FOR some athletes, the close of a demanding season which has included both the Commonwealth Games and European Championships cannot come quickly enough. For Laura Muir, by contrast, the end may be coming all too quickly.
Those two major meetings were severe disappointments for the 21-year-old Scot, who had been seen as a medal contender in both. First she finished 11th in the 1,500 metres final in Glasgow before opting not to run in the 800m heats the following day. Then, ranked third in the continent over 1,500m – the only event for which she was entered at the Europeans – she finished sixth in the heats in Zurich and failed to reach the final.
Muir looked demoralised at the time, but anyone tempted to write her off on the strength of those setbacks has since been proven wrong. Sixth in the 1,500 at the Diamond League meeting in Stockholm last week, with Commonwealth silver medallist Laura Weightman among those behind her, she then came fourth in the 800 in the Birmingham Grand Prix on Sunday, recording a personal best for the two laps of 2min 00.67sec. That was still a second and a half slower than race winner Lynsey Sharp, but Muir is confident she can get faster still.
“I knew I was in good shape, but I didn’t think I’d be that far up that kind of field,” she said of a race which also featured Kenyan world and Commonwealth champion Eunice Sum. “It was a very strong field, so I was thinking as long as I didn’t come last I’d be doing well. I’m really, really happy with that.
“I know I’m in faster shape than that, but that was just the sort of race it was – it wasn’t won in a very fast time. So to be that close to girls that run 1:57, 1:58 is very promising.
“It was just a very well run race by me and I’m happy. In that sort of race I was so happy to be fourth. It’s the highest I’ve placed in a Diamond League and that was a very strong event.
“I haven’t raced over 800 that much. I think I’ve only done it twice this year, and both times we tried a tactic where I went with the [leading] group at the start. But I was almost running a 200m PB at the start and that wasn’t working, so I knew in this race I had to run from the back and my endurance would take me through to the finish line. I just had to run my own race and run even splits as I haven’t got the same speed as the other girls.”
That lack of a killer kick will be a major factor when Muir decides which distances to settle on in the longer term, but, as things stand, she is no rush to leave the 800. And, after the buffeting she took in some races this season, the main focus next year for her and coach Andy Young is unlikely to be on a specific distance, but rather on gaining vital experience of what it takes to thrive at the highest level of track and field.
“It’s kind of hard to say right now for next season,” she explained. “This year we prioritised championships, whereas next year we’re looking to race a bit more and get a bit more racing experience.
“I’ve not been consistent, but that’s because I’ve been getting faster and faster. Hopefully, I can get consistently quick – that would be good.”
Still a relative novice in senior international competition, the Glasgow University student will also benefit simply from being around more experienced athletes more regularly. That could simply be in team camps on international duty, although she might also find it useful – studies permitting – to spend more time with rivals such as Weightman, who is based in the north of England and is coached by Steve Cram. Having joined the British Athletics endurance programme in April as a mentor for both athletes and coaches, Cram should be available to both Muir and Young as they plot the next chapter of her career.