Laura Muir was a young girl in Milnathort in the summer of 2008, when Christine Ohuruogu triumphed in the Olympic 400 metres in the magnificent Bird’s Nest in Beijing.
“I’d have only been 15 at the time,” said Muir. “And I recall the opening ceremony, it was amazing watching it on TV.”
In the early hours of tomorrow Muir will be a participant rather than a viewer when the World Championships light up the same venue and the Scot begins her bid in the 1,500m.
Back in 2008, appearing amid such illustrious company, let alone arriving among the medal contenders, would have seemed the remotest of possibilities.
“I wasn’t as much into athletics then,” added Muir. “I was in my own wee bubble. I just enjoyed competing in the sport but, when I’d go onto the ranking website, I’d only ever look at the Scottish races. It was about how I was doing at home.
“I don’t think I ever looked at the UK rankings. I wasn’t that well-informed about what was going on.”
At home and abroad, they all know about Muir now, veterinary student by day and track star by night. Already this season, she has claimed a maiden Diamond League victory in Oslo with an audacious run, before delivering a performance in Monaco so flawless that only Kelly Holmes, among Britons, has ever gone faster. The Grande Dame’s British record is now in Muir’s sights. “But I know the time is not going to come if you chase it, it’s just a matter of getting the right race on the right day and it will come, I’m sure,” she says.
Muir sees no reason to limit her ambitions. Graduating from Glasgow University has been stalled by choosing to study part-time in the lead-up to Rio 2016 but animal health retains what is left of her energies. Exams have been sat, and passed, amid the schedule of races and altitude camps. Planes have been a replacement for the library in finding a quiet space to revise. A fortnight of laboratory work was squeezed in during June with former British marathon international Hayley Haining, who can comprehend the complexities of juggling sport and study. “When I come back from Beijing I’ve got five days of holiday and then two weeks of practice before I go back to uni,” said Muir. “I’ve got one week with a small animal vet who I’ve worked with before. And then, the week after, I’m hopefully working with a veterinary acupuncturist. It’s a lady who runs a clinic which also does some specialist cardiology stuff as well so it will be fascinating to see it. I’ll need to do a bit of studying to make sure I know my stuff for that and it will be nice to have a wee break from running.”
Before then, a global tilt. Despite her newly-acquired best time of 3:58.66, Muir goes into her opening heat with points to prove. After reaching the semi-finals at these championships in Moscow two years ago, the Scot entered last year with designs on overtaking the elite. Performances contradicted the assertions of her coach, Andy Young, that we would not see her peak until 2017 or beyond.
Instead of expected elation, tears flowed when she fell at the first hurdle in the world indoor championships in Sopot. More, you suspect, in the wake of a similarly deflating departure at the subsequent European Championships in Zurich. If then, a splash of naiveté could be offered as justification, rational excuses will be harder to find if she suffers disappointment again.
“Sometimes that’s been my fault, sometimes it hasn’t been,” Muir reflects. “I’ve got a lot more confidence in my abilities now and tactics-wise as well. I think I’ve improved so much over the past couple of years so I think it’s all coming together now and, hopefully, I can have a good championship performance.”