IT just so happens that Laura Muir will be standing on a hillside a short distance from Andy Murray’s old stomping ground of Dunblane today, waiting for a baton to be handed over. The symbolism is clear, considering the 25-year-old from Milnathort is at the head of a small but select posse of athletes in line to inherit the metaphorical mantle of being Scotland’s leading sportsperson as soon as Murray finally hangs up his racket. Already armed with a world silver and bronze medal, Muir – who will hope to maintain her perfect record when she anchors the GB 4x1500m mixed relay team at today’s Simplyhealth Great Stirling X Country event – may well go stratospheric in the next 15 months or so when she tackles the World Athletics Championships then goes for gold at the Tokyo Olympics.

Not only did she speak of her sympathy towards the 31-year-old who announced yesterday that he will be forced into early retirement after this year’s Wimbledon, she added her voice to those who have already gone on the record about the inspiration they have derived from his achievements. While there are no shortage of parallels when it comes to their sporting roots, humble outlook, and extraordinary work ethic, remarkably the pair have never met. The closest they ever came was when these two Team GB members shared a lift at the Rio Olympics back in 2016, although Muir was too starstruck back then to introduce herself.

“I’ve not actually met Andy in person, but I’ve met his brother Jamie,” said Muir. “I just think with the degree I didn’t have so much time to go to awards shows and the like.

“But hats off to him for his announcement today,” she added. “No matter what he says we are all so proud of him, he has done so much not just for tennis but for Scottish sport. He is a huge idol for a lot of people, he is one of the figureheads for Scottish sport now and I am sure he still will be.

“I’d always watch Wimbledon and I went to see him at the Davis Cup in Glasgow a few years ago when he was playing,” Muir added. “I watched him at the London Olympics and he was in Rio too. I shared a lift with him once over there but I was still a bit star struck at that point. He was a lot taller than I thought he was!

“If Andy would give me the baton, I would gratefully accept it! But no, Andy has been and done a lot of big special things, so I think he keeps his crown for the time being, whether he is competing or not. He has done so much for the sport and I am sure he will continue to do that. But hopefully the rest of us can take what he has done and try to continue that momentum for the rest of sport in Scotland. Especially with his mum being a Scottish coach, I think we have a lot of common roots with certain things. He was No 1, and now I am World No 1 [in the 1500m], so it is nice. Hopefully we can keep getting more World No 1s coming through.”

While she thankfully has never experienced an injury anything like as serious as that which the Scot has succumbed to, Murray being struck down in this manner has re-inforced thoughts of Muir’s own mortality. “I’ve been relatively lucky with injury, I’ve had little things here or there, but nothing which has disrupted me a huge amount,” said Muir. “But I can completely sympathise with where he is at. It is a shame he is leaving is own those terms and not his own terms, for any sports person that must be the worst thing that can happen.

“I guess people think as a professional athlete you can be 100% for time,” she added, “but seeing something like that with Andy definitely does make you think that just to be able to run pain free every day is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. It puts in perspective and tells you to appreciate what you have got.”

That is why Muir will be cheerfully traversing this undulating 1.5km course today, in an event which has moved this year along the M9 from its old site at Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, She and team-mates Jamie Williamson, Phil Sesemann and Alex Bell will lock horns with a strong-looking Europe team mainly composed of Spanish runners who recently claimed the European Cross Country Championships, the USA, and a Scotland team which includes fellow European Indoors hopefuls Mhairi Hendry and Adam Craig plus Michael Ferguson and Steph Pennycook. Since the race - for the Stewart Cup - changed to its current format of 4x1.5km, she has won in 2016, 2017, and 2018. “We just did a walk of the course and it looks quite interesting,” said Muir. “The start and the finish are really hilly which I think will make it really good fun. It is nice to have a different course and I am excited to race over some different terrain and in front of a home crowd. This will probably be the closest the race has been in the times I have run this, the European team are very similar to the one which won the European Cross Country mixed relay just gone so we know they are in good form.”

As soon as the race is out the way, Muir – now a fully qualified vet - will jet out to further altitude training in South Africa. On her previous excursion, before Christmas, she found she had a feathered friend for company. “I was just on a run and not really taking anything in but I knew something was moving ... and I was like, oh right, it is an ostrich!” said Muir. “Luckily it was on the other side of the fence. It did run alongside for a little bit but then it went ‘I’m not doing this anymore’.” The flightless bird wasn’t the first, and won’t be the last, to give up on catching Scotland’s leading sporting lady.