LAURA MUIR RUNS STIRLING LAP OF HONOUR - PAGE 19
LAURA Muir produced her usual signature performance to bring the baton home first in Scotland’s New Year mixed relay crosscountry race for a fifth successive year – then did a marathon session with the hundreds of autograph hunters who waited patiently for her afterwards.
The 25-year-old’s anchor leg in yesterday’s Simplyhealth Great Stirling X Country was a glorified lap of honour. By the time the European outdoor gold medallist picked up the baton, Great Britain already had a commanding lead. That was down to the sterling work of the remainder of her GB team, Scotland’s Jamie Williamson and England’s Phil Sesemann and Alex Bell, and the fact US second-leg runner Danielle Shanahan took a wrong turn on the course.
Having out run an ostrich on a warm-weather training camp in South Africa prior to Christmas, the closest she had to a race yesterday was a young girl enthusiastically sprinting alongside her for 20 metres or so. She and Bell recorded identical times of 4.38 for the 1500m stints of a course which included a lengthy uphill stretch on the first fairway of Stirling Golf Club, with Williamson and Sesemann both timed at 4.10.
A strong European team mainly composed of Spaniards fresh from claiming the European Cross Country title in Tilburg in December finished second, nine seconds back, with Scotland’s Under-20 team pipping Scotland’s senior team, mainly on the strength of a storming second leg by Erin Wallace, the promising teenage athlete/triathlete who has also recently joined Andy Young’s training group.
“I was aware on the intercom,” said Muir of the unfortunate wrong turn taken by Team USA which influenced this race. “I could tell something was going on, but thankfully it wasn’t a GB runner. When I saw they were quite a bit far ahead, it meant I could coast it or take it a bit easier over the first half and then be strong to the finish. It was just a matter of judging it and being strong to the end.”
Muir has now won four times in this event since it went to this current format – three times over its old course at Holyrood Park in Edinburgh, and once in the colours of Scotland. And as she reminded us, even in 2015, when her Scotland team ultimately finished third, “I’ve come through the line first every time”. She appreciated the support, particularly those making the journey from her old school at Kinross.
“I take it in more [the crowd shouts] than I would on the track because the crowd is so close and they’re shouting really loudly, about my school, about home, from Glasgow,” she said. “And it’s nice to have little kids running alongside you too. But I would feel a bit of a numpty if I lost it because I started doing something. I am always very respectful to the rest of the field. I don’t celebrate until I pass the finishing line.”
For Williamson, the son of former Scottish middle-distance runner Graham, there was delight about delivering the baton over safe and sound after a strong opening leg. On his first appearance in a GB vest in Tilburg, a fine opening leg was spoiled by an untimely slip on a sodden downhill section of the course as GB ultimately finished fourth.
“That made up for Tilburg,” said Williamson, who was raised in Germany. “I was really disappointed with the fall at the Euros but we all had strong legs and then I knew Laura would take it for us at the end. Two GB vets in succession is really good. I just want to keep it going in the summer, maybe with the European Under-23s.”
Muir is on a flight back to South Africa today, for another stint of warm-weather training. By the time she returns for the trials at Birmingham in mid-February, excitement will be building nicely ahead of the European Indoors in March.
“European Indoors is huge,” said Muir. “The crowd reaction there was fantastic so you can imagine what it’s going to be like at the Emirates Arena. I know I’m in good form. It’s a matter of maintaining and improving it. I will continue to work hard because if you ease off, you won’t get any faster.”
Laura Muir brings the baton home for Great Britain with Stirling Castle in the background