In a winter of extreme content that has seen Laura Muir bolt into exciting and hitherto uncharted territory, few would now dispute that the woman with the fleetest of feet has confirmed herself among the global elite. A British record and a European mark inside the first six weeks of 2017 affirmed the speedy steps taken since one minor miscalculation surely cost her an Olympic medal in Rio last summer.
New and enlivening frontiers still beckon. The 23-year-old Scot came up short in her attempt to claim the 1000 metres world record at yesterday’s Muller Grand Prix in Birmingham but ended up with a fourth UK mark to her name, once again wiping the illustrious name of Dame Kelly Holmes from the history books with victory in 2:31.95.
Over the infrequently-run distance, her coach Andy Young had prescribed precise pacing, with three laps of 29.5 seconds apiece to start, and – in his words – “then Laura”.
The veterinary student stuck firmly to the tempo set by Jenny Meadows, the hare to her hound, and then bolted for home.
It was ultimately the second-fastest ever excursion at the distance. “It was painful,” she admitted.
“Oh man, that was painful. I got to 800 and saw the clock as I went by so it was a matter of digging deep on that last lap. I went for it. World records are always going to be tough – I was about a second off. But at a distance event, I’ll take that.”
It is not often that Sir Mo Farah is upstaged on home soil but the four-time Olympic champion followed Muir with some panache, lowering his own UK indoor 5000m record by running 13:09.43 after holding off Burundi’s Albert Rop.
Farah would love a world best. A tilt at that will come in Ostrava in late June, over 10,000m. Here, over half that distance, the 33-year-old undertook what will be one in a succession of farewell parades as he prepares to sign off his track career at this summer’s World Championships in London.
“It’s a lot better than it was in Edinburgh,” said Farah of his sub-par cross-country showing last month. “I needed to get out in the mountains, put in the miles and train harder which is what I did over the last four weeks.
“I’m happy with the performance. But I got emotional at the end, saying goodbye.”
Others, like his absent rival Andy Butchart, are preparing to seize the torch. Muir, he believes, is ideally placed to push on to the podium. “I hope so. There is no secret, just hard work and putting the miles in and it will pay off. That’s the reality.”
Of the other Scots on show, Eilidh Doyle’s unbeaten start to 2017 ended as the UK champion came fourth in the 400m, won by hurdles rival Zuzana Hejnova. And, although Guy Learmonth set a lifetime best of 1:47.00 in the 800m, the European medal hopeful was only fifth as the USA’s Casmir Laxsom surged clear to head the world rankings.
Allan Smith’s bid to qualify for next month’s European Indoors fell short with a best of 2.20m, well short of the high jump qualifying standard.
Eilish McColgan shrugged off illness to come fifth in the 3000m in 8:43.03. “I wasn’t going to run but I woke up on Friday and felt a bit better,” revealed McColgan, who moves to sixth on the UK all-time list.
“And then today, I thought ‘I’m going to the Europeans and I’ve got nothing to lose’.”
Steph Twell, in tenth, also lowered her lifetime best as Belgrade beckons.