Eilish McColgan has come a long way from the woman who was scared to even race in competitions, writes Adam LeRoux.
The 29-year-old finished the year as British champion in the 5000m, while taking 10th in the IAAF World Championships in Doha in October.
But four years ago, it was a different story altogether for the Dundee-born athlete, after enduring an injury-ravaged 18 months which wiped her out for the entire 2015 athletics season.
On making her return McColgan was tentative and had to give up the steeplechase to focus on the flat, for her own state of mind as much as anything.
“It became a bit of a fear,” she said. “Every barrier I was running towards I was thinking ‘I hope I don’t break my foot on this one’.
“I would then be relieved every time I got over one unharmed. It’s definitely something I got very worried and anxious about.
“It definitely restricted me and as a professional athlete you don’t want to be going into races feeling anxious and scared. You want to be going in feeling confident and on top of things.”
Since making the switch McColgan hasn’t looked back, with consistent performances over a number of long-distance events of late.
1500m 4.00 PB. 2nd Scot All time. 10th UK all time.— Eilish McColgan (@EilishMccolgan) October 7, 2019
5000m 14.46 PB. Scottish Record. 4th UK all time.
10,000m 31.16 PB. 3rd Scot All time. 7th UK all time.
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Consecutive 10th-place finishes in the World Championships may look like there has been little progress in the past two years, but her times are improving even if the positions aren’t.
She said: “On paper it’s difficult to see another 10th place beside your name, but actually when I look at it I ran something like 20 seconds faster than I did back in 2017 and I was a lot more competitive. I took the race on rather than just sitting in and dilly-dallying around.
“Although I’m 20 seconds faster on paper I’m still 10th and that’s probably the most difficult part, to see that. But you have to appreciate that placings don’t quite reflect the improvements you’ve made over the last couple of years.”
After coming through her personal injury hell and emerging the other side, the two-time Olympian is making sure to grab the opportunity with both hands.
And with Tokyo 2020 on the horizon, McColgan will be looking to make her third Olympic games the most memorable of the lot.
She said: “I feel I’m a couple of years behind everyone else and I’m constantly trying to play catch up, but from my last surgery in 2015 every single year I have ran PBs and improved, and I think that’s all you can do as an athlete.
“For me that’s the main motivation and drive knowing that I’m not over the hill or too old. I’m still making good improvements not just in one discipline but across all events. It gives me a lot of confidence because I feel I’m still heading towards my peak.”