The big bad world beckons for Laura Muir. Opportunity, likewise, knocks. Into the home straight of her veterinary degree, she can see the finishing line looming large. One last exertion, and the 24-year-old will graduate with honours. And then a new dawn begins.
It has been neither a marathon, nor a sprint. Fortunately, the Scot’s specialist niche. In amidst the anatomical exactitudes and priceless time spent out in the field, her endurance has not wavered a drop. Enough that she will transport a small slice of her library to Birmingham this week for an IAAF world indoor championships that will see her race three times during its four-day duration. And not give the scale of her juggling feats a second thought.
It was athletics supremo Sebastian Coe who remarked that Muir’s was the toughest degree of them all. One academic year spread over two apart, she has asked for little leeway from her tutors but still kept her sporting career wholly on track.
“I guess it depends on how you look at it,” she says. “For some people running is their life and that’s OK. For me, I needed another challenge – not that running isn’t a challenge, but veterinary has been my passion ever since I was very little. I owe it a lot, enough to complete my degree and do it.
“It’s something I’ve always been very insistent on doing – becoming a vet. Plus it’s good to have a back-up plan. You never know. Sporting careers are very unpredictable. I wanted to get that other career in the bag.”
To that end, Muir has spent the past fortnight working for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, putting theory into practice. It is the latest in a string of placements which have frequently hurled her schedule upside-down and inside-out: day shifts, night calls, locations all over the shop.
A popular figure, she has had so many willing her to succeed. “I have had a lot of support from both communities – veterinary and running – and it’s definitely good that one is able to distract my mind from the other and vice versa. That’s probably played a big part.”
Last weekend, Muir claimed the 3000 metres title at the British Indoor Championships in Birmingham. Opting to conserve herself rather than give into the temptation of an appearance today in her adopted home city, the University of Glasgow student will gear up to run that distance in Thursday’s opening night of the world indoors and then – like her Dundee Hawkhill club-mate Eilish McColgan – regroup for the 1500m semis and, probably, the final.
It is a double she embraced 12 months ago at the European Indoors in Prague when two golds fell her way. Despite the twin ambitions which have left little spare time for all else, her personal bests have continued to fall with her winter’s peak – a Scottish record coming in an event, the 800m, which has not been deemed core.
“I’m really excited,” she says. “The fact I’m running the times I am in training and racing, despite everything else that’s going on, has possibly surprised me. I’ve been on enough camps now where I’ve had a proper look at what other athletes do. I’ve seen how much time they have to do recovery, to sleep, to do parts of training that we’ve never done. So in a way, it’s going to be fun to see what we can do in the future, given the extra time I’ll have once I graduate. But the fact I can run as I am now – it shows people what is possible. You can be the best you can be with limited time.” Bring that big bad world on.