Eilish McColgan could have quit last year. With her shattered foot in a moon boot, the Scottish hope had come crashing down to earth with the latest in a line of injuries that made her wonder if her dreams of ending up in Rio 12 months later were destined for disaster.
Instead the 25-year-old will line up in the 5000 metres heats today with mind and body in one piece and raring to go.
After removing some of the risk factor by switching from the steeplechase to the flat, McColgan has taken to her new event like a duck to water, finishing sixth at last month’s European Championships but furious that it wasn’t more.
But the Dundonian has revealed that it was her father Peter, once an international steeplechaser himself, who talked her back off the ledge when she was ready to walk away following the surgery that eventually got her back on track.
“He put on a voice to mimic me,” she recalled. “He was like ‘I’m going to quit. It’s not happening. I’m not going to be a runner any more.’ And that’s because every so often, you go through a stage where you think this isn’t for me.
“Obviously I love running but maybe it will just have to be a hobby. I was thinking I’d have to get a job, a part-time one at least. I was looking at full-time ones as well. But my Dad was telling me to not give up. You go through these phases, where you’re very determined to kill things or do this and this. And then you’re going to quit. It’s very up and down.”
Despite missing all of 2015 and facing a fight to regain full sharpness that probably isn’t yet fully complete, McColgan willed herself to return rather than leave herself with the frustration of wondering what she might have achieved.
“It was very difficult going through the surgery and the complications and the nerve pain I was getting. I wanted to come out the other side to prove it had been worth going through all the sleepless nights, and the worry and the rehab and the aqua jogging.
“I was doing that for the whole year but this has cemented it was worth it. And it’s made me a stronger person because when I’m running, I can say to myself: ‘you’ve gone through a lot just to get to here so don’t lose this opportunity and take it for granted because it could be taken away’.”
She will be joined in the heats by fellow Scots Steph Twell and Laura Whittle and four years on from reaching the semi-finals at London 2012, the big stage will not hold any fears.
“London was a good stepping stone,” McColgan said. “But four years on, I’ve learned a lot. Those four years have been tough. It’s not been an easy ride. So mentally now I’m a lot stronger in preparing for races like that and competing against the best in the world on the biggest stage in the world.”
Meanwhile Chris O’Hare goes into today’s 1,500 metres heats hoping to make a name for himself and prove it’s not just Mo Farah who can fly the flag for the British men on the track.
The 25-year-old has been battling to shake off a knee injury he sustained in training last month but will join fellow Briton Charlie Grice on the line.
Despite two European Championships medals so far, O’Hare claims he has a long way to go to join the greats.
“At the moment, in my career, I’d be easily forgotten,” he said. “I’m positive I would be. I don’t necessarily want to be.
“I’m not doing this for the legacy or anything but I’ve got a lot more to achieve before people will remember me for anything.”