Laura Muir certainly isn’t afraid of hard graft but, unsurprisingly, the classy Scottish athlete wants that endeavour to count for something.
After finishing fifth at the World Championships in Doha last month, the 26-year-old was candid in her view that winner Sifan Hassan’s gold medal was tarnished by her association with coach Alberto Salazar, who has been banned for four years by the US Anti-Doping Agency.
“I think there is a cloud. There’s no avoiding that.” she said at the time and, yesterday, as she spoke about her bid for a world 1,000 metres indoor record, which is scheduled for the Muller Indoor Grand Prix in Glasgow in February, and the personal quest for a place on the Olympic podium in Tokyo later in 2020, she had no regrets about expressing that opinion. Even if they did not go down too well with the Dutchwoman, who slammed the speculation.
“I’ve not seen her since,” said Muir. “But we need these things to come out. All we want is a level playing field. There is only so much you can control and so much you can do. You have just got to support these things coming out, and people getting caught, investigations getting done. That is what has to happen for the field to be as level as possible.
“It wouldn’t mean anything to me if I wasn’t 100 per cent a clean athlete. That is 100 per cent what I am all about. I have very high morals in that sense. I want to achieve everything I can, 100 per cent me. All I can do is focus on myself, that is all I am in control of. I will race whoever is on the start line but I will give 100 per cent to be the best I can be.
“You can’t think about it too much. It would really take away from your enjoyment of the sport if you questioned every single race that you are in and everything. All you can do is control yourself. I love the sport for what it is. I love training and I love racing. All I can do is prepare myself the best I can, take each race as it comes and do the best I can. If the best I can is fourth or fifth in a race then that is all I can do. But, hopefully my best will be good enough to get a medal on the global stage in the future.”
Following a superb start to the year in which she enjoyed her second successive double European indoor success, at 1,500m and 3,000m, there had been high hopes of Muir’s first outdoor global medal last month but, following a fourth-place finish in the previous World Championships, she had to content herself with fifth in Doha.
Hamstrung by a calf injury that set back her training, and hit by a stomach bug in the lead-up to the 1,500m, she still produced her second-best time ever and her ability to extrapolate the positives has given her a strong platform on which she can head into the new year.
“I was really happy with my indoor season, which couldn’t have gone any better, and I was very happy with my outdoor season until my injury. But to still run 3min 55 secs in Doha, I was absolutely delighted with that,” said the Scot.
“At the time it was frustrating because you want to be running faster and performing as you know you can. It is difficult when you know you are not quite 100 per cent, when you know you need to be. That is a big driving force because I know that if I can have that kind of disruption and still run that well, if I have a clean slate going into a championships then I stand a really good chance of doing well. It was frustrating at the time but, because of the way I did run, it has been a confidence booster as well.”
Back in training after some well-earned down time, she heads off for a high-altitude training block in South Africa in a couple of weeks before returning home for Christmas, albeit she will still be putting in the hours at the Emirates. “Yeah I’ll be training all throughout Christmas and back out to South Africa in January. It’s funny actually, one of my mum’s friends asked: ‘What time does she get off over Christmas?’ She had to tell her ‘Well if it lands on a Friday, she gets a rest day. If not, she’ll be training!’ ” After that she returns to South Africa for another concentrated training burst as she eyes up that record attempt in Glasgow in February.
“I am really excited. I have been the British and European record holder; it would be really nice to get my very first world record. And where better to do it than on my home track where I have such fond memories over the years? I am really, really excited.”
The record, held by Maria Mutola, pictured inset, for the past two decades, currently stands at 2:30.94 but, having clocked 2:31.93 back in 2017, Muir knows she has the ability to break it and kickstart a huge year in sizzling form.
“I know I am close so it is a realistic ambition and if I could do it here, it would be great. 2020 is a big year, an Olympic year and to start it off positively and get a world record to your name indoors is a pretty good start. The Muller Indoor Grand Prix is the biggest indoor competition in the world so to have that here, in Glasgow, is fantastic. It is a great opportunity for me to go out and perform really well. Hopefully that is what will happen.
“I was in really good shape in 2017 when I broke the British and European record so I hope to be in similar shape, if not better, heading into next year. If I can run well indoors, it is a great indication of where I am at and then I can go back and focus on training again ahead of the summer.”