The July Athlete of the Month feature is finally finally here…and I’m very happy to be introducing you to Eilish Mccolgan, one of my favourite athletes of the moment. I know that many of you have been following the Diamond League athletics recently, and so I’m sure you’ll know all about Eilish and how she is currently performing. Having competed at two Olympics and also having made a big transition from steeplechase to track, it’s going to be great to hear about things from her point of view.
1) Recently we’ve seen you competing in the Olympics and Diamond Leagues. At what point did you know that running was something you wanted to do professionally?
I knew from a young age that I loved running but it wasn’t really until I was around 20 that I realised if I really knuckled down, I could perhaps do it professionally. Up until that point, I was doing it as a hobby and attending university and working part time too. When I made the Olympic team in 2012 – that all changed.
2) How is running at the high-level you’re at different to competing at county level like most runners?
It’s obviously very intense. Running is now a full time job and so with that comes all the pressures of a typical job. You have targets to hit and a standard to maintain throughout the year. But when it really comes down to it, it doesn’t matter what level you compete at. Every runner goes through the same thought process and every runner wants to improve.
3) Have you always been one of the best? Is there hope for everyone who isn’t necessarily winning everything at U13, 15, and 17 level?
I won a British title at u13 level before going through a really difficult few years. I found that I was struggling and medals were way out of reach. I continued training but perhaps didn’t race as frequently as I did before. Mentally it was tough but physically I was changing – I was growing a lot and because of that I lost a lot of energy and strength. Thankfully, I stuck at it and started to come out the other side of things when I was around 20. It took me till the age of 20/21 to represent GB for the first time so it’s been a long process to get there!
4) What would a training typical week look like for you? How much mileage do you run in a hard week?
I only run 40mile a week on average, due to previous injuries that i’ve had. I cross train about 5 days a week on top of that in order to top up my training. Typically I would do 2 track sessions a week on Tuesday and Saturday with the other days being steady runs – usually 5miles. On a Sunday I would do a long run of 10miles.
5) Favourite session:
My favourite session would be something like 1000-800-600-400-200 with 3min recovery. I enjoy these type of sessions but only when i’m in good shape. I like the feeling of moving fast and getting faster as the reps reduce in distance.
6) Injury is obviously a huge part of being a runner. What were your experiences with the foot fractures that saw you transition from the steeple chase onto the track?
I didn’t really have an option but to transition onto the flat. In 2011, I had to undergo surgery to reconstruct my foot after a serious fracture and then in 2015, I fracture the same foot but this time in my ankle. Going through a second surgery on the same foot was tough but it’s made me much stronger mentally. I could barely run without being in a lot of pain and so there was no chance I would be able to hurdle one barrier, nevermind the 35 I would need to hurdle in a race. I made the decision to push through the pain to get myself back jogging and running on flat surfaces but jumping was out of question for the foreseeable future. I’m sure that I could now return to the steeplechase, as I’m pain free etc, however I’ve made such big improvements over the flat and really enjoying it – so why change something that’s working so well!?
7) Does strength training play a part in your schedule?
A little. I’ve definitely adopted a lot more of it into my programme since my surgery in 2015 but it’s more body weight and rehab based.
8) It’s clear that diet is also an important part of an athlete’s lifestyle. Have you made any changes as you’ve progressed up the ranks?
I’ve certainly made small changes over the years but nothing majorly drastic. Whilst at University, I lived like a student – eating take away meals and drinking most nights but as soon as I decided to take my athletics seriously, I cut that all out. I don’t actually drink alcohol at all now but that’s not particularly related to my running but more that I don’t enjoy the taste at all. I try to eat as much fresh fruit and vegetables as I possible can and cook everything from scratch.
9) What’s your current set-up like in terms of where you train? How often do you travel abroad for the warm weather/ altitude?
I am actually very rarely in the UK at the moment. Over Xmas, I visit my mum as she lives in Qatar, Doha, before heading straight out on an altitude camp to Kenya with the GB team. I’m then home for a month over the indoor season, racing, before heading out to Flagstaff in the USA. This is a much longer altitude camp and usually lasts between 4-8 weeks. In the summer season, i’ll be at home racing and then head to Font Romeu, France the month before a major championships to prepare with the GB squad.
10) And finally, what’s your favourite distance to race?
It’s a tough one! I enjoy the flat races much more than the steeplechase! I would say at the moment, the 3000m flat would be my favourite. I rarely get to run it as its not an olympic event but it’s the distance we compete in indoors. I feel like I’m well suited to it too – it’s not too far and not a sprint either.
I would just like to say a huge thank you to Eilish on behalf of everyone for answering these questions! I’m very grateful.
You can continue to follow on her blog, twitter and instagram below:
As always, the next athlete feature will be posted towards the end of the month, but in the meantime you can always look back on previous posts. If you enjoyed Eilish’s feature, you could head over to Charlie Grice’s interview or Laura Muir’s.