토요일, 7월 13, 2024
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Eilish McColgan: “I’ve got no doubt I can run a sub-30 min 10,000m”

The British multiple major medallist opens up about a ‘mental reset’ ahead of 2024, how the marathon has evolved and aims to break her own British 10,000m record

Eilish McColgan is confident that 2024 will see her back in the heat of competition.

The 33-year-old only raced twice last season before taking the rest of it off due to injury.

McColgan didn’t just win those pair of races but set British records in both of them.

She firstly ran a stunning 30:00.86 in California to better Paula Radcliffe’s British 10,000m record (30:01.09) before then going on to claim victory in 65:43 at Berlin Half, beating her own national half marathon mark (66:47).

However, McColgan tore her hamstring at the Berlin Half and then picked up a knee injury as she prepared for her debut over 26.2 miles at the London Marathon. She states that there “were a few misdiagnosis” on her knee, which elongated any return to competition.

Eilish McColgan (Mark Shearman)

The Brit, who famously won Commonwealth 10,000m gold at the Alexander Stadium two years ago and has won a plethora of major medals, had to sadly withdraw from last year’s London Marathon.

Then, as she prepared to race over the 10,000m for Great Britain at the World Championships in Budapest, her knee flared up again. McColgan had to pull out of the Worlds but tells AW she was in the best shape of her life during training in St. Moritz.

During her time away from competition, McColgan – an ASICS athlete – spent time in Japan testing out shoes and to also work on a weight imbalance, due to what she states is a weakness on her left side. That period has allowed the Brit to mentally reset for the 2024 season, with the support she’s got embodying ASICS’ philosophy of a “sound mind in a sound body”.

AW caught up with the McColgan in Seville and covered a range of topics, from McColgan’s ultimate ambitions over 26.2 miles and how shoe technology has helped evolve the marathon, to her BBC documentary and the passing of her stepfather John Nuttall.

Eilish McColgan training at Font Romeu (Albin Durand)

How’s the recovery from injury going and what are your plans in 2024?

It was obviously a disappointing ending to 2023 given how well I ran last in March and April. The progress has been a little slower than I would’ve liked and there were a few misdiagnosis with what happened in my knee. It obviously started off with a torn hamstring at the Berlin Half and then subsequently went into a bit of a knee injury.

Ultimately, we made the decision to just take some time off and focus on rehabilitation and recovery. I’m at the very gradual phase of building things up and understand that small little bits will be implemented in 2024 and I’ll be better and stronger for it further than down the line.

Are you to able to explain the timeline of the past year to people who don’t know?

So, at Berlin Half I tore my hamstring and then made the wrong decision to try and get back from the injury. I pushed on with training and was desperate to try and make the marathon start line. So that is what really led into this knee injury. It [knee injury] was nothing serious as there were no damaged ligaments or anything like that.

However, they [doctors] felt that the fat pat was maybe a little bit impinged and a bit of irritation in the plica, which is a structure that not everyone has in their knee which is frustrating.

It’s actually reminiscent of something that my mum went through when she was around 31 years old, just a couple of years younger than I am now. She was out for a year and a half and they never really found what that was either. She had surgery but it got infected so that’s why she was out for so long. So fingers crossed I don’t end up down that route. I’m building up training now on the AlterG treadmill and that’s been good so far, so hopefully I’ll be back soon.

It hasn’t all been doom and gloom though. Before the 2023 World Championships, I was training in St. Moritz and I was in the best shape of my life. I managed, despite running through the knee pain, to get myself into some good form. That’s why I asked to be picked for the Worlds [10,000m]. Despite it being a bit sore, it was manageable at that point. Some of the sessions I was doing made me excited for Budapest!

It was only a couple of days before the championships that the knee flared up again and mentally it was tough. I’d started the year in on such a high with two British records and I could almost touch the championships. So the fact it was so close to Budapest was difficult but that’s the risk you take. I’ve learnt a lot and now we’ve got a slower process to recovery. When my body is ready to run fast it will.

Eilish McColgan at Berlin Half (SCC Events)

When you think about the spectacular 2022 you had with a tougher 2023, how do you mentally process all of that?

It was probably a little bit easier to process 2023 after having a successful year beforehand.

I think another ASICS runner had asked me ‘do you feel down after missing Budapest?’ I thought, not massively.

When I look at my career, I made consecutive GB teams over a seven-year period. That’s not easy to do. There are external people who might think that 2023 was a failure for me but I really don’t think it was. You know, 2022 was the best season I’ve ever had. Then, as I mentioned, I started off 2023 with British 10,000m and half marathon records.

I can’t be overly greedy. There are is not a huge amount of professional athletes that can say they’ve been consistently fit like I have over a number of years. It’s a hard sport. Yes, I’ve had illnesses and injuries along the way but nothing that has ever made me miss a season. It’s part and parcel of running.

In some way, is such a long time off from competition a blessing because it’s allowed you to go away and reflect and give you a mental reset in an Olympic year?

Yeah 100%, you’re spot on. As an athlete, you’re always looking for the next thing. After the Commonwealth Games I never got the chance to be like ‘yeah that was cool’. I broke the British 10,000m record in California and the next morning I was out for a 20-mile run as I wanted to run as fast in the half and then the marathon –  you’re always searching for something else.

It’s also allowed me to be in the gym and correct the weaknesses that I did have between my left and right hand side. There was a bit of weakness on my left side. It means I’m now more even in my stride.

I also went out to Japan with ASICS and test out all the shoes. It was the first time I was able to do that. I’ve always been racing and looking for competitions so I’d never been through the testing process like that. We found what shoes worked for me and it will be really worthwhile.

How was the response to your BBC documentary ‘Running in the Family’?

It’s been really overwhelming and a large amount of people messaged me to say they’ve watched it or cried over it! It was really special for young kids to watch it and feel inspired.

However, there were a huge amount of people who saw the documentary who aren’t runners and didn’t know the stories of myself or my mum. That was really nice and they’re now going to follow my races.

It was always going to be a little bit daunting doing something like that and having cameras following you around. Not just me but for the wider family. I was prepared for nasty comments and trolls but everyone was so lovely!

Myself, Michael [Rimmer], John [Nuttall] and my mum watched the first edit together and that was only a couple of days before John passed away. That was such a special moment. I also sent the first edit to my dad [Peter] and Lesley in Scotland as well and they loved it.

When you were that little girl growing up and dreaming of running, how do you feel about the impact that you’ve made in the sport so far?

I’m really proud of my career do this date and even if I ended it without an Olympic or world medal I’d still be super happy. I would never have dreamed I could be a professional athlete or have a full-time career. I get to travel the world and meet so many incredible people, including my partner. The global medal is the end goal though.

The Commonwealth Games was such a special moment for me and I have to pinch myself I’ve got myself this far.

Me as a kid would be flabbergasted of the stage that I’m at now and it still feels weird speaking about it to be honest.

Did life tend to change after that Commonwealth 10,000m gold in Birmingham?

A lot more people have stopped me in the streets after that Commonwealth gold medal. That was really strange to get used to and it was slightly overwhelming. People told me that they’d never watched athletics before but had cried over the race because it was on mainstream TV.

Everyone was so lovely and kind about it. People have bought into my journey and now they’re looking at what’s coming up. That gold in Birmingham made me realise that I was capable of competing at that level and I suppose that’s what spurred me on to run 30:00.86 for the 10,000m. I’ve got no doubt in my mind that I can run a 29-minute 10,000m. It definitely changed my perspective.

Eilish McColgan (Mark Shearman)

What can you do in 2024?

I was disappointed to not run under 30 minutes [over 10,000m] in 2023. I was so close but didn’t break it. It’s given me confidence that I can do it. The preparation into that race wasn’t the best and if I had the perfect run I definitely believe I can go quicker.

I also feel there’s a lot to go over the half marathon. Ultimately, the big goal is doing a marathon and I’d love to come in and run a sub-2:20 marathon. It’s been a long time. For me, mentally that’s the next goal. To be close to Paula [Radcliffe] on that UK all-time list would be amazing. All the girls have also stepped up their game and sub-2:25 is not good enough anymore to be competitive.

The US record is 2:18:29 and they are the kind of times you have to look towards. I think the world record is a bit of an anomaly. One person has run that and if you asked me that 2:11 would be the world record I’d say ‘nonsense’. But you get one athlete that breaks through and all the other women realise they have to get towards that time. The times have tumbled.

Being away and having had time to watch more athletics, what have you made of the sport in general?

It shows we’re in a different generation with things like shoe technology. People have found different ways to recover and I think the shoes have made such a huge difference. It’s why we’ve needed to adjust our expectations as the times will keep nudging down.

The women’s marathon has now taken a big jump forward and I think it will take a while for others to catch up. That’s evolution. It’s a bit like when we went from cinder tracks to mondo surfaces. You go from bamboo poles to whatever Mondo Duplantis uses!

It’s then about adjusting your mindset. If I could go back and change everything to the way it was then great but sports evolve so we have to embrace and accept that.

Eilish McColgan (Mark Shearman)

How important has was the support that ASICS have given you?

It’s been huge. Being part of this testing process has been massive and as I mentioned earlier, I’ve never had the chance to do go out to the lab in Japan. The insight I got was fascinating and I so appreciate the work and technology that goes into the process of creating new shoes.

These people care about us as athletes so much and they want us running in the fastest shoe as possible. The lab team are such a great team of people and it’s a family feel at ASICS.

I’ve needed the right people around me after a tougher 2023 and I’ve never once thought that I’m concerned because I’m injured. It’s allowed me to focus on recovery and as ASICS are confident in me for 2024, so am I.

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