The days of hurling herself into over-sized puddles and over booby traps disguised as hurdles seems an age ago for Eilish McColgan.
Yet the 28-year-old still strives to think one move in advance.
This winter, the roads have been her competitive terrain of choice and each step has brought a greater comfort. She will return to the track next weekend in Birmingham, competing in both the 1500 and 3,000 metres at the UK Indoor Championships which double as the trials for next month’s Europeans in Glasgow. But the third, and likely final, journey of her career has already been internally mapped out.
She said: “For Tokyo 2020, I’d like to try to aim for the 5,000 and 10,000m.
“Which one it is depends on how things go over the next couple of years and how strong a winter I have. Then I can decide what to aim for. But after 2020, I will look towards the marathon. I’ll be 29, going on 30 then, and I think that’s a sensible time. I don’t want to leave it too late. Once you start getting into the 30s, all the younger, faster folk will be ripping up the track. And it will feel like a natural progression if I’m aiming for the next Olympics.”
Better be ahead of the game than left behind. Her mother and coach Liz, pictured below, saw a similar diversion as a natural tangent, completing her first marathon in New York just two months after landing her world title at 10,000m in 1991 in Tokyo, running a Scottish record of 2 hours, 27 minutes and 53 seconds which remains unbroken. Even if the accepted wisdom – that marathons are best pursued after a prolonged steady build-up – has been obliterated by youthful exponents such as Callum Hawkins, McColgan and fellow Scot Steph Twell.
They are imagining enlivening opportunities, both to snare medals and lucrative earnings. Sensible, on every level. All of which puts McColgan on a clock to make the most of this Olympic cycle and to speedily get to grips with the 10,000m this coming summer. She has only raced the event once before, in California in 2017. It, rather than the 5,000m which brought her success last season, may even be her event of choice come October’s world championships in Qatar.
“I’m certainly going to do one to get a qualifying time ahead of 2020,” McColgan added. “But we’ve not decided if it will be one or the other or both in Doha. It’s almost a work in progress.”
McColgan is not the only Scot conducting experiments. Chris O’Hare is primed to duel with Andy Butchart in the men’s 3,000m next weekend. That comes just two weeks after a satisfactory teaser at his new, longer distance in Boston. And the chance to earn a shot at a European indoor podium in Glasgow will persuade many to fly back from warmer climes and endure sub-zero temperatures.
“Had it not been in Glasgow, it wouldn’t have been so much of a focus,” admitted McColgan, who is likely to face Laura Muir after a training spell together in South Africa. She added: “But since I won a medal at the last Euro Indoors, I feel there’s no reason I can’t compete with these girls.”