European indoor champion “in good shape” for Birmingham 2018 as she juggles demands of athletics with final year of her veterinary degree
One day working at the Small Animal Hospital in Glasgow, the next competing in the 3000m final of a global athletics showpiece. Such is the life of Laura Muir right now.
She herself admits “it’s a bit surreal” to be shuffling so rapidly between dual roles but if her preparations for an assault on the 1500m and 3000m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships – juggling the demands of being a world-class athlete with the incredibly intensive final year of her veterinary degree – have been unconventional, Muir has reached the start line very much ready to go and in a confident mood.
After something of an epic taxi journey through the snow from Scotland, the most high-profile member of the Great Britain team to feature at these championships is first up on the Birmingham track, alongside compatriot Eilish McColgan, and the spotlight will be firmly trained in her direction.
Yet if there are nerves about the task in hand then they are not showing.
The first leg of her double mission is the 3000m, which will lift the curtain on opening night on Thursday along with the women’s and men’s high jump competitions. It is another gruelling, packed, schedule but, if anyone is used to having a lot to do, it’s the 24-year-old.
“Last year worked well but I didn’t know what shape I would be in to do both events,” said Muir, who won the European indoor 1500m and 3000m titles in 2017 and only recently confirmed her twin ambitions for Birmingham. “This year I feel I’m in good shape and put a really good training block in. Hopefully I can run as best as possible and come away with a medal – one or two would be great.
“I guess on the first night you want to do well. I don’t feel too much pressure. Hopefully myself and the high jumpers can put on a show and work the crowd. That would be nice.”
Raising the Arena Birmingham roof by winning a global podium spot – a position so cruelly denied her by Caster Semenya’s lunge for the line and a margin of just 0.07 of a second in the 1500m at London 2017 – would be a fine start to these championships indeed.
It would represent an impressive feat in normal circumstances, but the fact it would be done whilst also coping with what has been a physically demanding, not to mention mentally draining, academic year would mark it down as particularly exceptional.
Asked if she has surprised herself at being able to handle the training and final year workloads, Muir replies: “Yes. I knew how tough it was with the long hours on the course and then fitting in training. That’s why I wasn’t definite about doing the double initially. But the vet school have been very supportive. I had to send a few emails saying ‘I’ve got a big competition coming up, is it OK if I have a couple of days?’. They were fine about it.
“I managed to attend a few tutorials and things early, so I am not missing too much.
“Also my coach Andy (Young) has been setting things in place to mean I’m in really good shape.”
Muir has packed some reading material on ophthalmology, should there be a quiet moment, but her immediate focus is most definitely on the track. She will face fearsome, if familiar, opposition in both events with the fields including the likes of Ethiopia’s defending 3000m world indoor champion Genzebe Dibaba and Dutch defending 1500m world indoor champion Sifan Hassan. Kenya’s 5000m world champion Hellen Obiri also competes in the 3000m.
The British 1500m record-holder is not one to spend too much time worrying about who she will be coming up against, however.
“Some people are down to be doubling, but whether they will or not, I don’t know,” adds Muir. “It is just a matter of I will race whoever is on the startline. That’s always been my philosophy. Hopefully I can come away with a good performance. I’m going to focus on performances and I want to get through the rounds and compete the best I can at the event.”
Muir is certainly a very different athlete to the one which got spooked and failed to make it to the 800m final the last time she raced at the World Indoors, in Sopot four years ago, and is far from daunted by a schedule that will involve three races in three days in Birmingham (she will race in the 1500m heat on Friday evening before the final 24 hours later).
“Last year (at the European Championships) I had a heat of the 1500m as well, but the World Indoors is one more level up,” she adds. “It will be very tough against a lot of the Africans and some of the Europeans, as well. Even though it is only two rounds, it will be very demanding, physically demanding as well as mentally.
“I feel like I am in a good place to perform well in all the rounds. From my practice in Belgrade and London (where she contested the 1500m and 5000m) I am used to doing the two events now. It’s something I should be able to cope well with.”