Double duty for Muir on and off the track as Birmingham awaits

Muir opens season with 8:37.21 3000m clocking
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Laura Muir won a 1500/3000m double at the European Indoor Championships in Belgrade last March and the Brit will contest both events at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham

Laura Muir is ready for the challenge that awaits in Birmingham over the next three days knowing the biggest target of her year is in a few months’ time. 

And when it comes, there will be no-one cheering her on – at least not from the grandstands – and she will have to use more concentration that is ever needed to win gold.

The double European indoor champion is in the final stages of completing her veterinary degree at the University of Glasgow and along with all of her kit for the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham which starts tomorrow, she is set to bring her studies with her.

“I might bring a few notes down to read. I managed to attend a few tutorials last week so I am not missing too much," she said. 

It is some juggling act for the Scottish runner who was the outstanding star in Belgrade 12 months ago, winning the 1500m and then the 3000m. 

Once more she will chase gold in both those events, but this time she has a race less as the 3000m is a straight final - at 8.15pm - as the one track event of the small programme on the opening night.

Muir cannot wait, because the tightness of the track is made her for powerful frame. “I have raced a lot indoors, I do feel confident and very much at home on the indoor stadiums and I have raced very well. I do feel like I am in my comfort zone. 

“I am feeling really good. Doing the double was always something which I thought about. On the first night, you want to do well, you want to set the team up but I don’t really feel too much pressure as I am sure I can do well.”

Muir is the European indoor record-holder at 1000m and 3000m and the national indoor record-holder at all distances from 1000m to 5000m and tomorrow night she will confront, among others, Genzebe Dibaba, the world record-holder and reigning world indoor champion over 3000m, as well as world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri from Kenya and Sifan Hassan from the Netherlands. 

While Dibaba's time of 8:16.60 from 2014 is almost 10 seconds quicker than Muir’s European record of 8:26.41 from last year, a championship race is all about tactics while the Brit will be carried along also by the home crowd. 

They are also due to meet in the 1500m, with the heats on Friday and the final on Saturday, a distance over which Dibaba is also the fastest ever with 3:55.17 indoors and 3:50.07 outdoors.

But Muir, who has an indoor 1500m personal best of 4:02.39, will concentrate on only herself. “I will race whoever is on the start-line. That is always my philosophy. Whether Dibaba will compete in both events I do not know but I just focus on my own performances. I want to get through the rounds and compete the best I can.

“It will be very demanding, physically demanding as well as mentally, but I feel like I am in a good place to perform well in all the rounds.”

Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen, who was second behind Muir in the 1500m in Belgrade, has been in brilliant form this winter too and will pose a threat but the Briton is taking it all in her stride. 

She is something of a throwback to the days past, when athletes had to take time off of their job or studies to be part of a national team at the big events. Muir even had to request permission to be in Birmingham. 

She said: “I had to email the vets to say I have this competition coming up and is it okay if I have a couple of days off. They were fine about it.”

Not that she has any concerns with how she is balancing both.

“When I am out training, my studies are always in the background, always knowing you have things to do, but running helps a lot to clear the mind, help me focus and put things into perspective,” said Muir. 

“I have known from fellow final-year students the long hours involved just doing the veterinary itself. But to combine training, six days a week, multiple times a day is tough.”