Laura Muir believes athletics in Scotland can reap a rich dividend from the elite training group led by her coach Andy Young – and which began with her as the original “guinea pig”.
The five-times European champion, double Diamond League winner and double World Indoors medallist didn’t realise she would be a trailblazer when joining forces with Young at Glasgow University way back in the autumn of 2011.
But, over the past five years, the pair’s influence has helped coax and cajole Jemma Reekie to spectacular progress, including three British records during the 2020 indoor season.
Canadian international Gabriela DeBues-Stafford even crossed the Atlantic to join the group and be coached by Young with immediate and significant success.
Indeed, DeBues-Stafford finished sixth to Muir’s fifth in the world championships final in Doha as she added a women’s 1500m Canadian national record of 3:56.12 in the process.
It is one of several Canadian national records she has achieved via her stay with the Glasgow-based elite group.
Now Muir is adamant that the collective success and progress can continue in the years to come, with other highly-rated Scots like Sol Sweeney, Kerry Macangus, Erin Wallace and Eloise Walker all working under the tutelage of coach Young.
Wallace and Walker, in fact, have recently taken down age-group records which were held by Reekie, just as Reekie herself is taking down records previously held by Muir.
“It feels like if we can get one through the system [Reekie] then it can get bigger and bigger,” Muir told Scottish Athletics in a special joint interview alongside her flat-mate.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that over the next few years we will have more athletes join the group and they will have success. It is really nice to look back and think that Andy and I have started something significant.
“We now have a situation where we’ve a couple of younger ones in the group who are taking down age-group records that were set by Jemma and myself.
“I feel so lucky that things have fallen into place as they did. If I had not come to Glasgow for Uni then it might have been very different. I don’t know if I would even still be running. Maybe I would have been – hopefully I would have been – but it might have been at club level.
“Things slotted into place and after we had some success, it attracted more athletes to the group.
“Looking back, I guess I was sort of the guinea pig for Jemma. Andy and I in the early years tried different things and looked to see what would work and what wouldn’t. Now we know what works – so there is a template there for Jemma, and others, to follow. Jemma can look at the bigger picture of the programme and say, ‘If I look at where Laura was at a certain stage [or age] and where she is now, then I can keep following the plan.’
“She is probably faster than I was at her age and stage, right enough! Seriously, it is all about having trust in Andy and trust in the training.”
Reekie first came under Young’s tutelage some five years ago and over that spell the now 22-year-old from Kilbarchan AAC has started to “make up the ground” on Muir over hundreds of track repetitions.
“Before Jemma joined the group [pre-2015] I was running by myself or running with the boys,” recalled Muir. “She was very keen from the start and prepared to work hard. She had a long way to go but the promise and potential was there. It is really nice to see the way she has developed.
“And for me it has been so helpful to have Jemma progress to a point where we can run together and we are both getting faster. Honestly, we’re not competitive in training!
“If you turn up for training one day maybe feeling tired, then the group can pull you along a bit. You have to say to yourself, ‘I am still going to have to train at this world class level, even if it means just hanging on to someone else.’”
For Reekie, the chance to learn with one of the world’s best has provided the perfect athletics education.
“Laura is determined and works so hard – that is what you see close up,” said Reekie.
“Athletics-wise, she is good at everything! She is good at speed, she is good at speed-endurance, and she has the endurance for fast 5k sessions, too. She can still knock out a crazy-fast 800m and she can do a crazy-fast 5000m.
“I also respect so much the way she has managed to balance things and do a Uni degree.
“For me, it has been athletics, athletics, athletics in my life but Laura has had two really big careers and at one stage was doing them right together. That shows how strong she is mentally.”
Reekie for her part has no qualms in saying she’s been part of a mentor programme led by Young and Muir and recalls a particular phone-call across Europe in the summer of 2017 as a key moment.
“Yes, Laura has definitely been a huge influence on me,” said Reekie.
“I remember when I was competing at the Euro U20s and trying a 3000m and 1500m double [in Italy in 2017]. We were not close friends at that stage but had been training together for a couple of years.
“I was able to call Laura after I’d finished fourth in the 3000m final on the Saturday and had the 1500m final the next day.
“She was travelling up to altitude training somewhere else in Europe but as soon as she picked up the call I knew she would buck me up.
“It was just great to have that chance to talk to someone with Laura’s experience – and I went out and won the 1500m gold the next day.”
* Watch the full interview with Laura Muir and Jemma Reekie on www.scottishathletics.org.uk
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