WITH the milestone of six months to go until the 2014 Commonwealth Games reached on Thursday, there are a few nerves beginning to jangle.
Having already secured her Team Scotland spot for this summer, Laura Muir is in a more fortunate place than most, but still she has experienced those first flutterings of excitement in the pit of her stomach.
The middle distance runner admits that waking up on January 1 and it sinking in that 2014 had officially arrived was a surreal moment. "We've all talked about the Commonwealth Games for so long but it always seemed really far away in the future," she says. "Now, all of a sudden, 2014 is here. I can't wait. This year is going to be so exciting."
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This Saturday will provide the perfect dress rehearsal as Muir steps out wearing her Scotland vest at the Sainsbury's Glasgow International Match. The 20-year-old will compete over 800m at the Emirates Arena and is looking forward to the chance to soak up the home crowd atmosphere.
"The only track Scotland vest I've worn before was at Loughborough International [in 2011] so it will be the first time I've worn one actually here in Scotland," she says. "Everyone always cheers for GB, but with a Scotland team it's going to be even louder. There will be so much encouragement and I just hope I can race well for them."
The past year has proved a coming of age for Muir with a raft of impressive performances over 800m and 1500m. Highlights include a bronze in the 1500m final at the European Athletics Under-23 Championships in Tampere, Finland, and making her senior World Championships debut in Moscow competing in the 800m. She also won the 1500m title at the UK Indoor Championships last February, reaching the final at the 2013 European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg the following month.
The Glasgow University veterinary student was among the first 27 athletes to be selected for Team Scotland in September to compete over 1500m at Glasgow 2014, and she also has the qualification standard for the 800m.
"It all depends on the number of Scottish athletes who qualify because I wouldn't want to take a place away from someone," she says about competing in both events. "If I was older it would probably be a bit more certain, but I'm still quite young so you have to take into account that it would be four races in five days. It does work in terms of the schedule in that the 1500m is first - which I think would be my stronger event - but we need to weigh all of that up and probably wait until closer to the time to say for sure."
Over the winter months, Muir has been far from idle. She competed in the Scottish National Cross Country Relay Championships in Cumbernauld in October, where she ran the fastest leg overall, then a fortnight later in the Scottish National 4K Championships in Glasgow, where she took gold in 13:28.
Muir, who is coached by Andy Young, followed that with a solid 14th place finish over 8.1km at the British Athletics Cross Challenge and European Trials in Liverpool at the end of November. "It was a big step up to that distance, but I was really pleased with how I ran," she says. "It was a tough course and longer than I'm used to. A lot of the girls in front of me were 5k and 10k runners - and there's a big difference between that and running 800m or 1500m."
She has already got an early jump on the indoor season competing over 400m in the Glasgow AA New Year Open at Emirates Arena, where she finished first. "The Sainsbury's Glasgow International Match is going to be a really big race so I didn't want to go into that having not done a track race since last September. It was good to see where my speed was at as I've being doing a lot of endurance over the past few months.
"Going from running an 8.1k to 400m, it went well and I felt good. I got a new PB by just over a second, so I was really happy with that. It was a good indication of where I'm at and what work I still needed to do leading up to the 800m."
Muir will be joined in action this weekend by Commonwealth Games silver medallist Eilidh Child, who will compete over 400m flat. While they both hail from the same small corner of Kinross-shire, with a six-year age gap it is only over the past year that they got to know each other well. She and Child roomed together at the European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg as well as at a holding camp in Barcelona before the World Championships in Moscow. Child, who will captain Scotland on Saturday, even popped along with boyfriend Brian and dog Ben to cheer Muir on in the recent Scottish National Cross Country Relay Championships.
"We get on well," says Muir. "We are both pretty chilled, we don't like to blast music. I had a lot of university work to do so we were quite relaxed, doing our own thing and chatting away. Eilidh was watching Grey's Anatomy and I was watching House so we were both into our medical dramas.
"We were remembering teachers from our old high school which was good fun. I think with both of us being from the same small area you do share a lot in common. It's nice hearing that familiar accent - when you watch back interviews we do sound quite similar. Plus, we can always understand what each other is saying."
Muir never seems to get flustered, masterfully taking everything in her stride. It is a trait that has served her well in pursuing her passion away from athletics: veterinary medicine. She did a two-week work experience placement over the festive period working with a vet near her hometown of Milnathort, Kinross-shire.
"That was really good," she says. "I got to do little bits of surgery on small animals including cats, dogs and rabbits mainly. It was great because for your first few years at vet's school there is a lot of lectures and learning without being able to be hands on and put all of that into practice. It was exciting and all of the surgeries went well."
Despite her meteoric rise through the athletics ranks in the past 12 months, Muir retains the same down-to-earth air of a young woman pinching herself at how incredible her life has turned out.
"At events now I'm introduced as 'running at the Commonwealth Games' which is really nice," she says. "It still feels strange to hear that because when I was younger it was something that I never really thought was a possibility. I feel so proud to be able to run for Scotland at a home Games."