Sunday is Laura Muir’s so-called “fat day” when she is allowed to have the calorie-laden foods she denies herself the rest of the week. This Sunday, any treats are to be saved until after the 5,000m final but will be well-earned after five races in 10 days and even more so if she manages to win a first senior global medal.
After the 5,000m heats Muir was writhing in pain metres from the finish, lactic acid crashing through her limbs. Head bobbing and arms swinging, she had willed the line to come sooner, eventually qualifying as a fastest loser.
Muir narrowly missed out on a medal in the 1500m in the week and earlier in the season British Athletics had tried to persuade her not to double up at these championships. But Muir’s mettle has been proven beyond doubt in London, a physical and mental fortitude forged during gruelling training sessions in harsh Glasgow winters. “We do a session where you go full out for 300m, take a short break and do it four more times,” she said. “The fifth one you’re just trying to make your legs move, but I guess I’ve just got quite a high pain threshold.”
Her diet, too, is punishing. “I’m quite strict in the summer, when you’re not training around races as much as you would at other times of the year,” she said. “I have to be very disciplined. But during the winter, when I’m running a lot, I have what I call my ‘fat Sunday’. I allow myself whatever treat I fancy, which is pizza or chocolate.”
There will be no let-up after the championships as Muir heads back to Scotland almost immediately to complete a placement at a local veterinary surgery. The 24-year-old is part way through a veterinary degree at the University of Glasgow, and claims the balance helps her running.
“It takes a certain personality to do both,” she said, “it’s pretty much train, school, train, school, so you have to be quite driven. A lot of athletes nap during the day and I’ve never had a nap during the day, I don’t have time, I just have to keep going.
“In high school I was more driven by veterinary because I knew how competitive it was. I got a couple of Bs in my exams but pretty much everything else was As. I got advanced higher biology and chemistry and higher in all the sciences. It means that I can understand all the science side of running.”
Muir will be joined in the final by a fellow Scot, Eilish McColgan, who ran a personal best to finish fourth in her heat. Kenya’s Hellen Obiri was the strongest qualifier but is likely to face a stern challenge from Ethiopia’s newly crowned 10,000m world champion Almaz Ayana. “The most pressure I get is from myself,” said Muir, “I know I’m better than what I ran in the heats and hopefully I can show it in the final.”
Caster Semenya, who beat Muir to the bronze in the 1500m, is a burning hot favourite to win this evening’s 800m to add to the Olympic gold won in Rio last summer. Her continued success here is uncomfortable for the IAAF, athletics’ world governing body which is presently trying to implement a rule that could force the 26-year-old to have hormone replacement therapy or quit the sport.
Lynsey Sharp was reinstated into the 800m final after being disqualified from her semi for what officials claimed was an illegal shove on Charlene Lipsey of the USA. “I’ve been in a lot of scrappy races this year and would put my hands up and say I did something,” the Briton said, “but I honestly can’t remember anything.”