Laura Muir running [Photo: Kim Wheeler]

Me by Laura Muir

Laura Muir (BVMS 2018) was the fastest female 1500m runner in the world in 2020, having run sub-four-minute races on three occasions. Winner of the coveted Scottish Athlete of the Year award in 2016, she combined her early running achievements with full-time studies at the Vet School and now has her sights set on the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

What’s been the secret of your success?
In running, like most things, there’s no magic formula. It’s just a combination of dedication, hard work and surrounding yourself with supportive people. 2020 was a great year, despite the circumstances, so I think I can attribute that success to doing those three things very well!

How did you originally get into running?
I started running as a hobby when I was about 11. I just loved the feeling of getting out there and also the social elements of running at a club. It became a realistic profession for me when I joined university, which is where I met my now coach, Andy Young. That’s really been a key part of unlocking my potential.

You specialise in the 800m, 1500m, 3000m and 5000m. What’s your favourite distance to run, and why?
The 1500m is my favourite, partly because it’s the event that I’ve had the most success in. Also, because I feel it incorporates both speed and endurance, as well as race tactics, so you need to be skilled in lots of different areas to perform well.
"Glasgow is my favourite place to run. In 2019, we held the European Indoor Championships here and winning double gold in front of a home crowd is a special memory for me.

Where is the place you enjoy competing the most?
I’ve been incredibly lucky to travel the world to compete, racing in numerous Olympic stadiums, from Beijing to London to Rio de Janeiro. And as a Scot, Hampden Park during the 2014 Commonwealth Games was iconic!

You passed on the chance to compete at the 2018 Commonwealth Games to focus on your studies and have described your choice to give up being a vet in favour of full-time athletics as “difficult”. What clinched these decisions?
I’ve always had the mentality of trying to be the best that I can be, whether that’s in academia or sport. Unfortunately, in athletics I have a limited window in which to fulfil my potential and I think that drive to see how good I could be is what really made the decision for me in the end.

Getting to the top in athletics takes extraordinary discipline. What are some of the habits or routines you’ve adopted that have aided your success?
Studying to become a vet did mean that I had a busy schedule, so I was forced to be very organised and motivated, and luckily those traits have carried over into my life since finishing university. I make a plan and I stick to it. To-do lists help keep me on track a lot too.

On a similar note, how do you prepare in the run-up to a big race?
I try to stay as relaxed as I can, whether it’s for a smaller competition or an Olympic final. If I’ve been able to train at a high level prior to the competition, then I know the hard work is done and I can be confident I can perform well on the day.

How do you deal with disappointments in your career such as having to take time out due to injury?
Studying actually made dealing with disappointment easier. I didn’t have the time to overthink things or to get bogged down in the day-to-day worries of an injury, I just kept on studying! These days I try to take a similar approach, have other things to focus on and keep myself busy.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not clocking up the miles on the track?
I like to spend time with my family and friends. I go for long periods without seeing them, so I value our time together. Outside of that, I like to stay involved in the animal world where I can. I’m an ambassador for the SSPCA and last summer we ran a “Pound for Paws” campaign to help raise much-needed funds for the organisation.

Assuming restrictions will gradually ease into 2021, what are your upcoming plans and ambitions for the year?
Hopefully the Olympics in Tokyo! That has been the target for the last four years, so I’m hoping that this year we’ll get to enjoy the Olympics and everything they bring.

You’ve added your support to Scottish Athletics’ “Keep on Running” campaign. Many of us have taken up running over lockdown or found the time to go out more. What are your top tips for those running for leisure and fitness?
Just enjoy it, it has to start with that. Enjoyment comes in different ways; some people might enjoy running with their friends (or friend, in current circumstances), others might prefer running alone while listening to a podcast. Just find what works for you.

Dedication, discipline and a degree

I was based at the Vet School in Bearsden, and I loved the grounds there. Walking to lectures in the morning along the river and canal was nice – on the days it wasn’t raining, that was!

"As a vet student, my fondest memory of my time at the University would be seeing patients recover and go back home with their owners. That was always very rewarding.

My life was pretty much eat/train/study/sleep to be able to fit everything in, but I loved my time at university. I had a lot of early mornings, late nights and little spare time at weekends. I enjoyed being part of the Hares & Hounds athletics club as well.

Everyone at the University was so welcoming and supportive. When I needed help to juggle my studies with sport, the Vet School was great in ensuring I did not miss classes but also had the time to train and compete too. 

I’m not sure at the moment whether I'll use my vet degree eventually. Running is going well, so I am seeing where that takes me and the opportunities that sport has to offer. But I’ve been involved in a couple of animal charity and organisation events, which have been really fun.

To see more of Laura's journey to Tokyo, follow her on Instagram at @lmuirruns.

This article was first published January 2021.