Four-time European indoor champion has nothing but praise and pride for her record-breaking training partner
To the outside world, the idea of a training partner suddenly overtaking the major star of the group and hogging the record-breaking headlines might be the cause of some disgruntlement or potentially damaging friction.
But ask Laura Muir about Jemma Reekie, the friend and athlete who has spent the past few days replacing her at the top of the all-time British indoor charts for 1500m and the mile – not to mention usurping Jenny Meadows over 800m – and there is nothing but praise. A large measure of pride, too.
“I think the faster Jemma’s got, the closer we’ve got,” says the four-time European indoor champion.
“To have someone like Jemma right on my heels is so good for both of us. And, yeah, she’s like a little sister to me. We travel the world together, we race each other, so sorry to disappoint you but it’s not a big rivalry. We’re not upset with each other, we both work really well. She helps with my speed and I help her with endurance.”
The two were speaking at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, the venue which is not only their training base but also the stage for the Müller Indoor Grand Prix on Saturday. Unlike that remarkable 800m which unfolded on the same track at the beginning of this month, there will be no head to head between these Scots in front of a home crowd on this occasion.
Reekie will instead compete over 1500m while Muir is aiming to put herself back in the spotlight by breaking Maria Mutola’s 1000m indoor world record at the climax to what is a packed day of action.
The younger woman arrives on this start line with a completely different level of expectation around her, following a week which has made the athletics world sit up and take notice of a 21-year-old making the breakthrough of breakthroughs.
She is fortunate to have someone close at hand who knows a thing or two about dealing with increased levels of pressure and the added extras that come with on-track success.
“I have spoken to Laura about a few things and I know I can go to her with anything I need to speak about,” says Reekie. “I think I get a lot of advice from Laura. I learn a lot. We both manage things in different ways.”
Muir adds: “I remember what happened after she ran that 800m, she was a bit overwhelmed. And I said ‘this is what happens when you run fast’. I think it’s just having someone you can speak to. I have been through that, that high pressure, but she’s still got to enjoy her running and focus on that.”
“To have someone like Jemma right on my heels is so good for both of us. And, yeah, she’s like a little sister to me”
Muir jokes that she has been feeling “left out” by being one of the few of her training group not to have been breaking records of late. She will admit to it providing an added level of motivation, however.
“Yeah definitely,” she says. “Although since the turn of the year I am three down already! I am at a net loss so I have to turn one back – I am feeling a bit left out. Gabriela (Canada’s DeBues-Stafford, another partner) set two national records last week, too.”
Neither athlete opted to comment on the spikes and footwear debate swirling around athletics right now, preferring instead to talk about how the rising standards within coach Andy Young’s training group is of major benefit.
“I think it’s great because we can just push each other so much in training,” says Muir. “I’ve always trained with guys, but having another girl that’s up with you just adds that extra element. So it’s really exciting for both of us to be in such a good place in an Olympic year because we’re just going to push each other to get faster and faster and hopefully that will be exciting for the summer.”
There will be no echoes of the Seb Coe and Steve Ovett era, when the two greats rarely raced each other. “We won’t be avoiding it,” says Reekie of potential clashes.
Of more immediate concern, however, is Muir’s attempt at lowering Mutola’s mark of 2:30.94, set back in 1999. The Scot’s indoor personal best is 2:31.93.
“I’m pretty confident,” she says of her prospects. “I ran 1:58.4 (an indoor 800m PB in coming second to Reekie, so I’ve got 32-and-a-half seconds or 33 seconds to try and get round. It’s going to be very close. If I don’t pace it right I’m going to be in trouble.
“If I’m a second too fast or too slow on any of the laps it’s probably game over. It will be down to the line.”
And what if she does manage it?
“It will be really special. I’ve got British and European records – well, not as many as I had! But I’ve never been for a world record before. I’ve got lots of friends and family coming to watch so it should be special.”
That’s a word Muir also reserves for Reekie. The 26-year-old is wary, however, of too great a weight much being applied too soon on a burgeoning talent.
“I am being very careful because it is an Olympic year and she has raced amazingly but I am wary of piling loads of pressure,” says Muir, who has medal winning aspirations when it comes to Tokyo. “I think she is capable of doing very, very special things.
“It is about going at the right pace. To run amazing times is fantastic but you need championship experience as well and Tokyo will be her first Olympics. I want her to enjoy that as best as possible, you know, and not have that big, big bit of pressure.”
Reekie’s approach? Keep it simple.
“I always push to do the best I can,” she says. “I will keep the same mindset and do the same again.”
» Check out our Müller Indoor Grand Prix ones to watch guide here
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