Laura Muir anchors Britain to victory in cross-country relay

If yesterday was to be the final edition of the Great Edinburgh XCountry, then Laura Muir can content herself with the most perfect of records.

Great Britain's Laura Muir crosses the finish line to win the Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh XCountry 4x1km relay. Picture: Mark Runnacles/PA Wire

Four outings, four victories, the latest requiring a dash of acceleration and ambition as the double European indoor champion powered from third to first on the closing leg of the 4x1km relay to secure victory for the British quartet.

It was a day of sparse rewards for the hosts who eventually came a distant second to Team Europe in the overall points standings in Holyrood Park but the Scot was all determination and verve as she annihilated the challenge of European foes Salange Pereira and Renee Eykens with a confidence born of her ever-improving CV.

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“I worked quite hard at the start of the race and then eased in the middle to make sure I had a strong finish,” the 24-year-old confirmed. “I could hear the crowd and their tone of voice wasn’t too panicky so I thought I was OK. But you never know, so I made sure I had a good bit in reserve.”

It was a promising signal of intent as Muir prepares to focus exclusively on the indoor circuit until spring has passed, albeit in tandem with the concluding semester of her veterinary degree. Her twin demands are forcing her to restrict herself to excursions relatively close to home: the Scottish championships and Muller Grand Prix in Glasgow, the British trials and then world indoors in Birmingham.

At times, it may afford her gentler examination than she might wish but it has also provided the challenge of testing herself against her own parameters. “I know in training I push myself as hard as I can, even when nobody else is there,” she revealed. “I just go by times – I know what I can run and I know I can push myself. I think I’ve got a very good ability to push myself hard in races, whether I’ve got world-class competition behind me or not. Hopefully I can do that in the next few races.

“I think every athlete has got to be able to work hard, whether the circumstances are great or not, and I think my ability to be able to execute sessions no matter what – whether your coach is there or other athletes are there – is key to being a really good athlete.”

Behind in the relay were Scotland’s two entrants in fifth and sixth with even a strong A-team, led by Steph Twell and Jake Wightman, well adrift. “I tried to pull us back a bit but I literally couldn’t get anything going at all,” said the latter, who will accompany Twell to South Africa for a pre-indoors training camp this week. “I feel good, I am training well. An ideal situation would have been setting off with somebody else, or at least having someone a little bit closer. That wasn’t how I was planning it going at all to be fair.

“It wasn’t a good run from me at all there, I didn’t do myself justice and I didn’t put Steph in a position to run the last leg. Bit of a let-down, all round.”

In the points-scoring races, Emelia Gorecka was the leading Briton with second place in the senior women’s 6k, the prospect – whose repeated battle with stress fractures has stymied her rise – just falling short in a late charge to overtake Turkey’s Euro Cross champion Yasemin Can.

“Top five would have been an amazing performance,” Gorecka said. “Top three was good. But once I got into second position, I was telling myself ‘don’t lose it’. That kept me going. But at the same time, people were saying first. I was using that to get me going. I was getting closer on the last lap but it’s the kind of course with all the twists and turns, it’s going to be tough.”

Kenyan-born American Leonard Korir won the men’s 8km ahead of European champion Kaan Ozbilen with Ben Connor the leading Briton in fifth. In the points table, Europe’s victory came with 137 points with GB&NI’s 182 eight better than the USA.