'I want to go out there and smash it' – Muir's hopes for a golden year

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European Indoor Championships
Venue: Emirates Arena, Glasgow Dates: 1-3 March
Coverage: Watch live on BBC Two, BBC Four, BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website and the BBC Sport app. Full details

“I don’t need your approval. If I want a dog, I’m getting a dog.”

Laura Muir is bickering with long-time coach Andy Young about her plans for a post-Olympic puppy.

Young – a fastidious coach who already has every week planned between now and the Tokyo Games next summer – is worried a dog will impact on valuable training time.

Muir begs to differ. A puppy will be a welcome companion on long runs and lengthy trips abroad to European training camps. Hence why the normally softly-spoken Scot is in bullish form.

By her own admission, such self-assuredness has not always been Muir’s forte. In fact, when Glasgow last hosted major championship athletics, Muir, weighed down by pre-event media hype and pre-race nerves, saw her expected Commonwealth medal bid end in tears.

She finished the 1500m in 11th and, so affected by that setback, opted not to contest the 800m.

Five years on, she’s gearing up to race again in her adopted home city, fully confident of delivering the double-double by defending her 1500m and 3,000m European indoor titles. It’s a far cry from the “overwhelmed” 21-year-old at Glasgow 2014.

Andy Young and Laura Muir

“Five years ago I struggled with pressure quite a lot,” Muir says. “I just got really, really nervous and found that I didn’t race very well.

“Now I think to myself, ‘Why did you train so hard? It’s to race. So why would you want to come to the race and not enjoy it?’

“I was nervous in different ways in 2014. You look at the times and see you are ranked second or third and think, ‘I should medal’ but it didn’t happen. That was a big blow for me.

“Now I have psychologically flipped things and it has worked really well. I had a lot of pressure for Berlin last year for the outdoors but I dealt with that fine and came away with the win. So coming into Glasgow I feel more relaxed and more excited than anything.”

Muir’s 2018
Graduates from veterinary studies degree at the University of Glasgow World Indoor 1500m – silver
World Indoor 3,000m – bronze European Championships 1500m – gold
Diamond League 1500m – champion *Missed 2018 Commonwealths because of veterinary exams

The addition to her CV last year of a European outdoor title, two world indoor medals and the overall Diamond League crown certainly helps.

The fact that those medals came off the back of the first winter that Young can remember her training numbers actually going backwards is perhaps of greater encouragement.

“All of that [Muir’s 2018 achievements] was great but the training last winter hadn’t been up to the level that I had seen previously,” Young says. “It was actually the first year it hadn’t got better year on year.

“So to fast forward to this December and January. Some of the training she has been putting in has been fantastic and has got me excited. It’s been getting closer to, if not the best yet.”

Such talk suggests the double-double might not cause Muir too much trouble. Even with a “not perfect” schedule that will see her run the 1500m heats just two and a half hours before the 3,000m final on Friday evening.

“We would only do it if I was strong enough and fit enough to do it and we feel I am,” she says.

“I don’t want to go out there and do a mediocre performance. I want to go out there and smash it. It is Glasgow of all places. If it was somewhere else, I don’t know if we would have done the double but it is such a big opportunity for me.

“If it had been a few years ago I would have found it tougher than I would do now. But I am really confident where I am at now and in my ability.”

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The double-double evokes memories of Mo Farah – barely a major championship went by in the back end of his track career in which he wasn’t chasing some sort of catchy milestone.

Farah won his first world title a year on from a breakthrough performance at the 2010 European Championships in Barcelona. The prospect of Muir following his lead in making the same step from continental champion to global gold-getter at September’s World Championships in Doha seems entirely plausible – especially given her Farah-esque finishing speed.

When Muir won 3,000m gold at the British Championships to rubber-stamp her spot on the British team for Glasgow, she covered the last 400m in a fraction under 57 seconds. A time quicker than the men managed in the last two laps (it was a 200m track) of their 3,000m contest.

“There’s very few female middle-distance runners in the world that could do that at any point, ever, as a highlight in their career. It is pretty much unheard of,” Young adds.

Muir covered the final 200m in 28.06 seconds – a time that stacks up favourably against the leading final 200m times of the past seven World Indoor Championships.

A graphic to show the final 200m times of the women's 3,000m from the last seven World Indoor Championships: 2018 (Genzebe Dibaba ETH) 30.44, 2016 (Genzebe Dibaba ETH) 31.86, 2014 (Genzebe Dibaba ETH) 30.77, 2012 (Hellen Obiri KEN) 29.4 (NB hand timed), 2010 (Meseret Defar ETH) 27.90, 2008 (Meseret Defar ETH) 28.75, 2006 (Meseret Defar ETH) 27.45

She’ll need that pace when she comes up against the world’s best in Doha, where she will focus on the 1500m rather than attempt another double.

“It is just a matter of executing on the day,” she said. “I showed that in the Diamond League final last year, which was the equivalent of a global final.

“I would love to get on the podium in Doha. That really would tick the last box for me.”

Those significant on-track gains have coincided with Muir taking a step back from her veterinary career. That move has given her a singular focus on athletics – and a newly-discovered love of sleep.

“I like to have at least eight hours now but if I can get nine or 10 that is even better,” says Muir, who qualified as a vet last April. “I think my sessions and runs have really benefited from it.

“When I was studying it could be as low as five [hours] and then I would have night shifts and be on call and could be up during the night so it was just very interrupted at times.”

The lack of distractions has delighted Young. However, it could well be short-lived. In the aftermath of the planned Glasgow double-double, Muir is planning on resuming her double life.

The 25-year-old is hoping to work part-time as a vet when it fits around her training schedule – just as long as she can avoid working with large animals.

“I think that is probably the safer option because I don’t want to get kicked by a cow or a horse, as much as it was fun working with them,” she says.

And with that our conversation comes full circle to end as it began. With coach Young in the dog house as his protégé talks of her twin vision for 2020: An Olympic medal – and a canine training partner.

Laura Muir with what

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