Eilish McColgan fears no-one as she strives to make her own name on world stage

Eilish McColgan congratulates Laura Muir, left, on her 3,000m win at the British indoors. Picture: Michael Steele/Getty
Eilish McColgan congratulates Laura Muir, left, on her 3,000m win at the British indoors. Picture: Michael Steele/Getty
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She will forever be her mother’s daughter, linked by blood as much as by name and a wealth of family history that has enriched Scottish track and field. Yet Eilish McColgan’s reputation now burnishes by itself, the gains of the past 18 months finally elevating the Dundonian into the ranks of the celebrated on her own terms rather than by dint of association with Liz, her coach and past world champion of enduring renown.

It took a while, longer than either might have wished, through injuries and ailments that at times seemed destined to never end. Now, the 27-year-old will line up on the opening evening of the IAAF world indoor championships in Birmingham and fear no-one in the 3,000 metres field, firmly establishing her own marque under the established McColgan brand.

Yet it did not weigh her down, she maintains, the genetic gifts passed on by Liz and her father Peter never blocking out the first-born’s belief that she might shine apart.

“It’s never been something I’ve focused on,” McColgan asserts. “My Mum is my coach and such a big part of what I’ve done to this point. It’s a team effort. I’ve never really felt I was in her shadow. I’ve just focused on myself.

“Maybe we were a bit different when I was only doing the steeplechase. Now we’re competing in similar events. I still have a wee bit to go to get her 10k PB. But it has been amazing to surpass some of her times, mainly because she’s helped me get there.”

Quite a few family bests have now fallen her way, a decision to focus wholly on the flat from 2015 onwards propelling McColgan from the middle of the pack and ever-closer to the front. Those are nice inter-generational benchmarks, both concede. Closely-monitored, easily re-written.

“It’s funny when I do get Mum’s PBs and when I don’t,” she giggles. “I missed the 1,500m one last year and I was gutted. She told me off afterwards. I was a fraction of a second away. But that’s why there is mutual respect. I know she has my back.”

It was three years before her eldest child arrived that Liz claimed silver at the world indoors in Budapest. After earning European bronze in Belgrade 12 months ago, McColgan’s progression – which took her to sixth place in the 5,000m final at last August’s outdoor world championships in London – will be fascinating to observe.

The field is stellar, not least Ethiopian-born duo Genzebe Dibaba and Sifan Hassan, but also another product of Dundee Hawkhill Harriers, Laura Muir, who – like McColgan – will also double up in the 1,500m over the weekend.

“It will be very demanding, physically demanding as well as mentally,” said Muir who had to travel the 300 miles south by taxi last night to ensure her arrival on time. “I feel like I am in a good place to perform well in all the rounds. I think from my practice in Belgrade and London I am used to doing the two events now. It’s something I should be able to cope well with.”

Hitherto, McColgan might have seen such over-exertion as a perilous punt but no longer. In the past, amid fine company, a personal best or a decent showing were all she might pursue. “Now I’m definitely changing my aspirations and goals to the point where I want to medal. I want to be up with these girls.

“2017 was definitely the first year I’ve thought of myself in the same ball park as these other girls. It’s nice to have that confidence boost going into a Commonwealth and European year, I feel for the first time in myself that I see myself as good as anyone else.”