THE Emirates Arena has become Laura Muir’s playground so perhaps it was appropriate that she should be out here yesterday chasing the boys around. While a crowd of 1,800 gathered in an ante-chamber to watch the Glasgow Rocks play basketball, there was only a modest attendance of her fellow athletes and well wishers as this phenomenal 24-year-old from Milnathort took her first steps of another typically jam-packed year.

Having spent her days since August’s World Athletics Championships in London mixing gruelling work experience sessions for the final year of her veterinary medicine degree at the University of Glasgow with warm weather training in South Africa, it says something for the strides she has made in recent years that the quest to find genuine competition for her in her native land led to a men’s 3,000m race at the Glasgow Athletics Association Miler Meet. In the final reckoning, only four of the field were able to finish ahead of her, led home by her new training partner Sol Sweeney in a time of 8:19.03.

Muir was home, claiming the Scottish female 3,000m title, in 8.37;21, fully 11 seconds outside her record time when winning the European Indoor Championships last year over this distance, but all things considered this wasn’t the worst way to get 2018 underway. Her fellow Fifer Eilidh Doyle, who ran a PB for third place in the men’s 200m, was another high-profile Scottish athlete engaging in a battle of the sexes, while earlier in the day Fiona Matheson improved on her own over-55, 3,000m world record. “It was quite tough,” admitted Muir. “The first kilometre was quite fast and I maybe got a bit excited at the start – which made the end quite painful! But I think I’m quite happy with it, overall, even if I’d like to run faster.

“The guys are definitely fast, so I knew it was going to be tough,” she said. “It’s great to get this under my belt – and brilliant to see Sol win, as well. My training has been going really well this year, even though it’s been difficult over the past few weeks, battling against the ice and snow. But I’m excited with what my training’s showing. Certainly, come March, I should be ready to run something much quicker.”

While she has had to sacrifice the chance to represent Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, one plus point of Muir’s final year chores is that she will be in action twice again on home soil before January is out, with longer-term goals being the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham at the start of March, and the European Championships in Berlin/Glasgow post-graduation in August. “I’ve lived with final-year students for the past couple of years, so I’ve known what time they’ve been getting in at, without doing anything extra afterwards,” she said. “But I’ve managed to get through it and the vet school have been very supportive. You manage to get the training done, it just means being a bit more tired. But I’m through the hardest bit of it, hopefully these next few rotations are a bit lighter. Although I will have studying for my finals to do during the World Championships. I will take a book down with me.”

Muir kept her options open as to whether to double up again in the 1,500m and the 3,000m at the World Indoors, and said she would be back here the Scottish Championships on January 28. Before that comes the Great Edinburgh Cross Country event at Holyrood Park this Saturday, where she will lead a mixed GB relay team in the 4x1km Stewart Cup, again taking on her training partner Sweeney, part of the Scotland B team. “There is always a good atmosphere at Holyrood, so I’m looking forward to that,” said Muir. “But we’ll see what the weather is like. I might change my mind again and head back out to South Africa!”

Sweeney basked in the bragging rights he has for once over his much-vaunted training partner but said the chance to work with this group, based in this arena, had added so much. “I will be telling her all about it tomorrow!” said Sweeney. “No, it definitely has a huge effect having somebody like that in your training group. Every single session she is giving 110%, and she is only a few seconds behind me. If I am dropping off at all, she is going to come past me. I will be racing her again next Saturday. We have got quite a good Scotland B team but GB are probably the strongest, with Laura on that last leg, she will do some damage!”