Stuart Weir wrote this piece on one of the busiest athletes this past summer, Eilish McColgan, who ran 10k/5k double at #WCHOregon22, #BirminghamCG22 and #Munich2022!
Eilish McColgan seems to have spent this summer running laps of the track, and I to have spent my summer watching her. Competing in 5K and 10K in the Worlds, Commonwealths, and Europeans – prelims and finals – amounted to 125 laps! She joked with me – at least I think she was joking – that on the last lap of the Munich 5K she was wondering if she could make it to the finish line.
Her six 2022 championship races were:
16 JUL 2022 World Athletics Championships 10000m 10th 30:34.60
23 JUL 2022 World Athletics Championships 5000m 11th 15:03.03
03 AUG 2022 Commonwealth Games 10000m 1st 30:48.6007
AUG 2022 Commonwealth Games 5000m 2nd 14:42.14
15 AUG 2022 European Athletics Championships 10000m 2nd 30:41.05
18 AUG 2022 European Athletics Championships 5000m 3rd 14:59.34
She was frustrated to have been ill and injured before the World Championships and, therefore, unable to be as competitive as she would have liked. But, typically, she accepted where she was and walked away satisfied that she had given her all in each race.
I was privileged not just to see her run all six races but to talk to her after the races. She is always willing to talk, engaging, and straightforward.
I was amused when I mentioned the 125 laps to get the response: “My dad was trying to tell me on the morning of the last race how many laps I had run, but I said ‘Don’t tell me. I don’t want to think about that!’”
Reflecting on the set of six, she said: “I think a lot of people thought I was crazy doing the double at all three championships, but I am so glad I did, and I have come away with 4 medals. Eugene was a disappointment for me. I wasn’t quite rid of illness, and I had a bit of a niggle, but now I have four medals. I only had one at the start of this season, and I have added four more. I couldn’t ask for anymore. It is a big effort to do championship after championship – a lot of laps, but we got there”.
With British athletes having the opportunity to compete in the three championships this year, it has been interesting to see how athletes prioritized them. Laura Muir said that the order suited her with Oregon the priority, followed by the Commonwealth, where she had not won a medal, and then the Europeans. Eilish was clear about her priorities: “Someone asked if I would swop my Commonwealth gold for a European gold and honestly, I would not. The Commonwealth gold is the highest part of my career so far – in front of a home crowd and having all my family there. It was such an emotional high. There were so many factors like my mum doing it 30 years earlier”.
Of the Munich 10K, she said: “That one was always going to be tough. After the Commonwealth Games especially, this was the one the legs were always going to be a bit tired of. It was breezy when we were warming up, so I was a bit nervous about hitting the front, but I gave it my best shot. I was trying to split the field up as best I could and run for a medal. I would have loved to come away with gold, but I have to be proud of myself in a big year”.
She continued, commenting immediately after the race: “There were screens everywhere, so I kept looking up to see how many were there. For a good chunk of the race, there were 5 in the leading group, and I knew that 5 don’t get medals. I did most of the work, and I made it hard for people. Lots of people came away with national records or PBs and I am proud of that. It has taken a lot to come back from the high of the Commonwealth Games and go again, especially doubling up because that is a lot of running.
Of the sixth race, the European 5K, she said: “I expect everyone expected me to hit the front and push on the pace, but I have had a lot of races in the last month, and I was not sure how the legs would respond. So the plan was to sit in, let someone else do the work, and hope I could kick late in the race. Towards the end, I was hanging on just hoping I made it to the finish line”.
I loved the way she assessed her performance: “I gave it everything I had. I had nothing left. That was nothing more I could have done. I am proud of my efforts” and “I wanted to leave it all on the track and know that there was not much more that I could have done and I think I have done that”.
Her assessments were always fair and realistic: “Of course, I would have loved a European gold but to come away with a silver and bronze after all those races. I could not have asked for any more”. Indeed she could not.
And if you are thinking that she can now put her feet up, think again. She is making her London Marathon debut in six weeks.