Zurich is not quite the final destination of a glorious summer for Eilish McColgan. Her presence in tonight’s Diamond League finale offers, however, one last opportunity to underline the strides made in her journey into the global middle-distance elite.
The Weltklasse meeting has traditionally invited only the best of the best. With a European Championship silver medal acquired this month, the 27-year-old truly belongs. In a 5,000 metres field as strong as any this season, she will back herself to the hilt.
The aim is to do more than hold her own, and to lower her own Scottish record below its present mark of 14:48.49 and perhaps reach another significant milestone.
“I’ve Jo Pavey’s time of 14:39 in the back of my mind,” McColgan said. “She’s second to Paula Radcliffe on the British all-time list and I love Jo as an athlete so if I break her time, it would be unbelievable. I have that as a marker in the back of my head. It blows my mind that I might get between those two and that’s what Zurich is all about, to try to run as fast as I possibly can.”
A new personal best would be a fitting accompaniment to the hardware she secured in Berlin with a run predicated on trusting in herself and her preparations. No longer is the Dundonian beholden to the kind of fears over fractures and fallibilities that constrained her progress during her steeplechasing era.
Yet, she reveals, this campaign was not as seamless as it seemed. Her traditional sojourn to the Kenyan retreat of Iten provided her with fitness in late spring but also a virus. It felt like glandular fever, she says. Exhausting, bothersome, right until a few weeks before July’s British trials where she finished third.
Less tangible than an injury but just as debilitating. “It’s difficult when you have to tell people you’re not right, even the doctors. I had heart palpitations too which was a bit scary. Things just felt wrong. So to come out after all that and do what I did gives me so much confidence.”
In Zurich, she will be reunited with Sifan Hassan, who denied her gold in Berlin, and with Kenya’s world champion Hellen Obiri. The Scot’s season, it has been confirmed, will conclude with a mile race against Laura Muir over the streets of Stockton-on-Tees at next week’s Great CityGames.
Eilidh Doyle will end her year in this evening’s 400m hurdles, one last shot at personal gain following her struggles through injury. While treble European champion Dina Asher-Smith will have every incentive to again reset her UK record of 10.85 secs in the highest-quality 100m final.
“The race is stacked,” she said. “There are so many talented women who have that time and more. We’ve seen them over the last few years and they’re incredible. But so much more than flat speed dictates the times. It could be windy or cold so we’ll have to wait and see.”