when we’d go to the shops we’d end up think­ing of the same meal ideas and want­ing to buy the same food. Some­one would buy a cer­tain type of yo­gurt and the other per­son will have bought the same type of yo­gurt, too. “Even be­fore lock­down, we’d find our­selves at the same shop­ping cen­tre, on the same day, buy­ing the same present for the same friend. We’re weird that way. So it was very easy.”

Hav­ing both re­cently be­come am­bas­sadors for a dog fit­ness cam­paign launched by YuMOVE, Muir – a qual­i­fied vet – was also able to fuel her love of an­i­mals by Reekie bring­ing her dog, Dolly, with her. Reekie and Dolly have now re­turned to their own home, but the hu­man pair are back shar­ing a room in Monaco ahead of a fas­ci­nat­ing 1,000m clash that fea­tures Olympic 1500m cham­pion Faith Kipye­gon step­ping down in dis­tance, and world 800m cham­pion Hal­imah Nakaayi step­ping up.

With no ma­jor event to aim for this year, the re­sult it­self mat­ters lit­tle be­yond pro­vid­ing an in­sight into whether train­ing has yielded any im­prove­ments. “It’s nice to have a few races with noth­ing pinned on them,” Muir says, pre­dict­ing Reekie will “have no fear” now she is com­pet­ing on the big­gest stage. Un­like many ath­letes, Muir had felt some sense of re­lief when the Tokyo Olympics were pushed back a year, given what she de­scribes as her “most dis­rupted win­ter ever” when an Achilles prob­lem left her un­able to run for many weeks. “It was a bit­ter­sweet thing,” she says. “It be­ing post­poned was pretty dis­ap­point­ing be­cause no mat­ter where you’re at, you still want an Olympics.

“But I prob­a­bly wasn’t as dis­ap­pointed as a lot of ath­letes be­cause I hadn’t run at all over the win­ter. “It’s been good just to have a nice solid block of train­ing this sum­mer and get stronger. Hope­fully it means I can have a strong win­ter and be in a much bet­ter po­si­tion next year than I would have been had the Olympics been this year.”

‘I’ve been with Jemma more or less 24/7 for weeks on end – we un­der­stand each other’

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