The Game Changers

Eilish McColgan: The long journey to gold

July 18, 2023 Sue Anstiss Season 14 Episode 8
The Game Changers
Eilish McColgan: The long journey to gold
Show Notes Transcript

In this final episode of season 14, we talk to Eilish McColgan, an incredible distance athlete.

Eilish holds the European record for 10,000 on the road, as well as British records at 5,000m and 10,000m on the track and road, and in the half marathon. With European medals indoors and outdoors on the track, Eilish represented Team GB at 3 Olympics in London, Rio and Tokyo. 

In 2022 Eilish became Commonwealth Games Champion over 10,000 metres, a feat that repeated her mum's victory 36 years earlier and broke the Commonwealth Games record.

A few days later, she was back to take a silver medal over 5,000m. And then, in 2023, Eilish broke her own British Half Marathon Record and became the first British Woman to win the Berlin Half Marathon. She also eclipsed Paula Radcliffe's UK record, running 10k in 30 minutes.

In this episode we explore Eilish’s incredible sporting journey and her pathway to success. We hear about how severe injuries led her to dramatically adapt training, how she’s embraced social media and become an outspoken advocate for body positivity in sport and the challenges athletes face today around sports sponsorships.

Thank you for Sport England who support The Game Changers Podcast through a National Lottery grant.

Thank you to Sport England who support The Game Changers Podcast with a National Lottery award.

Find out more about The Game Changers podcast here: https://www.fearlesswomen.co.uk/thegamechangers

Hosted by Sue Anstiss
Produced by Sam Walker, What Goes On Media

A Fearless Women production

Sue Anstiss 

Hello and welcome to The Game Changers. I'm Sue Anstiss and this is the podcast where you'll hear from trailblazing women in sport who are knocking down barriers and challenging the status quo for women and girls everywhere. What can we learn from their journeys as we explore some of the key issues around equality in sport and beyond? I'd like to start with a big thank you to our partners Sport England, who support the Game Changers Podcast through a national lottery award. My guest today is Eilish McColgan, an incredible distance athlete who holds the European record for 10,000 metres on the road as well as British records at the five and 10,000 metres on the track and road and in the half marathon. Eilish has won many European medals on the track indoors and outdoors, and has represented team GB at three Olympics in London. Rio and Tokyo is been an extraordinary year for Aish. Last summer, she became Commonwealth Games champion over 10,000 metres, a feat that repeated her mum's victory 36 years earlier and broke the Commonwealth Games record. A few days later she was back to take silver over 5,000 metres, and then in 2023, Eilish broke her own half marathon record and became the first British woman to win the Berlin half Marathon. She also eclipsed Paula Radcliffe's UK record running 10,000 metres in 30 minutes. In 2022, Eilish launched a nonprofit organisation giving back to track with her partner and fellow Olympian Michael Rimer, with an ambition to encourage young people to get involved in athletics and to fund the next generation of female athletes. Aish, if I can, I'd like to start with the where you are now. I know you've had a few injuries lately, but things seem to be looking good based on some of the videos you've been sharing recently on Instagram. So how are you now and, and what are the plans moving ahead?

Eilish McColgan 

Yeah, it's been a bit of a, a frustrating couple of, uh, weeks and even months to be honest. Um, this whole year has just been a bit of a, a rollercoaster of being on a fine edge of high performance and being running so many sort of two really big personal best, but at the same time, then just being on the edge of the flip side of that, of, of injury. Um, so yeah, it's been a lot to take in over the last couple of weeks. I'm slowly getting back running now, um, having to, to sort of delay the very start of my track season. Um, obviously big changes from not doing London marathons, so we're completely just reassessing our plans really for the year and what we want our, our goals to be. But that is sport as you know, it's not just me. It's part and parcel of, uh, yeah, every, every elite athlete's life.

Sue Anstiss 

And how do you cope with that? Cause it is almost like running at the edge of, uh, say not to get injured, but your obviously at the very maximum of what your body can do. Uh, have you learnt to cope with that in terms of mentally dealing with those challenges?

Eilish McColgan 

Actually over the last couple years, I've felt very in control of my training. I've been very on top of it, and yes, I pick up little niggles here and there. That's pretty normal, but I've actually managed to avoid the sort of bigger things. I've not really had to take any enforced rest at all. Um, and I think that was because we'd found like a really good sweet spot of, of training for me. But obviously looking towards the marathon, I know that I need to do the, the bigger volumes. I know I need to extend all my sort of sessions in the long runs to, to ensure that my body's ready for that, that marathon distance. And so, yeah, perhaps we've tried to maybe do it a little bit too quickly this year. There was so much pressure obviously coming into having pulled out of the last London, um, marathon in October to then feel like, do I need, I need to be on the start line in April.

Um, I think it's more that, to be honest, I think it's perhaps the change in training that's led to these injuries. So as I said, I think the last couple years I've become very comfortable and in a little bit of a comfort zone. And this year has been a real big challenge to push outside of that. And ultimately, yeah, we're sort of finding out, okay, this is maybe a bit too far or maybe we need to back off here or maybe we need to change things within training. So as much as mentally it's been difficult to, yeah, to, to not be running and to go through phases of injury, it, I've actually learned an awful lot from it and I think I will be much stronger, um, from this as well. As I said, knowing sort of what mistakes to avoid, uh, and what we can learn from for, for certainly next year and, and hopefully then, um, even towards the worlds in in 2025 that are back in Tokyo.

Sue Anstiss 

And what a couple of years you've had. So even in the last few months, smashing Paul Radcliffe's, 21 year old British Tenke record and then taking 43 seconds off of your own British record at the Berlin half on April 2nd. And how does it feel to you to be breaking records in that way?

Eilish McColgan 

Yeah, it was nice to feel like all the training's been worth it, <laugh>. Um, I think again, like moving towards the, the longer distances, it was a big change in training. You sort of wonder, am I gonna respond well to this? Is my body gonna um, or am I more suited to the training we were doing beforehand? But I think it was a really good indicator both of those at races for me that okay, we found some sessions here that really, really work for me. I'm definitely more of a strength athlete. Um, that's definitely something that's my, sort of a good asset for me to have. Um, so yeah, it was nice to feel like all of that had come together in a race and just to feel good doing it as well. It's very rare that you go into a competition, you feel really strong and you feel ready to compete.

And I think what I take confidence the most outta that is that things weren't perfect either. Heading into both of those races again, I had a few injuries and a few niggles leading into them. Um, so almost in the back of my mind, I'm very conscious of, right, if we can do that, knowing that you're still carrying a few things, a few issues, what can we do when we're fully a hundred percent and really ready to go? So I think I would've been far more disappointed had I not got those two events in and I'd missed London and I was now left thinking, wow, what a waste of training essentially. Do you know, I've put in all that work and I don't really have anything to show for it. But I think mentally it's been really good. Those two races have really helped me in the sense that yes, I'm injured right now. It's, it's a bit annoying, it's a bit frustrating, but I can see what I've done. So I think that gives me a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel to know, right, let's get back again. Let's get back healthy, let's get back fit because I know what my body can do this, this summer and into the, the autumn as well.

Sue Anstiss 

Very exciting. Um, and can I take you back to life growing up? So, and I'm really interested to know what you remember of your mom's career. Obviously I'm old enough to have remembered your, your mom's career watching as a fan, but what, what do you remember growing up? How did it shape your ambitions?

Eilish McColgan 

Yeah, it's gonna sound really bad because I just didn't really have any awareness of like how good I suppose my mom was as an athlete. Like when it's your mom, I remember like some kid at school saying, oh yeah, your mom's a world champion, and you're like, yeah, like I, when you're like 12, what does that really mean? You have no concept of what that takes. Um, you have no concept of the level of, um, training, level of competition. Like you just can't grasp it. So for me, I just always knew that my parents would go out for runs, they would keep fit, they'd keep active, but I'd had no real awareness of the level Yeah. That she competed at. It wasn't really until probably about high school where I started to compete myself, you know, at Scott Schools and Scottish Championships and to then think, wow, like my mom was not only a British champion, not only a European champion Germany, she was the world champion at one point.

And that's when I really started to have probably a, a far greater appreciation of her achievements. Um, but yeah, very early memories are just, I just remember them running, my parents just running to me, I just thought everyone's parents went out and, and kept and kept active. Um, I don't remember ever seeing her at a track. I don't remember ever seeing her at a race. Um, I just remember sort of playing football with my dad or going cycling with my dad whilst my mom would be doing her session. But I didn't, you mean I just didn't have that awareness of it.

Sue Anstiss 

Yeah. That's brilliant. And what other sports did you play? Uh, ahead of fun, finding athletics?

Eilish McColgan 

Honestly, I tried everything. I obviously had so much energy, so my parents put me uh, just into everything going. I was at swimming, I was at tennis. I used to go to badminton at the local leisure centre. Um, I even played golf for a little bit cause we live in like a golf town, um, netball, hockey, like literally everything. It really was just athletics was the one that I loved the most. And not even running, to be honest, I did the long jump. I mean, my first ever medal was in the javelin <laugh> at Scottish schools. Um, and high jump probably till I was about 15, 16. So running definitely was the one I loved the most out of it. But athletics as a sport was something that I just really felt like I just fit in a little bit more. I felt like I really enjoyed the club atmosphere. We had the kids that were at the club, they became like my, my second family. Um, I remember swimming up until maybe the point where the swim teacher told me I had to start getting up at like 5:00 AM in the morning or something for swim training before school. And I was like, mom, dad, this is not for me. I'm, I'm out here. Athletics was always in the evening. So, um, that, that certainly suited me a lot, a lot more.

Sue Anstiss 

And was Heptathlon ever on the A cards at all?

Eilish McColgan 

I did, yeah. I did the, like we obviously at that age when you're like 12, 13, you have pentathlon. Um, so you have, I think I'm, again, I maybe would've won a medal like indoor Scottish pentathlon when I was young. Um, it was some of the events that suited me and then when they started obviously the heptathlon, it was just, I never got the chance to do that. Um, because by that point I decided running was, was what I want to focus on. But yeah, I did it for them sprint hurdles, 200 metres, like I loved it all.

Sue Anstiss 

Excellent. And you obviously had the most amazing physique, but how was it for you growing up being so tall and so slender in school? I know how hard it can be for teenage girls, you know, what whatever traits you had, but how was that for you at school?

Eilish McColgan 

Uh, yeah, I was, I'd say I was super unconfident in school. Um, probably down to, yeah, the way, the way I looked, I just felt like I never looked like many of the other girls. I was obviously very tall, very lean. I didn't have the boobs, the bond that everyone else had and everyone else was developing. And so when I went to the running club, it was like there was other kids that looked like me essentially. So maybe that's why I felt like I fit in more with them. Like every weekend I would be doing stuff with the, my running friends. Do you know, I mean I had like a separate group outside of school and while sort of people were sort of partying and stuff at high school, I was always going with them, whether it's to the cinema or going to barbecue or going to their a sleepover, whatever it was.

I just felt like a greater connection to the, the people in my running club. And maybe that was just purely because maybe not even that, that we all looked similar, but just the sense that we had this passion that we really wanted to sort of, to not even that we just enjoyed running. Do you mean there was a sort of social element to it? Um, but yeah, certainly in the school I just always felt I would never quite look like the other girls. Um, or maybe I wouldn't, I certainly didn't feel like I would be attractive to like the other girls would be, just because of the way, the shape I was. And it's a shame obviously when I look back now, like I, that's me. Like it was never gonna change whether I was 12 or whether I'm 32. Like my body shape is always gonna be this, this way.

Um, even if I stopped running tomorrow, I'm still never ever gonna look like, I dunno, Kim Kardashian or something <laugh>, you know, that's just not, not my body shape. Um, so that's something I, I'm pretty, uh, I suppose passionate about now in the sense that being openly confident about the way I look and so that the sort of young women that are coming through in the sport, I, maybe they do see me as a little bit of a role model. I mean, they have someone they say, right, this is her natural body shape. She feels it correctly, she's looking after herself. That's the most important thing. But at the end of the day, that's just the way she looks. That's her natural shape. There's not much you can do about it. So, um, yeah, I've certainly come a lot a long way from, from confidence levels from from school.

Sue Anstiss 

And you found your way into staple chase, which is really interesting cause it's not the first track event that springs to mind when you think of females even distance running. So how, how did you find that?

Eilish McColgan 

I think that's why I liked it. Just the fact that it was, uh, the staple Chase was very new to to female sport. Um, I can't remember what year it was. It might have been 2009, I'd have to check that online. That was the first, uh, like women's steeplechase that was brought in. I think it was maybe at World Championships. And I watched it and I just remember my dad was a steeple chaser, so I always felt like it was an event that my mom had never tried, never been able to try. And so for me, maybe it was just a, I don't know if at the time perhaps maybe I did shy away from the fact that, you know, my mom was this, uh, Olympic medalist and world champion. Maybe subconsciously I didn't feel like that. But now when I look back, maybe that's why I was so drawn to the steep chase of an event and it just naturally happened.

(00:14:18):

And all honestly, like I knew my dad did it. I remember we went to like this junior, junior league event. Um, we'd like travelled on the bus all the way down to, I think it was down in New Castle or something. Um, my club was too small so we had to like congregate the clubs in Scotland and we all, it was brilliant. We called King, called ourself, kingdom Athletics <laugh>. And we uh, travelled down in this mini bus and I remember they were trying to get obviously points so that we would stay in the league and you used to do like, you'd do an 800, you'd do a 1500, you'd do the high jump, the shot pot and a be late at the end, like you did it all in the one day and they started introducing 1500 metres steep chase for women. And nobody wanted to do it like it was the event.

Just nobody was willing to put themselves forward. Um, nobody wanted to get their feet wet and be embarrassed by like the water jump. Cause everyone would sit around the water jump and watch everybody fall over and make a, a field themselves. So I remember they were begging me and begging me to do it and they said, look, even if you just finish, you get a point. So I was like, okay, I'll, I'll go and do it. And obviously I did 1500 anyways, so I thought, well I can just, and I did sprint hurdles as a kid, I thought I'll just combine the two and um, yeah, I won the race and I remember thinking, oh wow. Like it gave me a bit of confidence cuz although I was good at 800 fifteens, I was never winning things. I was never like breaking records or winning loads of medals.

I was always there or thereabout. So for me it was like the first little breakthrough I had. I think I maybe ran one of the fastest times in Scotland, but it's because obviously it was an event that wasn't really, it'd only just begun, but again, it just gave me confidence. And so I did the 1500 steep, then I went to two K and then I remember taking on my first server three K and even that was the first time I sort of had a sort of sniff of being around making like maybe a Europeans one day or making a before then I'd never ever been at that level or ever thought I would get to the level to represent my country or represent GB at something. But the steeplechase really was that open door for me because the standards were a little bit lower, there was less women competing in it.

Um, so yeah, it was really my gateway into my first ever, um, GB vest was in the, the 3000 metre steeplechase in 2011. And it just gave me a huge insight into what I wanted to do. Then as soon as I did that event, I remember thinking, I'm gonna go to the Olympics next year. And it's mad because a year ago or six months before that, I would never, ever have even dreamt of going to Olympic games. Like it just was way outside my, my capabilities. But the steep chase sort of gave me that little first dangle of the carrot.

Sue Anstiss

That's really interesting. I hadn't real, I hadn't realised that. And I guess within the steeplechase you did have some horrible or horrible injury in terms of steeplechase too. So can you tell us a little bit about that and when that occurred within the, your kind of journey into the sport?

Eilish McColgan 

Yeah, so it happened very soon after and I think, to be honest, it probably looking back now, although it was so tough at the time, it's probably the best thing that's ever happened to me in the sense that I was so determined to come back from that. And I suppose in 2011 was my first, as I said, my first GB team. And I couldn't believe it. I mean, it was way above the level I'd been keep competing at over 15 hundreds and three Ks and even the 5k, like I just wasn't, wasn't good enough. I wasn't fast enough. Um, and yet here I was with my GB vest, I was so excited. But at the same time then I, it all happened very quickly and I got probably a little bit too excited. I started getting invited to the Diamond League events and like when you're a a 20, 21 year old girl who's never ever been at that level before, I just took every opportunity I could.

I was like, oh, I can't believe it. Like, I'm going down to London for the Diamond League. I'm racing in Belgium, I'm doing this and this and this. But I sort of forgot that for the last three years before that, I'd been living as a student eating kebabs at 3:00 AM in the morning and partying and drinking all the time. I'd sort of just overnight gone bang, I'm gonna change my entire life. And so my body wasn't quite being, I was like pushing and pushing it and pushing it, but not quite respecting it the way it should have been. Um, I certainly wasn't living like a professional athlete at that point, although I was trying, I was sort of playing at it. I certainly wasn't doing everything, uh, with, with regards to being professional. And so it all just came tumbling down. I made obviously that Diamond League in 2011 and um, about 600 metres into the race, the second last water jump, I just heard my foot pop and I've never ever broke a bone in my life, but I knew straight away it was, it was broken.

Um, but it was my la my last chance to qualify for the world championship, my last chance to get onto UK athletics funding as well. So I was really, really sort of motivated to do that. And I ran the last, I say Iran, I hobbled and cried the last 600 metres, um, across the line, finished the race. Um, I was like crying my eyes out cause although I'd hit all the, my I'd hit a pbe, I'd hit a qualifying time for the world champs. Like I'd done everything I set out to do, but I knew that that was it. Like I'd completely broken my foot and um, I remember the paramedics telling me, oh no, don't worry, like just take some paracetamol, it'll be a sprain. It'll be some sort of like, um, you've twisted your ankle or something. And I was like, I just knew, you know, to deep down I knew that it was something more serious.

Um, so yeah, we went straight back up to Scotland that night in a little wheelchair. Jake Whiteman's dad actually at Jeff Whiteman who was a stadium announcer. He was wheeling me around, uh, the airport to take me back up to Scotland, <laugh>. And then that was it. Yeah, I had to undergo surgery for five screws and a metal plate in my left foot. And the surgeon at the time didn't tell me, but it was, uh, a first first a prototype plate that they'd never, ever used before. Um, he didn't tell me that at the time. He told me that a year and a half later, once it was a success. Um, but yeah, he had never done this surgery before. He didn't know what he was gonna do because it wasn't quite like a normal navicular break where usually you can put just one pin in it.

Mines had completely shattered and damaged all the bones around it. So he did an incredible job to be honest, to be able to put sort of all the bones back together again with these five screws and cap it with this plate. And um, yeah, it was a long process. I had to learn how to walk again. They reshaped my foot. I then started running on like a little trat and then eventually got onto the swimming pool, then onto the bike, then onto the cross trainer, then back running. But everything had changed. Like the gate, my running gate had changed the way that I, um, even my feeling and everything all through that foot, the flexibility, the mobility, everything was completely different. So it took me a, a long time to, to get through all that. But I think because it happened so early in my career, I felt like I was on this big rise up, this big rush.

I was like, oh, I've represented GB for the first time. Like I'm gonna go to Olympic games. I'm gonna do this, this, this, this is gonna be my new life. And then I had this massive crash very soon after. Um, I think cause I was still on that bit of the high, I was so motivated to turn that around and to make sure that I did get back, you know what I mean? I wanted to get back to the level I'd convened competing at. Um, and actually I think it helped me in the long run. Like I came back not only better at the steep chase, but actually better over all distances then my flat times were so much improved because I had just been working my nuts off in the swimming pool on the bike on the cross trainer and also just living a bit more like an athlete rather than living like a student. It made a really big difference.

Sue Anstiss 

And did it tr change the way you then trained moving forwards in terms of the intensity of the training that you were doing?

Eilish McColgan 

Not so much that first injury. I think we almost made the mistake of trying to get back into a similar pattern of training just because it was my first serious injury. So we got myself back running, um, 2012. I made the Olympic games but I wasn't quite in in, I mean I'd had so much time off that even just being at the Olympic games was, was a, a pretty big step forward. Um, 2013 again I was still making quite good progress. And then 2014 I didn't, I just had quite a lot of illness and sick. I was just unlucky that year. But in 2015 I broke my ankle and the same foot and really that was the one that's completely changed the career path of me now to the point where I went through another surgery, another two screws in my ankle. Um, I was in a moon boot, like a cast thing for about nine months.

And so once I went through that surgery, the, the pain in my ankle again was really difficult to um, get back into stable chase. I couldn't even do a hop nevermind, try and do 35 barriers and run as at the same time. So at that point I had to pivot and go towards, right, how am I gonna qualify for the next Olympic games here or how am I gonna keep being a professional athlete? So we really changed, completely overhauled my training at that point, purely because of the pain. I could not run through it twice a day. So we've totally stripped back my training. We had a lot more cross-training, a lot more aqua jogging, a lot more biking. Um, and I wasn't really sure how that would go. But I came out my first race of the year in 2016 and I set a huge personal best over the 5k.

I can't remember what I took. It was like I took 55 seconds or something off my pb um, and ran a qualifying fi time for the Olympic Games. And I remember calling my mom that night from America and she was like, what the hell? Like how has this happened? You, you're pretty much running a couple of times a week and everything else is on the cross trainer. She was like, this is just insane. I can't believe you've been able to do this. So from that point onwards, that's when we really made the conscious effort to completely change our training. And just if it means I need to cross train a little bit more than everyone else, then, then so be it. And it's been a big change for my mom too because that's not the type of runner my mom is. You know, my mom would be 130 miles a week and that's just, it's hard work and you do all outside and you run and that's it. Um, but I'm just not, I I'm, I'm different. You mean I'm a different body, I'm a different person. Like what works for my mom isn't gonna work for me. So it's been quite a big learning curve even for my mom to realise that we can't just follow the exact same training plan she did. Um, and yeah, just adapt and change things over the last couple of years. So I think 2015 was certainly, yeah, a big, big turning point then towards the flat distances and moving away from, from the steeple chase

Sue Anstiss 

And this amazing success that you've had since then in, in the kind of recent years recently, was there a time in all of that injury, especially in 2015 when you thought about just stopping? I mean there must have been a time when you thought about stopping and giving up. So what do you think it was in you that drove you to come back to put yourself through that?

Eilish McColgan 

Yeah, there's been certainly loads of times throughout I'd say yeah, 2011, that serious injury, 2015 as well, um, where I've been, yeah, in tears and just thinking what, what do I do next? But I don't know what it is. Like there's always maybe more so in 2015 because I felt like, yeah, I don't, I dunno what it is, it's really difficult to explain it. There's something in inside you that tells you to keep going like a little, I don't know if it's a little voice, a little, I don't know what it is, but even though everyone else is sort of like thinking that you're done or saying that doing this is gonna be challenging or this is gonna be difficult. Like in 2011 the doctor told me I wouldn't run again at elite level. Um, he said I could hobby jog, like, jog about, but like that I couldn't, I wouldn't be able to get back to like running fast.

I just remember crying my eyes out. But then deep down something aside me was like, tell me that wouldn't be the case that I'd get back somehow. Um, so I don't know honestly, dunno where that comes from. I'm very lucky. Obviously I have my mom, my dad Michael as well. Like even there'll be times where I'll be upset and I'll speak to my dad on the phone and he'll be like, well you know, you've, you've been here before, do you know what I mean? This is hap like this isn't the first time you've been through things before, you'll be able to come out the other side. Maybe it's that sort of support as well from their side. I think that definitely helps. It gives me that confidence cuz they have far more confidence in me than than I do even myself. And so I think I definitely, that reassurance is is part of that too. Um, and ultimately like I do this sport because I love it, but at the same time I want to make them proud for, I think they're just on as much of this journey as I am. Um, but yeah, there's something just internal and I don't know where that comes from. I don't know why it's there. Um, but yeah, there's always just something telling me that there's, this isn't the end, there's, there's something else to come.

Sue Anstiss 

And clearly there was. And that belief of others has kind of really shined through. If I can take you back to that magnificent summer last year and that Commonwealth Games gold. So I wonder what preparation has had it been like in terms of coming into the games? What had that been like for you?

Eilish McColgan

Um, again, I've had a little bit of disruption heading into the games. Um, I, well we obviously had the world championships out in Eugene and I just don't travel very well at all. Like long haul flights are just my absolute nemesis. So we, I knew it was gonna be a challenge, but for us, the world is obviously, um, important, just a higher level competition if you know what I mean. And also all of our funding, all of that UK sport is, is around world championships. So that was the first event we flew all the way to Eugene and um, I ended up tweaking a bit of my hamstring and doing something to the, the nerve in, in my back. And so I didn't really have the, I just had a nightmare in Eugene and all honestly, it wasn't even just that there was injury, I then woke up one day and like couldn't hear out one ear.

All my urine of thing was block. Like, it was just a nightmare. I had one thing after another, I was worried I'd then caught covid because I woke up feeling awful and had all this, and obviously if you tested positive, you had to go into isolation for two weeks. So there was a constant stress even around that whole event. And um, I just remember thinking at the end of Eugene thinking, God, if I can get myself back into the, over into the European time zone where I know that my body operates well and I can just get myself ready, ease right down, get myself ready for this because I know I'm in shape, my body's in shape. I knew from training like that the, the training sessions I'd been doing were far superior than anything we'd ever done before. And so Michael kept saying to me, it's there, it's just, you've had like an unlucky series events with the travel with illness.

Um, I ended up catching, um, not covid, but what did we have, what did I have again? L laryngitis. I had laryngitis for the second time. Uh, and it honestly, it was just one thing after another. So, but honestly, by the time I got to Commonwealth Games I was like, I can't believe it. Like I've got to this start line, I feel good, my body is healthy, I am healthy. There's no viruses, no bugs. Like I didn't have a single ache in pain and I thought, I can't believe it. Like I've got here <laugh> feeling pretty much a hundred percent and it's very rare that happens in sport. And so I think I was excited by it as well, knowing that obviously my, my mom was gonna be there, my dad, Michael, like everyone that I loved was gonna be in the crowd as well, which is very unusual.

Um, but really it was more of like a bit of a, I had a lot of motivation I think to turn around what I felt was quite a disappointing run in Eugene that I didn't want that to happen again. And it really did motivate me for both Commonwealths and even in going into Europeans, in all honesty. Um, the Europeans was tough just because Commonwealths was such a high, I didn't prepare for it being such a high moment like that, an emotional moment. Uh, it really was way beyond anything I could have ever imagined or dreamed. So Europeans off the back of that was like coming from the top of Mount Everest to trying to like climb your way back up and feel excited again. But Commonwealth was the first race in a long time that I've stood on the start line and just had this buzz, like felt a real buzz and energy and excitement.

Um, I was nervous, of course I was nervous and I could sense my mom was nervous as well, which doesn't happen very often. And so that for me was another thing. I think again, I feed off other people's energy. I could tell that she was nervous knowing that I'm in shape. Do you know what I mean? There's nothing she even said to me, there's nothing more I can do now. Like, you are ready to run well, it's just that you have to do it. Um, but yeah, I think mentally that helped me knowing that as well.

Sue Anstiss 

And tell us about that atmosphere in the stadium especially, uh, that final lap. I think we felt it from, I wasn't there in the stadium, but watching it at home, you could really feel that energy and excitement.

Eilish McColgan 

It's nothing like I've ever had before. Um, I just remember even on the start line, everyone was like cheering and going nuts and for everyone, for all the home nations. Even like we had, obviously we had people from England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, we even had, um, is man, there was a couple of athletes in there as well. So every single like home nation athlete was getting such a big roar on the start line that that was really exciting to us as well. Like he does give you a bit of burst of adrenaline. And then when we started running the first couple laps, I was thinking, God, this is, this is loud. Like people are cheering loud. Um, and the 10 K is a long race, you know, it's 30 odd minutes, although there's no way this'll keep going. I just thought obviously it'll quiet and down.

People all start watching other events and we just sort of get forgotten about a little bit. Um, but that just did not happen. Every lap was getting louder and louder and louder and any time, obviously I led a lot of the race, but anytime I went back to the front or sort of pushed on the pace a little bit, there was an even bigger roar all the time. Um, it was just beyond any race I've ever, ever had taken part in before. The only thing I can remember being like that was, um, London 2012 watching like Greg Rutherford, Mo and Jess that Saturday evening. It was so loud in the stadium and that's the way on a slightly smaller scale, but that's the way it felt like, it felt like everybody was just going mad. Um, and especially over that last, like when I got into the last two and a half laps, I remember Michael saying to me, look, if you can stay with them, you, you've got just as much chance as winning it as anyone else.

But the hardest bit is, is getting to that last sort of k that last 800 metres. And I remember getting there and obviously I was tired, but the noise of the crowd was just so loud that I almost forgot how tired I was. I just felt like I was strong. It's the only way I can explain it. And certainly the last one 50, um, I just, it was like something takes over you. I had this buzz going right the way through my fingertips all the way up my arms. They felt like they were vibrating almost. Um, it was just a really weird, really weird experience. I've never ever felt anything like that in my life. And obviously crossing the line and not only coming first but then seeing the time that we had ran and then I just heard in the corner of, uh, the stadium, I actually heard one of my best friends, Jenny Sellman, who had made the team at the first, for her first time when we grew up together, like trained together at the Dundee Harriers.

We went, we were in that Kingdom Athletics bus going down to the race. Um, we lived together at university and then she had made her first Commonwealth Games team at the age of 30. And so it was a big moment for her, but I could just hear her screaming my name and out of all the people in the stadium, I'd just heard Jenny's voice. And then I turned and she was standing right next to my mom. And so that's when I ran over to my mom. I gave 'em a hugs, they were crying. Um, and yeah, it was just such a crazy, crazy series of events in that one night that I don't think they'll ever be, I I I know there won't ever be an event like that again for me.

Sue Anstiss 

I was gonna say that moment that the BBC captured your mum in the end of the race, you and your mum in the race, and we were in all in tears in our family. And I know I've been with you a few times at awards this year when people have come up and said exactly the same, that at the emotion that people felt for you. And I think having followed your, the ups and downs of your journey that people feel really, um, engaged and, you know, invested in you and, and the success that you had. So are you able to enjoy that as an athlete in that moment? I mean, you mentioned you are almost jumping on a plane to go to the next event. Do you have a time to reflect and recognise what you achieve?

Eilish McColgan 

Um, I think that evening, I mean it'll always be very special to me, just the fact that obviously I got to see, yeah, my mom and Jenny, I ran round, I saw Michael, I then saw my dad and my uncle, like I got that special moment with them. Um, but very, as you said, very quickly it is on to like the next thing. Like you're in drug testing for ages, like never. I maybe saw my parents then about, might have been 1:00 AM in the morning after drug testing after all the media to then actually have like a proper conversation and give them a hug and show them my medal. And but then you, you're there for like 15 minutes and then you have to go back to the, the village. And then for me it was preparing for the 5k and both my mom, my dad, Michael, they all said, look, you've had such an incredible moment here.

Such a big high, such an emotional high. Like everyone's been crying. There's such an energy like why don't you just relax now and just be happy that you've won, you've won that medal. But I think as being an athlete, like you always, you do click into the next thing very quickly. Um, I I think I've seen that in my mom more so than anyone where I didn't want to fall on the mistake of not appreciating what I've done because my mom certainly didn't like she's got all these incredible achievements like world champion and world Jacker told her at some point in um, Olympic medals, but to her, she never feels like she, she got her ultimate goal or she never quite got the, the big thing, I dunno, she's always looking for something else and she never really got to take a moment to like be in that moment or appreciate it or celebrate it whatsoever.

And so I can see myself, uh, similar traits to my mom in that sense of you're onto the next thing. Like after the convert, I was straight into Europeans and then it was into something else and then it was, but I really over this winter said to my boyfriend, like, I wanna make the most of this now and really appreciate that if I get invited to a plush award ceremony that I've never been invited to before and I've won a sports award that I would never, ever have dreamed of being even nominated for, um, the fact I even got nominated for these things, I was like, I'm gonna go. Whereas my mom would just be like, Nope, nope. I'm training, I'm training. This is it. And I trained around it. It wasn't like I was just sitting on my arse doing nothing <laugh>. Um, I I went to the events.

I came home again, it wasn't like I was there partying or anything and on my feet all day, but I just wanted to be there in the moment and at least appreciate that sort of moment in time because I might never get a chance like that again. So, um, yeah, I've tried I think to really take it all in, but I don't probably think I've, it's probably never gonna quite sink in to um, yeah, what, what really it was just, it was just such a buildup to that, that one event and that one race, it really does feel like a bit of a fairytale to be honest. The fact that it all came together in that one evening and even more so with it happening to my mom 30 odd years earlier.

Sue Anstiss 

And in a way you've had quite an unconventional approach as an elite athlete. So you've only been coached by your mum, I believe, and you train with, uh, your partner Michael, who's a three time Olympian himself. And at the time that you and I first met actually, you didn't have an agent, which was lovely for me cause I was able to talk to you about that commercial deal with Polar and work with you directly. I wonder why you've taken that approach a as an athlete.

Eilish McColgan 

Um, I suppose it's just we've, I've always felt like with my mom coaching me that we've always sort of made improvements. I've never really got to a point where I've felt like, oh, this is the end of the road. Or a lot of athletes, I suppose you get to a point where you feel like you've really hit plateau and then it's not, you need to find something else. And there has been times where that's happened, but then we've discussed what changes I wanna make. I think my mom's been very, maybe not at first, she's quite difficult, <laugh>, but once you sort of break down those barriers to then she's a bit more open to making changes and making changes within my training. And certainly as I've got older, we're a lot more flexible. Like when I was younger it was just my mom set the plan and I followed it religiously and that was it.

But now it's certainly more of a discussion. It's not so much like my mom coaches me and I just follow it. Like really to be honest, myself and Michael probably guide a lot of the programme now and it's really getting advice from my mom and a bit of a sounding board from my mom will say, look, do you think this still still works or do you want us to change this or, but really it's down to us now day to day because Michael is the one with me 24 7. Like, we're together all the time. I think since the pandemic, like I can't think of a time where we've been apart for more than a day or two. Like it's, it's, it is quite unusual, but

Sue Anstiss 

You are dressing the same online

Eilish McColgan 

Social media, especially emerging or whatever somebody called it. Um, so yeah, it's, it, it just seems to work. Like I feel we've got a very small team. I don't have like, yeah, nutritionist and podiatrists and all these sort of, um, scientists on board. It really is just, my mom is the one sort of ultimately given advice and we're still following those same sessions that followed from years ago. But we just make changes. We tweak the recoveries, we tweak the sets, we tweak about days we run in the morning. It's just not as strict anymore. And then Michael's the one on the ground. I mean, he's pacing me on the biker every days keeping me company all the time. Um, it's makes a big difference. In the past I'd be trying to do it entirely on my own, but with my mom still from afar and that was really difficult.

I think when I look back now, I was just quite unhappy probably and not realising I'm happy in the sense that I'm obviously doing this job that I love and I'm running every day. But it was very, very lonely spending like three to five weeks just in a tiny studio apartment on your own all day. Um, no family, no friends, no partner and you're just running and doing all your training. Like it does become very, uh, insular. So it's, it was nice now to be in the sort of opportunity now that we have that we can travel together. It makes a big difference. I have ultimately my best friend with me every single day. Um, it doesn't feel like I don't miss home as much now because home is just wherever Michael is with me. Um, so yeah, I think our, our trainings certainly changed a lot over the years.

I've just not felt like I need to make any particular changes. As I said, I've gradually, yes, it's been quite a slow progress. Like, but every year I think I've pb done something or there's been maybe reasons why I haven't pb do you know, I mean I've been able to sort of in my mind rational why that hasn't really happened. And yeah, maybe it's too slow for other people. Other athletes want these big improvements and everybody wants to become Olympic champion and a world record record. Like I don't really think like that either. Like I'm not, if I end my career and I don't have any Olympic medals, like I'll be pretty happy. Like I've done, done the best I possibly could within my body. I've done the best I could with uh, yeah, with my little small team that we've got and um, yeah, maybe that's why we haven't felt like we need to make huge changes. I feel very comfortable and happy with with the situation that we're in.

Sue Anstiss

Yeah, it's working. You're having that success aren't you? Um, in terms of social media, you've been very open about your life on social media. Has that been easy to do and and how does it feel to be so in touch with your, your fans and people that are following you?

Eilish McColgan 

Um, yeah, it still feels, it still feels very strange that um, people do follow me in that sense. Like people are interested and want to know. Cause I just think like my, it doesn't feel like life's particularly that exciting <laugh> being an athlete. Um, but at the same time when I was like younger and not even younger, even when I was growing up, like I would've loved to have known I suppose what Polar Radcliffe was doing or Kelly Holmes. And obviously I, I understand I'm not quite their level, but still I would be interested to know what other athletes were doing all the time. So I suppose that's what it is, it's curiosity. People like to see what what's happening. And I always said I'd show the highs and the lows because nothing frustrates me more than when I see someone's Instagram feed. It's all just like a, a, a fairytale rainbows and unicorns.

Like they only post the good days. Do you mean they only post when they have a great race or they only post when training's brilliant, but then when they're injured or sick or something, it's, they're just, it disappears. And I understand that to be honest. Cuz I, I know that a lot of athletes struggle mentally, they just cannot when they're in that, those sort of down periods they don't want to be posting. And I, I get that like I totally get it. Everyone's to their own, but I just think it's important yeah, that for younger people coming through, they see that it isn't all smooth sailing. Do you know? I mean it is tough. Um, we are humans at the end of the day. We're not robots as well, which is another thing. I think a lot of people just assume that, um, yeah, we should just be able to churn out performances 24 7 no matter if it's our time of the month as as women's.

Like, it doesn't matter. Do you mean we should just be able to perform at the Olympics and at this world champ no matter what date it's on, when it is. Um, so yeah, I think I just wanna maybe show a bit of a human element to my social media as well. And um, I enjoy it. Like I, I try my best to, to like speak to people on there as much as I can. Cuz I just think if they're willing to follow and comment and follow my journey, then the least I can do is, is say hello and write back to people. Um, I enjoy social media. I don't particularly find it a stress. I know some people really do. Um, but yeah, it doesn't, it doesn't bother me too much. Obviously I'm very lucky. Michael's the one behind the camera taking off the pictures.

It's probably more of a stress for him. I'm just out doing my run and doing my training. He's the one taking all the pictures. But it's um, I think it's a brilliant way to be able to connect to people that not only the younger generation but also just people that do the same thing as you. Because ultimately whether you're doing your first ever park run or whether you're going to the Olympic games, you're all still putting on your trainers and striving to run your own personal best. So like you all go through the same injuries, the same motivational waves. Like it's very, very, our sport's very similar. It's not like, yeah, I dunno, it's not like, it's not like other sports. We're quite an unusual sport I think. And I think somebody that's even an Olympic athlete can completely relate to somebody that runs 10 ks for fun or a park run at the weekend for fun. It is exact same

Sue Anstiss 

And I love the weather when we see you in all these different weathers and things. I think that's really important too, isn't it? Is like the recognising the reality of training in wind and rain and all those things too.

Eilish McColgan 

Yeah, I mean recently obviously we were, we were lucky we were over in Dubai and it was, it was roast and hot, but again, it's not, people think, oh, it's a bit of a holiday, but when I say no, it was 35 degrees outside, they're like, oh, okay. Like, that's horrible. So yeah, it's, it's nice and sunny outside and it looks prey, but they know themselves that even when it gets passed 20 degrees in the UK everybody's struggling. So it's, um, yeah, I try my best. We've been lucky here in <inaudible>. Usually there's snow, we're usually snow down at this point of the year, but um, yeah, thankfully, although it's been cold, there's been no snow as of yet. So, um, trying to avoid that as much as we can. <laugh>.

Sue Anstiss 

And you've become, you mentioned earlier, a champion for body positivity in young women. And I, I know last year you shared how you were trolled on social media about your body shape and, and build, especially in a way that would never happen to a man. And you shared some of those comments, which was really kinda upsetting even for us watching, you know, not being on rec receipt of them, but seeing them. So why is it so important to you to, to call people out and what worries you most about that, that commentary on women's bodies really?

Eilish McColgan 

Yeah, I mean I al anytime I sort of call out, I always get people saying, oh, don't waste your energy and like, don't ignore the trolls, you're just feeding them, blah, blah. And I totally get that. Like, I mean, if I called out every single day that it happens, then, then yes, that would be a waste of my time and energy. But it's just every now and again they might catch me on a, on a, on a down day or a bad day <laugh> or, um, and I just think, nah, I'm not, I'm not having this today. Like I just can't be bothered with these, this ridiculous comment. Especially when some of them are say like, I dunno, I'm a bad role model for young kids and that really pisses me off because for what reason? Like, just because I'm tall and skinny, like that's ridiculous.

Like I feel my body, I looked after myself, um, I've never had an eating disorder. I don't feel like I ever will. Like that's just not the type of, um, yeah, I've just never had that had an issue with that at all. It's just not something that's ever remotely crossed my mind. I don't make, I know athletes sometimes struggle with this connection between food and being light and being fast, but I don't know if it's been so instilled from my mom that I've just never made that at all. Like for me it's always been food is fuel, is energy. I need it for all my training. And so I just wanna make sure that when yeah, people write these comments that every now and again I call out so that the youngsters do see one that I'm sticking up for myself. You don't just lie down and roll over and let all these people just tro all over you.

But two, that this is my natural body shape so I'm not gonna have, again, have people call me out on something that I cannot change. Like I remember at high school again, cause I was maybe unconfident just with the way I looked and I've been so skinny for the first, like three years of high school, I ate McDonald's every single day for my lunch. I had a large coke, a burger and large fries. And this was around at the same time, like that super me like documentary was going on about, and then it came out saying like how horrendously bad that is for your diet. And all my friends were obviously starting to get a little bit bigger and I just stayed the exact same. I looked like a bean pole no matter how much I ate. Like it just, it wasn't happening. Um, and I ended up getting like so many issues with like, I just felt awful.

Like my heart was, I was getting palpitations from all the salt obviously I was eating so much salt from McDonald's. Um, my skin was getting bad. Like I just felt awful. And now when I look back to that, I think it's so stupid trying to like put on weight to look like other people or to try and be something that I just can't be. And so I get a lot of young kids, like even young boys even message me saying that they go to school and they've been taking all these protein powders and supplements to try and get beg to try and look muscular. And it just takes me back to then really when I just think what like don't do that. Like just be you be proud and be quite confident of yourself. And I think what's helped me over the last couple years is realising that like this body that I've inherited now has come from my granny who is in is incredible.

Do you mean it's both my gran grannies are still alive and still going strong and like they're such incredible role models for me and then obviously my mom as well. So I just think, well I've inherited it from those incredible women. Like I should be proud of this instead of shying away or being scared or trying to change it. So when people sort of call out that now, I just think, nah, I'm not taking it because I need to take that at all. Um, certainly at my age as well. Like I don't care what I look like now. Like this is me, I ain't changing. Um, so yeah, hopefully it sort of gives some of the youngsters a bit of confidence as well to, to stand up to people rather than just, um, and essentially at the end of the day, trolls are usually very unhappy in their own life. So there's something usually going on at a bit of a deeper level that you're unaware of. Um, and it usually reflects a very unhappy home essentially that they've got. So I feel sorry for them at the end of the day, but I don't, it's not gonna stop me calling them out every now and again. I just can't, I just don't have the energy to be doing it every single day.

Sue Anstiss 

Absolutely. And I was gonna talk to you about commercial partnerships actually, but maybe not McDonald's after what we've just said <laugh>. But um, you've had a kinda a few challenges there over the years and I wonder, can you talk a bit more about what happened with the London Marathon ahead of your injury? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So in terms of sponsorship?

Eilish McColgan 

Yeah, so I, I've just signed, um, a couple of months ago a deal with science and sport. Um, so it's quite unusual in athletics. This is the first time we've had a bit of a breakthrough with, um, allowing sponsors on kit. Not like obviously triathlon for years have had logos all over the, the the clothing, but athletics are now allowed one on their two on their top, sorry, one alongside a a sports brand and one on the shorts. Um, so yeah, it's, it's been a, a good move. I think it's important for athletics. It brings a bit more eyes and different brands that maybe, maybe wouldn't be thinking of athletics into our sport. Um, but the rules around sort of major marathon events haven't quite caught up to these new sort of regulations that have been brought in by world athletics. So, um, essentially it just means that the races can decide what the sponsors are, um, so that it doesn't clash with their own sponsors.

And so I like ultimately I, I get it, I understand the reasons behind it, um, but I do think it's wrong and I think eventually we won't even be having this conversation in all honestly, I think in a year, two years time, um, the rules will just be that you can have your own personal sponsor on your vest and you can race in whatever competition you want. I think it's just the rules are outdated at the moment. The current guidelines, they're just not quite caught up to the, the new ones that have come into play in the last year or so. Um, I fully understand obviously it can't, it's never gonna be a, a brand that is um, I dunno, cigarettes or <laugh> alcohol or something like that. But um, I think every athlete should be allowed to have their own personal sponsor cuz one, it obviously brings in more income for the athlete, but it's also, as I said, a new brand that brings in new eyes that might not have been in that sort of, uh, sporting arena before.

I know science and sport for example, have done a lot in cycling, but this is really their first step into, into athletics. They've got, uh, a team over in Ethiopia that they're sponsoring now. They sponsor the world champion female from Eugene who's uh, an Ethiopian athlete as well and, and myself. So it's their first little step into, into running athletics as a sport, which is really exciting and um, yeah, it's just been a bit more stressful than it needed to be because I do think, yeah, in the next couple of years this this clash that is current has happened won't be an issue. So

Sue Anstiss 

Is that in all road races? So is it all right on a track in terms of Diamond League and so on you could

Eilish McColgan 

Wear? I actually think, no, I actually think, um, certainly in in road races it it's up to the road race organiser to decide on if they allow it or not, whether they feel it's a clash with their own personal sponsors. But I actually think it also clashes, uh, I think the Diamond League and stuff too. I think they can actually approve or not approve sponsors too. Um, but I think they're less strict maybe just because it's, I don't know. I know, I know the sort of major marathons are a lot more strict. Maybe it's more TV time, more coverage, more um, I suppose more money involved essentially as well compared to the track. Um, but I do think, yeah, I think that it's the same rule on the track. I think the race organisers can essentially decide uh, what you're allowed and what you're not allowed.

Sue Anstiss 

I was really interested to read that your uh, mom was dropped by Nike when she became pregnant with you in 1990 and yet less than a year after you were born she went on to become world champion. So do you think that endorsement and support of female athletes has changed significantly since then? I guess over 30 years?

Eilish McColgan 

Yeah, it's changed massively. I think Alison Felix really brought around that change by hiding her pregnancy to avoid being cut. I mean she was such a huge star in our sport. Um, it just brought again so much press and coverage to that, to that being a problem. And ultimately she's the one that's changed a lot of the sports contracts now. Like there's pregnancy clauses within sports contracts rather than us being caught. Um, I mean my mom was caught totally entirely, but I think over the last so many years it was maybe you got a 50% reduction or a 25%. It was almost treated like an injury if you hadn't competed within those, um, so many months you had a set, a set fee that would be reduced. Um, but now I know a lot of brands do have pregnancy clauses. I don't know firsthand what those are.

I even know my as contract has a pregnancy clause in there. Um, but it is really people like my mom, Alison, Felix, people that are real trailblazers of, of women in sport, um, that have brought around that change. So we're definitely in a better era now. I mean, I saw the other day Nike have some sort of maternity line and sports range and I mean they've gone probably the the other <laugh> full circle right the way around. Um, but yeah, I think that's why I feel quite strongly with Isaacs as well. I know that they were the only ones back in the day with my mom where I think they signed her maybe like the week before or a couple of days before her world championships in Japan. Um, and yeah, they didn't care about the fact she had a me less than one year old tagging alongside her.

Um, I think for me that's important, especially even age and sport as well. A lot of the brands in the past have been very ageist Once you, I got told when I was, I think I was 27 and I got told I was too old and that I wouldn't be sort of signed again for the next Olympic cycle and yet I'm 32 and I feel stronger than I've ever had before. I've run faster than I've ever ran before. So I like the fact now that brands are sort of looking at that and going, obviously not all brands, but most brands now are looking at that and not being put off by age. I know Isaac's just signed, I mean if they've got Sarah Hall, um, as a, an American martiner, I know they signed a a 42 year old martiner over in America, like age isn't a number to them. If you're still performing a high level, you're still willing to put in the work and your body's allowing you to do that. They're gonna support the performance and the person rather than, um, yeah, someone's age or whether someone's pregnant or, and for me I think that's really important.

Sue Anstiss 

That's fabulous, isn't it? Um, I guess just finally, you've obviously competed in everything from 5,000 to half marathons, hopefully marathons soon. I'm interested to know what you, what you enjoy most and a and a bit of what your hopes are for the future.

Eilish McColgan 

Um, I actually really enjoy on track. I enjoy the, the shorter races. I think because I don't get the chance to do them obviously very often. I mean, 1500 is so much fun. I absolutely love it. Like it's, it's essentially me sprinting from soon as the gun goes to the line, I just sprint as fast as I possibly can, but it's over in four minutes or something. So it just feels so bizarre and, and I love it. I absolutely love it. If I could be a a 1500 metre runner, I would be a 1500 metre runner every day of the week. Um, it's just totally, it's just fun. It really is. Um, I used to love the staple chase, but now I certainly have that fear, like I don't miss it at all. I think after breaking my foot on the barrier, like that for me was, I then used to be dead anxious running and that's not fun at all when you're running along, being anxious every step, every step thinking that something bad's gonna go wrong.

So I really do enjoy track racing just now. I feel so much freer with not having the barriers there. I almost wanna make the most of like every opportunity I get on track now cause I just really enjoy it. Um, but yeah, more recently I think for me the road races has actually been, it's surprised me as a youngster, I never thought I would enjoy like long distance on the roads. Like that for me felt like completely alien. I just didn't want to be competing over those distances at all. But I feel really comfortable in those events. I feel like I've got my, a good stride, like nobody's around me clipping me on the track. I'm so tall that my hands even clip their spikes sometimes when I'm running I'm clipping people's feet in arms and legs, whereas on the road, like everyone's got their own space and I can really get into my own stride length and feel comfortable and strong running.

Um, so yeah, I'm excited. A lot of people have asked sort of after Commonwealth last year, why, why move up? Do you mean why go to the roads? Why do that? But it's what excites me and that's ultimately why I keep doing the sport, is finding something that you're passionate about. And I love the half marathon distance. I still think I can go a lot quicker on that. Um, I'd love to try and this year obviously go under 65 minutes. Um, break the European record would be a really, really big goal for me. And then eventually the marathon. I still believe I can run a, a good marathon. It's just, it's gonna take a little bit longer time to get there, but I know that, I know it's capable, like I can see it from training, I can just see from the way that I've built up over the last couple years and also just the type of runner I am. I mean, my mom said she's known it for a very, very long time and I've never quite believed it, but I believe it now myself. And I think that's a big shift in, in confidence and that really is the difference. So right now I'd say road running is is definitely something that I'm, yeah, I'm enjoying, I'm really enjoying the process.

Sue Anstiss 

Brilliant. And, and Paris next year, what your thoughts around that?

Eilish McColgan 

Yeah, that's the big goal. I think again, it was the marathon is is what I was hoping to, to be moving towards. I sort of felt like London would be my stepping stone towards that. I could get a qualifying time in London and then obviously focus back on the track again until Paris Marathon. But we're gonna have to reassess our plans a little bit now. Um, I'm gonna need to qualify in time so it's finding another marathon that fits in with the the next buildup. We're still deciding sort of what's next. Um, I'll go into obviously track work this season now for the rest of the summer, but yeah, maybe in the autumn, maybe in the winter, maybe even the start of 2024, we try and find a marathon, um, to build up for Paris. And that, that still feels like plan A to me. Like I still feel like Marathon is is the main goal in Paris. But ultimately if we still have, if we have to pivot like we have done this year and go back to the 10 K, then um, I take confidence off this year knowing that I've got a sub 30 in me. I do feel like I can run 29 something. So, um, that's like almost plan B, like a bit of a, yeah, a backup plan if Plan A doesn't work, um, no matter what for me, Paris is is ultimately the, the main goal

Sue Anstiss 

Thanks to Eilish. I've loved watching her fantastic progress over the years and I very much look forward to following her through to Paris 2024 and beyond. Head over to fearless women.co.uk to find previous episodes where I've spoken to other incredible track and field athletes, including Jess and Hill, Donna Fraser, Katrina Johnson, Thompson, Hannah Cockcroft, Denise Lewis, andt, grey Thompson, as well as listening to all the podcasts on the website. You can also find out more about the Women's Sport Collective, a free inclusive community for all women working in sport. You can sign up for the Phyllis Women Newsletter, which highlights the developments in global women's sport. And there's more about my book game on the unstoppable rise of women's sport. Thanks again to Sport England for backing the Game changers through a National Lottery award and to Sam Walker at What Goes On Media, who does such a great job as our executive producer. Thank you also to my brilliant colleague at Fearless Women, Kate Hannon. The Game Changers is free to listen to and you can find it on all podcast platforms. Do follow us to make sure you don't miss out on future episodes and if you have a moment to leave a review or a rating, it would really help to raise the profile of the podcast and help us to reach new audiences.

The Game Changers is free to listen to on all podcast platforms. Do follow us or subscribe now so you don't miss out on future episodes. And if you have a moment to leave a rating or review, it would be fantastic cuz it really does help us to reach new audiences. Do come and say hello on social media, where you'll find me on LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter at Sue Anstiss. The Game Changers, fearless Women in Sport.