Any student entering the business end of their final year at university will recognise the need for an occasional release from the grind of studies, be it a few pints of snakebite at the student union or a binge watch of the Hollyoaks omnibus.
For Laura Muir, however, it will be a bracing run around the testing Holyrood Park course in the freezing bite of a Scottish January as she returns to compete in tomorrow’s Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh XCountry event in the capital.
Muir is taking a brief break from her veterinary medicine studies and fieldwork to lead the Great Britain quartet in the 4x1k mixed relay against teams from USA, Europe and Scotland and aims to repeat last year’s victory in the event.
It follows her impressive start to the athletics year as she won the 3,000m Scottish indoor title in Glasgow on Sunday, finishing overall fifth in a mixed race.
“The weekend will certainly be different and a bit colder but I’m looking forward to it,” said the European indoor 1,500m and 3,000m champion. “It’s a competition I’ve done the last few years and it’s always a great atmosphere.
“No matter the weather the crowds are always great. It’s a great opportunity to get out there and have some fun. Get some racing and be competitive without too much pressure. It’s important for athletes to have those kind of things.”
Particularly important at the moment as Muir is busier than ever as she aims to complete her University of Glasgow degree – a commitment which means the Dundee Hawkhill Harrier from Milnathort won’t run for Scotland in April’s Commonwealth Games in Australia’s Gold Coast.
“It’s been a long time,” said the 24-year-old of the course which has been extended due to her athletics career. “It will be seven years come the summer. I still enjoy what I’m doing. Final year is all about the practical stuff so we’re hands on and putting into practice what we’ve learned over the past few years. “Today I was in a couple of surgeries and monitoring anaesthesia, which was really good. There is so much variety that it’s difficult to get bored.”
Muir will be joined in the GB team tomorrow by Alexandra Bell, Adam Clarke and Tom Marshall, while Steph Twell and Jake Wightman feature in a Scotland A team.
Tomorrow’s action gets under way with the Great Winter Run at 9.40am, followed by district and junior races and then that relay, the women’s 6k and, finally, the men’s 8k.
Muir said she will decide two weeks before whether or not she will compete in the World Indoors at Birmingham Arena in February but has known for some time that the Commonwealth Games was a no-go as she heads toward her university finals.
“Me and my coach knew quite a few years ago that Commonwealths wasn’t going to be in the frame for this year,” she said. “I knew I had to finish my degree at some point and with this year not being an Olympics or world championships it was the year that made sense.
“I kind of mentally accepted it a while ago. It will be hard come April team seeing the Scottish team and other athletes I race against out there. But I wish them all the best and I’m sure they will do very well without me. We’ve got lots of medal opportunities for the team.”
Muir admitted that the time difference will make it difficult to follow the action live but she will be keeping a close eye on how her team-mates get on in the Aussie sunshine.
“I think I might go for the middle ground,” she said. “I’ll be working in an animal hospital all through April and studying as much as I can, too. So I don’t know if I’ll be able to stay up late into the night. But I’ll try to catch up with as much as I can during the day.”
Muir has now had five months to process the dramatic ten days in London back in August when she boldly went for medals in both the 1,500m and 5,000m at the IAAF World Championship and was agonisingly pipped off the podium in the former.
“Overall I’m really pleased with how the championship went,” she reflected. “It’s tough coming fourth no matter what standard of competition it is. On home soil in such a fine margin was really hard.
“At the same time, that’s the highest I’ve ever placed in a global final and I negotiated the rounds well. I’m really proud of my sixth in the 5,000m as it’s not a distance I’d ran much.
“So my performances in the two events I’m pleased with and it shows I’ve moved forward again and can build on that for next time.”