Glasgow 2014: Muir tackles Grand Prix before Games

European U23 1500m Bronze medallist Laura Muir joins kids at Paul's (Whiteinch) Primary RC School. Picture: SNS
European U23 1500m Bronze medallist Laura Muir joins kids at Paul's (Whiteinch) Primary RC School. Picture: SNS
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AN ALREADY packed calendar has just got a little busier for Laura Muir, with the news that she will compete at the Sainsbury’s Glasgow Grand Prix a mere fortnight before the Commonwealth Games.

Already selected for the 1,500 metres for the Commonwealth Games, the 21-year-old Glasgow University student could well double up in the 800m in Glasgow – and also hopes to compete at the European Championships in Zurich barely a week later.

This summer’s schedule is a demanding one for any athlete, but especially one as young and inexperienced as Muir. So far, however, she has met every challenge thrown in her way and, after a good winter’s training, is confident of maintaining her progress in the coming season.

“I’m certainly in personal-best shape for both of my events,” Muir said yesterday. “I just hope I peak at the right time.

“I’m very fortunate to have had my pre-selection for Glasgow 2014, which meant I didn’t have to start racing early. We knew it was going to be quite intense come July and August, with two main championships. That’s why I’ve delayed starting racing, aiming to be the best prepared I can be.

“I ran just a fraction off my PB [currently 2mins 00.80sec] in January on an indoor track. If you stick another five months of training on that, on an outdoor track, with somebody in front of me…

“That PB came while leading and winning the race as well, so having someone to chase outdoors, five months down the line, two minutes is very achievable. We never really chase times, because you just don’t know how the race is going to go, depending on conditions etc.

“The times will come. I just race to compete and go for the win. But Glasgow would be a nice place to get a good time, in front of a home crowd at a Diamond League event.”

Andy Young, Muir’s coach, faces one substantial, if welcome, headache whenever he tries to plan any distance ahead for her. Just as he thinks he has settled on the best course of action, she exceeds expectations on the track, forcing him to rethink.

Young remains convinced that her peak is a long way off, perhaps six years or more into the future. But she has progressed so quickly that he has learned to factor in the possibility of late adjustments.

Muir’s inclusion in the 800m at the Commonwealth Games will be dependent on the Team Scotland selectors, while she will need to qualify for the Europeans at the British trials in Birmingham. Young’s Plan A, however, sees her taking part in both Commonwealth events and one European – though he cannot yet decide what that one will be.

“We’re holding off until we see how the early season goes,” the coach explained. “We could make predictions, but she’s got a tendency to go past those.

“Last year we were planning toward 1,500m [for the Commonwealth Games] and then she ran two minutes odd for the 800, so we’ll look at the early and mid-season races and make a decision. Whichever event we go for [in Glasgow] also has implications for the European Championships. So we’ll see how the initial races go, look at the trials and then make a plan.

“It’s about planning to optimise things so she can perform at both championships. That’s why we designed the plan to be just five races in the run-in. The way the timetable sits in Glasgow is Monday, Tuesday for the 1,500m, then a day break, then Thursday, Friday for the 800m. It works out pretty well.

“To an extent, we’re preparing for the 1,500, but, at the same time, if she does a remarkable 800 time, we’ll have a choice. You could do the 1,500 and then leave the option open for the 800 after.”

Besides adapting his plans as his athlete improves, Young has also had to adjust to the expectations of a public who are increasingly coming to see her as a medal prospect for Glasgow. He would rather she did not have that tag placed on her, but understands why hopes are growing. “It’s unfair to expect it of her,” he said. “Do I think it’s realistic? It probably is a realistic possibility that she’ll contend for a medal, but that’s just her excelling beyond the reasonable expectations of someone who’s just turned 21.

“I keep saying we should look at 2017 onwards to put actual expectation on her. Everything before that is a bonus.”

Tickets for the Sainsbury’s Glasgow Grand Prix on 11-12 July are on sale via britishathletics.org.uk. Given the strong demand for Commonwealth Games athletics tickets, British Athletics have announced that the first 1,000 people buying tickets for either day will receive one free under-16 ticket.

l Two Scots have been selected to represent Great Britain & Northern Ireland at the European Cup for the 10,000m next month in Skopje, Macedonia. Callum Hawkins and Rhona Auckland have each been selected for the event on 7 June and, while Hawkins already has the one qualifying time required to be selected for the Commonwealth Games, this is a last chance for Auckland to get to the standard of 32mins 50sec.