LAURA MUIR has five new pairs of training shoes in the wardrobe at her home in Glasgow.

Yet her coach, Andy Young, will not allow the Glasgow veterinary student to wear them.

That's just one element of the feather-bedding behind the Scot who, despite a stumble in last night's final, is still running faster than the double Olympic champion Kelly Holmes did at the same age.

Loading article content

Holmes was 22 when she watched Lisa York competing in the Barcelona Olympics. She had beaten her as a youngster at the English Schools Championships, and reckoned she should do as well, despite injury problems that restricted 1500m races. That year, 1992, Holmes ran 2:03.94 for 800 metres, and 4.27.7 at 1500 - times significantly slower than Muir has done to date. She turned 21 only in May, yet boasts best times of 2:00.80 for 800m and 4:00.07 at 1500m.

Holmes was 23 before she broke two minutes for the first time (1-58.64) and 27 before she dipped below four minutes (3:58.07). In Athens, in 2004, Holmes memorably struck Olympic gold at both distances.

"We are trying very hard to keep the lid on pressure and expectation," said Young last night, but acknowledged that her prodigiously rapid development would make that hard. "Holmes is the only British woman who has twice run faster than Laura.

"The average age of all British Olympic athletics medallists is 29," he added, "and, for middle distance and endurance, it's 31. So Laura has time on her side.

"Originally I mapped out a programme for her which looked at being in medal contention for the first time at the 2017 World Championships. She is way ahead of that. She was not supposed to progress this fast.

"In her formative years, she was not particularly exciting. She has come down from 4 minutes 38.9 seconds at 18, to 4:00.07 at 21."

That time eclipsed Yvonne Murray's 27-year-old Scottish record earlier this season [4:3.38 native]. "What is particularly exciting is how little work she has done. Don't get me wrong, Laura trains very hard, but she is running only about 45 miles a week. We do a second session on only two days a week."

Many of last night's rivals do twice that weekly mileage, and do double sessions five days a week. "There are other elements we want to introduce, but keep delaying. We have considered weight-training for the past two years, but put it aside, and now I've delayed it for another year. There are extra running sessions we'd do, but I've also delayed these."

The diktat over her shoes is just one bit of the minutiae of the attention to detail that has helped make Muir the most exciting female middle distance athlete Scotland has seen since European indoor and outdoor champion Yvonne Murray hung up her spikes.

"I have Laura out walking in a new pair of shoes for days, weeks, breaking them in before she is allowed to run in them," he says. "She has been wearing her current pair for three or four months.

"It's just part of the way we try to ensure she stays clear of injury. She won't be wearing any new shoes until after the European Championships next month."

He points out that the angle of the foot strike when wearing new shoes is different, and risks injury. Similarly, the warm-up routine for his athletes is significantly modifed from that followed by most other coaches.

Working with a large group at Glasgow University, he noticed that after the summer holidays, having done little sport over the summer, students repeatedly suffered injuries. "Lots of hamstring pulls," he says. "So I tried more dynamic exercises, like squats and lunges, that I learned from a European Coaches Conference paper.

"We did less conventional stretching, paid more attention to core body work and longer warm-ups. Now there are next to no lost days, and Laura's training has been really consistent, uninterrupted."

Young was a pupil at Boclair Academy in Bearsden when he made Scottish athletics history. Twenty years ago this summer, he won the World Schools Gymnasiade 800m title in Cyprus. His time of 1:52.5 was faster than European champion Tom McKean at the same age.

Young won the Scottish indoor and outdoor titles in 2003 and ran for Britain at under-23 level before ending his career with a best of 1:49.50. "I probably never fulfilled my potential," he said. "I could not stay healthy. I'd constant respiratory problems, always catching colds. My immune system was poor."

Muir works as an Active Schools Co-ordinator in the west of Glasgow, covering St Thomas Aquinas and five primaries from Drumchapel to Anderston. "It's not my job to indentify talent; it's to get kids involved in any sport," she said, "but across all sports I can see 100 potential medallists, though you'd perhaps have to work with 100 to produce one."

Half of last year's World Championship final field from Moscow raced last night. When Muir runs at the European Championships, most of the other half will be waiting for her.

Her arrival is as refreshing as that of a new Scottish coach in the upper echelon. Young is just 37.