Tokyo Olympics: How Team GB’s Laura Muir kicked on from karate and got on track for glory

Hockey, karate, rock climbing, kayaking… the list of ‘random’ sports enjoyed by a young Laura Muir hardly seems out of step with so many elite athletes. The very best tend to have tried their hand at just about everything during their formative years.

But tap dancing? Actually, given Muir’s reputation for fast footwork, it probably makes sense.

Muir, who heads to Tokyo in pursuit of a first Olympic medal, readily admits that she was something of a sporting butterfly in her youth.

Great Britain’s Laura Muir has admitted she was a sporting butterfly during her days as a youth

‘I had a great childhood. I was involved in lots of different sports,’ said the middle-distance star.

‘I had a younger brother and we used to get a bit competitive with each other on a lot of things.

‘I did tap dancing when I was really young – and then I did karate for quite a few years, a little bit of hockey.

Hockey, karate, rock climbing, kayaking and tap dancing are some of the sports Muir tried out

Hockey, karate, rock climbing, kayaking and tap dancing are some of the sports Muir tried out

‘I liked doing the summer sports programmes with the schools so I would do kayaking and rock- climbing and all these random things. I loved everything.’

Muir’s achievements on the track are a good advert for getting involved in sport at a young age. And the spread of activities she participated in possibly offered a clue to how her career would pan out.

The Team GB superstar has never been a one-dimensional athlete. She’s maintained a balance between her sport and the real world.

A late bloomer who didn’t begin to fulfil her potential until she was enrolled in a veterinarian studies course at the University of Glasgow, Muir famously combined her two passions right through graduation.

Muir has never been a one-dimensional athlete, and she is also guiding the stars of tomorrow

Muir has never been a one-dimensional athlete, and she is also guiding the stars of tomorrow

Now fully focused on chasing a podium finish in Japan, the former Diamond League winner and European champion has managed to devote herself to life as a full-time athlete – without ever losing her simple joy in running.

‘I was about 11 years old when I really started to show an interest in athletics and joined a local club,’ said Muir, recalling those first steps on track.

‘I did it because I really enjoyed it. I loved the sport, it kept me fit and kept my mind in a good place.

‘Growing up, I always wanted to be a vet and running was always just a hobby. It never even crossed my mind that I could do it professionally or make a living out of it.

Team GB star Muir loves seeing youngsters take an interest in something that changed her life

Team GB star Muir loves seeing youngsters take an interest in something that changed her life

‘Within a couple of months of joining university, I got my first GB cap at the European Cross-Country Championships, a competition I didn’t even know existed before I went to uni — then, all of a sudden, I was running in a GB vest.

‘It was quick but it showed me the potential I could have if I trained in a different way.’

Like so many British athletes, Muir can regularly be found handing out medals at local youth races – or even just sharing her time with kids coming into the sport.

On a basic level, she loves seeing youngsters take an interest in something that changed her life. Beyond that, she can pass on advice to any who have the potential – and the desire – to spend their life in pursuit of medals and records.

Muir's achievements on the track are a good advert for getting involved in sport at a young age

Muir’s achievements on the track are a good advert for getting involved in sport at a young age

‘If anyone is considering getting into sport and hopefully going on to make it a career, my message would be that it does take an awful lot of work and it will take a long time,’ she said. ‘But the reward is phenomenal and the opportunities it will open up for you are fantastic.

‘Sport gave me a lot of confidence and belief in myself that I didn’t have before. I never would have thought I could go and do the things I’ve done and have the experiences I have had.

‘It can do so much for you, not just in terms of physical health but also your mental health.

‘Just give it a good shot. You’ll definitely have down times and you’ll have ups and it will be a bit of a rollercoaster.

With the Tokyo Olympics almost underway, Muir's sights are set on securing a podium finish

With the Tokyo Olympics almost underway, Muir’s sights are set on securing a podium finish

‘But that’s sport. That’s life. But it’s so worth it.’

Muir, 28, is reaping the rewards of having invested so much at the moment. Everything is focused on the Olympics.

‘I’m really excited for Tokyo,’ she said. ‘It’s been a long time coming, four years is a long time to wait between Olympics but it’s now five!

‘Fingers crossed when it comes to the Olympics everything goes to plan. I’d love to win a medal, that would just be amazing.’

Parkrun ready to return on Saturday

by Ben Winstanley 

Parkrun is set to welcome back thousands of runners across England on Saturday as the popular community event returns after 16 months.

The grassroots phenomenon, which began in London in 2004, was suspended in March 2020 due to the pandemic and has seen its return date pushed back twice in the last six weeks.

Almost 3.5million people in England have registered for the free 5k event since it began, and before the pandemic it pulled in an average of 200,000 of all abilities each Saturday. 

Two months ago Lord Coe delivered a passionate plea just before organisers were forced to delay the planned return from June 5 due to lacking permission from enough landowners for the events to restart safely.

‘Maybe we have taken parkrun for granted,’ said the Olympic champion and president of World Athletics. 

‘Quietly and unassumingly, parkrun has become part of the fabric of everyday life. But unless we get behind it now, we risk losing it for ever.’

Then, having secured enough permissions from landlords, the return date was pushed back again from June 26 after the Government postponed the lifting of pandemic restrictions to this week.

But organisers were delighted with the return of the 2k Sunday junior event in April and both the senior and junior events in Northern Ireland last month – and are targeting August 14 as the date for a return in Scotland and Wales. 

‘It’s been a real joy to see the welcome return of parkrun across the UK,’ said chief operating officer Tom Williams. 

‘Communities coming together again, to move, together, in the great outdoors is something the nation needs now more than ever.’

To find your nearest parkrun go to: parkrun.org.uk/events

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