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Laura Muir has a bigger goal ahead of ‘emotional’ Glasgow homecoming

As the Scot kickstarts her bid for Olympic gold, Muir will look to ‘inspire the next generation’ after getting the opportunity to race in her home city at the World Indoor Championships

Ben Bloom
Saturday 02 March 2024 08:22 GMT
Laura Muir will race in the 3,000m at the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Glasgow this weeekend
Laura Muir will race in the 3,000m at the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Glasgow this weeekend (Getty Images)

About an hour’s drive northeast of Glasgow’s Emirates Arena, where she will bid for glory to a hero’s acclaim this Saturday, a teenage Laura Muir would eagerly await the end of the Kinross High School day.

In the depths of winter, the bell would signal time for Muir to hastily lace up her cross-country spikes and make the short trip down to the school playing fields. By the time the rugby and hockey teams would arrive soon after, and switch the floodlights on for their afternoon practice amid the gloom, they would be greeted by the slight figure of Muir churning up mud, illuminated only by the headlights from her devoted mother Alison’s car.

A solitary young girl sowing the seeds for an athletics career that has so far seen her win an Olympic silver, three world medals indoors and outdoors, and more than half a dozen European titles.

This summer, she will attempt to upgrade that superb second-place 1,500m finish from the Tokyo Games when the Olympics go to Paris. But before then, there is business to attend to in the city she called home for the best part of a decade until relocating last year.

If this weekend’s World Indoor Championships were not taking place in Glasgow, Muir admits she would happily have skipped them. But the chance to compete at such a prestigious event so close to the place that moulded her into the athlete and 30-year-old woman she has become, was too appetising a prospect to forego.

“It’s such a huge opportunity as we’ve never had a global track championships in Scotland before,” she says. “I didn’t think I would ever get this opportunity and I don’t know if I will again in the rest of my career.

“There’s a really big emotional attachment to it because it is like home, essentially. But I think it’s just really important, as well, because I want to inspire the next generation, and where better to do it than in Scotland on a track that I have trained at? That’s huge.”

It is more than a decade since Muir first competed at a global championships. A few years beforehand, her former coach Andy Young had excitedly messaged an athletics friend warning: “I have the next Paula Radcliffe/Kelly Holmes on my hands.” Her sizeable medal tally and record haul have done little to disprove the bold claim.

During the early years – until she graduated from university in 2018 – Muir lived an exhausting double life, attempting to balance elite athletics with studying for a veterinary medicine degree. “The vet stuff was the most important thing to her and I had to sell the athletics dream,” Young said back in 2017.

By then, Muir had already proven herself at European level, but faltered on the biggest stage at the 2016 Olympics when paying the price for her ambition in the 1,500m final by attempting to keep pace with the eventual gold and silver medallists, only to fade painfully to seventh.

Her performance at the Covid-delayed Tokyo Games five years later would emphatically right those wrongs in spectacular style, clocking an astonishing British record for silver behind the near-unbeatable Kenyan double Olympic and four-time world champion Faith Kipyegon.

Muir banished her Olympic demons with a stunning silver medal at the Covid-delayed Tokyo Games (Getty Images)
Muir would have won bigger titles had it not been for the supreme Kipyegon (Getty Images)

After backing that up with world bronze in 2022, Muir – and fellow Scot Jemma Reekie – suffered the emotional turmoil of splitting with Young when they dramatically walked out on a training camp in South Africa amid allegations of controlling behaviour. She has since decided to base herself in Manchester under the guidance of new coach Steve Vernon, describing herself as “really, really happy” with the set-up.

Which brings her to the start of a new era and, perhaps, given her age, the beginning of the end. It is difficult to envisage her competing at the Los Angeles Olympics in four years’ time, which means her hopes of winning a global title are starting to dwindle.

On Saturday, she will attempt to kickstart a raucous afternoon for the Glasgow home support when she races in the World Indoor 3,000m final, just 25 minutes before fellow Scot and world champion Josh Kerr does likewise.

Her challenge is significant in one of the strongest fields of the entire championships, ranked only fourth on personal bests and sixth this season. But she is desperate to make the podium on a track she knows so well.

Muir cemented her status as Europe’s best in Munich in 2022 (Getty Images)

“It’s tricky because my focus is on summer and it is Paris,” says Muir. “Do I think I’m in shape to win a medal? Absolutely. It’s hard doing an event [3,000m] at a global level that’s not my main event [1,500m], but I want to go in there, enjoy the championships and make the most of the opportunity. Hopefully that will be enough to win a medal.

“I’ll have the home crowd behind me and it would be amazing to get that global title.”

Not that she would be disheartened if she falls short. Her medal collection is already far fuller than she ever would have imagined on those dreich afternoons gathering mud in Kinross all those years ago.

“If I retire tomorrow with the medals I’ve got, I’m still extremely happy with how my career has gone,” she says. “Just because I don’t have a world title doesn’t mean I’m disappointed at all. Not at all.

“I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve achieved and I hope to be running for a good few more years. You’re not getting rid of me too soon.”

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