Laura Muir

Runner's World (UK) - - DOUBLE BILL -

She is the new dar­ling of Bri­tish track and field, the next Paula Rad­cliffe (says her coach) and pos­si­bly our best chance of a gold medal on the track at this month’s World Champs. But ac­cord­ing to Laura Muir, she’s just like the rest of us.

Com­ing from the woman who ended last year ranked num­ber one in the world over 1500m (she’s no. 2 as we go to press), that's way be­yond the stan­dard ath­lete’s line in self-dep­re­ca­tion, but pushed fur­ther she won’t budge: ‘It’s true,’ she says. ‘I just train more. A lot more.’

While there’s ob­vi­ously more to it than that, there’s no doubt that Muir’s prodi­gious work ethic has played a ma­jor part in her de­vel­op­ment, and her re­cent run of form (see box­out be­low) hasn’t sur­prised her. ‘It seems to the pub­lic like I’ve come from nowhere, but I’ve been work­ing on this since I was a child and now the re­wards are start­ing to come,’ she says. As with Hawkins and so many other ath­letes, the foun­da­tions of Muir’s suc­cess were laid with years of grit and toil away from the spot­light.

In her teenage years in Kin­ross, Scot­land, Muir would run laps of the school play­ing fields in the depths of win­ter long af­ter the other kids had gone home. The only light came from the head­lights from her mum’s car.

‘ I HAVE TRAINED AND TRAINED AND TRAINED FROM SUCH AN EARLY AGE THAT IT IS SECOND NA­TURE TO ME NOW’

To watch her com­pete now, all gri­mace and el­bows, bat­tling her way down the back straight, you get the feel­ing those laps forged the Scot­tish steel we see to­day.

‘Yes, that’s true for sure,’ says Muir. ‘Peo­ple ask me what the se­cret is but there isn’t one – that’s why I say I’m not that dif­fer­ent from other peo­ple. But I have trained and trained and trained from such an early age that it is second na­ture to me now and I know it works. I come from a fam­ily where we are or­gan­ised and we work hard and I ap­ply those two things to my life both on and off the track.’

A ne­ces­sity re­ally, given Muir is also study­ing to be­come a vet. She would have her school books out in the car, do­ing home­work in the back seat as her Mum drove them to athletics meets. She’d run her heats and in be­tween sit track­side with her nose in a text­book.

ALL OR NOTH­ING Aged 24, not much has changed. ‘My coach and I had to have a se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion – a ne­go­ti­a­tion re­ally – about how to fit in athletics and stud­ies,’ says Muir. ‘Af­ter a cou­ple of years of the de­gree it was get­ting harder to com­bine both. He wanted me to train more while I wanted to study more – an­i­mals have al­ways come first for me – so we came up with a five-year plan of how I could do it all. I’ve gone part-time on the study­ing so it’ll take me seven years to grad­u­ate in­stead of five.

Now I get up early and train at around 7am, do my stud­ies for the day, then train again. I don’t re­ally have much of a so­cial life but I don’t re­gret that at all. I’d love to be Olympic cham­pion; I want to be a vet and I don’t want to have to choose be­tween the two.’

A big fea­ture of Muir’s per­for­mances has been her will­ing­ness to run from the front and take the race to the east Africans, who have a long his­tory of dom­i­nance in mid­dle-dis­tance run­ning. Muir, though, is ut­terly un­fazed by this.

‘When I race I don’t think about what’s gone be­fore or look at it in terms of Euro­peans and Africans. I just see ath­letes and that’s all. I do my train­ing, as­sess the op­po­si­tion, come up with my game plan and so – if I’ve done ev­ery­thing right – I’ve got as much of a chance as they have.’

This bullish ap­proach will be put to the test in both the 1500m and the 5000m in Lon­don, a com­bi­na­tion not of­ten at­tempted ow­ing to the world-class lev­els of both speed and en­durance that are re­quired. But Muir is con­fi­dent of be­com­ing only the second ath­lete af­ter Bernard La­gat (2007) to achieve it at a World Champs.

‘Things can go wrong’ she says. ‘You get in­jured or your ri­vals spring a sur­prise, or you just have a bad race. But I feel in good shape and, while I can’t be sure about the colour of the medals, why shouldn’t they be gold?’

LEADER Cal­lum Hawkins leads the pack in the Rio Olympic Marathon. He fin­ished ninth

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