Amid the sometimes spartan crowd at last weekend’s Diamond League meeting in Glasgow sat two parents savouring a rare first-hand view of their offspring at work. “They rarely get to see me now,” reflects Laura Muir. “It was really nice to have them there as support.”
They will be back in two weeks for the Commonwealth Games with reinforcements in tow. Cavalcades will leave Milnathort for Hampden to proudly cheer on the village’s most celebrated export. Those left behind will empty the streets and gather around TV sets when the 21-year-old launches, initially, her quest for the 1,500 metres title on the middle Monday of the Games.
Already affirmed as a ferocious competitor, Muir will be ready for whatever her foes may bring. However, she was blindsided last week when organisers belatedly inserted an extra qualifying round into her secondary event, the 800 metres, intensifying the timetable of the Glasgow University student who now faces an arduous five races in as many days.
“If I don’t perform as I’d like in the 1,500, then I’ve got that second chance,” she said. “There’s no pressure for the 800.”
And yet, with the European Championships a fortnight later, the potential for burnout hovers over the Great Britain international. Which is why her coach Andy Young has signalled his readiness to abandon that back-up plan if it places Muir’s long-term ambitions at risk.
“The two 100 per cent certainties are the 1,500m at the Commonwealths and the 1,500m at the Euros. The other one, that’s a little less certain,” he confirmed. “A decision will have to be made once the 1,500s are done, we’ll see how things lie. All the preparation for the year has been towards this, about bringing it to a peak in this three to four-week period.”
Physically, Muir can cope with such an enhanced workload, he said. Much will depend on how the trials unfold and the energy expended. “The other good thing,” he added, “is that the Europeans are Tuesday to Friday so there’s not that much to it.”
Following her run in Paris 12 days ago when she came as close as any Scot has ever done to breaking the four-minute mark for the 1,500m, she was – deliberately – not afforded a respite. It was a simulation, an exercise in running through any fatigue. “I work her pretty hard. She wasn’t supposed to run four minutes. Although I was quite happy, it wasn’t pencilled in to be a fast one. So the training has been built towards these hard three weeks and we’ll train hard up to the week before.”
Softly spoken, seemingly shy, Muir has acquired a forceful veneer. It is a prerequisite to survive the elbows thrown and arms extended to get on the inside track. Afforded the opening press conference yesterday at the newly-opened Games media hub at the SECC, the spotlight seemed a little overwhelming. In just her second full season among the elite, it seems prudent for Young to be protective rather than chance promise going unfulfilled.
Others have pitched in with wise counsel, she revealed, foremost her fellow alumna from Kinross High School, Eilidh Child. Six years apart in age but growing up a few laps away from one another, the pair have shared rooms while on international duty and will do so again when both settle into the Athletes Village next week.
“We text each other a lot,” Muir said. “It’s nice to have someone who’s been through the same things and who has the same background as you.”
Advice has been traded, with the trainee vet drawing up care tips for Child’s pet Rottweiler Ben. Insights, likewise, have been shared to arrive at a joint approach.
“We’ve both got this attitude now that pressure’s a good thing,” said Muir. “It’s not to be perceived as bad. It’s about people recognising you’re doing well and they’re there to support you. We realise that now. And I think she’ll do very well at the Games.”
The young hopeful has forged her own clear ambitions. The mantra of peaking in 2017 has been placed to one side. Rightly so. She is good enough to win big and win now. Africa’s finest will try to form a collective roadblock but they will engender no real fears. In the 1,500m, at least, the scrap for domestic supremacy may morph into a battle for gold with England’s Laura Weightman.
The pair have traded blows in recent weeks. It seems the start of an engaging rivalry. “We’re both very competitive,” the Scot acknowledged. “I was a bit upset when she won the British title and I think she was a bit upset when I beat her in Paris. We’re both very competitive and we want to beat one another.”
Nothing, you can expect, will be kept in reserve.