Laura Muir talks about tactics on the .1500s and 800s

When you go out to run a 1500, to what extent do you have a race plan, and to what extent does it depend on what other people do?

I will probably have three or four different plans – what ideally I would like to do, but then depending on who’s in the race, what speed the pacer is going to go out, what other people might do, and then it’s about what I want to do – do I want to go with this or not?

Laura Muir takes 3000m at the 2019 European Indoors, photo by Getty Images for European Athletics

I would have my main race plan with two or three different options if the race goes out a bit differently, but sometimes something completely random can happen, something you wouldn’t expect. So you’ve got to be prepared to throw all the plans out the window and go with a new one. I always think it’s nice to have an idea of how you’d like to run it, but at the same time, you have to be mentally prepared for everything – someone might do something wild, or someone might trip. It’s so variable. It’s nice to have my own plan but not to be daunted if that doesn’t happen at all or if someone else takes control of the race. And it’s important not to be fazed by that. It’s easy when a race doesn’t go as you expect it to tense up. It’s all about staying calm and collected however the race goes, remaining focused, and physically running the best you can.

Laura Muir, photo by Kevin Morris

But the difficulty is that it is not the case that you run against the same people year in and year out. It’s different people at different levels, and you might not know what they’re likely to do. You might think you’ve got it, and then a couple of new people come along to throw a spanner in the works so that you’re not sure whether they’re going to be able to maintain that pace or not, and you’ve just got to trust what you can do and hopefully you will get to the finish line before they do. But sometimes, they get the better of you.

It’s a constant learning curve, especially with the 1500 being so tactical. It is constantly evolving, and you’re constantly watching other people to see what they’re going to do and thinking about whether you can cover a move or not. I don’t think you can ever be a complete master of it because it is so changeable, depending on who is in the race. But if you are Faith Kipyegon, and you’re a good few seconds faster than everyone else, you can probably run it however you like and still win! So if you’ve got a few seconds up your sleeve, it is fine, but if everyone else is pretty similar, then it’s a question of who can run the best race on the day.

Laura Muir of Great Britain & Northern Ireland in action during the ATHLETICS – WOMEN’S 1500M FINAL at Olympiastadion during the European Championships 2022 on August 19, 2022, in Munich, Germany. Photo: Daniel Kopatsch / Munich2022

You run 800m a lot less, but you produced a 1:57 in Zurich; how do you approach an 800?

When it comes to an 800, I feel I come at it in a very different way – from endurance – because a lot of those girls are 400/800runners,  so I just have to run my own race. I was very proud of Zurich because I’d not run any 800s this year.

Mary Moraa upsets Keely Hodgkinson, CG 800 meters, photos by Bobby Gavin/Scottish Athletics.

The 800 is so tricky, and you can very easily get sucked into running a race that doesn’t suit you, so I felt I had to do my own thing. The race went off very fast, and I knew I needed to run it at a more even pace. So that’s what I did, and it worked. Sometimes, you don’t have much of a say in how the race is going to pan out, and you have to go with the flow a little bit, and it’s not your perfect race. Other times, you are able to control it more.

In an 800, there are fewer tactics involved and with fewer athletes, it’s easier to do your own thing and try to play to my strengths, which in Zurich was enough to get the win.

Laura Muir, just after 800m finish, waiting to hear if she won the bronze! Bobby Gavin/Scottish Athletics