GB Star Laura Muir Smashes Track Record In Cardiff Visit

Laura Muir in action on Sunday. Pic Owen Morgan.

GB Star Laura Muir Smashes Track Record In Cardiff Visit


By Owen Morgan

British middle distance star Laura Muir paid a surprise flying visit to Cardiff on Sunday afternoon and came away with a World Indoor Athletics Championship qualifying time.

The Tokyo Olympics 1500m silver medallist was competing as a guest in the Welsh 3,000m championship race at the Cardiff Metropolitan University Christmas Classic meeting.

A delighted crowd at the Cardiff National Indoor Athletics Centre cheered the double European 1500m champion to a track and meeting record of 8:34.39 – the fourth fastest time ever by a British woman. Only Muir herself and five-time Olympian Jo Pavey have run faster.

In a high-class race, Georgia Bell, of Shaftsbury Barnet Harriers was second in 8:49.63.

Rising under-20 star Innes Fitzgerald, of Exeter Harriers, was third in 9:06.26 – just a week after winning the under-20 title at the European Cross Country Championships.

Laura Muir Laura Muir in action at the Cardiff Met Christmas Classic. Pic: Owen Morgan

Jenny Nesbitt, of Pontypridd Roadents, who set the previous meeting record two years ago, finished fourth overall, taking the Welsh title in 9:07.64.

But it was Muir, who stole the show, clocking the qualifying time for the World Athletics Championships, which will take place in her native Scotland at Glasgow’s Commonwealth Arena next March.

After the race, the 2022 World Athletics Championships 1500 bronze medallist explained why she had chosen to open her indoor season at the Cardiff Met Christmas Classic.

“I just wanted a run out in the winter really, I’ve never raced this early on the track before,” she said.

“But I thought I was in good shape and was in a place to maybe run the standard. So I thought I might as well try and get it done if I could and I managed to do it. I’m really happy.

“At the end of the day it was getting a run out to see where I was at. And turns out it was a world qualifying standard place in December, which is good!”

The Christmas Classic at NIAC has a reputation for fast 3,000m races and the large crowd played their part in roaring Muir to her qualifying time.

The Scot also credited former Wales and Great Britain middle distance star James Thie, who was behind the commentator’s microphone.

Laura Muir Laura Muir on her way to the World Athletics Championships qualifying standard. Pic: Owen Morgan

Commenting on the NIAC atmosphere, Muir said: “It was great! And having James Thie on the commentary was great because I could hear all my splits so I knew where I was pace wise.

“He was really getting the crowd riled up,” Muir said of Thie, who is a senior lecturer at Cardiff Met.

Muir’s only previous appearance at NIAC came when she competed as an under-20 athlete – winning the 1500m in a time of 4:23.78 at the Celtic Cup meeting.

Muir said: “I’ve only raced here once – in 2012. So, it was really nice and lovely to come back and run well. The crowd was really, really good today. So, thank you to them.

“That’s the fastest that I’ve ran indoors for a good while now. I’m really happy with that. We’re in the middle of a big training block so I haven’t really done a lot of short stuff.”

Proud Scot Muir was particularly pleased to have gained an early qualification standard for World Athletics Championships in Glasgow.

“It’ll be nice to sharpen up over the next couple of months and be in a good spot for Glasgow,” said Muir, who claimed silver in the 1500m and bronze over 3,000m at the 2018 World Indoors in Birmingham.

“It’s going to be huge. It’s very special to have a global champs in Glasgow so I’m just really excited to make the championships as fit as I can possibly be. It’s going to be great atmosphere.”

Muir is hoping for a big 2024 with the Paris Olympics also on the horizon.

“Paris is the big focus,” said Muir. “Glasgow will be a stepping stone to that, but a really special one as well.”

The presence of an athlete of Muir’s global standing is a major coup for the meeting, which is staged annually by Cardiff Met.

Laura Muir Laura Muir poses for a memento of her visit to Cardiff. Pic: Owen Morgan

Meeting organiser Rhiannon Hawker, who took over as head of athletics at the university in June said: “Obviously, James (Thie) has got some great contacts, he knew that Laura was looking for opportunities to run the world indoor time.

“So, Laura’s coach got in touch with James, who then put them in touch with me. And here we are.

“The meeting has a bit of a reputation for fast 3ks. Obviously, Jenny ran a really fast one a couple of years ago and it’s just great that we continue to attract these high-quality fields.

“We are blessed that we’re one of four permanent indoor facilities in the UK. So, that makes things a little bit easier, I guess. But it’s still great that people are coming to support the meeting and we can show off the facilities.

“It’s something to build on. I think there’s opportunities to tweak the events and make them a bit more athlete friendly and give athletes different and more exciting opportunities. But this will definitely help be a springboard to that.”

Muir’s name appearing on the entry list just last week did mean a busy few days for Hawker and the university.

“There was talk that she was looking for opportunities to get qualifying time. Limited indoor track facilities in the UK means limited opportunities.

“Then her name appeared on the entry lists, probably on the closing date last week. So, we had a week to prepare to make sure everything was right.

“We had to ensure the necessary licencing was in place and to make sure we could get races that would give her the best opportunity. Get the seeding and the pacemaking right. All that kind of stuff.”

However, there was a last-minute hiccup when European Indoor 1500m silver medallist Holly Archer, who was due to pace the race, was forced to pull out due to illness.

Laura Muir Laura Muir signs a young fan’s shirt in Cardiff on Saturday. Pic: Owen Morgan

Belgrave Harrier Emily Lowrey stepped in at the last minute, jumping on a train from London on Sunday morning to pace the race in fine style.

Hawker said: Holly Archer was due to be pacemaking Laura, she travelled to Cardiff especially for the meet and unfortunately she came down with the flu a couple of days ago.

“So, James rang up Emily, who used to be in his training group. And she luckily managed to get on a train this morning from London to be here and support the meeting today.”

The appearance of Fitzgerald, who was chasing Zola Budd’s all-time British under-20 record, was also a boost for the meeting, which saw Amelia Williams, of Carmarthen Harriers claim a Welsh Under-17 record of 9:59.00 in one of the supporting 3,000m races.

Hawker said of FitzGerald, who missed out on Budd’s record: “She’s made headlines for her performances, especially last weekend in the cross country, but also with her stance in terms of her environmental friendliness.

“She refused to travel with the team to the World Cross Country (in Australia) last year, because she didn’t want to fly and increase the carbon footprint that was being created by that.

“It’s nice to have an athlete here that has a voice in that sense. But her running definitely does her talking on the track. She’s a phenomenal young talent.”


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