"Congratulations to Laura on 5th place at World Championships!"
Probably the fastest last 800 of any women's 1500 field in history.
Laura ran 2:00 last 800 and got 5th!
Mick recently interviewed Laura Muir and her coach Andy Young. Laura is an elite middle distance runner from Scotland and is the 2015 Bislett Games Champions and British Champion at 1500 meters with a 3:58 personal best.
PHOTO COURTESY: ALEX BAR
Congratulations on your amazing progress and big wins at Bislett Games and British Championships, as well as your wonderful 3:58.66 1500m at Monaco! You have shown consistent progress for several years, while pursuing a demanding academic career path to become a Veterinarian.
Mick: How old were you when you began running and why did you get into it?
Laura: I must have been about 10/11 years old. We had regional cross country races at the end of primary school, I would finish quite high up, not winning but running well and I really enjoyed it so started at an athletics club soon after.
Mick: What were the most important factors that helped you stick with the sport and improve?
Laura: Number 1 thing - enjoy the sport. When I was younger I barely ever won races only really local school ones. So it was never about the winning for me I just simply really enjoyed running. So when I moved up age groups and was finishing further down the field I did not find it disheartening. Now that I am winning races that’s a bonus really!
Mick: How long have you been coached by Andy Young?
Laura: I started university in September 2011. Andy coaches the university team so I joined in with their sessions and he started coaching me individually too.
Mick: What is your coaching philosophy?
Andy: One of my keys to success is ensuring athletes are consistent with their training, it doesn’t have to be huge amounts of mileage or a ton of sessions, but athletes if they want to reach their potential need to do what is scheduled week in and week out without excuses. If something else comes up they need to figure out how they can still get their training done and fit in whatever else they need to do.
COACH ANDY AND LAURA
Mick: Does Andy coach youth runners?
Laura: Yes, we have a mixed group of runners ranging from 16- 25 years old over 400-1500m events.
Mick: What kind of development plan do they follow?
Andy: It varies but the same principle applies, gradual increases in training and consistency.
Mick: What is the most important part of your training now?
Laura: Consistency I train 6 days a week every week not missing a single session. A couple years ago if it was a friend’s birthday or was away on a day trip or even just feeling tired I might miss a session every now and again. Now running comes 100% first and everything else is organized around it
Mick: What advice do you have for young runners in terms of training and balancing multiple priorities?
Laura: Be organized. I think this is the most important element when it comes down to making sure your training gets completed and done well when short of time. If you ever get a bit stressed when you have lots of things to do, make a list, then put numbers next to the points in order of importance and make sure training is at the top of that list! I also plan my meals well in advance so that if I am back late from a training session the meal is more or less ready to go optimizing recovery and avoiding unhealthy fast foods.
Mick: You are studying to become a vet. Some European track athletes in their 20's either are studying for advanced degrees, or have part time jobs that limit training, recovery, travel to meets, etc. How do you balance passions and responsibilities, and do you feel disadvantaged vs. other athletes (and coaches) who are able to focus almost exclusively on track.
Laura: It requires a lot of organization and discipline. I miss out on a lot of social events as I don’t have enough time for training, studying and going out but I know all my work will pay off in the end. It’s hard to say whether I feel disadvantaged or not really as I am performing very well. Sometimes I am tired and would like to relax or go for a run later but I can’t because of university. It would be nice to be able to go away on camps which I currently cannot do during term time but ultimately as long as the training gets done that is what is important and I have a good routine whilst at university.
PHOTO COURTESY BBC
Mick: Once you complete vet studies, will you "retire" from track and practice vet medicine, or defer a vet practice and continue with track?
Laura: Hopefully both! Veterinary is not an area you can leave and come back to so ultimately I would like to work part-time or volunteer alongside my running.
Mick: Did you play other sports?
Laura: I used to do Karate, Hockey and loved water sports such as Kayaking but as the running got better I focused more on that.
Mick: Do you still get nervous before races? What do you tell young athletes about nerves and staying focused?
Laura: Yes I still get nervous, It depends on the level of the competition and how important the race is but I think nerves are a good thing as it shows you care about your performances. For young athletes try not to worry too much on the day as this can tire you out mentally and physically but try and enjoy the experience. At the end of the day training is the hard part so try and go out there and enjoy yourself!
Mick: It is interesting that you seem to have started off in the 1500 and didn’t really explore your speed at 400m for a few years. Why is that (or did you run short races)?
Laura: I guess what got me interested in running in the first place was cross country and then when I first joined an athletics club a distance coach had just started too, so I just started with distance and was running quite well so stuck with it.
Mick: Laura’s 800m times dropped from 2:17 in 2010 to 2:00 in 2013, will you focus on improving the shorter distance to help her with her 1500 m goals?
Andy: It’s not something I’m going to focus on but will still dabble with.
Mick: Do you still plan to explore shorter events like the 800 or will you do more 3000s?
Laura: My training is based on the 1500m but off that training I can run a quick 800m and 3000m too. I do enjoy the 800m and run the event quite often so see where the speed is at, running a 3k is also a good marker to judge my endurance so both are useful to see how the training is going but for the moment the main focus is the 1500m
Mick: Will you consider moving up to 3000 or 5000 meters as a primary event in the future?
Laura: Andy says I could run a cracking 5000 but I think the 1500 is going quite well just now
Mick: Your 1500m times dropped from 4:38 in 2011 to 4:00 in 2014 and 3:58 in 2015, do you have a time goal leading up to 2016 Olympics and what will you focus on in training to achieve that goal?
Laura: No. I race, and with good racing performances come fast times. I broke 4minutes just last week which is a big barrier and I am very pleased with. I think I can go a lot faster but there is still so much me and my coach can work on so it is exciting for the future.
Mick: Andy, Is it hard to balance full time work and full time coaching?
Andy: Yes it seems a bit crazy that while working with one of the best athletes in the world as well as a number of other international athletes that I still have to work full time. There is a lot of lottery of money flowing into Scottish sport so it does make you wonder where it is all going. It is quite a struggle to combine both got to admit I haven’t had much of chance to exercise myself in the past few years.
Mick: Do you know roughly how much running per week Laura did by year? Was it easy running, interval training, racing? I am interested in weekly mileage development over time and if you are more mileage based or interval based.
Andy: It typically 40-50miles per week, it was probably quite a bit less when she arrived at university and we have gradually increased it. Most weeks would involve 3 sessions. These could be a mix off track, grass, hills, road depending on the time of the year. I always believe in having speed in the legs year round and continuing to develop it on an ongoing basis. We normally do most of that again in the warm up. I do place importance on speed, especially when you are younger because it can be easy to load up the legs and make big improvement through doing lots of miles etc. But if that is done at the expense of speed it is harder to develop that later and there is also less scope to increase mileage when you whack it up to early.
Mick: How do you plan annual training, between racing xc, indoors and outdoors?
Andy: The summer is always the focus and training is scheduled around that. Laura enjoys a bit of cross country in the autumn so that fine to let her loose on a few cross country’s as that fits in fine with the training. Even with the primary focus being outdoors it has always worked out Laura has been in good shape during the indoor season, so again this helps break up the winter without having to change the training schedule too much.
Mick: How many races do you run leading up to Championships?
Andy: It varies there is no set number probably between 4-8 comps, but I do like her to have done a mix of distance
Mick: Do you do a lot of form drills, strength/core work? How much should younger runners do?
Andy: We do a lot of drills prior to each session as part of the warm up. As well as warming up the athlete these exercises help technically the athletes, and include exercises that help develop core and posture.
Special thanks to Reto Meier for his help, as well as John Molvar, Mark Behan, Jane Lewis, Keir Murray, BBC, Alex Barr, The BIG Partnership, David Christie, Ewan Mowat, Winning Students, Dundee Hawkhill