Rising British middle-distance star Laura Muir is animal crackers. The Glasgow University veterinary student talks dogs, rabbits and, er, Genzebe Dibaba.
Animals have been a massive part of Laura Muir’s life ever since her fifth birthday when she was given a pet rabbit called Mary (coincidentally Muir's middle-name). Her passion was born.
The Scottish athlete later asked for a puppy and at the age of eight received a ten-week-old border collie, Moss.
“I loved animals from a young age and loved looking after them,” the 22-year-old recalls. “I remember always wanting to do everything for them and help them out.”
She describes Moss as “like her little brother. He has been my inspiration and brought me so much joy.”
Moss proved a hapless training partner, as evinced by the first time Muir took him on a run. “He would sprint up the road and then stop,” she recalls. “He was very stop-start and I quickly realised that it was not working out.”
The fifth place world championships finisher never took Moss on a run again.
Muir (bottom left) was the first home for the Brits (4th overall) as they took team gold in the U23 race at the European Cross Country Championships in December
It may not be for everyone, but Muir kept rats as a pets. Six of them.
She originally wanted a hamster, but because her mother once needed stitches after being bitten by one, the youngster chose a different beast.
“I used to regularly go down to the high street pet shop and one day I saw some pet rats,” the 3:58.66 1500m athlete explains. “I could tell one of the rats was a real character and I asked my parents for it. Some three of four days later my parents bought it and it was in my bedroom.”
Over time the colony grew, and eventually she had a cage containing a half dozen. Why rats?
“They are lovely animals, very clever,” she insists. “I remember he [Hoody, her first] would learn his name and when you called him would come running up to you. Rats are really lovely animals and I was never bitten once.”
All creatures great and small
Such was her passion for animals that Muir decided aged “12 or 13” that she wanted to pursue a veterinary career. She looked into what subjects she would need to study at school and so her vocation was born.
“I got my love for animals growing up with a dog and I wanted to help people with their pets,” she says. Long-term, the aim is to move into general veterinary practice focused on household pets such as dogs and cats.
PLAY AT HOME! Match the athlete to the animal (answers below/in Laura Muir's head)
The tough-as-teak Scottish middle-distance queen says if she could choose to be any animal, she'd choose to be a bird. “To be able to fly would be pretty amazing,” she says. “I'd like to be a bird of prey, like a Peregrine Falcon.”
When asked which animal Usain Bolt would be she says, sensibly, a cheetah. She compares US Sprint hero Allyson Felix to a gazelle, “because they are very fast, elegant and graceful when they run”; and describes multi-event emperor Ashton Eaton as a lion, “fast, strong and king of the castle”.
Deciding which animal is most like Ethiopia's 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba requires some reflection, but ultimately Muir concludes that she is similar to a husky dog “because of the sled-pulling dog's renowned endurance”.